Combo Breaker 2019 was amazing. Despite spending the least time in the venue this year than the previous two I’ve been (that hotel room was just so comfy) I still was able to play against some of my favorite players and meet so many people. It was that whole “FGC bringing people together” thing actually taking place. It felt nice. In the midst of me fighting and heckling, I stumbled upon one of the best things about the weekend for me. This arcade cabinet with an infinity mirror set up, flashing lights, and a very retro looking game I mistook for Galaga at first glance, but was soon confused then intrigued as I kept looking.
Have you heard of Galactic Battlegrounds? No? It’s alright. I didn’t either before now, despite being right up my alley. Imagine an old school space shooter, my go-to being Galaga. Now make it competitive and 4 player with some nutty power-ups. You sort of have the basis for Galactic Battlegrounds, but then you go a bit further. Obstacles, turrets, and more strategy than I thought a game like this could have. I spent a fair amount of time with this game and even played in a tournament for it. I got second, but I had a lot of fun. I even got a little time with the creator of the game, Kelly Pangburn. I didn’t get a good moment to interview him, but in my time in talking with him I learned a fair bit about the game.
Now, ship movement is limited, which is a good thing since it would encourage people to just kind of run up on other ships and ruin the point of the strategy. The game rewards quick thinking and synergy with your special moves, which you choose before the game begins. I was partial to the black hole ability, which swallows up any and everything within it’s radius. In the tournament, I was paired with a good guy named Chris who runs Free Play Arcade in Texas. I hear it’s amazing and should I go to Texas, I’ll let you all know how it is. He was partial to the shield, which protected against everything. Other powers include a shockwave which sends your ship spinning, a shooting star which shoots through everything and pushes debris at you, a shield that protects against everything, and more. On top of that were the field power-ups that you had to shoot to earn such as a revive for your partner, an extra life, a laser that pushes debris around, and a tracking missile.
This game is definitely designed for 4 players. One on one can get a little more unfair with the right power-ups and single player isn’t nearly as fun. But get 4 people together and you see this game shine as you try to pick a good combo of powers, manage space, avoid debris, try to keep control of turrets that can only be claimed if you shoot at them, and so much more. What I appreciate most is Kelly himself, recording and watching for glitches or problems that can be fixed in time such as power-ups not working or the black hole making the homing missile super small and nearly impossible to hit. Minor glitches, but nothing that made the game any less enjoyable. Now, while I wasn’t able to get a formal interview from Kelly at the time, something he said at the time stuck with me. He told me that with this game, he hoped to revitalize the arcade scene and bring something fresh to it. And you know? This is the kind of game that could do just that.
A lot of the appeal of the arcades is the social aspect coupled with the love for video games. This game also has the retro appeal, giving some familiarity to those who may be skeptical while proposing a brand new idea. As I gave the quickest synopsis I could to my friends about what this game was, I often called it “competitive Galaga” and they were intrigued off that premise alone. Some were confused as to how that could possibly be a thing, but as I gushed about this game (as a lover of space shooters, I’m a teensy bit biased) some were really interested in the idea. Even now, the idea of the barcade continues to thrive in places like Emporium where people have simply added alcohol to the mix. A genius idea, really. You can go there and see people enjoying all manner of old school games, and something with that aesthetic can fit right in there while not getting buried. Seriously, you can’t possibly not see this machine. It’s eye catching without being gaudy. I love it.
Galactic Battlegrounds has the potential to be something really special. As I left Combo Breaker, I felt a bit of sadness that I wouldn’t be able to play it till who knows when because there isn’t a machine locally…yet. Kelly has expressed interest in getting the machine to Galloping Ghost or the Emporium, but that’ll be a ways away until some other goals are met. From the looks of it, he’s almost there. So I’ll keep my fingers crossed for that. In the meantime, if you happen to be in an area where this game is, PLEASE give this a shot. You all know I love indie games and are always out to shout to the heavens games I think you should pay attention to. This is definitely one of them. Go like their Facebook and follow their Twitter (@gbg_the_game) to keep tabs on them and see when they’re in the area. Also, follow us and all that, too. If you ever got a chance to play it, let us know what you thought of it. If not, does this sound like your kind of game? Let us know in the comments. They will keep my mind off not being able to play this game for a while.