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Take to the stars with Sid Meier on March 12

Sid Meier’s Starships blasts off on March 12 for iPad, Mac, and Windows. It costs $15 on all platforms.

Revealed in January 2015, Starships continues the story of Civilization: Beyond Earth as we takes to the stars once more to colonize the galaxy, encountering our long-lost brethren from Humanity’s diaspora after The Great Mistake on old Earth. Players build their galactic federation, sending a fleet of customizable ships around to integrate star systems and exploit their resources. The resource management and planetary development system is simpler than the economic engine of Civilization games, requiring far less micromanagement. Combat is the real focus of Starships.

Battles are fought in a zoomed-in, tactical map around planetary systems. Before each fight the player has the opportunity to customize their ships, ensuring the right units for a given situation. Ships can be fast and maneuverable or slow and powerful, armed with long-distance lasers, deadly close-range cannons, or squads of nimble fighters. The robust customization options allow admirals to build a fleet that perfectly suits their play style and the evolving situational needs.

Related: We built this fleet on rock & roll: See Sid Meier’s Starships in action

Starships also features cross-game connectivity with Civilization: Beyond Earth. Players with registered My2K accounts will be able to put the two games in dialogue, but it is not yet clear exactly what that means for either game. As an added incentive to get players on board with 2K’s service, however, Beyond Earth fans get a free new map, the Glacier planet, when they sign up for My2K after the latest patch. Although no specific promises were made, Firaxis’ post alludes to the future possibility of other games being integrated into the system. Will it one day be possible to play seamlessly from the dawn of Civilization through the journey Beyond Earth before blasting off in Starhips? Perhaps Will Wright’s hubris with Spore was trying to build the whole thing at once, rather than designing a series of games at different scales and then stringing them together after the fact.

Priced at $15, this download-only title sets modest expectations for the amount of content that will be included with Starships, but the developer has a proven track record of encouraging deep replayability in its elegantly-designed games. The prospect of inter-game connectivity also opens up exciting new possibilities for Firaxis’ already-strong post-game support with updates and expansions.