Orion’s Belter: Endless Space

By Adam Smith on May 4th, 2012 at 2:00 pm.

The amount of developers that seem happy to revive our favourite things from times gone by is something recently discussed in the breezy parapets of Castle Shotgun. A few days later a game appeared on Steam, taking preorders that gave access to its alpha. That game is Endless Space and if it were a farmyard animal it would be plodding around a field saying ‘MOO’ quite a lot. It’s a space-based 4X game and although I need to spend more time with it before I say too many more words, it’s already caused me to miss one night’s sleep and that just doesn’t happen enough anymore. Trailer and brief excited key-tapping below.

First of all, the music in that trailer is magnificent and (although presumably not also by Matthew Slater) so is the rest of the music in the game. It makes looking at star maps feel like the most grand and majestic pursuit possible, which is as it should be. They’re attractive star maps too and it’s not the kind of attractive that gets in the way of utility; the interface is clean, clear and helpful. Apart from the usual space things such as designing ships, colonising planets and researching lasers, there’s also a lot of Dust about the place. It’s a bit like Spice, except not entirely. More on that when I’m not quite so ignorant about it.

As I’ve only put a few hours in, it’s mostly the exploring that I’ve been enjoying. Arriving at a new sun and seeing what conquerable bounty orbits around it is one of gaming’s great joys, as is resigning yourself to the fact that a planet is all but dead and dumping some settlers onto it anyway out of boredom or spite. There’s a generous range of options when generating a galaxy at the beginning of the game and it’s those and the 100-plus traits for factions that are immediately enticing.

Travelling from system to system is a case of following preset lanes, although technology will unlock other means of interstellar movement and I’ve mostly been avoiding other species, although I have seen a teensy bit of combat, which takes the form of impressive videos of action with occasional requests for player input. I’m cautiously optimistic that it might be a comfortable middle ground between automation and dense tactical interruption to the main strategic banquet.

The alpha only contains five of the eight factions that will be in the final release and the multiplayer component isn’t available yet. Apart from that it’s probably mostly a case of balance, which a few more extensive sessions will give me more of an idea about. Expect a full write up next week and expect to email me about my failure to meet your expectations on Friday. Soon though, I promise. Check the website for more details, particularly in regard to the Creating Games2gether gubbins.

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156 Comments »

  1. caddyB says:

    I love that art in the header image, I should probably make it my desktop background.

  2. KauhuK says:

    Could this be what Sword of the Stars 2 failed to be?

    • RedViv says:

      A working product? It already is. Even more finished than SotS2 is right now.

    • RF says:

      Basically, it’s Sword of the Stars without all the fucking horrible clunky bits (the UI, the randomised tech tree, the fucking disgustingly unnecessarily hard to navigate starmap etc).

      • Fumarole says:

        I loved the tech tree and liked the UI, although navigating the map was a bit of a pain.

      • Joshua Northey says:

        RedViv- lol

        Rf- The UI could have used a lot of work in SotS2, but the SOtS1 UI was functional if uninspired. The randomized tech tree was frankly one of the best ideas about that game. Maybe not implemented exactly how I would have done it, but hey I didn’t make it and it was a great design decision (IMO). SotS2 is so unfinished though it is hard to say much of anything about it. Is the UI bad because they never finished it, because they rushed it, because they couldn’t put resources into it when everything else was so far behind, because they just did a bad job designing it? Hard to say, probably all of the above.

        • DuddBudda says:

          while the UI is not pleasant, SOTSII is now feature complete and playable, though no playable enough that I’ll ever see what that randomised tech tree brough to the game
          I had my fingers crossed for an expansion bringing a complete SOTSII, but I think I’ll move on to endless space right about…

          …now

          edit – it’s downloading and I’m buzzed with excitement, the part of me that GalCiv’ed for weeks on end just caught the scent of a new galaxy to conquer

    • caddyB says:

      I’ve preordered Sots2 from the first day I could do so. Lets just say my total playtime is 10 hours since release.

      This looks great though, I will preorder it soonish.

      • Seboss says:

        The 3D starmap has never been much of a problem for me, at least for small to medium games. I don’t play on large maps anyway, I like the game fast paced and not dragging for too long. But I understand it can be a problem, especially for players who enjoy huge maps.

        I beg to disagree on the randomized tech tree however. I think it’s a pretty nice feature that makes the player to re-evaluate their strategy from game to game, and helps keeping research exciting even when you know the tech tree by heart. If you really hate the randomization, it’s fairly straightforward to update the tech tree XML file to set the tech probabilities to 100% for all races.

        Regarding SotS 2, I’m with caddyB. I really like SotS 1 and was looking forward to SotS 2 but I barely played it for obvious reasons. I check on the updates from time to time and it really improved in the last few weeks. I’m still waiting for the “all clear” signal from Kerberos before investing any significant chunk of time in the game, but I’m confident it will be a pretty decent 4X eventually. Besides, not many 4X have such deep and engaging combat.

