Stars Beyond Reach
- Manage your own civilization like a turn-based citybuilder, but in a 4X setting.
- Deal with other civilizations using force or more nuanced building abilities (“poison Narr’s water,” “invite Keleci to the opera,” “dump bodies on Strot’s populace”).
- The game takes place over four “acts” during which you have unique objectives and challenges: Arrival, Discovery, Alliances, and Doomsday.
- You have considerable freedom in how you build your empire and make friends or foes, but each race is filled with unique character under your control or that of an AI.
- 14 alien races each have 3 possible leaders with their own personalities and goals. You will have to devise unique strategies for befriending or neutralizing them depending on their situation and exactly who is in a campaign.
- There are distinct degrees of victory that you can achieve. Just winning the game doesn’t mean you won well.
Info Dump Incoming!
There’s a whole lot of text down there. The trailer and the bullet points might be enough for you, and if so then go ahead and stop reading! But a lot of this game’s audience are the sort of grognards who — like me — would like to know as much as possible. So here’s the flow of the game as it progress through each act. Pretty cool stuff actually!
Act I: Arrival
When you first land on the planet, your minds and your computers have been all but wiped. You quickly have to learn both basic and advanced technologies and establish yourself as a new civilization. When you choose your landing spot, your citizens let you know what special objectives they expect you to meet in order to exit this first act.
During act 1, my interactions with the 13 other races on the planet are pretty limited. I can fight them if I wish. I can do things to them or experience things that they do to me. But I don’t speak their languages, nor they mine. If I want to capture more territories (think Risk), I can do so. I have a fair bit of freedom here, but only low-level technologies and buildings.
Whether or not I choose to go conquer or subjugate someone I can’t even speak to yet is up to me. My core goals are all about my own city, however. My citizenry is complex and I need to get them established and built up.
This is a living world where your own territories are as interesting and complex as the civilizations you encounter. Threats come as much from inside your own civilization as much as from outside it — and in Act 1, the focus is on threats from within.
Act II: Discovery
Now we’re starting to look outward. The abilities and needs of our own empire have just upgraded substantially, and we’re able to start learning the languages of our potential allies and enemies.
At this point there are specialized “natural wonders” scattered around the world that our scientists need to examine. There is key information about the world that we are able to detect in these places (and for fans of Arcen’s other titles, you can find some answers to longstanding questions about both AI War: Fleet Command and The Last Federation).
Problem is, a lot of those natural wonders are in territories controlled by other races. How do we deal with those? Maybe we get lucky and can snatch up enough territories that we can learn what we need without involving the other races at all just yet. Maybe we beat a few heads into the ground. Or, more intelligently, maybe we find out what their deepest-seated fears and desires are… and then exploit whichever of them we can.
I might be renting out mainframe time to Xermi, who desperately needs it, while at the same time dumping garbage all throughout the lands of Vesden until she gives us the information just to get me off her back. I might not trust the shifty and volatile doShal, and might militarily suppress him to the point that he surrenders and becomes an early puppet state for me.
Act III: Alliances
A sudden realization has hit us. I won’t spoil what is learned, but something becomes abundantly clear. I must attempt what all the other races have failed to do: return to the stars. Armed with my new information, it is time to set out and gather as many allies as possible.
Unfortunately, I can’t make friends with everyone. Isn’t it always the case where the most eager-to-be-friends folks seem to be the least useful in a disaster scenario? Well, some of the stronger folks come with unsavory demands: they might not join me if I don’t murder an entire innocent species, drive an empire into poverty, or bring them an enslaved race of fallen foes.
What mix of races am I willing to ally with? Even if I throw morality to the wind, what will set me up in the optimal situation for Act IV? Can I get those races who are determinedly neutral to actually take action? Some of them are incredibly powerful, but almost as hard to sway.
Act IV: Doomsday
I don’t want to spoil much about this one. The battle lines have been drawn. Everyone has declared their alliances or their neutrality. And the planet itself has put its own long-dormant plans into motion. It’s time to hope that my empire is robust enough to survive the all-out war that now consumes the world. Can I help my allies live through the assaults of their enemies? Can they help me against flying saucers arriving on my doorstep and monsters erupting from the ground?
All of the choices I have made in prior acts now either come to fruition or come crashing down. Either way it should be quite entertaining, as both my citizens, my enemies, my allies, and the planet itself will have plenty of remarks on what is happening (all unobtrusive and something you can skip reading with ease if you just want the meat and no dressing).
Degrees Of Victory
This is one of the few games where “winning” is not a black and white proposition. There are two overall goals for Act IV: escaping, and stopping the planet’s machinations.
But just what does it mean to “escape?” If only I and a handful of my higher-ups from the government make it out alive, and everyone else dies, is that a victory? The game will tell me it is, sure, although a pretty poor one.
How about getting more of my citizens offworld, and even allied citizens of other races offworld, and thus really saving some genetic lineages there — is that a good victory? Well, I suppose that’s not bad. But if I haven’t stopped the planet from doing… what it’s doing that I won’t spoil… then there are some pretty awful things that are going to happen around the galaxy. So… yay me, I guess?
On the other end of the scale, what if I stop the planet, but at the expense of my own life and everyone else living on the planet? I may completely fail to escape, but stop this awful planet for good. In the grand scheme this is actually a far more notable victory — but then again I have killed myself and everyone I ever knew in order to accomplish it.
In an ideal world I would get everyone to safety, stop the planet, and do so without committing any moral atrocities along the way. But there’s the question: am I good enough to pull that off?
A Note About Humor
This is a serious 4X and citybuilding/simulation game, despite the funny promotional videos. Let’s face it, when you play a game of this sort that has anything novel at all in it, the result at first can be death spirals and unintentional hilarity. May as well have some fun with that!Better a Memorable Defeat than a Forgettable Victory, you know?
That said, the game itself maintains the more serious tone you would expect, dark or wry humor aside. Sometimes you get hilarious things like a race of capitalistic amoral robots inventing a TV show they call The Sweatshop Comedy Hour, but it’s actually a useful upgrade that makes them more fearsome — so mock them at your peril!
We know that not everybody wants humor injected into their serious strategy game (our earliest beta testers actually made this pretty clear to us), and we have kept that in mind. But we’re huge fans of the LP called Boatmurdered, and we hope that this game will inspire similar tales of dark humor.
- You can still sign up for the free beta!
- The forums for the game are always brimming over with discussion and extra info.
- The hilarious video shorts Tales of Woe Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 (upcoming).
COMPATIBLE OPERATING SYSTEMS
Windows XP SP2 or later
Mac OSX Intel CPU and “Leopard” 10.5 or later.
Ubuntu 10.10 or later, although other unsupported distros may very well work
3 GB RAM
1 GB Hard Disk Space
Screen resolution at least 720px high, and 1024px wide.