App Reviewed on: iPad 3
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Had I known that Eclipse: New Dawn for the Galaxy was an adaptation of a 4X-style (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) board game, yes board game, I’d have been even more eager to dive in to it. Although since I was blissfully ignorant it ended up being a pleasant surprise. At least at first. However, as a newcomer to the game and its myriad of rules I soon realized that I was essentially getting tossed out into the cold vacuum of space with very little assistance.
There aren’t many board game versions of the 4X genre available, which really helps Eclipse to stand out. Explaining all the particulars would take far too long but it’s essentially a rush to take over as much of the galaxy as possible. Each turn allows the player, players, and AIs to perform one action. They can research new technologies, build ships, explore empty space, and more, but they can only do one thing at a time. They’ll also have to keep a close eye on their resources (money, research, and materials), as well as their Influence, or they run the risk of going bankrupt at the start of the next round.
Each of Eclipse’s seven playable races has their own special perks to take advantage of and can utilize tactics as diverse as their physiology. Some are natural explorers, others can colonize areas protected by ancient battleships without the need to clear them out first. I also thought it was pretty amazing how well so many aspects of the 4X genre have been adapted to the board game format. Research options are randomly unlocked when a round begins, resources aren’t gathered until the end of a round, etc. It’s an incredibly deep and rewarding game, but it’s also ridiculously unwelcoming to newbies.
That’s the biggest problem I have with Eclipse: it’s not friendly in the slightest to the uninitiated. The tutorial helps to explain how various actions are performed but it fails to give enough context. The game itself also neglects to explain what’s going on quite often; I still have no idea how I’m supposed to tell when a round is ending, or how I’m supposed to know what resource needs to be stockpiled so I can avoid bankruptcy. Despite the fancy UI it still doesn’t manage to convey all the necessary information. At least not in an intuitive way.
I really, really want to like Eclipse: New Dawn for the Galaxy but the barrier for entry is just too high. I’m sure if I had prior experience with the board game or practiced over and over until I went cross-eyed things would start to click, but with so much feeling like it’s stacked against me I just don’t have the patience for that. Fans of the tabletop classic will probably love it to bits, though.