Sid Meier's Starships from developer Firaxis Games follows last year's release of Civilization: Beyond Earth as a standalone title in the same universe with the major difference being its setting in space. Instead of expanding a civilization on a single planet, players are tasked with controlling a fleet of spacecrafts across their journey to various star systems and planets. Through the journey players will encounter other human and alien spacecraft fleets and following with series gameplay decide upon a friendly diplomatic encounter or opt for the military confrontation route. The other major difference with Starships compared to other games in the series is its focus on short matches that usually can be completed in a couple of sits. The focus on quick, simplified gameplay showcases its underlying focus for gaming on tablets rather than the PC. Unfortunately, the focus on portable tablet gaming highlights many of the game's lacking components when played on PC.
Upon each new start of a game, players decide between the Supremacy, Harmony, and Purity affinities that determines the gameplay and portrait styles of each fleet leader. The Supremacy affinity focuses on technology and science, Harmony instead focuses on the kingship between all living things, and Purity looks to history of past civilizations. Ultimately, each affinity provides a gameplay bonus and changes the color of the player's starship bridge. Other options at the beginning of a new game include map size, number of opponents, difficulty, and which victory conditions are active. As with other games in the Civilization series, victory conditions include domination, population, wonders, and science. Each galaxy map and the various star systems and planets that populate it are randomly generated upon each new game.
The overall gameplay focuses on traveling to individual star systems and planets to complete missions that further the influence and power of a player's federation. Each player in a game has a single fleet of ships that can be expanded in size and upgraded with better ship components. Each planet that is captured by a player can be upgraded by building more cities and purchasing improvements such as additional factories for increased supply output or planetary defense to protect cities against enemy fleets. Game resources include energy that is used to upgrade and repair the starship fleet, metal to build planetary improvements and wonders, science to research additional technologies, and food for building and feeding cities. While each turn can be used for traveling to other star systems and completing missions, a shore leave option is also available that allows players to let their fleet get back to full strength and collect additional resources.
Most missions or encounters with other civilizations often lead to combat situations. The game's battle mode takes place on a zoomed in view of a section of space that is randomly filled with different objects ranging from asteroids to planets. Some combat situations may involve simply destroying a fleet of pirate ships while another will have the player defending a convoy of ships. The battle mode requires players to take into account each map's objects as attacks can't fire through a planet for example, or will lose their effectiveness if the distance is too great. Based upon the type of ship and purchased upgrades, different combat abilities can be utilized such as deploying fast-moving fighter units or launching long range missiles across the map. It's good that the game's combat is entertaining as players will spend a majority of their time in the battle mode. It would have been a welcome feature if the game allowed for players to manage more than one fleet of spacecrafts as it becomes more difficult to defend against multiple opponents across the galaxy map.
The major issues with the game are a result of the core design being focused for tablets as nearly everything about the presentation seems odd running on PC. From the near complete lack of options to overly simplified gameplay mechanics, Starships will be a disappointment for Civilization fans expecting the quality of past full-fledged PC titles. It's better to view the game as a brief, little distraction versus expecting an in-depth strategy experience. The graphics setting only includes a full screen toggle and that doesn't even function properly as it doesn't cover up the taskbar. Starships is undoubtedly impressive on a tablet device, but playing the game on a PC feels like a severely-outdated gameplay experience.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
I've been writing for Gaming Nexus since 2011 and focus primarily on PC games and hardware. I'm a strong advocate of independent developers and am always seeking the next genre-breaking and unique game releases. My favorite game genres are strategy, role-playing, and simulation, or any games that feature open worlds and survival elements.View Profile