A 4X turn-based strategy game! Set in space no less, a very popular locale these days and Canadian outfit L3O Interactive with publisher Iceberg Interactive set forth where no man has gone before with Horizon. Unlike many other 4X space strategy games that occur in real-time, a turn-based RTS makes a welcome change as time is more on your side. Strategically speaking, you can carefully make those all important decisions, such as who to kill or which alien species you want to have sex with. Just kidding, there’s no sex in Horizon… well there might be as part of a diplomatic package but moving swiftly on. The star systems are the pearls in your galactic oyster as you discover strange new worlds and… you can shut up now Kirk, let’s play this thing.
Horizon is in alpha stage at the moment, so there’s plenty of room for change but the core game looks promising. It’s nice to see even at this early stage that a tutorial has been added, as with any other 4X game the overwhelming number of options require some explaining. The building blocks for exploration is of course ships and in turn to assemble a fleet. There are different classes such as Scout, Transport and Carrier. Each have different functions and weapon sets and may require longer build times. One turn equates to one year of game time; a Scout ship will take five turns therefore five years to build. In this context, ships are not necessarily plentiful and losing a ship in battle is ill advised.
All ships can be customised to your liking and additional upgrades can be researched. Your research focus can be changed at any time with set points that can be allocated. This does mean that certain research trees can be neglected, so it is very much a dynamic system whereby you will focus on the needs of your current situation. You can spend a lot of time in the ship configuration window, it’s similar to going into a restaurant with the choice of 320 starters and main courses. You may not get the right combination the first time, but that is part of the exploration itself.
The combat mechanics may feel different for some.. Because of the turn based element, a ship can only fire once on its turn. After cycling through all your ships in your arsenal, end your turn to progress until combat has been resolved. You can of course flee the area; your ships may be in the sector but not necessarily in the right place. The map is zoomed into the sector whereby you can move your ships within the green grid which indicates the range. Once positioned, you can engage enemy vessels through a series of turns and even form boarding parties once their shields have collapsed. Think of it as chess with lasers.
Of course, not all activities involve warmongering and on the civilisation side you can establish trade routes with other colonies and over time colonies will establish specialisations depending on your build. There’s no end game as such, it’s more of a universe playground where you can either be a complete brute or just jet off and explore. There are main missions that help you along the way, but you aren’t forced into any given path. The openness of the game will appeal to many who just want to tinker and see what happens.
Horizon is now available on Steam for Early Access if you want to be Star Trekkin’ across the universe before release.