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Sid Meier’s Starships: First Gameplay Footage

By on January 30th, 2015 1:21 pm

Sid Meiers Starships | Tactical (turn-based) combat layer

Sid Meier and the co-designers of Civilization: Beyond Earth, Will Miller and David McDonough, were at PAX South presenting Firaxis’ new game, Sid Meier’s Starships.

In this presentation they talked about Sid’s motivation for designing Starships (spoilers: Star Trek series), what the scope and focus of the game is, what it takes to design a sci-fi game and the ties between Starships’ and Civ:BE’ universe.

Starships’ gameplay footage starts at 32m.

Looks interesting. It’s confirmed not to be a large-scale empire-builder type of game but one more focused on ships, customizing and preparing them for battle, turn-based space combat and missions.

Technology progression seems to be reduced in scope to ship improvements only, which one can unlock as one time purchases. Diplomacy seems to be lighter than what one may see in large space 4X games. There doesn’t seem to be any colony-building aspects and expanding seems to be achieved only by annexation by sheer power of influence than having to colonize or conquer existing empires. But, this is only my best guess at the moment as the footage was not too detailed regarding those aspects.

Sid Meiers Starships | Strategic (turn-based) layer

Spaceships, missions, rewards and decisions seem to be the core of the game. It also seems to be very approachable and gamey. Could be interesting. XCOM: Enemy Unknown, another Firaxis title which Starships seems to have taken some inspiration from was an excellent game, so this may prove to be another good one. Of course, time will tell.

Sid Meier’s Starships is a new turn-based space strategy game for PC, Mac and iPad by Firaxis Games and 2K with a release date set for early (Spring) 2015. No prices announced yet.

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  1. Watched it. Wouldn’t say that I’m blown away by it but it looks like some relatively straightforward fun.

  2. neil says:

    After an initially promising teaser, I am really disappointed seeing the live demo. Whilst I think that streamlining parts of the gameplay that are not part of the main focus is a good idea, the problem here is that they have also streamlined the core focus areas! A game which focuses on starship design needs a detailed design mechanic with lots of cool weapons and gadgets to put on your ships. What we see here is a handful of stats you can upgrade. It’s a causal game for iPads :(

  3. Jodet says:


  4. Jeff P says:

    A few thoughts:

    Weirdly, the game play (aside from combat) reminded me of a computer card game; it is both very simple and abstracted.

    The maps and ship movement are reminiscent of the Galactic Civilizations games. Given that the GC series has been on the market for over a decade, I wonder why Firaxis couldn’t have come up with a more original look?

    Meier’s comments make it clear that SMS is set firmly in the Civ:BE universe. I wish Meier had taken a page from “Spore” and created Starships as the follow-up aspect to a victorious Beyond Earth scenario rather than as a stand-alone game.

    While the combat resolution graphics are nice, the ships themselves seem blocky and uninspired.

    Game controls are obviously point-and-click with no apparent menus and limited customization options. This seems to bear out the concerns of some Space Sector readers who feared that SMS was designed as an IPad/Android game and would not be optimized for the PC.

    All-in-all, I’m not impressed.

    • Jodet says:

      You said it, brother.

    • SQW says:

      This…this feels like the kind of 4x game you play on an tablet while sitting on the loo.

      Ugh, I feel like we are going backwards in game design. Aren’t we suppose to be in a golden revival period for space games? I still consider SOTS Prime + expansions to be the epitome of combat oriented sci-fi 4X games and that was almost a decade ago! Kinda like how the HD version of Homeworld can easily kick the arses of its competitors in 2015 and the foreseeable future. =/

      Oh, and my personal bugbear – one planet star system maps. *deep sigh*

  5. zigzag says:

    It looks very fun. Yes, it’s not a fully fledged empire-building game, but it doesn’t try to be. I’m interested to see how different the combat “feels” from other games with superficially similar turn-based tactical combat models. Asteroids, etc. make the game seem more like many land-based games than its space-based predecessors. (And, in my view, this isn’t a bad.)

    • Adam Solo says:

      I agree, it looks fun. Yes, it’s not a big empire-builder type of game but the combat looks different from what we’ve seen before. Lack of “terrain” was always a problem in this sort of game, I’m confident that Sid will manage to pull this off somehow.

      Of course, and as others have said, the game looks very tabletop (not that that’s a bad thing per se), the strategic layer doesn’t seem very deep (at first glance) and I too felt that the ship customization looks a bit on the light side.

      So, I guess it depends on how you approach it and the expectations you set for it. Big 4X game or not this could end up being a nice surprise.

  6. Ashbery76 says:

    I am betting this streamlined game will be superiour to many of the 4X games upcoming.Having lots of stuff does not make a game have more depth.

    • neil says:

      There is nothing wrong with streamlining parts of gameplay in a strategy game. In my opinion, games that try to include too much detail in too many areas end up being an unplayable mess. However, a game focused on ship design needs to have fun ship design. Spending resources to make your lasers number go from 3 to 4 is not really fun – again in my opinion. Putting a particular type of beam weapon in a particular hard point, picking modifications for it, setting its firing arcs. That is fun. In a grand 4x, you run the risk of micromanagement hell of course, but starships isn’t that, and as such a golden opportunity for detailed and interesting ship design.

  7. chuki792 says:

    It does look fun though, i think a lot of the negativity will be because we expect a dev like Cid to go the grand strategy route, and would love this to be the case with this offering. I will however take it for what it is, and not what i’d like it to be.

    That said, i read “which one can unlock as one time purchases” and i’m immediately reminded of the shoddy time/energy system of a lot of these so-called “free” tablet games and I balked. Hard.

    I’m holding off any more impressions until i hear whether it will be a paid app or a “free-with optional in-game purchases, aka not free at all”.

    FYI, I’d prefer fully paid and no need to reach for my cc again.

    • I understand your concern and under normal circumstances would share it as well. However, Adam and I watched the same video and I can safely assume that is not what was meant.

      The techs are purchased via the science resource which seems to be accumulated the same way as energy is. So the statement probably meant that instead of queuing up a project which you take several turns to research, here you accumulate science and then ‘purchase’ the tech (the same way you would use energy to purchase units and buildings in other games) to get the tech.

      • chuki792 says:

        Ah, my bad… guess my experiences of the past have me seeing microtransactions everywhere!!!

        Thanks for clearing that up.

    • Adam Solo says:

      Yes, like what Edward said, by “which one can unlock as one time purchases” I mean stuff you acquire or unlock immediately in-game without having to wait for several turns, not to be confused with one time app purchases on free to play games.

    • SQW says:

      Haven’t we learnt from Endless Space that MMO like ‘+1 dmg’ tech progression is boring and ultimately trades depth for accessibility.

      This game will be like to 4x what Hearthstone is to CCGs. It’s not a bad thing and plenty of people will enjoy it but I was hoping for something along the lines of SOTS II when a game claims to be ‘ship oriented’.

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