Have A Gander At Arcen’s Space 4X Stars Beyond Reach

Those Arcen lot do make some interesting games, don’t they? From A Valley Without Wind to The Last Federation, the six-person studio skip gaily across genres, getting systems all over their shoes then trailing them into unlikely places. Unlike their previous 4X-y games, though, Stars Beyond Reach [official site] really will be a real 4X strategy game for real, they say. With a few twists, of course.

After months of teasing blog posts explaining ideas and a handful of screenshots, Arcen have now shared a trailer with a smidgen of gameplay and a planned release date: June 5th.

Stars Beyond Reach will plop players down on a planet where some very, very alien races are already established. All the races are said to work quite differently, and they’re all different when the AI plays them from when you play them. You can barely even talk to them at the start, with communications coming as incomprehensible garbles of letters, though you can still pick options to yell and hope for the best.

Victory conditions are shook up a bit, not requiring players to do the usual 4X plan of committing to, say, war or culture, but allowing folks to win by dominating other societies in any combination of ways. It’s got curious ideas about 4X combat too, with it all happening through war-oriented buildings rather than distinct units. Some of that’s in the trailer, so I’ll stop rambling and show you:

If you’d like to understand more about what you’re seeing, Arcen’s Chris Park explains in a blog post quite what’s going on in each clip. Which also explains far more about how the game works.

Stars Beyond Reach is headed to Windows, Mac, and Linux on June 5th.


  1. rustybroomhandle says:

    I highly recommend watching Tales of Woe, the backstory cartoon – embedded in the above mentioned blog post.

  2. BlackeyeVuk says:


  3. peterako1989 says:

    Music’s a bit off

  4. stblr says:

    Video Poker UI and RPG Maker music aside, I’m excited for this.

    • RuySan says:

      Arcen games always have silly music, which range from wonderful (Valley without wind 2 theme) to awful (Bionic Dues theme song).

      But they’re always cheesy, even the good ones

      • drewdupe says:

        I’ve never seen someone so wrong on RPS… Bionic Dues has the best theme song of all time! OF ALL TIME!

  5. Thurgret says:

    It feels like the lack of mention of AI War in the first paragraph is some sort of cunningly laid bait to lure people into the comments section.

  6. draglikepull says:

    I wish people would make 4X games that were less combat-focused. At the moment it seems like the only real option for a 4X game where non-war strategies are both viable and fun is Civilization. “Exterminate” is only one of the 4 Xs, I’d like to see games put more effort into the others. Exploring and expanding can be fun too.

    • GiantPotato says:

      It would be cool if you could actually influence the effectiveness of strategies based on your playstyle and emphasis. For example you could establish military control over a region and other players can’t move or extract resources as quickly. Or you can use a resource surplus to nerf an enemy’s unit stack. Or use cultural influence to buy enemy intel whether they like it or not.

    • Vacuity729 says:

      Amplitude studios took a step in this direction with Endless Legend with the Roving Clans (can’t declare war) and Drakken (diplomacy masters). The Drakken in particular can force inconvenient diplomatic deals on you like a peace treaty, which can annoy the hell out of you when you’re at a significant military advantage over them.

  7. Vacuity729 says:

    I particularly like the idea of what they’re doing with the communication problems, though I do wonder how well it’ll work in practice. The one thing I’m sure is that if it ends up a bit iffy, they’ll make it better.

    This is probably the only game this year I’ll pick up either pre-release or at release. Unless they release another expansion pack for AI War or something (Oh, yes, please!). Arcen are the only developers that have earned my loyalty and I’m happy to throw some of my money their way.

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      It’s only April. Knowing Arcen, there could be another entirely new game out before the end of the year.

      • Vacuity729 says:

        Don’t tease me! Realistically, I’d be surprised if they released a second completely new game this year, but expansions for AI War and/or The Last Federation are perfectly possible.

        • wwwhhattt says:

          (A bit late but) They do actually have another game planned for this year. It mainly comes from one of the unused forms of combat from TLF, and I think they said that thanks to that the coding is around 70% done (before they even start making it.)

  8. Cross says:

    Too bad Arcen’s game do everything in their power to make themselves uninviting. They’re maddeningly ugly and unintuitive as all getup. Their concepts and ideas are finer, but Arcen mishandles those ideas time and time again.

