I jumped into Gaslight thinking that it was a real time strategy (RTS) game. I envisioned maneuvering armies of steam tanks and building the economic bases needed to produce such units. But Gaslight is not an RTS. You do get to build a base that can produce military units, but those units are hidden away from the main map.
I struggled for a little bit trying to understand just what sort of a game Gaslight is. It’s a game that doesn’t want to be actively played for more than five or ten minutes at a time. Structures take five minutes to build. The better military units can take fifteen minutes to produce. These build times can be sped up to instantaneous by spending gold to “hurry up” production, but pretty soon you run low on gold and all you can do is wait. The best strategy is to simply not play for a while. Time is marked as passing in the game even when you are not running the game. This realization revealed to me what kind of game Gaslight is. Gaslight is a Facebook game.
Gaslight might not run in your browser, but it is a variation of Farmville. It’s designed to be played in five to ten minute spurts and then ignored for a bit while you presumably do something productive. Then, when you want a quick break from work, you can jump back into the game. The makers of Gaslight earn income from the game by allowing you to pay real money to buy Aether, which is the resource needed to build new structures. If you get tired of waiting, you can spend real money (a whole lot of real money, if you want) to get ahead in the game.
Combat is launched from the Army window. You can fight whenever you choose to do so. There’s no army movement, nor is there any chance that an enemy horde will show up at you base and reduce it to ruin. Combat consists of nothing more than clicking on which enemy that you want your selected unit to fire at. You can use boosters to give your units an edge, but this costs a lot of Aether, which is better spent on constructing buildings. Outnumbering opponents doesn’t matter because you can only bring the same number of troops into a battle that the enemy has. Oddly, the scarier looking units tend to be the cheapest and least effective. An engineer throwing a wench does more damage than a steam-powered battle suit.
On the positive side, the graphics look good and the interface is clean and sharp. Best of all, the game is free, as long as you are willing to pace yourself.