UPDATE 10/31/2014: Since the name of the game has changed to Stars Beyond Reach, and the logo has changed, I’ve come back and updated this post to reflect that. Everything else was already accurate, so there was no point having any confusion. The old name was Spectral Empire.
Stars Beyond Reach is our upcoming 4X title, which is slated for release in April 2015. This is something that we’re working on in tandem with the current expansions for AI War and The Last Federation, as well as the general ongoing work on those two games, and the linux ports of all our other titles. Whew, busy times!
Anyway, there are a few things that I wanted to share today about it, just as an early teaser.
The Last Federation And AI War Are In The Same Universe
This hasn’t really been stated outright before, but I view these two games as being in two different galaxies in the same universe. The Last Federation takes place in just a single solar system somewhere out in the cosmos, while AI War: Fleet Command takes place in a portion of our own galaxy, connected by wormhole networks. Nowhere in either game is the other referenced, and that makes perfect sense because they are nowhere near one another.
But what a lot of people — even sci-fi enthusiasts — really don’t think about very hard is just how HUGE the universe is. You could claim that every sci-fi work ever written by anyone was all in the same universe, and it would still be a pretty empty universe if that was all that was going on. (Lots of parallel Earths in that case, too).
Anyway, the relative timelines of AI War and TLF are not made clear, and I don’t intend to clarify that here. However, suffice it to say that Stars Beyond Reach takes place far into the future from the timelines of both games… and it brings them together, at least a little.
The Planet Of Ivoria
Ivoria is a large planet somewhere far away from both the normal stomping grounds of AI War and TLF, and as noted the events of this game take place also far into the future from either of those other games. However… mysteriously there is a rather unlikely gathering of races on this planet. Races from both games, plus all new races, all make an appearance on this one large planet. What exactly is the story behind that? Well, that’s something you’ll be able to piece together from the story as you play, and I’m not about to spoil that here.
Unraveling The Story
Before you ask, the game is not going to have a traditional scripted campaign like Age of Empires or similar does — that’s not where the story is. The way that a game plays out in SBR will be the same as in AI War or TLF, where it’s all procedurally generated. You won’t always get all the bits of the story in a given playthrough, but you will pick up clues as to what is going on depending on how you play. I really don’t want to say more about it than that at this time, for fear of spoilers, but suffice it to say that one thing that encourages multiple playstyles is how the game reacts to you and what you learn about the world when you do.
The Included Races From The Last Federation
For anyone who has played TLF, the above races are familiar, and you can skip ahead to the next section. You already know these guys, and they work as they do in TLF. You will notice that the Hydrals and the Obscura are not included in Stars Beyond Reach, and there are a couple of reasons for that.
With the Hydrals, TLF is really all about them, and I felt it was appropriate to keep them to that story. For another, based on story events in TLF, it doesn’t really make sense that they would be plentiful in the far future, if you catch my drift.
With the Obscura, those are a really cool race and one that I just feel like makes the most sense as kind of a Borg-like presence in TLF’s upcoming expansion, and that gets undermined if they are just a basic race in Stars Beyond Reach as well.
Another thing that you’ll notice is that with the groupings and labels that I have above, I have massively oversimplified what the races are actually like. But the very quick rundown:
Andors are robotic goody-two-shoes. They aren’t above a fight, but they aren’t belligerent at all, and they tend to build utopias for themselves and then want to help everyone else. They are the solar system’s “busybodies,” as well.” In TLF, these are often grouped with the Peltians and Skylaxians as the “good guy” races.
Acutians are robotic capitalists, and are known for being cold and calculating as well as huge polluters. They aren’t evil, per se, they are just completely amoral. In TLF, these are often grouped with the Burlusts and the Thoraxians as the “bad guy” races.
Burlusts are kind of like Klingons on crack. With chicken legs, lots of warlords, and National Murder Day is definitely a favorite holiday.
Thoraxians are a hivemind insectoid race, with lots of workers that are part of the networked consciousness of their queen. The queens are a bit worse than amoral, really; they don’t really value life at all, and they are both moody and selfish. Their race is the absolute terror in terms of ground combat. They are kind of a cross between the Buggers in Ender’s Game and the aliens in Alien.
Peltians are communist barn owl farmers. They are pathetic in a fight, not technologically astute, but really easygoing. So at least they have that going for them, I guess. They are kind of the Ewoks of the solar system. Although, I will say, in space ships they are just as deadly as anyone else. And since they are so pathetic in ground combat, they instead take to suicide bombing with their (for some reason manned) personnel pods, and they delight in bombing the heck out of planets from orbit. Not that they’ll be able to do any of that in Stars Beyond Reach, since SBR takes place entirely on the surface of Ivoria.
Skylaxians are extremely honorable, and also by far the most technologically advanced of the TLF races. They aren’t above warfare, but they do have a keen sense of the value of life.
