Piece by broken Piece
Gimbal is a top down, physics-centric, 2D space shooter for PC. It is priced at £11.99 and available through Steam. Yes, you can make a penis shaped ship.
The game markets itself as “the multiplayer shooter with buildable vehicles” and while that is certainly true, it is underselling it. The in-game customisation is as deep and complex as you would expect from a similarly priced simulator. The problem with having such a complex customisation system is that it is very difficult to utilise until you’ve put in hours of play. For the most part, it was easier to just steal other people’s designs and modify them slightly (more on that later).
The combat in Gimbal is fast and tense: a dogfight could be over in seconds. The problem with this realistic and brutal approach to spaceship battle is that afterwards you are stuck doing nothing as you search for people to fight. You can give yourself more boosters in order to go faster, but then you have less money for weaponry and you are more likely to die. The game has a trinity in place; Weaponry, Speed and Armour, but it seems that none of these matter as higher level players have better everything than you.
As you progress in Gimbal you unlock more powerful parts and a higher budget for your designs. This leads to newer players being almost locked out as veterans of the game can float about with nigh-unbreakable armour and long range weaponry that can insta-kill from a screen and a half away. When we played this game we came across a design that was essentially an armoured box with a rail cannon and several flak cannons. This meant we couldn’t come close to it and being far away just gave it a shooting gallery. It took two of us unloading a grand total of 3000 bullets, 18 missiles and a high speed collision with the ram weapon to take this behemoth down.
Once we had defeated it, we then got its design but we were unable to use it as it was at too high a level. We were stuck with our pathetic little fighters and were unable to mount another of our Death Star trench runs again. So, we tried some other game modes.
First was ‘Capture the Flag’ – essentially a deathmatch, but with less point. No-one went for the flag that a few of the previously mentioned behemoth-like ships guarded. It seems camping does indeed exist in space. Hope they brought marshmallows for their long stay.
‘Race’ mode then followed: we did the smart thing and played this one by ourselves and it was actually very fun. Probably the strongest mode of the game as we raced then tweaked our designs to try and outrun the other whilst also guarding our rears. This mode does a lot to change up the formula of the game which was a pleasant surprise.
‘Elimination Deathmatch’: “Quick deaths would be much better if I didn’t have to keep trying again.” Yeah, no, we’re not doing that.
Last on the list was ‘Team Deathmatch’, which turned out to be the main focus of the game – something we didn’t realise when we first tried it. If you have this game, we recommend sticking to this mode and Race until you’re a high enough level to actually survive in the deadly world of free for all deathmatches.
A note for anyone intending to grind; invest in heavy weaponry and rockets as the A.I. in this game will make a beeline for the kill-zones at the edge of the map, in order to commit suicide if it has no weapons or ammo left.
The visuals are clean and crisp which is very important in this game as it makes it easy to identify the different parts of an adversary’s ship – something that is very important when you are about to engage an enemy. On more than one occasion, the sight of flak cannons had us fleeing with our exhaust port between our legs. Though, when players are given control over the design of the ships, it sometimes becomes difficult to tell exactly what a ship can do as ships quickly become an optimized mess of armour, weaponry and thrusters. I was often quickly destroyed by unseen lasers that, from the zoom depth I played at, looked much like thrusters.
On the topic of zoom depth, Gimbal‘s default zoom is too close to the ship to allow you to see where enemy ships are until it’s too late, so be prepared to spend some time finding a depth you are comfortable with. You can also middle mouse click in order to view the entire map through some sort of satellite view, which is very useful for finding where the combat is taking place.
Gimbal has the potential to be a great game: the idea of top-down arcade space combat mixed with customisable ships excited us greatly, but unfortunately the attention to realism and an imbalanced leveling system led to frustration and to us turning to other games. If the balancing issues were to be addressed we would recommend this game, but in its current state, avoid it unless you’re willing to spend a good few hours grinding against bots.