Multiplayer as a focus can often put a short lifespan on a game’s playability. Putting competitive multiplayer as the sole focus does this to a further degree. This is where games like Gimbal come in. Gimbal is an online multiplayer top down space shooter. It’s focus was meant to have a social aspect but I failed to see where there was any sort of aspect other than doing what any steam user does on the community hub regardless. Given at this point the player base has dwindled to almost 0, the enjoyment one can find in this game comes and goes. Sadly there isn’t much to say about this game without other players to play against, and I mean randoms. With the game’s features, it seems like a waste to leave the game with only competitive multiplayer.
The players are given a few ships they can customize in great detail, from part placement to controls for each and every part added to your ship. This is useful as the player grinds their way to a higher budget cap and higher ranks for more parts, and frames. The budget being what limits how much a player can put into their ships. Each part and piece of the ship, down to its base frame, have a cost and players cannot fly a ship that is above their budget or the limit set by the server they play on. It makes for some creative ways to optimize one’s ship builds to suit a particular play style. In the matches I joined one of the few available public servers, I’d only encountered one actual player. I destroyed two of the ships another player made, which allowed me to steal the blueprints of his ship design. I could then modify or even fly these designs myself , beating the other guy with his own ships for insult to injury. Likewise there is a visibility aspect to ships, which determines their otherwise map presence on the radar of other ships and even how close a ship can be before another player sees it. There is room for stealth builds which could impact gameplay in certain modes.
This ability to share and take other player’s ship designs does add a layer to multiplayer but I imagine with a more active player base, one’s shipyard of blueprints would be over crowded eventually. Thankfully players get the option to delete ships. This is good given how crazy one could get with ship control layouts. Speaking of, I should add that ship controls are often defaults to arrow keys instead of wasd even though the game supports mouse controls for aiming, if one customized their ship with rotating turrets. The mouse can be used for ship navigation as well. Using the mouse for aiming or movement can hit the player in the budget, and the more weapons or thrusters one dedicates to mouse aim the more expensive it gets. That isn’t to say one couldn’t play without mouse aim, in some cases I would think it’d be more beneficial.
The game uses a physics model where firing non-laser based weapons can change the ship’s velocity. That’s not a bug, more of a feature given the player can fire to the rear while heading forward for a speed boost. It’s pretty good. Missiles add weight to the ship which impacts speed, deploying rockets lightens the ship weight which in turn lets the ship accelerate faster and obtain a higher top speed. Again, feature, not bug. There are special parts, that when triggered by a preset key, can detach anything fixed to them, removing weight from the ship. This could give a ship the ability to make a traveling bomber, able to deploy rounds in a target area and then quickly escape. The same be said for some sort of tank build, able to do a lot of damage at the cost of speed and acceleration but once the vessel is damaged enough it can drop weight and flee for repair and resupply. There is so much the customization area of the game could explore but is wasted on the available playability of the existing playmodes in multiplayer. One more thing about the physics model in game and customization, an unbalanced layout in ship design, and sort of lopsidedness can and is often punished. So losing part of one ship can affect maneuverability in a way that can prevent a ship from being able to obtain a firing solution or escape.
Granted there are a a handful of playmodes. Team Deathmatch, Capture the flag, Elimination, your standard fare. There were two modes that were, in my opinion, undersold and under explored. Race and Battlegroup. As I mentioned about customization, ships could do crazy things based on how the server they play on set limits for play. I didn’t see an option to restrict or prohibit weapons from ship builds which means races are very much combat oriented. This saddens me because I’m sure races could be as interesting without combat. And with the global budget cap being high enough to allow for some really fast non combative ships it would have been interesting to have that option. This brings me to the next playmode and allows me to touch onto some previous topics.
Battlegroup at first seems like a Team Deathmatch game where players wandering into the wrong part of the map can be disabled, if not destroyed by an enemy ship carrier and granting the other team a free point. And at the end of the round the team with the most points wins, with a certain exception I’ll get to in a moment. But in reality, this seems close to a moba style mechanic. Both teams in this play mode have their own carrier, at which ships can repair and rearm. This is where that ship customization mechanic could shine. For traveling weapon platforms that deploy, detach and then return to base to resupply. For scout ships that hold low enough visibility profiles to sneak under the nose of enemy ships and find the location of the carrier. Slow moving heavy attack vessels with point defense, fighters that are light on armor but have massive damage output. This really is where ship customization helps the player reach the goal of Battle Group I had mentioned earlier. Destroying the enemy carrier. The round limit is the time the player has to destroy the carrier and doing so ends the round early with a victory point to the team with their carrier intact. But alas it seems the only Battle Group server I found preferred rounds too short for any of my dps builds to sink a carrier. Which meant I spent the remaining rounds playing as if I were playing Team Death Match.
That isn’t to say this game is all low marks. The visuals are nice and the user interface is pretty comfy in my opinion. I was able to see all the relevant information about my ship at the bottom of the screen. I was able to get a good idea of how much ammo I had, my velocity/acceleration, radar visibility, and my ship condition based on components translated with color, green for good red for about to be dead. Likewise game mode information was easily readable at the top of the screen. Things like cross hairs are customized on a weapon by weapon basis and were easy to see. And ships visible to my ship’s radar or to an allied ships radar were easily visible with an icon on the screen, positioned relative to my ship. So yes, interface was done well to the point where function made things pretty comfy. High marks on whoever did that interface. I was able to read it quickly without losing screen real estate.
This game has a lot of potential, and most of that potential is wasted and squandered on a handful of playmodes and a lack of forethought. I did enjoy the game for the time I’ve put into playing it, but I would have appreciated some sort of pure co-op and/or single player. Do not mistake this review as one big slam piece trashing the game and giving it a low score. I like the game and the concepts it has, but as I stated, I would have liked to see more from it. Sadly that didn’t happen. This game has strong points, and where it does the interface and customization really well, it only explores it’s own potential to a small degree. All in all the game was fun and I imagine grinding to higher ranks wouldn’t be noticed or even that much of a pain but soloing for higher ranks gets old fast. All in all I would say this game is worth getting on sale. If the 88888888 studios, the developers, made new content tomorrow I would certainly give it a look. And if Gimbal had some sort of player campaign, maybe with some co-op, then I’d suggest buying this game at full price or a 4 pack to play with friends. Because squad goals.
Played on PC(steam)