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Predestination – Early Access First Impressions

By on March 9th, 2015 1:13 pm

Predestination | A turn-based Space 4X Strategy Game by Brain and Nerd Ltd.

Predestination is a turn-based space 4X game being developed by indie studio Brain and Nerd. The game was made available on Steam Early Access on February 4th 2015 after a successful Greenlight campaign and two Kickstarters. It will feature a 3D ship designer, tactical combat, an in-depth colony management system, diplomacy and espionage, and will also have an episodic story mode.

Though there is no official release date given yet (Q4 2015 being the closest estimate), the game has a rough roadmap that follows the progress made and what is intended to make it into the final release.

State of the Game

The game is in an alpha stage and many of the defining features are not yet implemented. This includes diplomacy, espionage, the ship customisation, the last tech era, and planetary invasions (you can only bomb them into the dirt now). The other features that are missing are the menus which include planet listings and fleet listings, making it hard to play on larger maps at the moment. The game still uses many placeholder 3D assets for city structures and the soundtrack is still skimp.

There’s a few bugs, and the odd crash and glitch still occur. The most common glitch is with the auto-road feature when the advanced road option is disabled. These become more common if you alternate between the two modes. Despite that, the game runs surprisingly well, though I have gotten a few crashes while playing. The developers have been very transparent on the development of the game and engage with the community openly.

Predestination | Tutorial Alpha Message

Here is an excerpt of the developer from the Steam Store Page about the state of the game:

“We make no bones about it: the Early Access build of Predestination is our very first fully playable build. It is missing key features and you will encounter bugs and graphical glitches. This is an alpha test, and we will be continually working on squashing those bugs while we implement the new features we have planned. Predestination is currently single player only.

If you’re not sure if you can deal with a game in such an early stage of development, hit the follow button and check back on us later. We’d rather not frustrate or upset customers that aren’t used to testing out unfinished products.” ~Brain and Nerd Ltd.

Game Features

Set-Up:

  • The game has 6 playable races, though at the moment racial bonuses are not implemented yet.
  • The player can choose several galaxy sizes, age, and shapes (it includes clusters, spreads, and the like). The game also has several difficulty settings as well.
  • The player can also choose to speed ahead of the pre-warp phase.
  • The game will feature challenge maps and a story mode (neither are implemented yet, but their options are visible on the menu screen).
  • The game has an extensive tutorial that guides the player through the pre-warp era and offers explanations on many of the game’s systems. This is very useful as the planetary management system is quite deep and will require a bit of a learning curve even for veterans of the genre. However, the tutorial is clear enough that even newer players to the genre will find their footing as well.

Predestination | City Manager

Planet Management:

  • Default game starts in the pre-warp phase where you are a survivor of a race sent back in time needing to start over from a single surviving city built from the remains of your crashed spaceship.
  • Planets have different biomes, like Ocean worlds will still have verdant islands, small deserts, and even artic climes on top of mountains, while a desert world might still have oceans. Planet types will only define the most common biome.
  • The player will place new cities, build resource extractions, and explore planets or perform planet alterations (like terraforming) based on researched techs. Each city’s construction is managed separately as many planetary improvements are built inside of cities.
  • The player is also responsible for connecting their cities to their resource extractors. The game does have an auto-road feature to help with this.
  • A blueprint system is used to help manage multiple cities, allowing for faster city improvements in the later stages of the game.
  • Player has to manage morale, security, health, food, and energy production along with their financial economy. Production is managed through metal extraction and reserves.
  • Starbases can be built per planet to produce starships, which has a maximum rate of production but will be bottlenecked by your planet’s metal output. Multiple planets in a given system can work together to speed up production when the tech is unlocked.
  • The game also has specialised starbases that give different bonuses depending on which one is built.

Space Exploration:

  • The space map is a 3D map that the player can orient any way they please.
  • Scout ships are used to scout out systems and find new potential worlds.
  • Build colony ships to settle new planets by building your first city on them via the colony ship.
  • Ship travel is limited by sensor range, which can be upgraded via tech and sensor structures on planets.
  • Players can research techs that reveal a rough estimate of a system’s worth before a scout arrives at the system.
  • The player can use probes to survey planets from orbit speeding up planetary exploration and to explore a planet before settling it.
  • Each star system has several planets that can be colonised by different races.
  • Research techs that help yield bonuses from space anomalies (the anomalies themselves do not seem to be introduced yet).

Predestination | Tech Tree

Technology:

  • You can research techs in four separate fields in four separate eras (pre-warp, space colonisation, first contact, and galactic domination). To advance to the next era, you need to achieve certain milestones.
  • Racial techs will be present in form of synergies (not yet implemented), where the player can further tailor their technology when they research a grouping of techs together. Different types of aliens will have unique synergies.
  • Some areas of the tech tree branches out, and akin to Master of Orion 2 the player will have to make a choice. Unlike MOO2 not all techs do this, only some techs branch out. Also, some branches have offshoots, meaning choosing one path will also lock you in to a follow-up tech and lock you out of another tech as well.
  • Techs unlock bonuses, improvements, ship parts, new options, and planetary structures.
  • The player will be able to research warp capable missiles that can deliver payloads across the galaxy (not yet implemented). These payloads will include terraforming warheads to biological warfare.

