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Battlestar Galactica Deadlock: The Broken Alliance (BSGD:TBA...still a mouthful, let's just go with BA) is the freshly released expa...

Battlestar Galactica Deadlock: The Broken Alliance Battlestar Galactica Deadlock: The Broken Alliance

Battlestar Galactica Deadlock: The Broken Alliance

Battlestar Galactica Deadlock: The Broken Alliance

Battlestar Galactica Deadlock: The Broken Alliance (BSGD:TBA...still a mouthful, let's just go with BA) is the freshly released expansion to last year's surprisingly excellent we-go space fleet strategy game from Black Lab Games. I never got a chance to play the base game before a few weeks ago, so this review will cover both the full game and the new DLC. 

For players already familiar with Deadlock, I'll cover The Broken Alliance in detail first, then go back and give a overview of the base game for newbies. BA integrates smoothly into the existing dynamic campaign structure, enhancing it rather than being a separate experience. The campaign exists as a series of eight special missions that you can attempt to complete in the midst of the existing war against the Cylons. The first mission marker will appear as soon as you finish the initial tutorials, giving you the option to add one of the brand new ship types to your fleet right away. You can of course ignore it for awhile if the Cylons are focusing your attention elsewhere. As the name of the DLC implies, these missions center around the tenuous alliance of the human worlds in the face of the Cylon onslaught. Much like in the BSG TV series, the aims of the front line military commanders and the ambitions of various politicians don't mesh, leading to plenty of drama and tension. There are several new characters with strong personalities who are part of a neat story line that will keep you hooked. These events all take place within the overall war that you are already fighting, and add more decision points to a campaign that already had a good amount of replayability.

Along the course of the campaign, you will get to try out some new toys and face new enemy ships. Each side of the Human vs Cylon war gets a new offensive capital ship, a new support ship, and a new fighter type. These give you some fresh options for building your fleet in the campaign, and add a little extra spice to the multiplayer gameplay. For example, the first mission of the BA campaign gives you access to the Celestra class resupply ship, which can augment armor on a specific section of a friendly ship, and also send extra missiles or torpedoes over to restock your offensive ships. The Celestra has no means of attack at all, but opens up new tactical options. You can use the armor buff to help a ship take the brunt of the enemy attack, constantly moving the extra layer of defense around to offer the most protection.  The ability to restock missiles makes another early game ship type, the Ranger missile frigate, able to continue firing long after its munitions racks would normally have run empty. Although a resupply ship may not seem that sexy at first glance, it really does give you a new dimension to consider in your battle plans.

The Broken Alliance expansion released alongside a substantial patch which adds many improvements to the game even if you don't pick up the DLC. The Endurance Update adds one key new feature, persistent damage, which effects both the tactical and strategic layer for the better. Previously, ships would return to full health after each battle, regardless of whether they took a beating in the last fight. This meant that there was no reason not to rush in headlong as long as you knew you could kill the enemy before they knocked out one of your guys. Now it's in your best interest to fight each battle with the future in mind, minimizing damage whenever possible. This damage is shown visually as it happens, which makes the battles feel much more like the show, as ships limp away from a tough fight covered in bruises.

Overall, The Broken Alliance is easily worth the cost of admission and, along with the Endurance Update, enriches an experience that was already rather solid. This is the best kind of DLC, one that seamlessly integrates into the original game and makes what was already there better. Between the new content and persistent damage, veteran players have more than enough reason to spin up their FTL drives and hop back in for another round against the toasters.

What if you're fresh to the BSG Deadlock scene and want to hear a bit more about that dynamic campaign and those cool looking tactical battles? I've got you covered!

BSG Deadlock is a game about the first Cylon War, which happened many years before the events of the rebooted TV series. The Galactica is not some ancient warship ready to be turned into a museum, but instead it is one of the premier flagships of the Colonial Fleet. Unfortunately, the Galactica has gone missing, and following a strong blow from a surprise Cylon assault, the Colonial Fleet is in rebuilding mode. This is where you start the campaign, right in the middle of a war that has been going on for some time with no end in sight, hence "Deadlock." There's no running and hiding from the Cylons here, this is a game all about big ships slugging it out in head-to-head confrontations. 

The gameplay is broken up into two distinct halves. The tactical battles, and the strategic layer. Each heavily influences the other, and you will need success in both to carry humanity to victory.

On the strategic level, the game features a dynamic campaign where you maneuver your fleet, and later, multiple fleets, around the Twelve Colonies of Kobol, fighting off the Cylons where they appear, and also taking on special scenarios that move the story forward. The twelve human worlds provide you with resources each turn, but they can drop out of the alliance if you don't defend them, much like nations in XCOM. However, here you can bring them back into the fold over time. As part of the strategic layer you are able to build ships, research new designs, assign and promote officers, and set priorities for the war as you see fit. 

There's some interesting decision making to be had in terms of how you use the resources available to you. New ships can be built fairly cheaply over the course of a few turns, or pumped out immediately for an exorbitant price. Likewise, officers can be promoted (allowing you to level up their abilities) for free as they gain experience, or you can use valuable resource points to push them faster. The technology tree isn't vast, but does require you to decide priorities based on how you want to fight your battles. If you want to jump straight to a Battlestar tier of ship, you'll have to forgo many of the cheaper upgrades and designs that could make your starting fleet more potent.  There's something to be considered here every turn, since even moving your ships rapidly across the map can put a strain on your resources. Letting them idle for a few turns is much more fuel efficient, but of course means that the Cylons are raiding unchecked somewhere.

