‘Gratuitous Tank Battles’ Review – Tank Beats Spaceship

Gratuitous Tank Battles (GTB) has finally been released and we can safely say that the anticipation was wisely invested as Positech has substantially built upon the merits of the game’s predecessor, Gratuitous Space Battles (GSB). For those of you that missed our preview, GTB is a tower-defense game in which you can play as both attacker and defender. While GTB is a lot easier to pick up and play than GSB, the strategy and difficulty inherent with the namesake is most certainly provided just below the surface. All of the customization, stat-tracking, number calculations and strategy can certainly be overwhelming so if you dislike this kind of thing (or GSB for that matter), GTB won’t change your mind. It is what it is, and that is a deep strategy game that will reward fans of the genre with hours upon hours of exciting battles and gameplay.


Like the name implies, Gratuitous Tank Battles is all about battles but not necessarily with tanks only. Before selecting your online challenge or campaign scenario, you’ll want to spend time designing your own units (or maps) to use in said battles. The new unit designer is streamlined in this version. Strategy enthusiasts may miss the more modular and complex ship designs from GSB, but I found the new streamlined version a lot easier to grasp. In GSB, you could place components and weapons only on certain nodes:


GTB has substantially less choices to make and each component category has a specific corresponding spot. Just compare the modules on the ship above (16) to the tank below (only 8).


This new process makes unit design a lot faster since it’s just a matter of selecting what piece your want in each slot. Do you want cannons or missiles for your weapon? What type of armor? And so on. Personally, I’m up for anything that gets me to the action quicker, but some may yearn for the more involved GSB design process. That being said there is more variety in the actual units that you have to design. GTB includes everything from infantry, trucks, tanks, mechs and turrets – each has it’s own role.


After designing your units, you’re ready to get to the meat of GTB – blowing shit up (amen!). The battles are what really differentiate GTB from its space-based cousin. In GSB, you had to go through this whole battle plan phase where you placed ships and gave them orders and assigned them targets. Battles were already predetermined – you were just watching them. GTB nixes this whole planning phase and gets you right into the action and lets you dictate your battle orders in real time. You’ll build units, assign targets and choose routes all in the heat of battle – which makes all of the beautiful carnage onscreen that much better.


The best thing about GTB is the fact that you can play as attacker or defender. The two experiences are substantially different and almost make GTB feel like you’re getting two games for one. If you’ve ever played a tower defense game before, you’ll doubtless have a good sense of how to defend efficiently. Each map has different paths to the ‘finish line’ and multiple locations for your troops and turrets to be placed.


Like other tower defense games, you’ll want to pick the best weapon for the job against the particular enemy so learning the game’s nuances is an essential procedure. Each battle is decided by victory points, so the job of the defender is to prevent the attacker from moving their units through to the ‘finish line.’ While the defense game may be similar to other tower defense games, attacking involves a lot more real time strategy and feels like something completely new. As an attacker you have a whole new set of units to play with (tanks, mechs, infantry) but you also have a different set of strategic options in front of you as well.


Attacking is complex and rich with possibilities. You’re not just placing stationary units, you have to factor in unit speed and the multiple paths and deployment zones that litter the maps. Defending is all about gritting your teeth and destroying every unit – it’s full of tension and stress. Attacking is more of a rush. It’s a game of feints and counters, all out rushes, or more discrete path changing – plus tanks and mechs are just more fun than stationary turrets.


GTB takes place in an alternate reality where WWI never ended and still rages on well into the future. There’s really no story to speak, but this interesting setup does seem to influence the game’s visuals and setting. The loading screens feature some striking posters that add a touch of humor to an otherwise hard and militaristic aesthetic. Adding to the vivacity even more so, the graphics and explosions are better than ever in GTB. There’s substantially less laser fire, and I do miss the buzz of space fighters, but the visuals are just a notch above the excellence that we found in GSB. The biggest graphical improvement is in the units themselves since there is more animation this time around. Soldiers scurry along, Mechs walk and swivel and everything still looks just as jaw-dropping when it blows up. There is also more variety in the environments (you can only do so much in space) and some awesome night and snow effects that really add to the package.


My biggest complaint about the visuals is that the game lacks variation in the factions and hulls. GSB was great at differentiating each alien race/faction with humorous back stories and unique looking ships, frigates, and fighters. There is no such distinction in GTB. It’s one generic army fighting against another – you can even use the same infantry units that you design as both an attacker and defender. It’s great that I don’t have to redesign units, but I do miss the personality of each faction. The sound effects in GTB are what you would expect and do a great job accompanying the carnage on screen. The music fits the theme and works well in battle, but I found the loud beats and chants too intense for the menu and design screens. It’s a minor complaint and probably a personal preference thing since it does fit the theme and is certainly not a major detractor.


GTB is a natural evolution of GSB, but more than a simple sequel. Battles no longer take place in the vastness of outer space. Action is up close and personal and each battlefield has its own unique paths, choke points and environment. Fans of strategy, RTS and tower defense games will absolutely love GTB. Hardcore and action gamers may also be pleasantly surprised. GTB‘s campaign has a variety of skill levels, scenarios and is incredibly challenging. In the words of a Bostonian, the computer AI is wicked smaht (smart, if you need clarification). With attack and defense scenarios, the campaign offers hours upon hours of gameplay. If that’s not enough, GTB features the same robust online challenge system as GSB. The bottom line is that if this game tickles your fancy, prepare to lose hours in deep strategy and glorious explosions.


More information on Gratuitous Tank Battles can be found over on the game’s official website. Purchases can be made over on Steam or from the official store.

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