    • misterT0AST says:

      This one looks pretty though! It has a Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds vibe.
      And it’s nearly impossible to make a hex-grid look bad.

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      Never understood the “ugly” comments that always seem to get flung at Arcen’s games. I’ve always thought they looked fine, nothing special but nothing horrible, with the exception of Last Federation which is actually beautiful in its own way.

      Speaking of which, looks like the factions in this are the same ones from TLF? Colour me very, very interested. I felt one of its greatest strengths was how interesting its races were. (Pacifistic, utopian robots! Isolationist space pigs!) Actually the Boarines were my favourites, but all the races were interesting to interact with in different ways. Hopefully that’ll carry over to this.

      Will definitely be keeping a close eye on it. If they can nail an actual 4X with their usual subversions it’ll be a must-buy. Even if it’s only moderately good, it’s Arcen and I’ll never get tired of giving them my money.

      • twaitsfan says:

        Without digging too deep, take a look at the technology tree. Look at the font at the top. It looks like the neon sign for a bad burger joint. Then you have underlines and tech bubbles with victorian flair for no reason.

        Look, I’m a software developer, I know how to make a website, but I don’t necessarily know how to _design_ a site and make it look aesthetically pleasing. I think Arcen and I are a lot alike in that fashion.

        • Kaeoschassis says:

          Oh, their interfaces do tend to be a little on the ugly side, yeah. Got to give you that one. This does seem to be a particularly bad one in that regard, although they did say it needs a lot of work, so who knows.
          Still think the actual terrain/building graphics are lovely.

          • twaitsfan says:

            I admire Arcen’s ambition. I was really optimistic about A Valley Without Wind and then realized it might be the least focused video game I’ve ever played. Let alone the fact that I thought it looked like a bad flash game.

            Maybe a game like this is more in their wheelhouse. People have great things to say about AI War, but RTS games are just work for me. I’m always pulling for small devs, but have come to the conclusion after playing 4 of their games that their dev instincts run contrary to what I like in games. And that’s no indictment on them really. Just not my cup of tea.

          • Reapy says:

            Truth is it really sucks to be a good coder, even a good game designer, and be bad at art. You are crippled. Not everybody has an artist friend in the closet, and people are reluctant to back programmer art games so you can’t even hire an artist, even if you knew where to find one. Even then the costs quickly start elevating in the thousands of dollars range to get any decent amount of artwork, well then you are stuck doing it yourself and, you get stuff like this… about 75% there and tons of stuff that are slightly off.

  9. JackMultiple says:

    And the winning entry in the “All Your Base Are Belong To Us Obfuscation Contest” goes to…

    “You fancq yuursezk the sucrut poner uk the nurld, rut K now tzu trutzzzz.”

  10. Kempston Wiggler says:

    Welp, releasing a 4X game (one o fmy favourite genres) with significant gameplay differences on my birthday?

    Sign me up. :)

    PS: that video in the blog is adorable.

  11. Zenicetus says:

    Egad, that’s an eye-bleeding ugly interface.

    I know we’re not supposed to care about this with strategy games, but the interface *is* the game in this genre. You’re going to stare at the same thing for hours, and I don’t think I could stare at a Candy Crush interface like that for very long. This studio badly needs to hire an actual art director.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Yeah, I hope that’s pretty much all placeholder :B

      • EhexT says:

        According to the blog it’s pretty much final art for almost everything.

        • Kaeoschassis says:

          According to the blog it’s pretty much final art for the map stuff, but the “hud around the edges needs a lot of work”.
          Doesn’t say “final for almost everything” to me, somehow.

  12. vahnn says:

    This game looks like a dated load of garbage.

    But I’ve played Bionic Dues, AI War, and The Last Federation, all of which were tremendously awesome games that totally took me by surprise. All were incredibly enjoyable, and the uniqueness of the games turned those cruddy graphics and sounds into endearing pieces of art that stick out in my mind as proof that a game is much, much more than looks.

    Can’t wait to try this one out, because the crew at Arcen really know what they’re doing!

  13. Colwolf77 says:

    I just had a retrogasm!