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Freeware Friday: Battleships Forever


Welcome to Freeware Friday, a weekly column showcasing excellent games that you can play free of charge!

This Friday brings us to all the way back to the very first Freeware Friday. Warning Forever, that classic I championed in the first article of this fine column, inspired a strategy game that has been nominated for an IGF award. It's also an excellent game, and will suck your life away if you give into the siren call of the custom content through manipulating the robust ship maker. I am, of course, talking about Battleships Forever by Sean "th15" Chan.

Battleships Forever is a freeware game involving ships with incredible weaponry taking each other out in battles involving lots of projectiles and explosions. In this fashion, it draws direct inspiration behind Warning Forever. Unlike the original Warning Forever, though, Battleships Forever is a strategy game with a lot of tactical depth and replayability. This is especially impressive considering the game's size, a whopping 15 mb of HDD space.

After you start the game, you will notice that it has the Warning Forever aesthetic down pat. The neon lines, simple geometry, beautiful particle effects, and wonderful explosions all make an appearance in Battleships Forever, and it's very pleasing to watch a full-blown battle in motion. Even if you happen to be the one losing. This is all for the best, because the game contains a lot of excellent battles.

For one just beginning their Battleships Forever journeys (this means you!), the Campaign option is the best choice. The campaign acts as a primer for the game, teaching you how to do complex commands such as targeting individual sections of an enemy ship, moving while turning to face a different different than the one you are moving it, using the flux projector to block bullets, and protecting parts of your ship with Deflectors. It also tells a decent story, so you won't be bored.

The real meat of the vanilla game modes, however, lies with the skirmish mode. It features 4 different modes, each one having a completely different mode of play. There is a mode where you assault an enemy space station. There's another where you play a pirate faction out to terrorize civilian vessels. There's your traditional fight against waves of stronger and stronger enemies, and an attempt to escort transport ships through a blockade. Each mode is different each time, adding a lot to the replayability of the game.

When you are actually controlling the ships, you begin to notice the amount of depth and attention that went into the game. There is no random damage, no tohit rolls. Everything is precise and calculated. The person with the upper-hand is the one with the best strategy, not the best dice rolling skills. Weapons will always deal a certain amount of damage, components always have a certain amount of health, and speed is always a constant. On top of this, the amount of tactical options for inter-ship combat are limitless. Take down ship sections, destroy components to deprive the enemy of firepower or defenses, firing arcs, flux projectors, ship mobility, everything must be taken into account when fighting another ship.

As of right now, you're probably thinking to yourself "this sounds like a pretty fun game!". And you'd be right. But then you have custom content thrown into the mix, and suddenly Battleships Forever sucks your life into a whirlpool of enjoyment. The game comes with a ship creator where you can control every aspect of ship creation, from which components go where, what their stats are, rotation of ship parts, size, and a million other options. It makes it extremely easy to craft a unique ship all your own. Want a fast little raider? Or a warship bristling with railguns? With the creator, you can make anything you want.

Almost as a showcase for the excellent content creation system, there is a custom scenario mode that allows you to to make your own scenarios using both default ships and custom ships you have made or downloaded. Placement, rotation, and faction of the ships are all editable. Once your scenario is done, you can play it, or maybe take screenshots of the affair with the built-in screenshot utility. It's definitely wonderful for setting up massive fights worthy of shots as much as making actual scenarios. You can even set the ships to be AI-controlled, allowing you the luxury of watching the carnage unfold and taking shots or a video as you please.

The game's artistic direction is definitely nothing to sneeze at, with some very detailed and pretty geometric art populating the game world. On top of this, the sound direct is excellent. The explosions all have bone-jarring thuds to them, the beams make an impressive... well, beam noise. There's no voice acting, as it is done entirely by one person, but you won't care. Thee music is also serviceable, although some variety in the soundtrack would be nice. Thankfully, you can always run your favorite media player in the background and just turn the music off.

If there was one criticism I had to level at the game, it would be the lack of multiplayer support. The default game modes alone make for excellent replayability. If you include friends, though, they become that much more enjoyable. One player controlling a space station while three others attack it? Yes please. Players duking it out with custom-made ships in their own handmade scenarios? Oh, you know how cool that would be. Unfortunately, this is not present and won't be until the creator finishes the brand-spanking-new engine for the game. It's only a minor scratch on an otherwise pristine record, though.

After all is said and down, Battleships Forever is a game that, if you don't play often, you will at least come back to on a regular basis. The replayability, custom content, excellent strategic options, and action-oriented gameplay all add up to an amazing experience worth the small download. You can download the game through the official website or through our very own downloads section. The official site also has a database of collected character creations, if you want to spice things up a bit.

For another look at freeware games, take a peek at Joystiq's Free Game Club weekly feature!

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