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.