I have long been a fan of Sid Meier’s work. I’ve played every incarnation of Civilization except Civilization: Revolution, starting with the first release back in ’91. I spent some time playing Alpha Centauri back in the day. I even played Silent Service on the Amiga. Civilization: Beyond Earth is a new acquisition which, sadly, I have not yet had time to play, but it is high up on my to do list. I love his work.
So my reaction to 2K’s latest announcement, Sid Meier’s Starships, was quite predictably less than sedate. In fact, I believe my exact reaction was to leap up in my chair, hold out a wad of cash, and scream “Take my money!” at my computer monitor. This is a game I want.
Much like the Civ games he is most famous for, Starships is a turn based strategy game. Players will purchase individual ships and have extensive ability to customize them. You then form them up in fleets and go forth and do battle.
The customizability is a key feature in the game. Meier’s ambition was to convince players to connect with their fleets in a very personal way. “We want people to get invested in these individual ships so that you recognize them from one encounter to the next,” he explained in an interview with Kevin VanOrd earlier this week. “You built these ships, you designed them, you upgraded them, they’ve been with you through this whole series of missions. You get to know them individually and what their strengths and weaknesses are. That’s really the thread that goes through from one mission to the next.”
It will be in the battles that the game is truly expected to shine. In this arena Starships is expected to be more akin to XCOM than to Civ. Battles will extend over multiple turns and include detailed combat options. Some weapon systems, such as fighters and torpedoes, will be persistent, lasting for multiple turns. Players will need to be able to maneuver carefully tailored fleets in a complex battlefield, taking advantage of the cover provided by asteroids or planets while seeking to outflank, outrun, or out shoot enemies ranging from pirates and rogue AIs to massive battle fleets fielded by vast empires.
Starships does have some of the same aspects that make the Civ games so popular. Though battle is certainly a key strategy, it is not the only means to attain victory. Diplomatic maneuvers can unite disparate allies into a strong Federation. Science can lead you to simply becoming an untouchable utopia. And perhaps you can simply build your way to victory.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect is Starships’ relationship with Civilization: Beyond Earth. Though designed to be a complete stand-alone game, it is built directly into the same story as BE, and the two games will be able to interact. Exactly how that is to take place has yet to be explained, but it is a key portion of Meier’s current gaming vision.
Considering how recently Beyond Earth was released, Starships is a significant surprise. 2K has announced the game will be released this spring. Coming hard and fast on the heels of BE, I’m not sure whether to be thrilled at being given so much Sid Meier brilliance so quickly or put out that I’m going too little time to enjoy so much awesome. I just know this.
Sid Meier needs to take my money.