by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
The impact of a high-potential industrial, economic or research planet is only ever felt during the early stages of the game and even the excitement over finding that planet with the indigenous research population will be quickly forgotten once the game is truly underway.
Research fares somewhat similar. Increasing the level of Robotics doesn’t really unlock anything, it just adds to your crop yields and industry output and it does so completely automatically without any intervention of the user, never truly creating a moment of joy for reaching particular research goals. While this is true for most technologies, one notable exception is technologies that are used on the ships that make up your fleet. Upgrading the level of the Neutrino Cannon will not be of any use for existing ships, the only way to apply the technology is to scrap your fleet and start anew.
While Horizon manages to keep things dry - though barely - in the Exploration and Expansion sections, it goes semi-submersible the moment fleets get locked into battle. The first time I entered an empty battlefield I struggled to make sense of the situation. Why would the game tell me there is a battle here? It took me a while to understand that the battlefield was made up of sectors, and that my enemy was in the adjacent sector which was hidden from view. There are odd design choices like these at every corner.
For instance, it doesn’t help that the smaller ship types all but disappear against the background, especially when you try to zoom out to get a good overview of the action. And things get especially hairy when your ships launch their fighters, who then conspire to get in the way of enemy ships and often making them completely untargetable. It ends up as a rudimentary game of “Pin the Tail on the Donkey” where you have your eyes open but still don’t know where to put the tail. To alleviate this somewhat, a ‘target’ button allows you to target what lies underneath the fighters but you will have to click this again, and again, and again. I love turn-based battles, but Horizon’s are just plain tedious.
In fact, if it weren’t for the fact that well-thought-through ship designs actually make a difference in combat, I’d say this side of things was a complete wash. The ship design tool itself may be a little rudimentary, but seeing your well-designed ships tear through equally advanced enemy ships like a hot knife through butter will make you feel like a king.
MOO, it isn’t
If I would be an aspiring game developer, and Horizon would have been my first game, I would be over the moon. As a first effort, it isn’t a bad game. In fact, if you are the type of player that - more often than not - pushes the ‘auto resolve’ button when a turn-based battle presents itself, then there is a good chance you will find some enjoyment playing. Yet I’m not a developer, I’m merely a humble reviewer who happens to prefer the hands-on approach that Horizon promises but doesn’t deliver. If you are like me, then the game is a tough sell.
One of the very 4X space games with turn-based battles on the market.
Lacklustre combat mechanics.