STARS in SHADOW on STEAM £18.99
Stars in Shadow is a turn-based 4X strategy game and a vivid tribute to the genre classics. Compete with alien factions to explore and colonize nearby starsystems, build fleets to defend against rivals, negotiate or conquer them. Win by unifying the galaxy, through diplomacy or force.
The artwork is comic-book style and rather excellent. It is bright, colourful and gives the impression that this is going to be a fun animated game suitable for 8 year olds and up, but the game under these graphics is full-on hard core strategy. However once you have certain operations in place the game will automatically control their actions without you having to remember to keep going back to them - Food for example can be transported between your colonies and planets once you have built Farms and Transport ships, you set them up and leave them to get on with it. Obviously you need to control the supplies and resources as your empire stretches and grows but it's not micro-management like it is in many games, it's mainly just management. Trading can also be set up in a similar fashion but again you have to remember that trade brings in finance and money brings in colonists who require resources, and so the big wheel turns.
Production comes from your research, resources and building and then the expansion or upgrading of the necessary buildings. You can build Mines on Planets with good ore deposits and the resources mined can in turn be used for building ships and other required structures. Everything is under your control you just have to know how and when and occasionally where.
Although you need the majority you can win the game through one of three different ways. The Military option where you kill just about everyone else in the Galaxy, the Political option where influence in the Galactic Council and then there is the Alliance option where you use your influence to get enough of the other races to ally with you. The Military (combat) option is by far the most enjoyable, at least to most players who enjoy Battle arena games.
This is a sci-fi game with so many options and opportunities. To begin with you have to choose what Race you wish to be and who your opponents will be.
There are 7 Basic Races, each with their own specialities, abilities and skills.
Ashdar Colonials from the Garden World of Rastaban
Ashdar Colonials from the Hive World of Ashdar Prime
Phidi Combine from Tendao an Island World
The Gremak Empire from the Swamp Planet Gremal
The Orthin Conference of Bacabs IV the Iceball World
The Yoral Khaganate of Verrold who are Cold-Weather brawlers
Humanity. Very little is known about these space-faring refugees who have no known planet.
STARS in SHADOW is a full on strategy game that requires players to spend a lot of time exploring, researching and customising. It is not a game of arcade style combat and speed.
The settings for the game are very important to your specific ideals. Challenges are Easy, Normal, Hard or Brutal. You can create your Starmap to be small, medium or large and containing 10-500 star systems. There are many other selections to make before beginning to play: Below are just a few of the necessary adjustments you need to make, you cannot just install and play if you want to get the best out of the game for you personally; everyone can personalise the play to their own specifics.
Star Density - Dense, Normal or Sparse
Game Speed - Normal, Epic or Marathon
Native Races - Rare or Abundant
Habitable Planets - Rare, Normal or Abundant
Pirate Raids - Frequent, Normal or Rare
Since the end of the Great War, the galaxy has been quiet. For three thousand years primitive species have had time to grow, to learn, and to look to the stars. There they will find the smoldering embers of that long-ago war, alien civilizations and ancient technology. These discoveries could bring destruction, or they might provide the means to survive the greater challenges ahead.
Stars in Shadow puts you in command of one of seven distinct spacefaring civilizations. Explore the galaxy, rediscover and colonize distant worlds, and build an interstellar empire. Invest wisely in your military -- for this is a dangerous galaxy. Another great war is inevitable, and your people will need strength to earn their place among the stars.
Turn-based fleet combat is the core of Stars in Shadow. The tactical system allows starships to do battle using a wide range of different weapons and abilities. Unlock more powerful technologies through research or diplomacy, and outfit your fleets to best take advantage of your available tools.
The game includes seven playable factions comprising six alien races; your choice of faction will determine which hull types and weapon technologies are initially available to you, and which planetary environments are ideal for your people. Forming alliances, conquering neighboring species, or discovering ancient artifacts may open up additional avenues of research. Each game will offer unique challenges and opportunities.
As you explore the galaxy, a range of different planet types awaits your discovery. Some will be ripe for colonization; others may contain valuable mineral resources. The most prized worlds are those that hold secrets from the past -- artifacts from civilizations that vanished long ago. Research advanced technologies to enable your people to survive on dangerous worlds, or to terraform alien environments to suit your needs.
Once you have established a growing collection of colony worlds, you will need to balance the competing priorities of research, growth, and ship building. You will also need to decide the fate of those alien species that come under your control. Every race in Stars in Shadow has its own abilities and environmental preferences, and by encouraging a multi-species empire you can take advantage of the aptitudes of each. Convincing the members of such a diverse empire to get along may prove challenging, however.
Of the playable alien species, three are "young races", reaching out into the galaxy for the first time. The remaining three are "old races", survivors of a terrible war fought in the distant past, they still hold to their ancient grudges. Which race you choose will affect how your empire is perceived; what trades or alliances may be offered, and whether or not your neighbors are inclined to trust you. However, it is your own actions as leader which will ultimately determine how you are view by other governments as well as by the various populations of aliens you rule over.
The young races include the friendly Phidi, the reclusive Orthin, and the fierce Yoral. The old races are the proud Ashdar, the nomadic Humans, and the ruthless Gremak.
Personally, as I have aged my concentration and memory have suffered slightly. I now appreciate more the type of games that can be played as quick-fire actions when I have only a limited amount of time or the hidden object, point & click, or MMO style adventures where I don't need to concentrate as hard or worry about every minor nut and bolt. STARS in SHADOW may not be the most complicated sci-fi strategy game you will encounter but it is fairly complex and in need of players spending time on it.
The music is annoying but then most games have awful music behind the action onscreen and to be honest once you are concentrating on what you are doing the music drifts off behind you into the ether and you don't even hear it above your thought processing. The graphics, already mentioned, range from the basic space style map to the comic book caracatures that enhance the seven Races and their planetary craft.
A game for sci-fi enthusiasts who enjoy strategy turn based games.