REVIEW: Battlestar Galactica Deadlock

REVIEW: Battlestar Galactica Deadlock

Does Battlestar Galactica carry the curse of the licensed game, or is it actually worth your time?

Released: Steam / GOG
Type: Single-player, Multi-player
Genre: Strategy
Developer: Black Lab Games
Publisher: Slitherine Ltd.
Release date: 31 Aug, 2017
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It’s rare for licensed games to be any good. Most of the time they’re just pushed out the door, with the publisher relying on the license to sell the game, not the quality of the game itself. Battlestar Galactica Deadlock (from here on BSGD) is lucky different, it’s not a licensed game pushed out to meet a deadline, and it’s built on the already strong foundation found in the previous game that Black Lab Games made, Star Hammer: The Vanguard Prophecy. In fact, if you’ve played Star hammer, BSGD will seem immediately familiar, as it borrows a lot of the mechanics and systems from that game.

BSGD is a turn-based game that uses a so-called “WEGO” system, that is both sides give their orders and then hit “end turn”, and the turn then plays out. Similar to Battlefront’s Combat Mission series, or Frozen Synapse, rather than a more traditional system where you move a unit and it immediately carries out its action before you move on to the next unit.

This review is written from the perspective of someone who knows very little about Battlestar Galactica. I’ve seen one episode of the original 1978 series. But I do have a real fondness for space combat and big spaceships giving each other a good broadside, with games like Homeworld and Battlefleet Gothic being right up my alley.

Ships explodes in a very satisfying way.

Graphics & Sound

Spaceships tend to look quite good in games, even older ones. BSGD is no exception, the spaceships do look good at the distance you’re expected to view them from. Zoom in and you’ll be able to tell that the models are relatively simple, and the textures are a bit blurry, but with spaceships, and other large metallic structures, you can get away with this. And it also keeps the system requirements down.
The only real issue with the games graphics is how similar everything looks. I had issues telling some of the ships apart at a glance. I guess this is the license they’re using getting in the way of gameplay, as the developers were a bit limited in what they could design. This is a turn-based game, so you do have time to check what everything is before committing, but it would still have been nice if the ships were a bit more distinct looking.

While they look different in a still image, once things start getting hectic, these get surprisingly hard to tell apart

Sound in space is a surprisingly touchy subject for some. So before anyone decides to nitpick about how there should be no sound at all, space is not a perfect vacuum, there’s sound, it just tends to be very low frequency. But you did not come here for a physics lesson. The sound design in BSGD is kind of what you would expect from a space game. Lots of lower-frequency thuds and explosions. it sounds quite alright, but I would have liked the sound of a big spaceship blowing up to have been a bit louder, and the big cannons have a bit more of a “bang”. Still, it sounds good enough, and the sound never gets annoying.

BSGD’s soundtrack is quite good. While it’s not the kind of soundtrack that you’ll find themselves humming after playing the game, it does work well as background music for a game set in space. The main menu track, in particular, does a good job of setting the mood for the game.
The voice cast for BSGD does a good job of portraying their characters. There are hardly any Oscar-winning performances here, but neither are they bad. For a game by a smaller studio, there’s actually a surprising amount of voiceovers here. All the main campaign levels have some chatter between the different characters, and the levels also have fully voiced briefings.

Story & setting

In the distant past, far away from earth, humans have created sentient robotic workers called Cylons. These robots rebelled and started waging war on their former masters. And now you need to help defend humanity against these seemingly evil robots.

As I said before, I don’t know a whole lot about the Battlestar Galactica setting, and after having played the game, I only know a bit more. It feels like the game was written for pre-existing fans of the series, as they use in-universe terms when speaking, and it would have been good if they had explained what they meant. Will a person who’s not a fan of the show know what DRADIS (Direction, RAnge, and DIStance) means? It also felt like the minor factions were not properly introduced. But the gist of it is basically that the Cylons (and I keep writing Psilons for some reason, but that’s a Master of Orion race) are attacking the human colonies, and you’re tasked with defending them. As the game progresses you learn that things are not quite as straight forward as Humans = good, robots = bad, and there are humans who have other beliefs than you who don’t want to get dragged into this war. I’m going to assume that the TV series goes into far more depth about this, but in the game this entire aspect does feel rather under-developed.


BSGD uses a WEGO system, where you give orders to all your ships, like move forward, focus your fire on this target, fire the missiles and so on, and then they carry out their orders for roughly 10 seconds before it’s time to give them new orders. 10 seconds might not seem like a particularly long time, but when your ships get bombarded with missiles from multiple directions, it can feel like an eternity.
The key things to keep in mind during combat is facing, each ship type will have its armament placed in different locations, a smaller ship might just have a front-facing gun, while a large ship might have smaller, fast-firing guns on the sides (good for taking down small & nimble crafts), and its larger guns underneath, and each facing also has its own armour that gets worn down as the ship gets hit. So once a ship starts taking a beating, it’s a good idea to present a fresh, undamaged side to the enemy.

Futuristic air-hockey table, or a strategic map of the twelve colonies. You decide.

Between battles you also have a strategic mode, where you can build more ships for your fleets, and where you need to prevent randomly generated Cylon fleets from harassing the human colonies. And this part is what really sets the BSGD apart from Star Hammer, as that game was only focused on the tactical fleet battles. It’s not particularly deep, but it does add a bit of variety to the game. If they ever make a sequel, they’ll hopefully expand on this part.

Closing thoughts

BSGD is a really good entry in a surprisingly uncrowded market. One would think that there would be plenty of tactical space combat games out there, after all, who does not love seeing huge ships blow each other to pieces, but there are really only a small handful.
There are a few shortcomings to this game though. The first is that the different ships don’t feel as varied as they probably should. You’ve got ships that are loaded with missiles, and ships that have a lot of fighters, and then you have ships just relying on their big guns, but when moving them around, only the smallest ship class feel significantly different to use, on the human side (the Cylons, who are only available in skirmish, feel a bit more varied). You can also only bring 7 ships at once, so you’ll never get any large-scale fleet engagement. It would have been nice to have a few more ships in combat, and this would also have given the smaller ships more value later in the campaign and in larger skirmish battles.

A Cylon fleet, sadly only playable in skirmish and MP

The tutorial also makes the games interface feel more clumsy and slow than it really is. The method for controlling your ships, using a radial menu, that the tutorial tells you to use makes doing things like launching missiles and targeting specific enemies rather cumbersome, but you’ve got hotkeys and a menu on the side of the screen that gives you far easier access to all of those controls. Had the game forced you to use that interface, I would have said that the UI was bad, but it’s actually rather good, it just gives a bad first impression.

So in closing, Battlestar Galactica Deadlock is a really good game. It is one that’s clearly geared a bit towards fans, but even as someone who knows very little about the setting, I found enough to like about the gameplay to enjoy my time with it. So yes, if you’re a fan of turn-based combat, or just really enjoy seeing spaceship blowing up, it is well worth playing, and if you’re also a Battlestar Galactica fan, I think this might be a no-brainer.

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September 2019

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