I became in contact with Brad Ottoson some days ago when we were discussing my blog article: Master of Orion 2: The Formula behind the Success. We briefly discussed about Aphelion: Phoenix Rising, a new 4x space strategy game that is being developed by Brad and Jared. Brad told me that “[Aphelion] is inspired by various 4x space strategy games like MOO2 and Birth of the Federation”. Saying that I immediately decided to investigate the game progress and write an article about it.
As said in the Wyvern Studios website they expect to release the game late 2011 (if they receive funding by then). Brad also told me that “[Aphelion] won’t be out for a few years still but we have a lot of it done”.
Judging from the site history the project should have started around 2006. The game seems to have endured steady improvements during 2007 and 2008. As mentioned in the site by 2007 the AI was already partially constructed, the fleet management already developed and the GUI was enduring a cleaning process. The technology tree was being polished and the multiplayer networking ability already in place.
By 2008 they say that the largest parts missing to be completed were diplomacy and spaceship tactical combat. Diplomacy sections were also nearly complete. For the complete history of the game refer to their homepage.
Judging from the demo video the game already presents a good maturity level. The graphical interface is rather sophisticated and beautiful, very different from what I’m used to see in these games, at the same time it seems very intuitive and simple to use.
The fact that new star systems are only revealed as you go around the galaxy is a nice feature that surely enhances the exploration feeling. Each star system is represented as a star, when you click you see all the planets present, if you already explored the system it gives you a nice summary of the planets characteristics and any special bonuses they may have. The demo presents some of these bonuses/special habilities, there are: ruins in planets, afrodisiacs plant that enhances population growth rate (probably inspired in GalCiv2 aphrodisiacs trade good) or the cavernous bonus that allows a planet to hold more people, (this one reminds me of the MOO2 subterranean ability). There is nothing wrong in my perspective for future space strategy games to take inspiration on previous titles strong features, for me it is a plus.
The labor allocation in the main planet menu seems definitely inspired in Master of Orion 2 system with the hammer/food/research/(treasury) population allocation style. You can queue production, which is always nice. The colony main menu presents three main panels: the ship building panel, the colony infrastructures panel and another panel that I could not tell from the demo what it would be for, it shows an House symbol (first I thought this would be the planetary infrastructure building panel…).
The diplomacy screen offers some new interesting concepts: – “Secret Defense Pact” and “Military access” (which is a very nice idea to avoid ships trespassing – like open borders agreements in the Civilization series). It offers the traditional diplomacy features as well: – “Trade treaty”, “Declare war” and “Exchange Technologies”. As explained in the site the races appearance are just “dummy” for now, they do not necessarily represent the final races (there shall be 6 races as announced).
One very interesting feature of Aphelion is the fact that it will have a dynamic research system presenting four main tech groups with a random arrangement for every game. Each race will have it’s own individual unique tech tree with approximately 200 technologies available to each race.
Some screenshots (click to enlarge)
You can see more screenshots here.
Aphelion: Phoenix Rising has a nice exotic edge to it, and at the same time sounds familiar due to some inspirations on previous 4x space strategy games like Master of Orion 2, GalCiv2, etc..
Lets hope that Aphelion makes it to the world soon and that it succeeds providing a good game atmosphere, a compelling story and some nice innovations that can surprise the hardcore fans.
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