Warfare:

  • Combat is a turn-based affair on a 2D plane.
  • The game uses a staggered initiative system (ships move separately in the initiative roster as opposed to controlling all your ships on your turn).
  • The player moves their ships to get into range and attack each other.
  • The player can fire missiles and target missiles to destroy them before they impact. Missiles can travel a long distance but have a risk of hitting your own ship if you are not careful.
  • Players can bombard planets to destroy cities and infrastructure (which needs to be repaired by the defender).
  • Though not yet implemented, the game will feature ground invasions to capture enemy colonies instead of destroying them.

Features to be implemented for release:

  • Everything that was tagged as “not yet implemented”
  • Random Events and Temporal Rifts
  • Galactic Domination Era Techs and more Technologies for the First Contact Era
  • Diplomacy
  • Espionage
  • 3D Ship Designer

There are several other minor features to be added, you can click here to see the roadmap of the game and the full list of features.

Predestination | Space Combat

First Impressions

Since several of the major features have not yet been implemented it is hard to give a full first impression; however, I was able to play around with the colony management and colonisation aspects of the game quite a lot. Combat was harder to get a good impression on since without the ship designer the player is limited to the basic pre-made templates. Overall, I did enjoy what I was able to play with.

One thing that is certain, Predestination focuses heavily on colony management and exploration. Finding a star system is not the end of its exploration, the player will need to either settle the planet slightly in the dark and explore it planet-bound or use a cheap disposable survey probe (since these are disposable, they are not that cheap really). Several techs will help the player make good guesses, and this will play an important role in how you expand. This element of the game might appeal to a lot of players that love the exploration phase of a 4X game and rather savour the experience slowly. Fortunately, I am one of those so I did appreciate the game’s focus on this.

The same level of depth is present in colony management. The default setting of the game has you play as crashed survivors working their way up to being star faring again. This is connected to the lore of the game, giving a story-based reason why everyone starts small on a single planet at the same time. The player builds structures like they normally would, however in Predestination the player will have to choose the placement of their cities and infrastructures on the planet. This makes colony management almost a game of its own, so it may appeal to those who like to manage their planets meticulously. I found this quite fun to play with.

Predestination | Star Map

One concern some may have is colony management in the late game. As I wasn’t able to reach such a phase yet, I can’t comment on it fully. However, the game does offer tools to help manage your cities in the late game. The Blueprint system lets you save templates and build cities based off of these templates. Also, fully developed cities and planets require little attention. This means older worlds can be set up to run without player involvement.

Players that are not fans of intensive colony management, or lengthy colonisation and exploration phases may be a little put off by the game. However, for those that do enjoy those elements Predestination is an interesting title.

It’s hard to have an impression on space combat as you can’t design your own ships and are left with basic pre-made templates. The combat does work, however the starting ranges seem to be a little excessive, taking several turns to enter laser or mass driver ranges. Also, the AI seems to have a bad habit of firing its missiles when they are not safe and will hit their own ships quite often. Hopefully, this will be improved when the game nears completion and the ship designer is implemented.

Overall, despite the game doesn’t have all the bits and pieces implemented yet, it was fun to play. However, as mentioned several times the game is still far from completion. As usual, Early Access carries a huge risk and players should exercise caution. The program is for the truly dedicated who wish to support a developer or the entrepreneurial individual who wants a chance to give direct feedback.

Predestination is available on Steam Early Access for $29.99 USD. SpaceSector will continue to follow this title and bring you updates as the remaining features are added to the game.

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19 Comments


  1. Vendor-Lazarus says:

    “This element of the game might appeal to a lot of players that love the exploration phase of a 4X game and rather savour the experience slowly. Fortunately, I am one of those so I did appreciate the game’s focus on this.”

    This is my absolute favorite phase of 4X as well, and I’m very glad to see it get expanded upon.
    That it also deals more with planet city-building is quite the bonus.

    It brings to mind Imperium Galactica 2, the major difference being Turn-based vs Real-time.

    If I have one little niggling doubt, it’s to do with the starmap.
    Doing a 3D map “right” is more difficult than it sounds.
    I only play on 2D maps in SotS for example.

    Looking forward to reading more about this game in a later stage. ,)

    • Ashbery76 says:

      The thing is IG2’s planet building was enjoyable.After playing the tutorial in the Predestination’s beta I’m not finding it very interesting.Seems more like busy work.

      • Vendor-Lazarus says:

        I remember it becoming a teensy bit tedious in the later stages of an IG2 game.
        I mostly switched over to focused automatic building at that time (Ship prod).

        What would you say is the big (defining?) difference between IG2’s and Predestinations planetbuilding?
        Don’t they have automatic building yet?
        Doesn’t the predefined schematics help?

    • True_poser says:

      The starmap in the game’s current state is not done right.

