Battlestar Galactica Deadlock review code provided by the publisher.
Battlestar Galactica. A name synonymous with the drama and action of an epic space opera, and which is as much of a household name in the sci-fi community as Star Trek and Star Wars.
The newest release in its series, Battlestar Galactica Deadlock is a space-sim and turn-based strategy battle game where you command starship fleets in epic space-based tactical warfare.
There have been several other games already in the series (some well received, others not so much), and a with a fan base you wouldn’t want to disappoint, developer Black Lab Games and publisher Slitherine Studios undertook the task of giving both fans to the series and newcomers what they wanted, a great Battlestar Galactica game.
In this Battlestar Galactica Deadlock review, we’ll take a look at how the game works, and whether or not it belongs in your collection, or is best thrown down a trash chute.
Taking place during the First Cylon War, around 40 years before the Battlestar Galactica series begins, you take on the role of the commander of the shipyard Daidalos, and oversee the Colonial Fleet as you fight off Cylon invasions and protect the Twelve Colonies of Kobol.
The campaign tells your story during these engagements, which involves core story missions that progress the campaign, timed side quests, and randomly appearing Cylon skirmishes that need to be dealt with so your colonies remain safe.
Completing missions earns you Tylium and Requisition Points, the game’s two currencies. These allow you to build ships, buy blueprints for more powerful ships and weaponry, and recruit officers to bolster your fleet.
Safe colonies give support with Tylium, and allow you to recruit officers from these colonies. If you fail to protect a colony too often, they will leave the Quorum, and you will lose access to their tribute. Losing too many colonies will stall the campaign until you can regain their trust.
Gameplay is split into two parts. The first being directly from your command center as you oversee everything from your ship locations in the Cyrannus system, to your officers and ships you can build and what blueprints you have access to.
The command station plays like a board game, in that you spend a turn building ships, assigning or promoting officers, and moving your fleets around the board. At the end of each turn, your pieces move, timed secondary missions count down, and Cylons appear at random locations among the colonies.
Building ships may take multiple turns, though you can rush the build for a larger amount of Tylium, and assigning officers to your fleets will give bonuses to their capabilities in battle. The officers can level up from battle experience, improving how many ships they can command and what improved stat boosts they can take into battle. You can also rush promote an officer, but this takes Requisition Points, which are far harder to come by than Tylium.
At the end of your turn, any locations that contain opposing forces will battle. If a location contains your Daidalos shipyard, or a fleet is docked at a secondary mission marker, you must take control in the battle itself. For main story missions, your Daidalos must be docked at the mission marker location for the campaign to continue, again forcing you to think strategically about where you are moving your fleets.
If one of your secondary fleets is set to engage the enemy, you can choose to “Auto-Resolve” the battle. Sometimes choosing the “Auto-Resolve” option will give you better results than actually playing the battle, but pay attention to the victory and casualties percentages it shows prior to the fight, since you may not want to risk losing that valuable ship or officer even if you win the match.
The second part of gameplay is in the battles themselves, where determining position and strategy in an open space battlefield will be key to emerging victorious.
You will need to predict opponent’s moves, and match your own strategies accordingly, like an epic game of space chess, without necessarily needing to sacrifice your pawns (though it does happen).
You adjust where your ships move, what their target will be, which smaller squadrons launch, what munitions you will fire, and so-on. After all your adjustments are made, you end your turn and the next roughly 30 or so seconds advance, in which your actions, and those of your enemy, are carried out.
Play proceeds in this manner until you lose or complete your objective, such as defending civilian transports, taking over a ship with a Raptor Squadron, or eliminating all hostiles.
Ship positioning is vital, as it is entirely possible to crash your ships into each other, enemy ships, and various space debris. Crashing your ships is an insta-kill for any ships involved, so you need to pay attention to the navigation charts and make sure your path is clear.
Posture is one of the most important aspects of managing your fleet, as it allows you to prioritize attack or defense, and balance your engagements.
If you know your opponents will be targeting your flagship, you can max out your defensive posture for that specific ship, allowing it to tank the damage while your other ships, with their maxed out offensive posture, can wreak havoc on your enemies.
Sometimes you will see a barrage of missiles headed towards one of your ships, though not hitting, either fully or partially, until your next turn. Again strategy will be involved in deciding if you want it to stay on offense to kill an important target, or switch entirely to defense to mitigate as much damage as possible.
Your own ships each have their own specializations, and a variety of things you will need to keep track of to make it through each battle intact. Each ship has a Hull which counts as its life bar. If this reaches zero, the ship is destroyed. To help prevent this, each ship has armor on its front, rear, left, right, top, and bottom. This armor plating is damaged first, and the hull will only take damage if attacked on a side that the armor has been depleted.
Depending on which part of the ship is damaged, you may also lose access to specific subsystems each ship has, such as navigation systems (which will affect your movement), and hangar systems (which affect your ability to launch small fighter squadrons).
Each ship has different armor ratings, but with it being in a 3D environment, this means if one side has lost all of its armor, you can move and rotate your ship to present your enemy with the other more armored side. The kicker is that this may not be where your turrets are located, so you must at times choose whether to risk the ship or destroy that last enemy.