        • aepervius says:

          SOTS2: After being burned at launch, I got a refund from Steam (and knowing their normal “no refund you are S.O.L” policy that tells you a lot on the state of the game). I will not only wait for the all-clear from KP, but also wait for 1 month or 2 to see the dust settle and see 1) if non-Fan also give at least a neutral feedback (fan kept telling the game is great or has great “potential” despite the horror it was) and 2) check in forums that the place holder text and other important stuff are now in because without them and the pop up text you are limited to an WWW wiki which is a no-no. You gotta get at least a minimum explanation on what modules do. And that was NOT even in the initial release.

          Endless space looks great.

        • RF says:

          I’ve just always felt the 3D starmap did very little for a game whilst damaging a lot of the flow of it. Ultimately, we’re creatures that think in 2D space, and having something set up like that disorientates a lot of your potential customer base whilst attracting exactly no one.

          I disagree completely. 4xs and Civ-alikes have a MASSIVE amount of randomisation and force you to change your strategy. It’s called the game world / galaxy. Your research is meant to be the tools to deal with the galaxy. To find I have both a randomised set of tools and a randomised job to do? Not very good.

          • Joshua Northey says:

            A) There were 2d starmaps.
            B) It does attract people, I don’t think I ever would have gotten into SotS1 if it just had 2d star maps, maybe I would have, but it was a selling point for me personally.

          • Unaco says:

            “I’ve just always felt the 3D starmap did very little for a game whilst damaging a lot of the flow of it. Ultimately, we’re creatures that think in 2D space”

            Yeah… cos all of those millennia of Evolution in a 3 Dimensional world, with bodies occupying 3 Dimensional space and all that, have led us to think in 2D Space… or, you could be talking nonsense. We’re creatures that think in 3D space. Hell, we’ve got a huge great chunk (what used to be thought of as the Visual cortex), taking up most of the rear of our brains that’s used for 3D representations of the world around us.

          • Unaco says:

            “I’ve just always felt the 3D starmap did very little for a game whilst damaging a lot of the flow of it. Ultimately, we’re creatures that think in 2D space”

            Yeah… because all of those millennia of Evolution in a 3 Dimensional world, with bodies occupying 3 Dimensional space and all that, have led us to think in 2D Space… or, you could be talking nonsense. We’re creatures that think in 3D space. Hell, we’ve got a huge great chunk (what used to be thought of as the Visual cortex), taking up most of the rear of our brains that’s used for 3D representations of the world around us.

          • Unaco says:

            “I’ve just always felt the 3D starmap did very little for a game whilst damaging a lot of the flow of it. Ultimately, we’re creatures that think in 2D space”

            Yeah… cos all of those millennia of Evolution in a 3 Dimensional world, with bodies occupying 3 Dimensional space and all that, have led us to think in 2D Space… or, you could be talking nonsense. We’re creatures that think in 3D space. Hell, we’ve got a huge great chunk (what used to be thought of as the Visual cortex), taking up most of the rear of our brains that’s used for 3D representations of the world around us.

          • Unaco says:

            “I’ve just always felt the 3D starmap did very little for a game whilst damaging a lot of the flow of it. Ultimately, we’re creatures that think in 2D space”

            We’re creatures that think in 3D space. Hell, we’ve got a huge great chunk (what used to be thought of as the Visual cortex), taking up most of the rear of our brains that’s used for 3D representations of the world around us.

          • benBearz says:

            We may think in 3d space, but a lot of that is subconscious and related to moving our ‘own’ bodies, rather than conscious thought and the movement of remote bodies, add in the fact that games are 3d worlds viewed on a 2d plane adds extra confusion on top of extra confusion.

            In short thinking in 3d space for applications beyond moving your own body around is a learned rather than in-built skill, when games and ways to display information get to the point where 3d displays are common (and dont induce headaches or require glasses) you’ll see an improvement in 3d thinking and again with virtual reality.

    • dsch says:

      Star Trek: Birth of the Federation surely deserves a mention here?

    • psaldorn says:

      It is, my comment was going to be “SOTS2 devs: learn from these guys”.

      Interface is unfathomably pretty. I was just poking around and actually laughing at the prettiness.

      Combat I was upset with at first, but now I love it. Choosing an action for each of the 3 combat stages, some actions cancel opposition ones (or just weaken them). Heroes manage our fleets or planets, garnering them significant bonuses.

      A few (minor) grumbles: tech tree defaults to “click me and I reset your queue” (shift click to add to queue) although it has a search box! Brilliant.

      It is a little hard to tell what you will get from your tech. I unlocked the destroyer-class hull without knowing it.

