Firaxis Games shared a juicy half hour of gameplay from its recently announced sci-fi strategy title, Sid Meier’s Starships, with commentary from none other than PC gaming’s genial uncle, Mr. Meier himself, along with fellow Firaxis dev Pete Murray, both nerdily dressed in Captain Kirk-era Starfleet uniforms.
The footage focuses on the powerful customization options available for tweaking your fleet, then taking those customized ships into battle. Individual ships are upgraded through a points system. Resources can be spent to buff up systems such as shields, engines, stealth, and various types of weapons. The range of permutations possible within the system is extremely wide, allowing you to create specialized ships, such as a long-range carrier that hangs back to launch fighter squads and torpedoes while a front line brawler with heavy shields and cannons takes point. Ships can be modified between missions, allowing you to incrementally develop a fleet that suits your particular play style.
“The fun is in the battles,” Meier says when explaining why the fights cannot be automated. Turn-based, tactical battles are the heart of the Starships experience. Like Civilization, combat takes place on a hexagonal grid across a 2D plane, with each ship allowed to move and take one action per round. Like XCOM, facing, proximity, and environmental elements impact the chance of a shot’s success and how much damage it can do. The landscape is dynamic, with certain asteroid fields possibly shifting during the course of battle, opening and closing paths to alter the terrain and force admirals to adapt. The skill seems to lie in designing a fleet with complementary strengths, and then knowing how to properly utilize each ship in the course of battle.
Check out the footage below. Tune in later this week for a follow-up when Sid is joined by XCOM lead designer Jake Solomon to talk design. Sid Meier’s Starships is set to arrive in the first part of 2015 on iPad, Mac, and Windows PC.