Battlestar Galactica was one of my favourite TV shows in the early 80’s; I loved watching the sleek Vipers as they raced out of Galactica’s red and white striped launch tubes, the ridiculous helmets that would have been at home in an episode of Stargate and the ominous scarlet light that dashed across the Cylon’s visors. However, the re-imagined 2003/4 Battlestar Galactica never managed to grab me. The overly laboured political drama and clumsy pseudo-religious subtext detracted from the essence of Battlestar Galactica, a veritable romp through the stars. But what it did manage to bring to the small screen were truly epic space battles, filled with hundreds of ships, lasers, explosions and near misses that would get any sci-fi fan excited. Battlestar Galactica Deadlock by Black Lab Games and Slitherine has not only brought these monumental space battles to console but also managed to create a strategy game where you don’t feel hindered by a lack of mouse & keyboard.
Set just after the disappearance of the Colonial fleet’s new Battlestar: Galactica, you are in command of the Daidalos, a gargantuan mobile shipyard that was in the process of delivering the Battlestar Athen to Picon when the Cylons struck. Picon’s capital cities were destroyed along with the Colonial fleet headquarters; with the command of the Colonial Fleet in tatters, Daidalos has become the adhoc Fleet headquarters and you have been promoted to the Operations Commander of the entire Colonial Fleet. It now falls upon you to deliver the remaining Battlestars to each of the twelve colonies and defend the coalition from the ever present threat of a Cylon invasion. But don’t worry if none of that made any sense to you at all as having knowledge about the recent TV Series or Battlestar Galactica law will not hinder your enjoyment of this game as its true beauty lies in the epic space battles.
Battlestar Galactica Deadlock is a turn based strategy game where each round is separated into two distinct phases: planning and action. During the planning phase, each side determines their units actions, be that to move, focus fire on a certain enemy, launch missiles, repair sections of a damaged vessels or a variety of other unit specific activities. The whole planning phase is executed at the same time by both teams thus allowing for a wonderful sense of realism as all actions on the battlefield can occur at the same time. The second phase is the action phase: all players’ decisions are executed simultaneously and you get to sit back and watch the carnage unfold. Each action phase last for about 15 seconds before combat pauses and you get to repeat the steps again. It’s a wonderful mechanic and fully immerses you in the tactical side of managing a fleet of ships during intense space battles.
Black Labs Games have obviously focused all their attention on the fantastic combat engine as when you are in battle, the game is a wonderful mix of tactical planning, explosive visuals and a fabulous cast of vessels, weapons and space debris to play with. Unfortunately, out of combat it’s a mix of confusing menus and graphics that don’t seem at home in a game released after 2001. The initial cutscene glides you towards a set of chairs that look like they belong in an early tech demo for Quake 2; menu and coms windows are akin to the original Metal Gear Solid with cartoon visages used as placeholder images for the characters speaking to you. It doesn’t fit with the futuristic feel of Battlestar Galactica and is jarring against the comparatively superior graphics in the battle sections.
Battlestar Galactica Deadlock offers a modest amount of content including a single player campaign that consists of 14 main story missions, a smattering of secondary missions and a whole bundle of skirmishes against roaming Cylon fleets. Though fighting for the survival of the twelve colonies can feel like a slog at times, the sporadic engagements with Cylon fleets are a fantastic way of experimenting with tactical options and are perfect at helping you nail those vital fleet strategies you’ll need to be victorious. Deadlock also offers a jump in and play skirmish mode that gives you a chance to build the fleet of your dreams – especially if those dreams are of being a Cylon commander! – and pit your military prowess against an AI opponent. Unfortunately there’s no option to play online and unless this is due to a problem with solving the timing issue of the planning phase leading to massive down times then I think this is a serious loss to Deadlock’s package.
One of my favourite features in Battlestar Galactica Deadlock is the ability to replay your battle in real time. Sitting back watching these immense battles play out is glorious and gives you a greater appreciation for the tactical mayhem a space battle would create. You can take control of the cameras: zooming into explosions, slowing down time, switching camera angles and doing epic fly-by shots as explosions and detritus fill the screen. However I’m no John Woo so I tended to let Black Lab Games take control with the autocam and just enjoyed the show.
Battlestar Galactica Deadlock is a good game hidden behind some antiquated visuals, a UI that needs a polish and a rather superficial campaign. But don’t let this put you off an intense strategic experience as even with the drawbacks and limitations, Deadlock offers tactically engaging 3D space combat that has strategic depth and is a blast to play. Battlestar Galactica Deadlock may not have converted me to the re-imagined tv series but has definitely shown me that strategy games on console can work and are ruddy good fun.