      When designing a ship you need to take care to hover over the modules you add, lest you add one that you don’t have the resource for and it stymies your build queue infinitely.

      The timer to choose auto or manual battle is a little short.

      Notifications vanish at end of turn, (1 turn decay would be preferrred)

      All in all, I am very impressed for an alpha of a game I never knew existed, I’d go so far as to say my SoaSE renaissance might be at an end.

      • Ranger33 says:

        On the techs, if you put the mouse on the little pictures on each tech, you can see exactly what you are getting. Took me a little while to figure this out as well.

  3. harvb says:

    Quite like the look of the space battles, very reminiscent of Battlestar Galactica.

    • Danny252 says:

      The music is definitely very BSG-esque, too (both trailer and in-game).

      Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and scream in excitement for a bit.

  4. John Connor says:

    Is it like Sins, Shogun or Civ?

    • RF says:

      It’s like Master of Orion.

      • Caleb367 says:

        ^This. I put some hours in it and it’s REALLY similar to a Master of Orion 2012. So far, I’m loving it. Only bit I’m a little perplexed of is the battle system – half animated uncontrollable slugfest a’la GalCiv 2, half Magic The Gathering-like card game.

        • President Weasel says:

          I always wanted to play the game that Master of Orion 3 was supposed to be but wasn’t.
          Hell, I put in tens of hours with the game that Master of Orion 3 actually was.

          Please be good, this game. Please be good.

          • Caleb367 says:

            Don’t mention MoO3, please, I’m gonna cry. That thing had an incredible Dwarf Fortress-level potential and was shot down immediately.

            Ahem.
            I’ve just poured a few more hours in it, and I’m really liking what I see. Very easy to learn, lots of places to explore, unique resources – and you get an added bonus if you have a monopoly too, interesting factions (pardon me, but I always found the otherwise excellent GalCiv to have the most bland and derivative aliens in the whole sci-fi niche) and an excellent visual style.

          • cptgone says:

            moo3 was my biggest gaming disappointment ever. i remember it like it was yesterday: the excitement i felt looking at the screenshots, how i rushed to the store at release, the straight jacket they had to put me in for 6 months after my 1st and final attempt to play the damn thing.

        • Njordsk says:

          cards? Eww

          I’d rather have battle system like SOASE or HW.

          • Caleb367 says:

            I’d settle for a simpler Sword of the Stars (the first)-esque combat engine. However, it’s quite pretty to look at and it’s much more refined that I thought of; the AI tends to favor cards that enhance its own weaponry or counter yours (example: Ugly Alien Fleet has lots of laser cannons, you have missiles mostly, UAF will try to jam your missiles or enhance laser targeting; you may try to counter his moves by shielding your missiles or strenghtening your shields). Still, I’d like more control. Not on the crazy levels of Aurora – in which you had to design the targeting systems for the laser cannon you designed and that is mounted on a turret you designed, and by designed I mean down to the wavelength, power plant output and sensor resolution – but say, designing a fast missile launcher ship and kiting rather than a mega-armored brick with a peashooter and “HIT HERE” painted on its front.

      • Richie Shoemaker says:

        Comparing a new 4X game to MOO is about as meaningful to fans of the genre as announcing a new COD by wittering on about Doom. Not only is it inaccurate, it’s lazy and boring.

        (I had two beers at lunch. I’m in fighting mood)

        • RF says:

          What the Christ, man? Are you on crack? Most 4X gamers have played every single 4X game out there. If they haven’t played MoO, it’s not my fault.

          • caddyB says:

            Indeed, Most of the 15 year olds who play CoD wouldn’t even know what Doom is, but most of the people who would consider preordering a 4x game would at least know about MOO even if they didn’t play it.

          • killias2 says:

            I don’t think he was saying that he hasn’t played MOO or that it isn’t relevant. I think he was basically saying, “Comparing a space 4x to MOO tells me about as much information as just telling me its a space 4x to begin with.” It’d be like saying a FPS is “like Doom” or a platformer is “like Super Mario” or a monster trading game is “like Pokemon.”

            However, I could be wrong. Personally, the MOO comparisons don’t enlighten me a lot. It doesn’t seem like it has MOO’s combat system, and most TB-4x games have similar systems otherwise.

        • Grygus says:

          Since MoO II is still arguably the best space-based 4x game, it’s a valid comparison. DOOM did nothing that hasn’t been co-opted and improved upon; not so in this genre.

        • Richie Shoemaker says:

          I retract “inaccurate” but “lazy and boring” still stands.

        • Caleb367 says:

          Rich, give it a shot and you’ll see WHY this thing is MoO-like. It’s in all the little and not-so-little things, including the random hero, administrator or pilot, to hire and level up.

