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Sid Meier's Starships hands-on: A stripped down Civ and a complicated board game

Hayden Dingman | March 2, 2015
Sid Meier's Starships comes out on March 12, which isn't that far away. As such, I don't really want to delve too deeply into the game because, well, I'm going to have to write the whole thing up again in two weeks when we review it.

This map is all about tactical play, directly controlling your fleet of ships on a hexed plane and trying to outmaneuver the enemy.

Missions have various goals, though most involve straight combat. Winning then liberates the planet and brings 50 percent of its populace under your domain. You need to control 100 percent of the populace to control a planet, and (as mentioned) you need to control 51 percent of the planets in the galaxy to win the game. You can complete missions on multiple planets each turn, but your crew will become steadily worn out and eventually need to rest.

How the late game works, I'm not sure. Our preview code is currently turn-limited, so I basically get to complete a handful of missions before the game stops. There are all sorts of things you can do on each planet — build cities, build improvements — but I've barely touched any of that.

I'm also not sure yet what happens if you take over an enemy's Homeworld. Does their entire dominion fall under your control at that point? Another question to answer in our review.

And if there's one thing I think could use an upgrade, it's the UI. Like Civilization: Beyond Earth, the user interface seems oversized and kind of artless, which is still baffling to me when compared to how gorgeous Civ V looks.

I'm enjoying Starships, though. Unlike Civilization, which seems to take fifty or a hundred turns to get going and then can take upwards of 300 turns to end, Starships seems like a (relatively) quick strategy burst — maybe an hour or two per match. I'll verify that when I get the full release, but that's the impression I get so far. That could be great for those who want some of the basic feel of Civilization without the implied "thirty hours of your life" time debt.

We'll have a more in-depth look at the game in a few weeks when the game releases. For now, I think I'm going to play through the preview code one more time. Current verdict: Strangely addictive, even unfinished.


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