The Cylons also possess their own unique abilities, such as being able to hack your ships and disable a specific subsystem (usually your firing control, which will disable your ability to shoot), or sending a raiding party to board your ship and kill your crew from within.
I am merely scratching the surface here of all the little bits of data and strategic info you will need to pay attention to. The feeling of being in these battles, even with its turn-based aspect, is nothing short of thrilling, and the game captures the essence of commanding a fleet better than many strategy space-sims out there.
In most space-sims, you’ll need to manage a larger amount of resources, such as oxygen supply and food, but here there really aren’t many resources to manage. The focus on the battle is the heartbeat of the game, and it is truly exhilarating to watch that last Cylon Basestar explode after a hard fought hour-long battle.
The only thing more fun than killing toasters is playing as them. The game features a skirmish mode that allows you to build your own fleets of either Colonial ships or Cylon forces. You pick the fleet size, the objective, and the battlefield and either have fun decimating your weak opposing force or challenge yourself against a much stronger fleet.
The graphics are indeed superb while in these heated battles. Ships are gorgeous and very detailed, and careful attention was clearly paid to ensure the accurate design of each ship from the series.
Being in open space, you may think the graphics would fall victim to an obvious textured sphere around each field. This is not the case, as in every instance great care was taken to ensure a highly detailed and beautifully populated environment was shown. Space dust, asteroids, other planets, countless stars, and even nearby suns that will make you reach for your shades show off that beauty and help to immerse players in the vastness of space, never once making you feel like you are just battling in a giant skysphere.
The music is fantastic, with each song being appropriately chosen for contemplative strategic thinking, and then picking up the pace when you’ve engaged your actions and are watching your fleet duke it out missile-to-missile with the Cylons. The futuristic and intense combination of industrial electronica and bass driven space rock always hit the right note, and I was left wanting so much more of it.
Even with all this going for it and combining into a glorious Battlestar/space-strategy fan’s wet dream, it unfortunately is not without problems.
Sometimes the battle intro doesn’t play at all, and I found the text is sometimes hard to read, even on an HD TV.
The sound design is well done, though glitchy at times with dialogue popping in and cutting out during loading screens when a ship is built or jump is engaged, and it can be irritating to have Helena (your second-in-command) suddenly shout loudly when you engage an offensive or defensive posture.
I also had an odd glitch happen once. I loaded a previous save, but only the space loaded, nothing like asteroids or the objective I was meant to defend appeared on the field. Even after defeating the Cylon threat, I was awarded no victory and eventually had to resort to crashing my ships into the Daidalos to get a mission failure and restart it. I learned my lesson and created multiple save files so I could jump to a previous one, but a “restart mission” option in the pause menu would have been helpful.
The real problems lie within the game’s interface. Mostly in the command center when navigating the menus, it becomes cumbersome to jump around and make decisions. Some parts of the menu will only allow you to highlight selections using the joystick, rather than the d-pad.
There are four different menus you need to interact with in order to use the map, inspect officers and blueprints and build ships, see where Cylon threats are occurring and your standing with the colonies, and engage your FTL jump drives to travel the system. Some of these menus show the same info in multiple ways, but not in anyway you can immediately interact with.
Honestly it’s maddening, like working for a business that hasn’t yet developed a smooth assembly line for orders, your info is everywhere and the jobs pile up.
I can walk around the command center just to look at all the boards and map from different angles, but I can’t interact with anything, I have to open the menu and it takes me right back to the default position in the room.
Sometimes it’s even unresponsive, and you’ll need to try to make your selection multiple times before it responds, which then jumps you to your option (or another option) and can make executing simple tasks unnecessarily difficult. The news feed in the bottom center of your screen doesn’t scroll right most of the time either, so information will get cut off with no way to read it correctly.
This also happens to a lesser degree in the actual battles. Some options are explored and executed via radial menu, others by a list which again can only be navigated by joystick. When you move ships, you have to use the d-pad first, then confirm with X to adjust your elevation, otherwise you may switch focus to a different ship (like an enemy ship across the map).
It becomes a vast and complex system of exactly when and how to press the buttons for each different menu, which simply shouldn’t be the case for any game. If this was a faster paced RTS, this minor annoyance would make the game nearly unplayable. There’s almost no consistency between menus, making for a frustrating experience.
There are also many cases where frame rate drop issues occurred during larger battles, when massive quantities of munitions are flying. The game actually crashed on me once or twice during these intense firefights. Again saving manually and often will help alleviate potentially hours of frustration.
Now you may be wondering if someone who isn’t a fan of Battlestar or space-strategy games would find this entertaining, and that depends entirely on what you’re willing to overlook. The cumbersome menu system may be off-putting for a newcomer, but the strategic gameplay, and the epic battles themselves more than make up for it, and I would recommend this as a great first foray into the worlds of both.
Even if you’re not familiar with the Battlestar Galactica series, the information given during loading screens and in the story will bring you up to speed with much of the lore and background. Longtime fans may even learn a thing or two they didn’t know, as stepping into the role of the Fleet Commander gives you a great front-row seat to wartime politics in the universe (and holds up a pretty damning mirror to our own, again in much the same way the series has done before).