Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth played like a total conversion of Civ V, and I was ok with that. It didn’t wow me in the end, but it was still a fun game which continued the tradition of the “one more turn” gameplay we all know and love.
Thankfully it looks like the Beyond Earth universe is expanding in its own way, because with Starships, it is time to leave the new home planet and expand and conquer its neighboring star systems.
Starships takes place after the events of Beyond Earth. The settlers of the newly colonized planet have evolved into a new civilization of their own, and have begun attempts to colonize other planets, and finding out they are not alone in the universe. Granted the storyline isn’t that huge, but in a game like this, one really isn’t needed.
Starships features the same eight leaders used in Beyond Earth, but with the old Earth long behind them, they are not connected by their original sponsors. Each leader now follows their own policy that might result in an extra ship in your fleet, faster production, or an extra city to name a few. In addition, affinities that developed since planetfall are now available from the start. Supremacy players begin the game with a random Wonder already constructed, Harmony halves the cost of starship repairs, and Purity obtains double resource rewards for completing missions.
The heart of the game takes place on a galaxy map which shows your homeworld and all the neighboring systems. Starting with a single ship (or two if you play as Bolivar,) planets are controlled by way of influence points. Completing a mission will earn at least one influence point, with four being required to obtain total control of the planet and access to all of their resources: food (which increases city population,) metals (used to build planetary improvement which increase resource production,) energy (used to build, upgrade and repair ships,) and science (used to purchase tech upgrades for your ships.)
Each turn can allow a set number of moves, as determined by your ship’s crew morale. As morale goes down, the crew’s efficiency decreases, and the only way to restore it is to select “Shore Leave” and end the turn.
Combat takes place on a hexagonal field similar to that in Beyond Earth and is very simple, with ships moving a set amount of spaces per turn (determined by engine level compared to armor) and capable of firing both long range lasers and short range plasma cannons. If they are upgraded with the right items, they can also launch smaller fighters and fire torpedoes that can be detonated on command for insane levels of damage. Combat maps feature asteroids that could either decrease a weapon’s efficiency or make firing impossible so it’s a matter of placing your ships at the right location to get the best shot.
Civilization style diplomacy is back, but my experience with it is quite limited as it was just I meet someone and then later on they would declare war on me. Usually in a Civ game (aside from Civ Revolution) I played more as a pacifist setting. But with Starships I favored being a more aggressive player. In doing so I noticed when about to attack a homeworld if I contacted an enemy they would offer me a laughable amount of resources to back out and make peace.
Games are won via Population Victory (controlling at least 51% of the total galaxy population,) Domination (last surviving player,) Science (own at least three Level 6 technologies,) and Wonder (control seven wonders.) However when I played, I found it was way too easy to win via a Wonder Victory, and unfortunately when starting a game, you can only choose to enable every single victory condition, or just pick one for that game which is valid. You can’t turn off separate victory conditions like you can with Civ V and Beyond Earth. I really hope an update comes out that will fix this. When you play any other victory condition besides wonders, games can last several hours longer and are much more fun.
Thankfully as a budget game ($15 on Steam,) it’s not a very demanding game graphics wise. That is fine by me as it means that any computer can run it efficiently. It also supports touch screens so it can even be played on a tablet PC quite efficiently.
While it might be simplistic, Starships is an enjoyable tactical strategy spin off of the Beyond Earth franchise. I’m curious to see if it will expand along with its 4X sibling, especially with all the mods the Steam community will eventually provide.
Pros: Simple and accessible gameplay. Very low system requirements means it can run on any current PC. $15 price tag.
Cons: Wonder based victories are too easy to obtain. Average presentation. Cannot allow specific victory conditions to be turned off. It’s either play with all the victory conditions or just one.