Gimbal is the multiplayer shooter with buildable vehicles. Customize your weaponry, engines, and accessories, and then take to the skies against other pilots in real time.
What We Think
At first glance Gimbal appears to be a staple entry in the competitive top-down space shooter genre. A short foray into the menu of the game, however, and you’ll begin to see that Gimbal sets out with a more ambitious goal. Developer 8888888 Labs have set out to provide a space shooter where each player can easily modify and design their own ship before taking it into battle. These ships can then be shown to other players and easily downloaded for others to use. An admirable goal, but have they made a fun game?
Diving in for a quick shoot-out will reveal an enjoyable shooter with pleasingly tactile physics. You need to be quite sensitive with your use of the controls to ensure your ship goes the way you want it to but everything feels so fluid that this quickly becomes instinct. Things get a little trickier when enemy weapons fire gets involved, knocking your ship out of control or disabling thrusters, leaving you spinning in circles. The system for damage distribution is incredibly specific and any component of your ship can knocked out.
Battles generally involve two factions going head-to-head in a large cordoned-off square chunk of space. Each side has a carrier that can re-arm and repair friendly vessels. The objective is usually to either cripple the enemy carrier or get ahead on the kill-count. Friendly fire can be an amusing problem as not only can you accidentally harm friendly players but you can also easily come to a nasty end if you don’t watch your flight path; your carrier is AI controlled and comes packing a huge arsenal of firepower; wander into its firing line and you’ll likely be shredded by your own base defences.
Roll Yer Own
The action is only half (or even less) of the fun with Gimbal though, and once you begin to tinker with the hangar side of the game, things really start to get interesting. There are a few default ships to play with but to do so would be missing the point of Gimbal; you could easily sink hours into the ship-crafting interface.
The game offers a massive selection of parts to build your vessels from. Each set of parts falls under a particular type: airframes make up the basic chassis of your ship and then you can add extra components from the structure section to further personalise this platform. Once you’ve chosen your basic ship layout you can go into the more complex arena of weapons, sensors, propulsion, software and turrets.
The interface itself is surprisingly easy to get to grips with, as applying parts is accomplished with a drag-and-drop mechanism. There are also some nifty tools like mirroring that allow you to ensure the design goes to plan. The influence that the design has on your performance in-game is impressive. Weapons have many different varieties from instant hit lasers to powerful cannons and lock-on missiles. You can even outfit your ship for ramming the enemy.
“Software” also has some useful applications as you can use it with a turret-mounted weapon to make it track to the location of your mouse cursor, making aiming a breeze. How you apply all of these possibilities can result in unique designs that stand out on the battlefield. Your vessel can even be outfitted for stealth by using only parts with a low EM rating, ensuring that you only appear when you’re right on top of the enemy.
It’s interesting how different combinations can fulfil different roles for your team. My first attempt at including missiles in a design ended up as a dedicated bombing ship with big engines and twelve missiles. I went on some runs through the battle area, fired off all of my missiles and then fled back to my carrier for re-arming. There are as many different ways of playing as there are designs in your head and most of them are fun in some way. You can even steal the designs of enemy players by defeating them in battle, adding to the ways in which you can expand your repertoire.
Unfortunately Gimbal isn’t without its flaws. The game offers online play through either joining or hosting servers but it has no singleplayer to speak of. While it is possible to play with bots on your own server, this isn’t quite enough to make up for the lack of a campaign. With its system of designing and upgrading ships Gimbal is a perfect candidate for a singleplayer campaign. This wouldn’t be as much of a problem if the servers were more numerous and more populated but as it stands there are only about ten online at a time and only a few include real players.
That said, we can hardly blame the game for its current lack of players. As it grows in popularity (and it really deserves to) we may see the servers growing in number. Gimbal is an excellent premise and well executed; if it can gain a larger player-base and gets a few updates providing some singleplayer options then it could definitely grow into something very interesting. I would recommend Gimbal to space-shooter fans and to creative gamers looking for something to sink their teeth into.
Check out the trailer for Gimbal below: