by Sergio Brinkhuis
previewed on PC
Bending the wheel
With the rise of the Indie game developers, the 4X genre has returned in strength. The space colonization setting is particularly popular, possibly because there are fewer restrictions when it comes to creating Fantasy Aliens than it is Cowboys and Indians or even Elves and Dwarves. Every developer wants their game to become the next Master of Orion, or even something better. Some titles such as Endless Space have done well straying off the beaten path but those who have tried to stay close to the Master of Orion formula have not managed to surpass it, or even get close. The Indie devs at L3O are giving Early Access punters a look at their candidate for the 4X crown and I must admit that the current Beta version is not too shabby at all.
Horizon is not looking to reinvent the wheel, though it is trying to bend it just a little bit. As with any 4X game, you start as a technologically backward civilization looking to expand its borders. Danger lurks all around you, but you are naÔve enough to think you will be able to deal with whatever fate will hurl in your direction. Thatís good, because the brave and the naÔve progress, the weary and fearful stay on their rock and worry about what is out there. So you send out your scouts to explore new star systems, ships to colonize the planets that fit your racial profile and sooner or later run into other civilizations that have similar agendas.
Building up your planets in Horizon is perhaps a little simplistic. With enough cash, you can upgrade the planet in areas such as Research, Trade, Defenses and Entertainment. There are no specific buildings, no tough choices to make and the only population management you will be doing is managing the food supply. To some this will prove a boon as you wonít spend much time micromanaging your colonies, to others it will perhaps feel a little shallow.
The tech tree is both baffling and brilliant. Initially, all research points are divided between the various researchable areas. By clicking on say, Propulsion, the majority of your research effort pours into the development of engines and energy technology. As there are a number of techs within Propulsion, you can even give a boost to one specific technology by selecting it. The tradeoff is of course that fewer of the research points go towards the other areas but it does give you a quick way to focus on the technology you need while some progress is still being made in every other area. The baffling part is that I could not discover any way to see which technology leads to what new discoveries. This meant that even with some 20 systems under my control, I had yet to discover Terraforming, a tech I usually try to get early on.