If you’re a fan of Gratuitous Space Battles, Battlestation:Harbinger brings the combat to the table without the frills of customization. By limiting strategy to the equipment and the relative ranges from each ship, Battlestation is an easy to understand game (which fits the niche of time-friendly PC games). In comparison, FTL is a mechanically richer game, but the lack of complexity in Battlestation is a welcome sight rather than a weakness.
Combat is easy to understand: there are vastly different weapon classes from shield penetrating missiles to hull-breaking projectile cannons. The weapon stat UI is detailed and intuitive enough to allow a new player to guess what it does, making the learning experience less trial-and-error and more did-you-read-the-stats, which respects the player’s time more. Well-suited graphical representations make learning the game through play easy as well.
“Battlestation: Harbinger´s” mobile roots are clear in it´s overall game design: Battlestation is easy to pick up and easy to put down but the gameplay remains satisfying. This game wastes no time traveling from sector to sector even if you get a delivery quest, your fleet will fast travel through empty sectors if there are no enemy encounters. What this also means is that encounters are short-lived, and extended combat is simply a sign that your fleet will end up dead soon. The game does have a goal as you “win” after completing four galaxies (by traveling to the end of each sector) which makes the idea of imminent loss a little frustrating.
The minimalism of Battlestation means you’re only going to worry about two things: your fleet ships and your weapons. Weapon balance is great until you hit the endgame – deathrays are simply the best weapons in the game, and there are no equivalent sidegrades as a result of how fast-paced combat is. The only gripe I have with the game is that the best ships are locked behind a level wall, and as you gain levels by finishing a play-through, this form of persistent progression makes this otherwise time-friendly game relatively grindy. To put it into perspective: losing two games at galaxy 2 on easy mode only made me level two, and the next ship unlock occurs at level five.
As a result of the level wall, completing the game on any difficulty (even at easy) is doubtful at low levels. Better ships mean more shields and more health, and even if you play it safe and grind your scrap (the currency to buy ships with) up, the inability to buy better ships delays the gratification from the game unnecessarily. Low-level ships die too quickly to endgame weapons, and the game’s enjoyment unravels right before your very eyes on the fly. I played the game during early access, and I hope that the level progression is much faster at release.
Although progression stunts the endgame at times, the experience from start to mid-game is extremely enjoyable. Aesthetically, Battlestation is pleasant but the lack of customization leaves something to be desired. The game has great replay value because of how easy the game plays, but compared to Darkest Dungeon or FTL, there isn’t any reason to play Battlestation other than how much less time it’ll take. There is a storyline in Battlestation, but the lack of game mechanics to support the story (like in “Darkest Dungeon”, for example) makes the story fade into the background as an easily forgettable part of the game.
+ Easy to learn and easy to pick up and play
+ Satisfying ship and weapon customization system
– Level wall for ships makes endgame frustrating
– No customization makes the aesthetics of the game highly repetitive
– Quick combat system results in sudden deaths against endgame weaponry
Replay value: 3.5/5
Developer: Bugbyte Ltd.
Format: PC only
Genre: RTS, Action
Resolution: 1080p, 16:9 recommended
Release date: 2016-02-25
Difficulty: Easy to learn, Easy to play.
Spent time: 10+ hours
Average grade internationally: NIL at time of writing
PEGI age rating: 12+
Price: NIL at time of writing
The Gaming Ground
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