I enjoyed the strategic part of the game because it gives you the freedom to conduct the war how you want, while still pushing you forwards constantly. Your operations are centered around a mobile shipyard that tags along with one of your fleets. It gives your starting fleet a bit of help in battles with its two fighter squadrons and some turrets. However, soon you must build additional fleets and send them out alone to keep the enemy in check across the twelve colonies. Doing so will give you benefits, since worlds support you more when you have a military presence there, and having more fleets spread around makes it much easier to drive off the Cylons wherever they appear.

The other half of the game is the tactical battles. This is the meat of the game, where you face the enemy head on and do your best to defeat them while taking minimal casualties. The interface for commanding your ships is easy to use, but there is a ton of depth to explore. The action is broken up into we-go turns where orders are given by both sides, then the action plays out briefly before giving you another chance to issue orders. 

Ships have separate armor on all four sides plus the top and bottom. Once the armor in one section gets chewed up, the ship starts taking damage to its "health" points. Ships have specific sections like engineering and fire control which can be damaged and must be repaired to restore functionality. Each ship also has specific arcs of fire depending on where the turrets are. One of your starting ship classes can only fire forwards and backwards, while the other can only fire broadsides. Later models have more arcs, including some that are on the top or bottom. All of this means that you absolutely must use the concept of three dimensional space to your advantage. I tried a lot of tactics like stacking ships vertically and doing a space rendition of crossing the T. One must also consider that missiles or torpedoes fired by your ships will crash into any friendly ships in the line of fire, so you need to consider that when coming up with a formation.  There are some other small tweaks you can make every turn, like using a slider to add more power to either defense or attack (at the cost of speed) or boosting all power to the engines to cover some space. As your ships take damage, you can direct repair crews to whichever section of the ship you think needs to be repaired first. 

Besides your large ships, you will also be fielding plenty of Viper and Raptor squadrons. The Vipers are your fighter jets, going out to attack enemy fighters and harass larger ships. They are great for projecting some power rapidly across the battlefield where needed. They can also play defense, and try to intercept incoming missiles. The Raptors are your utility players, equipped for electronic warfare, defense against Cylon hacking, boarding operations, and a small rack of missiles just for fun. Probably my only big complaint with the game is that you never seem to get those close in third-person shots of the Vipers that were so common in the show.

The tactical battles initially seem like they could get repetitive or easy since you see a lot of the same ship types over and over, but that isn't the case. Each time you go out the enemy is in a different configuration, and the battles are so dynamic in how they flow from moment to moment that they never become repetitive. I had a constant drive to experiment with different strategies to see what would produce the best results. Again, I have to mention how the 3-D aspect of space combat really does come into play here, unlike in many space combat games where it doesn't really matter that much. As you add more ships to the mix, the tactical possibilities open up even more and as different enemy ships appear your tactics must adjust to the new threats they pose. All of this taken together makes for a lot of variety as the campaign progresses from small-medium skirmishes to late game heavy-weight bouts.

Even when a battle mostly goes your way, this is a war between powerful opponents, and you will lose ships. It's heartbreaking to see a ship you've had from early on get caught in a kill zone because you maneuvered them too aggressively, or when a Cylon frigate manages to get off one last salvo of torpedoes which hits the one weakened section of armor on one of your ships, destroying it just as the battle ends. Losing ships and building new ones is part of the game, and really makes it feel like you are in a fierce battle for survival.

The graphics and sound do a great job of depicting space battles in the style of the BSG reboot. Missile trails, cannon fire, flak bursts, it's all there and puts you right into the show. Zoom in on a ship and you can even see its name painted on the side. As ships take damage they will shows the scars of battle on their hull, with fire leaking out here and there. The sound effects perfectly match the action, with the dull boom of cannons followed by the deep cracking of a capital ship breaking up. One cool feature of the game is that you can watch a complete replay of each battle once it is over, with cinematic camera shots showing off all of the action. This turns a long series of brief turns into an uninterrupted movie that can be very enjoyable to watch when a battle goes your way. I have to praise the music in particular. It is not the exact same music from the show (as far as I can tell), but it captures the same style perfectly. If you want a game that puts you right into the action of a Battlestar Galactica battle, this is it. 

It goes without saying that I give this game a strong recommendation. If you are a fan of the show, you must play it. If you are a fan of turn-based tactics, XCOM style strategy-tactical mixes, or space combat, you should definitely be interested. The combat is great, the dynamic campaign provides a rich context for why you are fighting, and the game perfectly captures the atmosphere of the BSG universe. I didn't even mention the great voice work that goes into the story scenarios and briefings, where you get all the political intrigue and infighting that is common to the setting. With the addition of The Broken Alliance expansion, a good game is made even better. The game is half-off for the next week, so it's a great time to join the fray. 

So say we all!

BSG Deadlock and its expansions are available directly from Matrix Games. 
Deadlock Base Game
The Broken Alliance DLC

The game is also available on Steam, PS4, and XBOX ONE.

- Joe Beard