Starships: Sid Meier returns to deep space

Last year’s Civilization: Beyond Earth took the Civilization formula and sent it into space to explore the universe and terraform a new, alien world. However, that game didn’t allow players to pilot the spacecrafts that brought humanity to their new home, and some fans felt this was a missed gameplay opportunity. As if to make up for this oversight, Firaxis is already set to release a follow-up, entitled Starships, that aims to do just that.

Centuries after making a new home, humanity receives a distress call from another off-Earth colony. Galvanized to fight the unknown, these intergalactic humans send their best fleet into the depths of space, prepared to fix the galaxy’s problems.

The game begins with players constructing their fleet and choosing their Affinity. Beyond Earth fans should recognize these prototype races, which included the tech-savvy roboticists called Supremacy, the gene-splicing Harmony, and the Earth-loving traditionalists known as Purity. Each Affinity leader grants players a starting bonus, such as beginning the game with a random wonder, a quick tech boost, or extra starships.

Much like cities in Civilization, players discover new planets and incorporate them into their federation. Different planets generate different resources, providing your Federation with more fuel to build larger fleets and unlock new technologies. That would be pretty easy if it weren’t for the other human fleets constantly trolling the galaxy and laying down their own flags.

New planets offer players a chance to complete various, random missions such as clearing out a group of trouble-making marauders for rewards like extra tech and resources. Unlike most Civ games, however, these combat-based sequences play out on a separate hex-based grid where players take turns moving their ships through asteroid-laden battlefields in order to dismantle their opponent’s forces.

Depending on your loadout, your starships can snipe other ships from across planetary orbit, cloak themselves before moving in close to launch a salvo of torpedoes, or unleash several waves of secondary fighters that swarm your enemy’s sensors. These battlegrounds are dynamic maps that feature rotating asteroids and other objects that can obscure your line of fire and might prevent strategic retreats. 

Completing missions for other planets opens up new trade routes with these worlds and might ultimately convince them to join your federation. Would-be star captains will need these resources, since your growing fleet needs to be constantly outfitted with new technologies that increase the speed of your engines, the effectiveness of your weapons, and grant you new modules that open up more customization options.

Firaxis announced Starships only a couple months before its release, so the game will be counting down to blast off by the time this issue releases. That’s good news; after seeing Starships in action we’re eager to power up our fleet and conquer the galaxy. While Sid Meier’s newest project is clearly built on top of many of Beyond Earth’s systems, it looks like it might have enough fuel to become a series of its own.

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