If you ever tire of the single-player scenarios though, there's always more to consider in the form of the online challenges. Challenges are the game's version of multiplayer where one can post up a fleet for others to challenge and defeat. At the same time you can download other people's challenge fleets, customizing your own to defeat them - which is no easy task. There are some very challenging enemy fleets that are put up out there.
Add to this a vast variety of mods available for the game in the terms of custom hulls - from Star Trek vessels, to Star Wars and even Babylon 5 ships which you can find on the forums - and you pretty much have every sci-fi nerd's dream battle generator here. Or at least it would be, if not for some glaring flaws.
Despite having a very novel concept and execution at its core, the game faces the problem in that the novelty wears off fast. In my experience it wore off after finishing off the single player battles - at which point the focus shifted from the "oohs" and "aahs" of the explosions to trying to get unique ship setups that were fun and appealing.
This is largely because the battles are…well, to be honest after a while they tend to get boring. The movement of the ships - even with high quantities of engines - is much too slow and watching a battle even at 4x speed on the larger maps can take ages before the actual fighting starts.
The AI's wonky behavior at times just adds more frustration - which gets worse when you finally see the ships reach each other…and then realize you gave them the wrong orders. What follows then is basically going back to the main screen, resetting the orders (which, if you've got a lot of ship types can tend to be a clunky and drawn-out affair) and then waiting for the ships to crawl across the map all over again before they start shooting at each other. It quickly becomes a dull, repetitive affair that pretty much annoys the heck out of a player.
It honestly could've afforded to move faster - Battleships Forever, for instance, had far more dynamic and fluid game play. The ships moved fast, they reacted faster and had full freedom of movement in all directions (except up and down since it was still 2D). While the RTS aspect complicated matters, the fluidity of the ships allowed for far quicker and more impressive visuals - especially the zen-esque battle that simply continued to roll on the AI alone in the menu's background. That one rolling battle alone was nothing short of amazing no matter how many times you saw it. Despite that being an added feature to a game with far poorer graphics, that one feature alone still manages to outshine GSB in sheer Gratuitousness in a way.
It becomes such that as you go on you tend to focus on the other elements of the game - the challenges for instance, are extremely entertaining because there are challenging. Some of the fleets put up by other players that can be very tough nuts to crack. But one has to then ask the question: has the game fallen into the very pit-trap it was trying to avoid all along?
This is part of the main problem with GSB. It simply tries to be too gratuitous in a way. Even though it manages to avoid the major distractions and headaches that block out the space battles, not enough effort has put into the battles themselves. The best way to put it is thusly: while ships and fleets are super-dynamic thanks to the customization, battles are not. If you've seen two or three battles, you've pretty much seen them all - even when you try to mix things up by having wildly differing strategies they still play out in that slow, annoyingly ponderous pace.
All said and done though, this is still a good, fun game in many ways. The graphics are good, the game play while repetitive is still solid enough to last a few days, while tinkering with fleets and new strategies never gets old. Tack in the challenges and you have a fairly solid deal despite most of its flaws.
It's lasted far longer than some £50 games I've had the bad luck to buy and for £17, you could do a lot worse - but at the same time you have to realize, you can do a lot better. This is especially since the other alternative to this game - Battleships Forever - is basically free and is almost as good; going even so far as surpassing GSB in some minor ways.
Since this is a review that apparently requires a rating (something that I generally hate to do considering how difficult it is to rate something that is, by nature, relative), I'd rate it at a 7.75/10. Beyond that, my final recommendation is this: try the demo first. If you like it, buy it. Otherwise skip it for the time being until its price comes down or it goes on sale.