I’ve never been a Battlestar Galactica fan but games like Homeworld and the absolutely insane subterfuge of Eve Online make me green with envy over tactical space sims. Always nice to look at, I’ve rarely turned my hand at playing them. Slitherine’s Battlestar Galactica: Deadlock provides me with an introduction with a tactical, turn-based effort for me to sink my teeth into.
At first glance, this game seems light on content. The main menu presents you with a campaign and an offline skirmish mode that presents you with AI opponents. There’s no multiplayer to speak of which, in comparison with the PC version that arrived in August, puts the console edition at something of a disadvantage. It’s a lean package that has to rely on it’s campaign to maintain a player’s attention. Thankfully, it’s engrossing and presented well enough to do just that.
With over a dozen missions, the campaign spoon feeds the basics to you before layering on more complex situations. There’s a lot of depth on offer as you consider enemy armaments, positioning. You can tinker several aspects from focusing fire on specific enemies, manage subsystems and so on. There’s a lot of sliders on show that you can utilise to great effect as the need arises. For a newcomer like me, it’s a little overbearing but, given how slight the package is, the game needs it. It allows the campaign to feel very replayable. All in all, this could see you kill twelve hours with each mission seemingly taking around thirty minutes.
Gameplay is very tactical. Battles usually revolve around eliminating threats and you’ll find yourself weighing up your options whilst trying to remain on the move. It’s turn-based which allows plenty of time to consider movements and attacks. Prioritising targets and fleet composition is key as lost ships count towards the campaign as a whole. Mistakes are duly punished. Lose too many ships in a mission and, unless you can rush new ones into the fray, you’re knackered for the foreseeable future. Consequences seem heavy, even on the easier difficulty which can lead to some frustration. Save scumming is advised if you’re having a tough time of things as you can’t revisit previous missions. AI’s a little predictable as the Cylons revisit the same tactics throughout the story but it still offers a stern challenge.
Whilst the main story is the focus, side-missions allow you gather additional resources to bolster your fleet. They’re timed and will disappear after a number of turns. It really helps turn the pressure up as you manage turns in and out of the war room. At the commander’s table you can pick these whilst also managing your build queue, listen to mission briefings and jump to your various fleets. Objectives range from simple elimination of targets to escorting wounded vessels. There’s a variety that will test your mettle as you look to gain a foothold in the first Cylon war.
Presentation is strong with some impressive visuals showing off the scale of battle. Replays allow you to sit back and watch a successful mission play out with cinematic camera angles showing the detailed ship models and explosions. The music on offer is traditionally spacey and operatic which fits the tone of the series fairly well. Cut-scenes are sparingly used but the campaign opens and closes with some suitably bombastic moments. Mission briefings are delivered in a fairly typical Command and Conquer style with your only contact with a fellow human being coming via some text, voice-work and a character portrait. The acting is good and sets each scrap up well but it lacks a little flourish. The arenas of battle look somewhat sparse and samey, despite the occasional obstacle. Whilst you’re mostly focused on the fight ahead, it’s a shame the wide expanse of space wasn’t given a little more life.
The Skirmish mode offers an offline battle against the AI with a few scenarios available for you to tinker with. Sadly, it lacks the race against time that helps the campaign feel more urgent. At best, you can test out new ships and strategies in a safe environment. It’s a shame there’s no online component because I feel like this game could really shine from direct, human competition.
Battlestar Galactica: Deadlock will not please everyone. There’s a strong tactical core to the campaign which makes each fight feel important and vital to a larger conflict. Unfortunately, is a slim offering on the whole. The absence of multiplayer cuts the game off at the knees but there is some merit in replaying the story scenarios again.
+ Engrossing, tactical combat.
+ Challenging, entertaining campaign.
+ Enjoyable musical score.
- No multiplayer.
- Skirmish mode lacks the depth and time management of the campaign.
- Visually, a little uninspired.