4x games in space

Syp of Bio Break has just completed a series of posts telling the session-by-session events of a game of Masters of Orion. That’s a pretty classic 4x game set in space, but actually it’s not my favourite of the genre.

I have a lot of these games as I used to play them regularly, discovering MMORPGs put an end to my strategy game obsession for some reason. From memory I own, in no particular order:

Ascendancy was to me what Masters’ of Orion was to many others. This was *the* genre defining game when I was a student. The cartoony graphics and visual user interface (e.g. laying buildings on an isometric landscape on the planet’s surface) were appealing at the time. I tried playing this again recently but it is just too dated – I needed the DosBox MS-Dos emulator to even run it, it’s that old! It’s from the “good old days” of Dos gaming when every game’s UI was made from scratch.

Then I loaded up GC2, which I actually had installed on my computer surprisingly. This is the most uptodate of the games I have graphically. It follows the standard model of space travel (a la Star Trek/Star Wars etc) where you ‘warp’ between points in 3D space at a speed determined by the starship’s systems. It has ‘fog of war’ and other 4x staple systems. The planetary settlement UI is like a flattened 2D version of Ascendancy’s. Something about the pacing of the game never clicked for me though, I can’t really say why but I never played this game much.

Finally I re-installed Pax Imperia. This game was my favourite all-time 4x in space game. It has the less common “Warp Point” style of interstellar travel (like jump gates in Babylon 5).  This changes the nature of contact with other empires and of defensive gameplay as well. The game’s UI is miles ahead of Ascendancy, the planetary management screen is much simpler. Although I like the minutae of placing buildings on specific squares it does become a problem if you are playing a game with a large galaxy. Once you have 20+ colonies to manage the simpler priority-menu system of Pax really shines. Of the three games I like the custom ship design system from Pax the most as well. It’s flexible and complex enough but doesn’t bog you down in designing exactly which pylon to attach the missile launcher to on the ships superstructure (i.e. GC2’s ship builder).

So, if you’ve liked reading about 4x games but want a more modern game to try, I’d recommend trying to get hold of Pax Imperia or at least look for some gameplay videos to watch!

N.B. To be clear I’m not planning on writing a series like Syp, this is staying an MMO focused blog.

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12 Responses to 4x games in space

  1. tsuhelm says:

    NOOB question: why ‘4X’?

    Always wanted to play Star Wars Supremacy (it did get slated though)

    • Telwyn says:

      I linked to the Wikipedia definition of these games in the post – if you can’t see the link google the term. Basically strategy games that involve an element of exploration and building a base or managing resources. It’s a wide genre though including historical, fantasy, scifi etc.

      • tsuhelm says:

        Oh I must be going blind: from the link…
        ‘The term “4X” originates from a 1993 preview of Master of Orion in Computer Gaming World by Alan Emrich, in which he rated the game “XXXX” as a pun on the XXX rating for pornography. The four Xs were an abbreviation for explore, expand, exploit, exterminate.’

    • Jonny 5iVe says:

      eXpand, eXplore, eXploit, eXterminate

      Also, I think I played SWS for well over a hundred hours. Absolutely loved that game.

      It was also the first game I played online (outside of MUDs [the mother of modern day MMO’s]) with a few friends who also had the game, which was also great fun.

      All that, and you know. It’s STAR WARS!! Whoop whoop!

  2. OneCrazyPaladin says:

    Glad you mentioned Civilization because that was a good reference point for me. I think the new-ish Civ. 5 is really popular.

  3. Jonny 5iVe says:

    Just in case you didn’t know…

    Ascendancy is available on iOS:

    • Telwyn says:

      I did that on the wikipedia entry while writing this post, and no I hadn’t heard of it before today. I’m not much of a mobile phone gamer but that would be tempting. I’ll at least look up some reviews of how good the port is…

  4. tsuhelm says:

    After JRPG (FFVII) I got into RTS (C&C) before getting into MMORPG(FFXI) and finally MMO(LOTRO)

    ‘I like acronyms…’

  5. pkudude99 says:

    I have MOO2 running in the DosBox on my old laptop, but it’s such a clickfest (and TBH very dated) that I rarely get the urge to play it. It’s a fun little distraction when I do, but it does get old fairly quickly too.

    • Telwyn says:

      I watched a friend play the original MOO. Is that just a dated concept now? Everything, whether PC game or console game, is multi-player oriented. I can’t imagine myself really being satisfied with sitting and watching someone play MOO or Warcraft 1 as I once did because we only had the one computer available!

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