I knew I was always going to love Slipways from the moment I first saw it. That's a fairly rare thing for me. Enough games have failed to deliver on their promises over the years that I've learnt to be cautious for the most part. But I let my guard down with Slipways, because the premise was so simple. Simple, and beautiful.
Slipways touts itself as a grand strategy game in miniature, where playthroughs last an hour instead of a month. Your aim is to colonise planets, each of which needs to take in certain resources in order to produce certain other resources. You can direct resources from planet to planet via "slipways" so that all your colonised planets are supported and happy. It's a puzzle game in essence, but a forever unfurling one which gives me as strong a sense of discovery while exploring as I've felt with any big name 4X title.
As the intricate network of supplies and demands is erected over in-game months and years, the game forces you to think further and further ahead if you want to connect all your planets as efficiently as possible. I've spent so much time staring at my burgeoning interplanetary empire in each playthrough, visualising the connections between planets I have yet to colonise, just to make sure everything works before I commit to it. It doesn't feel frustrating. It feels like puzzle-solving, with the same hit of dopamine at the end once everything clicks.
I do sometimes get distracted from my visualising, though, and end up just staring at the slowly rotating planets, the faint rush of slipways connecting them, and most of all, the legions of ever-reliable ships flying from point to point on the web I've constructed. For a game so still and tranquil, the wuselfaktor is off the charts in Slipways. All you have to do is zoom in and take a closer look at everything you've accomplished in the past hour.