Battlestar Galactica Deadlock – Xbox One Review
I’d consider the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica to be one of the greatest sci-fi series of all time, in fact just one of the greatest dramas ever put on television. It had a great mix of action and human drama, and the superb writing, top notch acting, and excellent production values elevated it above others, with its political intrigue personal conflicts, and existential and theological musings on the nature of humanity. You’d think a franchise like this would inspire many a game, but there have been very few so far set in the BSG universe, and they have all largely been of a low budget, mediocre quality that haven’t done the subject matter justice. The latest offering is Battlestar Galactica Deadlock, so I was optimistic that the fans would get a game they deserve.
The developers of Deadlock have wisely set the story for their game in a timeline just before the series starts, giving themselves some artistic freedom and a relatively clean slate with the narrative. So, we have a prequel set in the first Cylon War, and the set up for the story is given to us via voiceovers that just give enough information to set the scene without giving any flesh to the story.
Deadlock is a standard turn-based strategy game where in this settling you have squadrons of spacecraft engaging the enemy in a variety of strengths and numbers. When not in combat you balance the economics of the campaign by upgrading and repairing ships, training, and building squads etc. Basically, everything you expect from a strategy war game but just given a sci-fi makeover. The management side of the game might not be that original but is very well done, and you must give a lot of thought to it, for example throwing up quandaries on whether to build a new ship, or upgrade the ships you already have, be it in the weapons, ammunition, or engines.
Thanks in part to Deadlock being in essence a prequel, there are none of the familiar characters from the series present and the characterisation isn’t particular engaging. The bread and butter of the game is on the combat, and this also involves a lot of strategy, as you have an added dimension, literally, in that all space battles of course take place on a 3-dimensional area. The classes of ships from the series are recreated faithfully, and manoeuvre as you’d expect in these small-scale battles, and to give the player more options there are also some new types of spacecraft to battle with. The look of the TV is well recreated, and they have a pretty good go at replicating the unique soundtrack as well. Its not quite been nailed but is close enough for fans to easily assimilate this story to what they know and love.
In the combat you will control up to seven spaceships in turn based battles. You choose what movements they make, which weapons they will use and who you will target them on. Its quite a difficult process to get your head around at first as remember everything is done in 3D, and you must anticipate how the enemy ships will move so that yours arrive in the right place at the right time to maximise your attack. The learning curve is very steep at the start and with a control method that is a bit clunky and poorly explained, it wouldn’t surprise me if a lot of players give up on the game early thanks to it being far more difficult for a newbie than it needs to be. Its always annoying for me when a turn based strategy game has a frustrating control method that doesn’t quite work on a console. I know these games play better on the PC with a mouse, but some developers get it right, and Black Lab Games have had a good go without pulling it off.
The game follows a central storyline of the war between the humans of the 12 colonies and the Cylons, but there are also optional side missions that will gain you some valuable extra resources, but you cant get distracted too much by them or you’ll pay the price in the main storyline as events move along while you’re elsewhere. This mechanic works well in keeping the story moving and eliminates any extended grinding to build up resources but of courses adds an element of extra difficulty into the game overall as it concentrates the need to use your resources wisely. The campaign mode will take in the region of 15 hours to complete, which then opens a co-op mode and a 1v1 game. There is also a plethora of single battles that are available, and these are the most enjoyable to play, but it would’ve made much more sense to have all the different modes available from the start rather than forcing you into the campaign.
Battlestar Galactica: Deadlock is probably the best game so far set in this universe, but its only faint praise as the bar hasn’t been set very high. As an indie strategy game, it’s not bad, has plenty of tactical depth, maybe lacking in story but looking very nice, although for myself and all the other BSG fans, the long wait for a great game continues. So say we all?
Developer: Black Lab Games
Publisher: Slitherine Ltd
Many Thanks to Slitherine UK for the review copy