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4X 4 Real: AI War Devs Announce Stars Beyond Reach

4X without any units

If you've pressed your ear to Arcen Games' door, read their lips through their window, rummaged through their bins and taped together shredded documents, planted microphones to record their nocturnal mutterings, or browsed their forums, you might know that the AI War and The Last Federation developers have been working on a 4X strategy game. They've super-properly formally announced the game now, ditching its working title for the super-definitely final name of Stars Beyond Reach (it's set planetside, see). As well as regular 4X stuff, it has a few interesting ideas about language and combat. The game doesn't have units, for starters.

It's set in the same universe as AI War and The Last Federation, bringing races from both together with a few new ones on a planet which seems sentient in a Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri-ish sort of way. It can help or hinder civilisations, and it speaks and everything. Speaking to the other factions will be tricky unless you know their language, though. Here, doesn't this sound nice?

The languages are literally transcoded text, so as you use linguists to unravel the languages you don't know (if you care to), then you can better piece together what is being said. At the moment my intent is to make it so that you can take a guess at diplomatic discussions by kind of mashing buttons in languages you can half read. ;) And then see the results if you want to take that sort of gamble. That may not work out in practice, but I have some interesting ideas there that I want to play with, anyway.

That's only a piece of the game, but one that jumped out at my eyes and said "read me because you'll enjoy this idea!" or at least implied it. They've got interesting ideas about diplomacy in general too (at the bottom of that forum post).

Arcen's short pitch is "Think Civilization meets SimCity meets AI War meets New Stuff." Why SimCity? That's partially because building placement and adjacencies matter, but also because it doesn't have units. Given that eXterminate is a core tenet of 4X games, combat's a little different. It'll focus on buildings, through territory control and direct missile strikes from silos. Arcen founder Chris Park explains:

... I feel like most 4x games bog down in the late game because of all the tedious combat. And I don't feel like automating that is the solution, I feel like a model that is actually fun and direct and fast and more in keeping with the rest of the game is the solution.

Oodles more details are splattered across Arcen's forum, announcement, and blog posts. They plan to release Stars Beyond Reach in April or May 2015.

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Alice O'Connor

Associate Editor

Alice has been playing video games since SkiFree and writing about them since 2009, with nine years at RPS. She enjoys immersive sims, roguelikelikes, chunky revolvers, weird little spooky indies, mods, walking simulators, and finding joy in details. Alice lives, swims, and cycles in Scotland.