Review: Battlestar Galactica Deadlock: Sin & Sacrifice

By Alex Connolly 19 Mar 2019 0

Review: Battlestar Galactica Deadlock: Sin & Sacrifice

Released 19 Mar 2019

Developer: Slitherine
Genre: Turn-Based Strategy
Available from:
Direct
Steam

Previously, on Battlestar Galactica Deadlock....

Black Lab Games are nothing if not indefatigable. Their tactical mil-SF fleet game came out two years ago and has received all manner of updates and expansions in the interim. Moreover, it’s all been rather top-shelf. If there was one criticism to level at the original game, it was a slight lack of frills.

As of now, capped by the new Sin & Sacrifice DLC expansion, that would be an unfounded accusation. Offering closure to Deadlock’s current story, or at least tying up one chrome knot, it brings with it a raft of interesting missions, characters, two new ships and, like prior DLC offerings, comes with a hefty patch that adds a lot of cool features for free, which we'll also cover.

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Unlike the Broken Alliance expansion, which interweaved itself into the main Deadlock narrative, Sin & Sacrifice offers a discrete post-campaign experience akin to Anabasis. I won’t offer a blow-by-blow review of the eleven-strong mission campaign, but suffice to say, if you liked the mainline campaign, you’ll like Sin & Sacrifice. Objective variety is impressive, nested expertly in the BSG milieu. The story doesn’t just unfold in-mission now, either. A large portion of the narrative is extolled via intermission audio logs on the Daedalus bridge. It’s all good stuff, congruous bickering and revelation.

The real nitty-gritty changes come in the form of two specific things. Sin & Sacrifice’s battle chatter voice pack alongside the free veterancy update.

This has been a long time coming. Battle chatter in the television series helped sell its brand of dark space opera, heavy on the military pulp. But even more evocative was the voice modulation, phasing and filtering voice transmissions in that distinctly BSG way. Now, though we’ve had to wait two years, that same, highly atmospheric sound has arrived with Sin & Sacrifice.

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Broken formation. Razzle-dazzle. Don’t let them use their targeting computers

According to developer notes, over one thousand battle barks and incidental calls now accompany the player in battle. Capital ships and fighters alike fill the comms with exactly the kind of pulpy banter you’d expect. From the flamboyant flare of toaster insults to last-mission calls to ‘mop up or 'deescalate’. No longer merely Helena Agathon’s domain, units report being under fire, kills; the full gamut. I did find I needed to drop the music volume down a smidgen, so as to catch all of it, but a gentle price to pay. Speaking of music, Ash Gibson Greig returns to provide new tracks in that very iconic sound, the likes of which Gibson Greig has made his own. Go home, Bear. Ash has this covered.

On the mechanical side, free in the eponymous update, is the Veterancy element. Playing BSG in iron man mode is thematically fitting, but prior to now, veterancy has merely been a running record of engagements. A ship might have been in the thick of it from the original release, but its experience counted for naught beyond accruing persistent cosmetic battle damage.

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Said damage was a sumptuous post-release update that now sings with the new veterancy system. Every ship that survives an engagement or makes a kill receives XP, levelling up towards passive bonuses based largely on ship class and variant. Carriers, for instance, receive improved fighter characteristics. A battlestar initially receives increases to maneuvering and an increased complement of marines. Even purely support vessels enjoy increased movement range and armour upgrades. We saw a similar system in Tindalos’ Battlefleet Gothic Armada series, and while the aforementioned has greater player agency in selecting upgrades, Deadlock's passive system keeps the fuss from getting in the way of tactics. The focus remains on fleet action, rather than managing cooldowns.

It bears mentioning that Pre-Sin & Sacrifice fleets aren't retroactively levelled, much to the imagined chagrin of Lilliputian crews everywhere. A small price to pay.

Our chrome friends aren't left in the dark, receiving similar awards for fleets used and maintained outside of the campaign. As the triumvirate of chatter, sustained aesthetic wear and individual vessel levelling comes together, it feels right. Prowess is rewarded and loss bittersweet. When a hardened, blooded ship is lost with all hands, you feel it. It’s utterly, well, Battlestar Galactica.

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Set condition one throughout the ship

As with other expansions, each side gets a new ship with Sin & Sacrifice. The Cylon Gorgon is an interesting and nuanced craft to operate. It acts as a sort of fighter controller, offering lightning fast repair bays for strike craft. But it also has the capability to enhance a targeted friendly fighter wing, boosting their agility the longer they’re in the fray. Definitely the kind of commitment you’d want when assaulted by Colonial interdictors.

Colonial fleet gets padded with an absolute brute of a vessel. The Heracles takes the survivability and flak of a Battlestar and marries it with a heavy gunship. As effective in anti-missile screening as it is a stone-cold ship killer, this vessel has quickly overtaken the Berzerk as my pick of the Colonial fleet. Blunt-force trauma has a new, if plodding, exemplar.

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Sin & Sacrifice marks the conclusion of what Black Lab Games are calling 'season one' of Deadlock. Information will be forthcoming on what season two holds, but it's been quite a journey over the last two years. Is there room for improvement? Sure. The strategic map would benefit from some life, such as NPC traffic, offering rich targets for raiders and further mission objective variety. A few less clicks would be nice, including the ability to group select vessels and select a target for focus-firing, for example. Small quality of life changes whose current absence is relatively negligible.

If there's one thing the small studio have done admirably, it is carving a good game into a great one. Free updates and paid DLC have exacted the kind of thoughtful expansion you'd want; no undermining by over-ambition. Reinforcements put iron the glove. Broken Alliance fleshed out the Quorum. After Anabasis cleverly effected the Second Cylon War via the original's setting, Sin & Sacrifice might seem somewhat conservative. However, Black Lab Games continue their tradition of tight, tactical mission design, and as a farewell to this chapter of the First Cylon War, it's a solid one.

Where to from here? The universe is a big place. After season one, whatever follows should be grand. Spool up.

Review: Battlestar Galactica Deadlock: Sin & Sacrifice

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