Almost six years ago Positech Games’ original space strategy game, Gratuitous Space Battles released, touting space warfare simulation with an intricate ship design system and widescale space battles. The original game received generally favorable reviews, despite some finding the core gameplay a bit confusing to start. Now the sequel, Gratuitous Space Battles 2 is here boasting even better visuals, a more featured ship-editor, online creation sharing functionality and more.
Gratuitous Space Battles 2, much like its predecessor, is built on a very specific yet simple premise. “Create a fleet of space ships and have it lay waste to another fleet of space ships, while you sit back and watch.”
This time around, the game features a tutorial which walks you through the basics of forming a fleet and teaches you the basics on how to manage said fleet. The tutorial missions are efficient at exploring and teaching the fundamentals of the game at a fast rate. Despite the game giving you several pre-configured sample ships for the tutorials, I found myself delving into creating my own custom ships after just a few missions. This is where the game truly shines; allowing you to really make a fleet of your own. The ship-designer allows you to choose from a variety of ship classes, as well as customize the components said ship is equipped with. With this mechanic you can outfit a ship to be a support vessel, a tank, or a nuker. This adds a interesting gameplay element when building your customized fleets.
Like the original, completing (and winning) games will grant you a currency called ‘Honor’. The bigger the difference between your enemy fleet’s total cost, and your fleet’s total cost, the more honor you earn. Honor is then used between game sessions to purchase new races, ships, and components to further outfit and customize your fleet.
If you have never played the original game, Gratuitous Space Battles 2 has a variety of missions you can play through with various levels of difficulty. These missions can earn you honor to buy more things in the research tab. The game also features a unique online component called ‘Challenges’. In challenges, players create their own fleet layouts and allow other players to fight against them. You can see how many people have tried taking on your ‘uber fleet’ as well as how many times your fleet has won or lost a battle. You can also download other player’s fleets and fight them for yourself. Like most other game modes, playing these online challenges will net you some honor.
One of the biggest additions to the game is built in mod support via Steamworks. Though the custom content is a bit lacking at the moment–keep in mind the game just released, so this is normal–I have tried out a couple mods including one that allowed me to take on a fleet of Star Trek ‘Borg’ vessels with my favorite fleet configuration. The original Gratuitous Space Battles lacked mod support through steam and many players were disappointed by this, so it’s great to see integrated mod support in a game that it is a perfect fit for. This added feature will certainly increase the replayability value even further for fans of the game.
Overall, Gratuitious Space Battles 2 is very much like the original game. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I would have liked to see a bit more added to the game to make expand on it even further rather than applying some upgrades. For example, the interface has seen some visual improvements and even the in-game graphics of ships and animations have been improved over the original. That being said, it does in some ways feel more like an ‘upgrade’ to the original, almost like a big expansion, rather than a sequel. If you’ve never played the original, this would without a doubt be the best foray into this series. Hopefully in time the community can add even more content to make the game that much more special, as its definitely the most exciting new feature.