Version Reviewed: 1.1
App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
Graphics / Sound Rating:
User Interface Rating:
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As I’m writing this Sid Meier’s Starships isn’t actually out yet, but I’m seeing a lot of people refer to it as “Civilization in space with more combat.” This is a fairly accurate assessment, although I’d say it’s technically more like the more streamlined Civilization Revolution in space. But the “with more combat” thing is dead-on.
A game of Starships begins much like any of Sid Meier's other simulations. You toggle settings like map size and overall difficulty, then you’re dumped into the galaxy to start expanding your empire. Although rather than picking a nationality you can choose between one of three factions (each with a different bonus that will give them an edge in certain situations), then between one of several leaders (also each with their own bonuses).
On your turn you’ll be able to manage your conquered planets (i.e. build cities, planetary defenses, etc), spend resources to research new and improved technologies, upgrade your fleet of starships, and stop by unconquered planets to complete tasks and gain influence. And any decision you make can have a pretty significant effect on your progress.
There’s a lot to enjoy here, especially for fans of the Civilization series and it’s less dense spinoff. There are many different paths to victory, but you’ll be spending a lot of your time in turn-based tactical combat. Thankfully it works quite well, although I did have a few issues with the controls deciding to perform actions before I tapped a second time to verify. Not so good when your carrier ends up drifting right into the middle of an enemy fleet when you were just trying to take a look around the map.
There are also lots of little visual details in Starships that I’m kind of in love with. Every time you upgrade a ship, its model will change to display the upgraded tech. Whenever you build cities on a planet, you’ll see a network of lights appear on the surface. It doesn’t affect the gameplay at all, but it sure looks cool.
What’s not so cool is the complete lack of a proper tutorial. Aside from simply learning by doing, the only way for you to get any sort of guidance is to constantly tap on the Advice button. This is fine if you can’t decide what to do on your turn but it’s a terrible way to familiarize someone with Starships’ ins and outs. There are several things that simply aren’t explained at all - especially in combat - and it makes those first couple of campaigns a frustrating slog. Figuring out what Battle Cards do is also a pain, since you can only reference them outside of combat in the SpaceOPedia.
The lack of multiplayer might also be a deal-breaker for some. I certainly didn't miss it, but I know lots of people like to play Civilization against each other and they'll no doubt be disappointed that they can't do the same here. Not being able to face-off against other players doesn't really detract from the fun, though.
Once the aggravating “figure it out for yourself” phase is over though, Sid Meier’s Starships is lots of fun. It’s a great revamp of the Civilization formula and, much like most other Sid Meier games, is almost endlessly replayable. So if you like strategy, Sid Meier, and/or spaceships, you might want to give it a try.