Sid Meier's Starships Review

  • Developer: Firaxis Games
  • Publisher: 2K Games
  • Release Date: 13 March 2015
  • Time played: 3 hours

Despite the mixed user reviews for Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth (52% out of 13,767 reviews), I actually enjoyed the game, giving it an 8/10 in my review. So when I heard about Sid Meier's Starships coming out and that it would be basically a continuation of your Beyond Earth empire but in SPAAAAAACE, it seemed too good to be true.

So I guess that's why you're here now: to learn if it actually is too good to be true. The game definitely looked promising from the screenshots, like a Sid Meier version of Master of Orion, however when you read the fine print and realised the game was also being developed for mobile phones, it dawned on me that this game was probably going to be more like Sid Meier's Ace Patrol. So the real question is does this game have enough depth to keep you entertained? Or is it just like many other mobile games out there?

I also wanted to thank my mate DAN-
NO for gifting a copy of this game for my birthday. I'm truly fortunate to have such choicest friends!

Plot (2/5)
Sid Meier's Starships is set far in the future when the factions in Beyond Earth have taken control of the planet they've colonised and are now setting out into space with a fleet of ships to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before! *Ahem * Okay, not really, but you do have a fleet of starships that are apparently answering a plea for help against aggressors, so you're really going into space to fight for the meek and then influence them enough to join your empire/federation/alliance/tea party.

What do I think of the plot? It's a throw-away plot which has been developed just to give an excuse for the factions in Beyond Earth to venture out into space and (more often than not) fight each other. There's much less lore here than what exists in Beyond Earth and it's a shame because they could've definitely expanded on this aspect, but I guess they just wanted to focus on the gameplay. So you'd hope the gameplay is actually pretty damn good right? RIGHT?

Gameplay (3/5)
Starships actually shares quite a bit in common with Master of Orion, which isn't necessarily a bad thing in my books. You have a strategic game mode which shows all the potential planets you can control and a tactical game mode where your fleet of spaceships battles one another on a hexagonal grid. In the strategic game mode you can move your fleet of spaceships from planet to planet but each jump between planets results in fatigue which makes your fleet less effective in combat. Consequently, fatigue will be the limiting factor, at least early on in the game, on how much you can do per turn (since just about every mission you do involves combat). From this view you can do things you'd expect from a 4X game such as research new ship technologies, upgrade your ships weapons and systems, or develop planets by building cities and improvements. You can even build “wonders” which confer benefits on your fleet. If you want star systems to join your empire/alliance/federation you need to complete missions for them and build your influence. Eventually they will join you once you've maxed it out (usually after completing a couple of missions for them).

Missions usually come in the format of fighting pirates and this is done in the tactical game mode. Here it becomes very reminiscent of Ace Patrol except without the aerial manoeuvres. Combat is just a matter of getting your ships to have line of sight on the enemy (by peeking through asteroid fields) and firing. There are some other abilities you can use but I found that I rarely used them since most combat engagements are relatively easy.

So usually over the course of an hour or two you'll be sending your fleets around the cosmos, picking fights with any ruffians bullying nearby planets and then befriending the colonists living on these worlds. Eventually, you'll win the game by achieving a population victory, science victory, wonder victory or the good ol' domination victory, and then it's game over.

Despite the game being relatively basic and the mechanics not being as complex as a game from the main Civilization series or Beyond Earth, it can get addictive at times but overcoming the initial hurdle, that motivation to even start playing the game, is the issue, especially after you've clocked the game once or twice, since everything is going to be pretty much the same. There's no real character to the game, there's not really enough to distinguish one side from another, the maps consist of randomly generated (and named) planets and the combat is often formulaic.

" kind of feels like Master of Orion and plays a bit like it, but ultimately it's not going to satisfy the hardcore 4X fans."

Now while I did say the game has a lot in common with Master of Orion, it's only skin-deep. Yes, you can research technologies but they're solely focused on improving the capabilities of your ships. Yes, you can upgrade your ships but it's just a matter of assigning points to shields, guns, thrusters, etc. to increase their level. Yes, you can contact other civilizations but it's mainly to gather information and diplomacy is almost non-existent. You get the picture. This is why I like to think of Starships as Master of Orion-lite; it kind of feels like Master of Orion and plays a bit like it, but ultimately it's not going to satisfy the hardcore 4X fans.

Sound (2/5)
Game audio is okay, although if you keep clicking the advice button you'll quickly get sick of the phrase "Scanning Database..."!

Music (3/5)
The music is okay and besides the main title theme and maybe the combat music, are mainly recycled ambient tracks from Beyond Earth.

Graphics (3/5)
The game has serviceable, low-res graphics that you'd normally expect from a mobile game. In fact the engine looks very similar to whatever was used for Ace Patrol.

It does have cut-scenes for the beginning of the game and the ending though, which is more than can be said for vanilla Beyond Earth!

Replay (3/5)
I'm willing to give the game another couple of tries for the achievements but there's not really much depth in it for it to be a meaningful, long-term prospect. As a mobile game, it does what it does well in that it's a casual time waster.

Polish (4/5)
The game has a play guide but it would've been nice if it contained better tutorials. Also, moving in the map screen is achieved by left clicks while on the tactical battle screen you move around the screen using right clicks: it can be confusing at times when you're switching between modes.

I'm also not exactly clear what the relationship between Beyond Earth and Starships is. Apparently achieving certain things in Beyond Earth unlocks extra missions and bonuses in Starships I believe but it's never really clearly explained.

Score – 6/10

While Sid Meier's Starships isn't a bad game, I think it's better suited on its target platform where you just want a casual game to pass the time. The game lacks character and the battles can become somewhat repetitive, despite the apparent variety with the objectives. If you want a more rewarding sci-fi 4X experience, I'd recommend picking up one of the classic Master of Orion games instead. In fact, you can get Master of Orion and Master of Orion 2 for less than $9 off GOG!

Sid Meier's Starships is available from these retailers:

Is the game worth $14.99 USD?: No. Considering this is essentially a mobile game (i.e. one with cut-down gameplay, graphics, etc.) a fairer price would be $10 USD or less (considering the exchange rate is no longer at parity any more).

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[ LINK: Official Sid Meier's Starships Website ]