      • Vendor-Lazarus says:

        Hmm, could you elaborate a bit?
        Does it just feel off or is there anything in particular that you think makes it bad?

        You peeked my ..curiosity (if you can call it that in this case).

        • True_poser says:

          It is just a bunch of stars placed in 3D you’re free to move your camera around with bluish spheres indicating your ships range.

          It is:
          – hard to navigate (as it all looks the same and labels are quite dim)
          – hard to figure out what stars you can visit (despite spheres)
          – hard to select a star to get system view if your ships are orbiting there (fleet icon overlaps the star)
          – quite a lot of not-so-much-map-related-but-still UI (ship selection, return to colony, building ships) is solved inadequately

          The current state is ok for a placeholder, because you can get things done, but is, hopefully, not representative of the map design they’ll make for the release.

  2. RandomBlue says:

    I like a lot of things they’ve done with the game so far but it still has a long way to go. My primary concern at this point is how bogged down we’ll get in micromanaging planets after we get past the first one.

  3. t1it says:

    Beta-signer, still waiting for the invite.

  4. Mark says:

    This game seems to be doing an awful lot of things right. I had good feelings with almost every feature Edward mentioned and I kept thinking to myself “these guys actually seem to get it!”. A very rare feature in a genre filled to the brim with devs who make you scratch your head in puzzlement at their – frankly stupid – design decisions.

    But as with all good game design, there is a massive additional hurdle to be crossed with implementation of said design. Many otherwise promising games fall flat on their face at this phase. SOTS II comes to mind as *the* most tragically sad example, great ideas, horrifically bad implementation.

    I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Predestination will be able to make that difficult transition from terrific concept to equally terrific gameplay. Either way its refreshing to see that there are some devs out there who at least have an inkling of how to make a 4x.

    Thanks for the comprehensive first impressions Edward, much appreciated.

  5. thrangar says:

    this is one of 4 that are 2015 listed that I am interested in

    So far so good, but I don’t do EA any more, so wait and see.

  6. Gary Vandegrift says:

    Thanks for the write-up, Edward! I, too, like the management part of a 4X game.

  7. Martok says:

    I’m really looking forward to this one (note: I’m a Kickstarter backer). It’s my second most-anticipated space 4x title behind StarDrive 2 — and a very close second at that. I really like the colony development/management concept.

  8. True_poser says:

    I won’t talk about the UI, because hopefully that’s a subject to change.

    The idea communicated in the kickstarter was that once you developed a colony, you just leave it behind and go on.
    Ok, but the current implementation is that the planetary management is currently the same throughout the game.
    You colonize a new planet, you do all the same stuff.

    The planetary management currently heavily pushes you for not following the correct build order.
    It’s easy to get stuck without metal if you don’t know what you’re doing and to get stuck without money if you thought that now you know what you’re doing.

    There’s a limited number of cities per planet, cities are of a limited size and you can connect only so much outlying infrastructure to a city.
    This means changing your planetary complex:
    – cramming a starbase into it (yes, it’s a building) or a food market
    – rectifying a mistake you did earlier (you didn’t build a residential town in time, so you’re in the red for a lo-o-ong time)
    is pretty hard.

    Turns are short and sharp, but you have to spend plenty of them to actually get somewhere.

    There’s an option to start at “Space Exploration” age, but it for some reason crashes the game for me (report sent).

    In short, well, let’s hope it’ll work out sometime.

  9. DrManhatten says:

    Does it work under Win8.1 yet? The last two times I tried (probably two or three weeks ago) half of the screen was offscreen, which makes it completely unplayable as all the menus are cut off.

    Since they require you to send bug reports via Steam online forum (which I totally decline of joining) I wonder if anyone has seen a fix for this yet.

  10. Jeff P says:

    I’m a Kickstarter backer, and my experience with the Alpha mirrors that of many of the posters and Edward. My biggest concern is the degree of micro-management required for each colony. I too appreciate being able to explore and plan initial colonies, but I can see this becoming very tedious as your empire expands to 10+ worlds. The blueprints model for cities helps, but (at this time) you still must manually locate and place refineries, farms, power plants, etc. I would like to see blueprints being expanded for entire planets, or an AI-controlled Governor option. Perhaps this could be a “tech” available for research as the game proceeds.

    My other big concern is optimization: my current game has three colonies with some 6 cities, but I’m experiencing an increasing slow-down for processing between turns even now. I dread what will happen when the game has to process a dozen colonies later on.

    Otherwise, the game has been surprisingly bug-free and stable for an alpha.

    I guess we’ll see.

  11. Gary Vandegrift says:

    Dev Update: Revenants, Temporal Rifts, Building Models, Tech Updates and more!

    http://predestinationgame.com/2015/12/22/dev-update-revenants-temporal-rifts-building-models-tech-updates-and-more/

  12. Gary Vandegrift says:

    I just noticed that this article isn’t tagged with “Predestination” so that needs to be added.


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Post category: Early Access, Game First Impressions, Game Previews