Developer: Positech Games
Release Date: May 17th, 2012
Available on: PC
Tower defense is a genre that seems to be showing up in quite a few indie games recently. Tower offense is less common but back in 2011 Anomaly: Warzone Earth not only got it right, but hit it out of the park. Gratuitous Tank Battles, a spiritual successor to 2009’s Gratuitous Space Battles, mixes and matches both to get a pretty decent game.
Gratuitous Tank Battles takes place during some unspecified time period, but it looks enough like World War 1 that you can assume that it’s about there. Some war has been going on for a really long time and, well, that’s about the most you’re getting from the game. The game’s campaign takes place across about 15 missions, each of which (with the exception of the first) lets you play as either the defender or the attacker. If you’re on defense then you’re basically playing tower defense. You can place towers in specific spots, each tower has abilities that are extra effective against enemies, and you’re given a constant flow of resources. You have to pay attention as the enemies you’re shooting at will shoot back, and you’ll need to replace towers as they get destroyed. You also can place down supportive towers that just buff other towers.
If you ask me though the real fun comes as playing as the attackers. As the attacks your goal is to get enough Victory Points, or VP, by getting your units to the other end of the map. You’ll once again get a constant flow of resources to deploy tanks, mechs, and troopers at your will. Since your units shoot back you can direct them to focus fire on specific towers, or just let them fire at will. You can ask them to take specific paths too if you feel like one is less guarded than another. It’s a good feature, but the game needs a way to instruct groups of units to take a path. Right now you can only instruct individual units one at a time. You can also collect supply drops which give you very weak but high scoring supply trucks.
One of the most important things in Gratuitous Tank Battles, though, is unit customization. You can adjust and make new units and turrets for you to use. It’s a surprisingly simple process where you only need to pick a base and a few accessories for them. I had a tank, for example, that had exceptionally strong armor and a strong cannon that could almost hit turrets halfway down the battlefield. To counter this, though, the tank was slow as molasses and cost a fortune to produce. Plus I skimped out on the reloading system and it only shot about once every fifteen seconds. Each weapon you can put on your units is good for a different scenario. Lasers melt armor but don’t do much against shields, while ballistics punch through shields but have difficulty with armor. Flamethrowers and machine guns make quick work of infantry units, but my super-cannon tank from before was basically useless against them. Of course you need the cannon if you want to take out turrets because the flamethrower sure isn’t doing that. That said, Gratuitous Tank Battles could have benefited from a better tutorial or explaining its elements better. As it stands the game sorta just throws you in the deep end and expects you to figure it out.
Gratuitous Tank Battle’s biggest crime, however, is the lack of a proper online mode. An attackers vs. defenders mode could have made this game. Instead you have the ability to create “teams” of units or turrets, along with maps, and put them online for people to download and for the AI to use. It’s a shame that there’s no proper multiplayer as the game feels like it’s almost built for it, as I would probably have eaten that mode up. The game’s menues also could stand from some cleaning up as I had difficulty trying to get to where I wanted to be and figuring out how to get map downloads how to work.
Once you’re in game and know what you’re doing then Gratuitous Tank Battles is a lot of fun. Watching the chaotic destruction and units rolling out is neat, and planning strategies to either punch through defenses or stop the advancing hoard is a good thrill. I think the game just suffers from confusing elements and the lack of multiplayer. Hopefully if we see a Gratuitous Tank Battles 2 we’ll get that fixed up.