          • Dreforian says:

            That must be where Hegemonia got it from then. Some story heroes and some random out-of-the-blue heroes that you could use to enhance ship squads or run planets/utilities. Hegemonia is more RTS though, somewhere between Sins and a straight RTS on the Strategy continuum.

          • Antsy says:

            Like Imperium Galactica before it. Great games.

      • TheBuff1 says:

        Is it like Ascendancy??!

        • Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

          Ascendancy? Man, that’s one of my all-time favourites. I’m going to buy this just in case it turns out to be like Ascendancy!

    • sephiroth says:

      I just bought sins trinity last week and put in 50 hours!!! allready.

      tell me this is very similar with prettys and bigger??? PLEASE??????!!!??????!?!??!?!?!? i NNEEDDD to knoww

      that its compared to MOO is also good as its been a long time since MOO2 and it never got a sequel (no it didn’t. really it didn’t) but it really looks like sins.

      is the combat staying as a mainly just watch thing or is there plans to make it more homeworld stlye? (read: better)

      • Smaug says:

        Its a 4X game (read: turn based)

        • Antsy says:

          Except 4x games aren’t necessarily turn based.

          • sephiroth says:

            well i bought it and I would say it is MOO like in a number of ways. <<<< if u like/liked MOO/MOO2 then buy this game

            im not very far in to it yet so i cant say overall how good/finished the alpha/beta thingy is but it is pretty and at least fairly deep.

            Is it like Sins? well yeah sorta turn based version with deeper tech tree and customised upgrades to your ships (Y isn't this done more often?)

  5. RF says:

    This game is really good.

    • Stromko says:

      Sounds like lavish praise all over this thing. Bah here I am impatiently waiting for my Warlock: Masters of the Arcane preorder to come to fruition, and RPS has me wanting another 4X game!

  6. Nesetalis says:

    :O I do so love games like this… big fan of the old Space Empires series… and this seems to be similar in some ways.

  7. Malibu Stacey says:

    I love a bit of Space 4X (even if I don’t actually get to play them much these days what with my Dota 2 addiction) and this looks pretty damn nice. Sounds so far like it touches that sweet tingly place right between Galactic Civilizations II and Sword of the Stars.
    Tempted to pre-order it on Steam just for their ambition.

  8. DM says:

    Best spaceship design since Homeworld.

    • maninahat says:

      My knowledge of space strategy begins and ends with HomeWorld 2, and I’ve ignored most others due to their uninteresting design and hidiously complex looking UIs. This is the first to have piqued my interest.

  9. Dominic White says:

    So, I held off on getting this when it first appeared on Steam. Why? Because Sword of The Stars 2 had been such a trainwreck and made me very nervous of any studio going for the 4X crown.

    So someone gifted me Endless Space, and… wow. This is an ALPHA version, and it’s already more polished, complete and coherent than SoTS2 at launch. Or possibly even now, after about a billion patches.

    I’m very pleasantly surprised. Only had a chance to give it a quick look, but I’ve heard nothing but praise from other jaded players who went in with low expectations. This could be the next big thing, I agree.

    • Antsy says:

      Jaded’s the word. I asked Steam for a refund on my preordered SotS 2 and was refused because there had been a patch haha.

  10. RF says:

    Good job on crashing their site, god damn it.

  11. BwenGun says:

    I pre-ordered it yesterday when it popped up and I really can’t say I regretted it. It seems to be pretty close to hitting the perfect balance between making things detailed enough to maintain interest without being so complex that the game bogs down. Indeed in many respects it reminds me a lot of Master of Orion, which is a very, very, good thing indeed.

    Not to mention the fact that the art direction is just plain wonderful, and the Humans remind me so very much of Dune. =D

  12. TheGroovyMule says:

    Holy Crap!

    Looks like a spiritual successor to ‘Stars!’

    Do want

    • Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

      Stars! is the only game to make Eve’s interface look like a barrel of laughs.

      Yet Stars! is still one of my all-time favourites.

      And the only game I’ll tolerate having an exclamation mark in the title.

    • Tokamak says:

      Hey, the guys who made Stars! were doing it on the side while working on Microsoft Excel, so it kinda makes sense haha. That said, it is probably my favorite space 4X game that I’ve played, mostly due to the mass packet flinging silliness. Here’s hoping that we see Stars! 3 someday.

    • yhancik says:

      Stars! The first 4x game I played, oh the memories!

    • Zelif says:

      Stars! Still have the box and the floppies that came with it.

      This seems like a Stars!(50%) + Pax Imperia: ED(10%) = Endless Space, Too bad it is less in-depth then both of those.