Boarines are kind of a cross between werewolves and the snow beast from The Empire Strikes Back. They live in very cold climates, get into big fights with one another if they live in too close of proximity to one another, and in general are isolationist. It will be interesting to see how they have adapted to more cramped life on Ivoria, yes? These and the Evucks are basically the kind of “neutral” races in TLF, really.
Evucks are technologically advanced, and in some ways they are wise, but they are also incredibly paranoid. They also have an “if we’re going down, we’re taking everyone else with us” attitude. Not great friends.
The Included Races From AI War: Fleet Command
The first thing that AI War players will notice is that neither the humans nor the AI are included here. Why is that? Well, those two factions are just so central to AI War, and so heavily explored there, that they don’t make sense to bring to SBR. Plus, humans as a race are just so… vanilla to me, when it comes to sci-fi. I wanted to stick to the more interesting races.
The first three expansions for AI War each explored one of the races above (The Zenith Remnant, Children of Neinzul, and Light of the Spire). Even so, despite the bits of backstory you get from those, and the sense of them you get from their technology, the races themselves are never really someone you get to know on a more personal level. That changes in SBR.
Zenith are an ancient dead race in AI War, and thus only one that you ever find the remnants of their derelict technology. But what technology you do find in AI War is extremely powerful, and can be repaired by either the humans or the AI into terrifying war machines. Of course, just because the Zenith are completely absent in our galaxy doesn’t mean that the entire race is dead, which is just the assumption that the humans made. Turns out there was at least one contingent that survived…
Neinzul are extremely short-lived (like fruit fly lifespans — an earth day or so per individual), and very swarm-like. They aren’t a hivemind or anything like that, but they do share collective knowledge telepathically with one another. It’s the only way that a race that short-lived could ever actually accomplish anything as a society, right? This is basically all you learn about these guys in AI War, but there is more to find out in SBR…
Spire are another very powerful race, but not extinct like the Zenith supposedly were. The weaponry of the Spire varies from the small to the most-massive-ever, and everything they have is glowing white and very mysterious. You never really meet them, per se — not in the flesh, anyway — in AI War. Except… turns out that you were meeting them all along, and until now (right now) it was never known. The “spacecraft” themselves are actually the Spire organisms, which are kind of cyborg-ish in nature. How do these sort of beings adapt to living on a planet’s surface? Well, in their distant past they once lived on planets, so it’s not new to them…
New Races Unique To Stars Beyond Reach
You didn’t think that we would have a new game without any new races, did you? As fun as it is to pull in the races from AI War and TLF, there also needs to be some new blood. Granted, the majority of the races (11 out of 14) do indeed come from our older games, but a big reason for that was that we already had a deep roster of interesting races that our fans are familiar with.
Coming up with some new variant of race that is Burlust-like, rather than just using the Burlusts, both keeps the races shallower as well as more confusing when you are moving from game to game. I felt that it was a lot more sensible to do a mixture of new and old, deepening the old stuff in cool ways as well as making it so that when you encounter the Burlusts for the first time in this game, you know what to expect immediately if you already played TLF. It’s basically the reason that Star Wars and Star Trek keep using the same core races while slowly extending them, rather than having completely new mixes of races in every story.
Anyhow, the new folks:
Fenyn are nature-lovers that basically put the Peltians to shame on that score. It’s true that the Peltians are agrarian and thus very sensitive to the environment, but they are cultivators whereas the Fenyn are more about preservation. Not that they don’t build giant cities and technology like anyone else, but preserving vast tracts of wilderness is equally important to them. Despite their “tree hugger” nature, and their waif-like appearance, they are both beautiful and extremely deadly.
Krolin are crustacean-like bipedal creatures with lobster-style claws and very intricate hard shell organic armor. They are excellent fighters, and absolutely ruthless in a fight, but they are mostly dispassionate. They are extremely fascist, however, so there is that. Authority and order matters a lot to them, but the actual individuals in their society have varying degrees of opinion about all that, and there are outlaws among them.
Yali are very spiritual and meditative, and believe that they alone are “enlightened.” They don’t bear any ill will toward anyone else, but they are quite intent on spreading enlightenment. Via words if they can, but when words fail they are willing to sacrifice peace and lives in the sake of the protection of wisdom. Wisdom, in their view, is similar to but separate from knowledge, and thus they are by no means a super-technologically-advanced race. And yes, those are snakes on the ends of their six arms. Along with the head of a snake, adorned with ram’s horns.
There is one other presence on Ivoria, but I won’t say much about him/it at the moment. It has a masculine voice, and all of the races are aware of it, and they each have their own name for it. It is never seen, but makes its will known in a variety of ways. It is not a faction like the others. The nature of this presence is one of the core mysteries of the story of the game. It’s also where the voice acting comes in for this one.
Thanks for reading!