GRATUITOUS SPACE BATTLES / Positech Games / PC
 
 
All I knew about this game going in was that it was some sort of spaceship strategy game, and the emphasis was heavily on building custom ships. Greeted by the rather spartan and 1990s-looking title screen, I went straight for the Build Custom Ship option, as this not only sounded fun, but was apparently crucial to the experience.

And was greeted by an absolute wall of text in a tiny, smushy font. Accompanied by all manner of tiny images and doodads, equally indistinct and indecipherable. GSB is one of those games that is fairly complicated, yet instead of slowly taking you through key steps in a clever and engaging way, just dumps a shit ton of text on you in rapid succession like a lower-tier university instructor assaulting students with a poorly-though-out Powerpoint lecture.

"All right all right", I said at this point. "Forget the fine nuances of ship-building for now. Let me play an actual battle, some sort of tutorial level or whatnot, and I'll get a feel for how the game works and maybe not need to give myself a migraine squinting at all this text." So I headed into the Battle option. And, lo and behold ... more walls of tiny-font text with more screens full of inexplicable doodads and numbers.

Fuck.

Finally after brute-clicking through the game's endless eyestraining blather, I get into an actual tutorial battle. It's apparently something like a "tower defense" game, except it largely plays itself. Your success is determined by how you set up your ships during Eyestrain Mode, then how you deployed them on the map prior to starting the battle. From what I could make of it there's different ship types with different weapons, armor and mobility. You don't want the zippy little Tie Fighter squad or whatever zooming over to the Class DDD Frigate with their jerk guns that can't even penetrate the rust-proof coating, for example. During all this there's a constant stream of Cheeto-nerd chatter at the top that didn't really help enjoyment of the experience at all.

I'm sure there's a market out there for this. They say they've sold 100k copies so far, after all. I'm fairly certain it's a market that overlaps heavily with fans of Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek and tabletop gaming (that's not a slam, I'm just sayin'). To me, the game is like fucking *homework.* It refuses to give you access to any sort of fun at all until you've sat like a good boy through a pile of text in a needlessly small and unreadable font. I get the sense that it's actually not all *that* complicated once you sort it out ... but really, why bother? If a game wants me to sit through a poorly-presented college lecture and take notes before being able to start playing, it needs to give a damned compelling reason to do so. Nothing about the budget presentation or hands-off spectator-based battles is doing that for me. I'm also disappointed by the potential for Star Control 2-esque action-strategy goodness here, but it decided to go down the passive management road instead. It just seems totally inaccessible except to a niche market. If that's you, sorry, try not to be too butthurt about the lackluster rating, but I'm quite confident the vast majority of people who try this game will just have no desire to bother with it. At least increase the font size and make it goddamned readable without taking five years off of my retinas, please.
 
 
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