      Since this is the closest that a game has come to both these games in what, the last decade? It really is a nice breath of fresh air. Been waiting for a while for a decent ship customization so you do not build the same stock ships as your opponents.(Or variations)

      This game really is something brilliant, this even runs fine on atom media center!
      Game play: Having to discover a few things and how they work. Easy to use controls: 2 buttonns(left and right click) to navigate. I am use to right clicking giving more info and what not so when right click exit things it got frustrating a bit.
      UI: Minimal and not cluttered with crap.
      Battle: This is the only downfall of the game, while they have done a good job in the battles it is just a glorified rock, paper, scissors with cinematics going off.
      Exploration: Great! Nice easy system, nice solar system map. I like the planet selection they have would be nice if there were more but would be a bit awkward to add.
      Tech tree: Bit to get use to and find what is the right path to take, having to reset your selections every time you want to make a change can become annoying. (would be nice if shift click on a tech already selected removed that tech)
      All in all: Quite a good game, better then a lot of the higher priced space games on the market, would be nicer if combat was more in depth and other things were not simplified as much as they are but I guess that is what games are like now ….

      I can defiantly recommend this game!

  13. xenothaulus says:

    What I want is single-player EVE Online.Or Diablo with spaceships. Is this either of those things?

  14. Bluerps says:

    Oooooooh. I just might spend a significant part of my weekend with that.

  15. warthog2k says:

    4X? …
    AH!
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4X

    Thank you Wikipedia.

    Turns out I also enjoy a little 4X action. Just didn’t realise it. :)

    • deadly.by.design says:

      Honestly, I think calling the genre “4X” intimidates and/or confuses… well, people like me. (i.e., people who haven’t played that genre before)

      The Steam store link intrigued me, but then I had a hard time understanding exactly what the game was about. I’d honestly prefer a combat sim focus, but if it does that decently enough…

  16. Alexander Norris says:

    I don’t suppose you can create your own faction, can you?

  17. mckertis says:

    Looks to be a carbon copy of SotS…which is not a good thing in my book.

    • Dominic White says:

      It’s far more like Master Of Orion, albeit with more focus on empire-building. Less in the way of tactical combat, although it’s still more involved than, say, Galciv 2.

    • mckertis says:

      Watched a gameplay video. Still seems to be a SotS clone.
      Also people keep praising the interface, which i dont get. It looks okay, i guess. Nothing to write home about.

      It’s a bit weird how hyped up people get these days for things that are just…normal.
      Just a bit before, Legends of Grimrock was hyped to the sky, and as far as i can see the single outstanding thing it had was pretty face. Nothing else was out of the ordinary.
      Now this. Graphicwhorism is seeping into communities that i used to think were a tad smarter and more picky than the rest.

      • Khann says:

        You seem to be really underselling how vitally important a solid UI is in a game like this.

      • zeekthegeek says:

        Sorry but you’re the misguided one here if you think Sword of the Stars is anything distinctive. Most everything it has besides it’s combat is straight out of MOO

  18. DuckSauce says:

    I was holding off on buying it, this article convinced me though. It reminds me of Space Empires and another game I can’t recall the name off which I both played in my youth. Looking forward to giving it a try later today.

  19. Calculon says:

    Oh Masters of Orion, my long lost love. How I missed thee.

    I will sing a ballad to profess my love:

    How I love being the Master of Orion
    Building mighty empires in space
    Making my opponents go home crying
    After I finish the research race
    Diplomacy, intrigue and lying
    Whatever it takes to crush your face
    Oh Master of Orion, how you make my heart go flying
    Whenever I sit down to take your place.

    <3 oh so many hours spent playing MOO

  20. ru_disa says:

    So… this, Distant Worlds or Star Ruler? Can you help me make up my mind?

    • mrjackspade says:

      Ohhh. this this this 100x this. I got it a couple of days ago, played it about 10 hours already. For an ‘alpha’, it’s pretty much a complete game, and it’s a hell of lot better designed and better implemented than either of those two games.

      The interface is sublime, and everything about the game screams MOO on steroids.

    • Joshua Northey says:

      Distant Worlds is excellent with the two expansions. It is a semi-indie (I think mainly 2 guys), so you do need to have that level of art expectation (unlike this game). Star ruler has some great elements and I don’t regret buying it, but it needs some more work and polish (that is sadly I think juts mainly 1 guy).

      This looks really good, but I have swore off pre-ordering (or recommending pre-ordering) games after the atrocity that SotS2 was and the buggy unbalanced mess Civ 5 was. I eventually got a lot of play time out of Civ5 after some major patches but SOtS2 isn’t even playable yet IMO.

    • ru_disa says:

      Thanks for the feedback! Anyway, supposing I was lover of complexity and graphics didn’t mean anything to me (like, for example, supposing one of my favorite games of all time was HoI3+expansions)… what would you recommend?
      I hear Distant Worlds has multi-layered levels of complexity and tons of stuff to do… but no demo!

