previewed on PC
Complex in a good way
Prior to this assignment, I had never even heard of the Space Empires series and had no idea what it involved. For those of you who are unaware as I was, Space Empires is a series of turn-based strategy games set in space. It obviously targets hardcore strategy fans as it has more layers of complexity than I have ever seen. Whether this complexity is a good thing or a bad thing is mostly up to the playing style of those who play it, but I found it to be a good thing.
Before I discuss the gameplay of the latest addition to the series, Space Empires V, it is good to get the more trivial aspects out of the way. The graphics are sub-par for this day and age, but if you take into consideration the fact the number of people on the development team can be counted on one hand, they are very well done. The same can be said about the sound effects. These are about average and the only real complaint I have here is the music itself. It was bland, to say the least, and at times annoying. A lot of the combat sounds were something one would expect out of the Super Nintendo, not a modern day PC.
With that out of the way, on to the gameplay, by far the most important section of any strategy game. Unlike an action game that can get by with great graphics or an RPG that can stay afloat with an amazing story, a strategy game needs superb gameplay or it will fail, and Space Empires V delivers very well in this category.
As said before, the game is quite complex and deserves a good tutorial. Unfortunately the tutorial is not all that complete. It didn?t even begin to describe combat and was pretty lacking in other areas. The ship building tools, for instance, could have received some more attention. The game tells you how to build ships but never explains if there is a rhyme or reason behind component placement. If I put the bridge in the middle hull, dead center, is it less likely to be damaged than if I put it on the upper hull on the front edge? If I place a cannon on the nose, can it only fire forward? Can I customize my battle formations? In short, you will have to learn the game by trial and error.
Ships & strategy
Let?s take a closer look at ship building while we are on that topic shall we? Units are done Alpha Centauri-style. You research new tech, like upgraded Ion Engines, Depleted Uranium Cannons, Armor and different hull types. You then take these new advances and build a new ship from the ground up. When making a vehicle, you are shown a schematic of the vehicle itself with an overlaid grid indicating where you can place Inner Hull components, Outer Hull components and Armor. As you drop items in place such as colony modules, bridges, life support, crew quarters, engines, armor, weapons, supply pods, etc., you have to monitor your ships tonnage to make sure you are within limits. Once you?re good to go, give it a name, designate a ship type, and queue production.