Gratuitous Tank Battles – Impressions

Platform | Release Date
PC | May 17, 2012
Developed by Positech Games
Published by Positech

The Pitch:

Gratuitous Tank Battles (GTB) is a unique hybrid of tower-defense, strategy, simulation and RTS. Set in an alternate history timeline where World War I never ends, you are the commander of allied forces fighting right up to the year 2114, where Mechs and lasers are used alongside tanks and rifles. The war continues across Europe, with the allied commanders still locked into the optimistic patriotism of the 1900s.

Total Annihilation was a vehicle-based RTS from 1997 and is my favorite game of all-time. Though I wasn’t the best strategist in my LAN group, I did have the best grasp of the game’s economy. This earned me the nickname “Ulysses S. Grant” as hordes of units repeatedly swarmed against my opponents’ bases, slowly but surely grinding them into oblivion. Gratuitous Tank Battles dispenses with base-building, handing you the keys to an economy which punishes you for not building wave upon wave of tanks, mechs, and infantry.

I love this game.

Many games embrace their genre, then distill and refine it into something special. Instead, GTB bends genres by being equal parts tower-defense, tower-attack, and RTS. The game ships with a number of pre-baked scenarios which can be played as attack or defend. Attackers start at the beginning of a maze-like level, proceed along a predefined path, and strive to get enough units through intact. Each unit is worth a certain number of victory points but unarmed supply trucks you “capture” are the real prize. It’s rare that the units that break down defenses are the same ones that make it through the scenario alive. Expect to try several times at each difficulty level before succeeding.

If Anomaly: Warzone Earth turned tower-defense on its head, GTB makes it grow up. The scenarios are not puzzles. Instead, an incredibly adaptive AI presents a different nut to crack every time the scenario is loaded. Learning the rock-paper-scissors balance, building units in the right mixture takes time, but is incredibly rewarding. When played on defense, the same adaptive AI presents a great challenge, engaging me far more than a “traditional” tower-defense game.

Many scenarios gave me trouble the first time through until I created new units with the game’s flexible creation tool. You start the game with roughly twelve offensive and defensive units, but these are merely a guide. New parts constantly unlock as you play, each “piece” affecting everything from stats to speed, weight, and cost of construction. Nothing is more satisfying than failing an attack scenario, unlocking a heavy mech frame, and using that mech to bash the computer’s head in. Of course, the AI can now use that unit against you, and surprisingly can create units entirely of its own.

The same “it’s just a guide” philosophy applies to the scenarios themselves. If you’re patient enough, you can also create your own scenarios and upload them for other players to try but I found the map editor underwhelming. Browsing player creations is also a chore, with information presented like a server browser with little up/down-voting capability. The community seems strong even this early after launch, however, so players who get hooked have a very deep game to explore.

My computer hates this game

I would love to call this a review. I would heap praise upon GTB. Alas, it seems to be allergic to my computer. Despite hardware far exceeding the requirements I have been met with repeated crashes. The developer was nice enough to talk back-and-forth about the issues, examining the bug reports, but after a week of exchanges I’ve thrown up my hands. No other players are reporting my specific bug and the game as a whole is apparently quite stable. It’s a great game but I can’t score it as I literally can’t finish it.

Hopefully you can because it’s a great little game.

About David Hughes

David Hughes is an Editor for Splitkick. PC gamer, mod lover, screenarcher, and Elder Scrolls fanboy.
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