      • Joshua Northey says:

        If you like HOI and the idea of automating parts of your empire (so that you can have much bigger empires and still actually complete a game within a 1000 hours), distant worlds would be more to your style than star ruler.

        Star ruler’s main attraction is the really awesome ship design features. They are frankly next generation, and I wouldn’t be surprised if in 10 years what that game does with its ship design is what most games do. The rest of the game is adequate, but won’t light anyone’s socks on fire.

        I don’t regret buying either, I definitely played Distant worlds a lot more and plan to play it further, but it is more expensive (especially with the expansions). I played a lot of HOI2/3, EU1-3, and some VIC1/2 and CK1/2 for what that is worth.

  21. roryok says:

    Every odd week there’s some amazing space-y game posted on RPS and I’ve never played any of them. Where should I start?

    Gratuitous Space Battles?
    Sins of a Solar Empire?

    I haven’t played a strategy game since Civ2, and not a space based game since Wing Commander 3.

    • killias2 says:

      I haven’t played Gratuitous, but Sins of a Solar Empire seems like a good place to (re)start. It’s accessible; it combines 4x and RTS-style gameplay; and it’s a really solid game. If you don’t own it, you may want to wait until Rebellion comes out. It’s a standalone expansion/sequel. However, you can probably get the base game with some of the expansions for super cheap. So it’s your call.

      Distant Rulers is good but HIGHLY complicated. Sort of like Europa Universalis or Crusader Kings for the Space 4x genre. Star Ruler seems okay, but I don’t know if it’s worth it.

      Galactic Civilizations II is a fantastic game. It’s probably my favorite 4x space game of the post-MOO2 era. It’s starting to age a bit though. The same company is making Fallen Enchantress, which is a really good looking fantasy 4x.

      There are others, but I”ll stop here.

    • brooklyn67 says:

      I’d agree with the above. Some of it comes down to how much ship modding you want to do. Personally, I don’t really care so much for the ship tinkering, I’m more a fan of the building and researching. Gratuitous is very ship tinker-y, so it wasn’t for me but even I got some fun out of it, great game design. GalCivII might be a bit cumbersome as a first bite, but you can probably get it cheap and it is good. I’d recommend Sins of a Solar Empire as a well-made RTS that is accessible and scales well. You should do the tutorials if you are unfamiliar with this type of game, but if you set the enemies to “easy” difficulty you can basically just stumble around until you get a feel for it without being stomped.
      Heck, I’d actually pre-order Sins: Rebellion which is $10 cheaper and gets you into the beta. I’ve been playing it and it is a complete, pretty polished game, mainly because it is generally the same as the old one, which is also my biggest complaint.
      I bought the game in this article today based on this comment thread and it is very good. You could do worse than just jumping right in. If yoiu are going to have a learning curve, why not have it with everyone else?
      Hope that helps, enjoy.

  22. Desmont says:

    Oh the space battles – is there somewhere an option to switch it to continuous-screen saver mode? I know people that would buy it just to see the battles unfolding…

  23. Drinking with Skeletons says:

    This trailer looks amazing. The only complaint I have is that there doesn’t look to be much visual personality. I loved MOO2′s use of race-specific sprites and advisers. Still, a small quibble. Here’s hoping it turns out great!

    Any word on if there will be a DRM-free version anywhere?

    • RF says:

      Your ships look completely different, as well as their little UI things on the main map. I expect you’re also going to have a lot of different heroes per race, too.

      But, yeah, other than that there’s not really a massive difference.

  24. Zaxwerks says:

    There seems to be a lot of Space 4x games on the horizon (or rather popping over the galactic edge):

    Legends of Pegasus is another one which looks like a Swords/MOO/Sins hybrid mixing turn-based and real-time:

    http://www.legendsofpegasus.com/us/

  25. wccrawford says:

    I must be missing something. How do you get access to the alpha?

  26. Vinraith says:

    Huh. I’m actually in a position where I have to say “I have too many space 4X games to play to get to this right now.” That’s so novel I don’t even know what to do with it, but it’s true. Distant Worlds and SotS2 both demand my attention, and I’m still trying to sort out Armada 2526 as well. I’ll probably get to this one, but in what would have been an unimaginable twist just a few years ago I find myself in no rush to pick up a new space 4X title. Crazy.

  27. haafie says:

    Do these games come in groups of three??

    Spaceward Ho! -1990
    Stars! – 1995
    Master of Orion 2 – 1996

    Galactic Civilizations II – 2006
    Sword of the Stars – 2006
    Sins of a Solar Empire – 2008

    Star Ruler – 2010
    Legends of Pegasus -2012
    Endless Space – 2012

    • Grygus says:

      Your groupings seem a bit arbitrary. If a two-year gap (2006-2008 and 2010-2012) is a single group, then why isn’t 2008-2010? Shouldn’t your last six all be one group? You’re also missing several games; Master of Orion (1993) would break up that first group. Sword of the Stars 2 (2011) breaks up the last. So I guess the obvious answer to your question is, “no.”

    • shagen454 says:

      Um… Clusters?

  28. Armitage says:

    “breezy parapets” ?! These words are adorable!

  29. piratmonkey says:

    I literally bought this game last night and after playing wondered, “I wonder if RPS knows about this fantastic gem?”
    AND LO, MY PROPHECY IS FULFILLED.

  30. Dowgellah says:

    Oh wow, this game looks interesting. The key question is what to choose, Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion or this.

    • RedViv says:

      I think the games are different enough to not be in direct competition. Which means this is a decision between real-time and turn-based, a classic 4X approach or a complex WarCraft 3 in space, completely up to one’s own preferences.

      • Dowgellah says:

        I understand what you’re saying, yet with both games being good and quite different, I still feel there’s only enough room for one time-consuming space strategy game in my life. We all know how “what? it’s six in the morning already?” these games are.

        • Joshua Northey says:

          Then I would ask yourself if you like Grand Strategy/4X more or RTS more? Because SoaSE is definitely an extremely RTSy take on the 4x genre (it is really pretty much just a hybrid).

          • RedViv says:

            That is what I wanted to convey. Choose your time devourer, as both are really good.

    • brooklyn67 says:

      Having bought both in the last few days, I’d say, if you have played SIns, go for this, as the only problem I am having with Rebellion is that I’m starting to wonder if it is different enough to be a second full game. With the pre-purchase and a $10 credit for owning the previous sins it came in at around $30 and after a couple quick games (which could easily mean the problem is on my end) it is looking like perhaps it should have been a $15 expansion/update.
      My 2cents.

  31. Grygus says:

    I cannot post properly.

  32. Brise Bonbons says:

    Well hell, I had just about mustered the will to finally drop $40 on Crusader Kings 2, and now this. NOW THIS.

    Going to play more Dwarf Fortress and put off making a choice of who gets my money for another time.

    EDIT: Looked into the game’s site a bit – they only want $26 for the highest tier pre-order? And holy crap does the game look amazing. Even the lore is fascinating… I shall throw my money at them when I arrive home from work this evening, methinks.

  33. ShineyBlueShoes says:

    I’m so torn between this and Sins Rebellion since I can only pick one. Both look so good too.

    • Joshua Northey says:

      You could wait 6 or 9 months until they are both on sale and get both. Mostly these days unless I am completely in love with something I wait a year or two. Then you get all the patches/expansions/reviews et cetera out of the way, an get a better price.

      It is like twice the fun for half the price.

      • ShineyBlueShoes says:

        Normally I won’t buy anything at close to full price but at $30 for either I wholly believe either will be worth it and feel both of these deserve the support. The first Sins is one of the few games I ever paid $50 for and got more than enough out of.

  34. lunarplasma says:

    It’s 25% off!

  35. Elusiv3Pastry says:

    Since the twin fiascos of Elemental and Demigod, I very rarely pre-order anything any more (especially if its still in alpha/beta) unless it’s something that has been heavily covered and played by the various review sites (with RPS being my number one source, of course). That said, after a quick read, I pulled the trigger on the Empire edition of this, and HOLY SHAZBOT it’s worth every heavily discounted pre-order penny! Fans of Galactic Civilizations II will feel right at home here. The manner in which they handle the cinematic battles with tactical cards is absolutely brilliant. Even though it’s dubbed “alpha”, I only encountered one bug that prevented me from changing the video settings (an easy edit of the txt config file fixed it); the stability and completeness should make the Sword of the Stars devs eat their hats.

    Buy it!

  36. Max.I.Candy says:

    I just pre ordered the Emperor special edition so i can get “Your picture in our offices in Paris”?

  37. Phandaal says:

    No controllable combat = no sale.

  38. Keith Nemitz says:

    Heh, the music works wonderfully, for a space game, just like it did back in 1999!

    Flagship: Champion (quicktime required to play video)

  39. DarkFarmer says:

    awesome, saw this on steam the other day. I have nothing interesting to contribute to this conversation. thank you.

  40. Dreforian says:

    This looks awfully pretty but I was fooled once before. I remember seeing SotS 2 and getting excited enough to buy the original’s collection. Then I tried to play it and hit a wall, even with a tutorial (which I had to dig up on youtube). Actually twice before, bought SoaSE without enough research and was surprised/dismayed to find a lack of a campaign mode. I find it very difficult to break into the 4x genre, especially without a story. I certainly wont deny the gaming masses their plot-less games but is there something for us poor slobs that weren’t born with 4x in their hearts? For me a campaign serves several purposes. One is to get me to care, not necessarily about the fate of the universe or something but it could be about particular characters, factions or even just units. I think that’s something I could get from 4x, but only well down the road into a viable game. Another purpose is to ease the player into mechanics, both by serving them up slowly and minimizing the impact of bad front end decisions by breaking up the game into shorter scenarios. In my (limited) experience with 4x the consequences of decisions seem so far removed (time wise) from the decisions themselves that it’s hard to feel how important they are or have confidence in them. Playing a few “throwaway” games to get the feel of things also leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Maybe that’s just my non-4x brain talking though. I just hate wasting time, especially early on in a game and I know how important early moves can be from games like Disciples 2 and Age of Wonders.

    TLDR: I want to go where the good games are, whatever genre they may be. Are there any 4x games with a campaign? Even a small one? Or one with a tutorial to ease me in? Or an Intro to 4x class I can take? I WANT SPACE GAMES GIMME SPACE GAMES!

  41. frightlever says:

    Okay, so there went almost the last three hours in a flash.

    Is it a bug if I can’t move a fleet from my home world even a couple of turns after formation, or is it because another race’s homeworld’s “sphere of influence” has crossed the star lane? Whatever. Seemed like a good place to stop cos I got to get my drunk on.

    Pretty much every space-based 4X since Space Empires IV, with the possible exception of Sins, has pissed me off from the get go, but this is just beautiful. I like the way they stuck to 2D star maps. Space Empires 5, SoTS etc went with pseudo 3D star maps and ruined the interface because of it. As if 3D was more “realistic” when they all used highly abstracted concepts like star lanes. Anyhoo.. there’s a box of wine here with my name on it. Why would Mrs Sauvignon call her darling boy “Cabernet”?

  42. Hunchback says:

    This is so gonna rock. Also, there’s Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion coming out soon, and it looks quite fine too!

  43. GamerOS says:

    This is only in alpha and already it’s been more enjoyable then most 4x games in recent times.
    The fleet combat is kind of lacking tough, but I play these games to rule my empire not to personally oversee every battle, but that’s just my opinion.

    It’s definitely worth the €24 I paid for it.

  44. cptgone says:

    this sounds too moo to be true. i’m DLing this baby right now. if i get any sleep tonight, the moo was a lie ;)

  45. Rankith says:

    Hows the complexity on this? I enjoy a good 4x but some of them are simply too much and are too much of a slog to get through and learn and then even PLAY. I enjoy Sins quite a bit. And Civ 5 was good too (until game got to very late stages at least). Hows this compare complexity wise to those before I buy?

  46. brooklyn67 says:

    Bought it and have really enjoyed the last few hours. Like I posted in a reply above, I also bought Sins: Rebellion and am worried after a few hours (yes, unfairly) it may be an expansion masquerading as a sequel.
    This also has great ,mellow space music, which was the only thing that kept me playing X3 so long.

  47. daphne says:

    This game revitalized my interest in turn-based strategy alongside Warlock. Been playing the alpha for two hours, though I kinda got stomped badly. Should have picked a production-focused race…

    I have to say though, more than anything else, this game has a stunning user interface. Very informative and just as minimal, one of the tidiest designs I’ve ever seen. I haven’t hit a single confounding thing yet. Should be examined as a case study in those dubious game design degree programs.

  48. Cooper00676 says:

    Realizing something here guys. For those of you who DONT get this yet, the game is still in it’s Alpha build so there is a lot more that is still going to be done. Even the in game battles with the preset cinematic camera is likely to change (may not be fixed later on). If nothing is impressing, the fact that the game looks this good from the UI to the galaxy map and cinematic battles, should be more than enough. Functionally, the game is easy to play without losing depth and the number of bugs I’ve run into with my own copy has been nominal at most. The races actually behave differently as they should rather than having a number of different factions that act mostly the same. The amount of genius going into this game isn’t just limited to the game itself as the community who registers are part of the project. Using GAMES2GETHER, the developers are really working to bring us the 4x strategy we all want as best they can. They’ve even identified things they want to work on as time continues after the final release either as part of updates or purchasable expansions. I’m absolutely stunned how polished this already is for being in it’s alpha build. I didn’t play anything besides sin recently but to be honest Sins needs this expansion coming out for a number of reasons that I think anyone could agree on. I can’t wait for the final build to be released. It’s absolutely, shockingly, wonderfully, gleefully, downright kickass. Don’t forget, the current 5 playable races are not the only ones that will be in the final build.

  49. zeekthegeek says:

    Most impressive thing about this game: this is all Unity engine.

  50. dshs says:

    If I’ve been playing pretty much every 4x game I can get at for years, and it takes 20 minutes to work out how to BUILD A DAMN SHIP is your game, you should maybe take a second look at your user interface.

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