Sid Meiers Starships Review – A Galaxy Full of “Meh…”

Look at All The Damage!
Look at All The Damage!

I didn’t play a ton of Sid Meier’s Starships to fully grok just how dull and middling it is, but then again, I didn’t really have to. This PC port of a mobile game makes it pretty clear from the get go that this game isn’t very wide or deep. The tutorial consists of one page with five images. The gameplay, split between a larger meta galaxy map and smaller tactical maps for the battles, feels very beer-and-pretzely, if the beer was Yingling and the pretzels were some generic brand you found in a gas station. After playing a session to get a feel for the game, and then this session recorded for the video, I felt like not only had I seen everything there was to see, but that I didn’t really need to return. On mobile, I could see this being a “one more turn…when I have to go to the bathroom next” game, maybe. But on PC, yeah, I think your time might be better spent elsewhere. That is, unless you’re looking for something very light and almost non-committal, then this could work for you. I hope you enjoy my video, and I thank you for watching.

13 Comments

  1. Haven’t played it myself, but from what I had seen (and from your review) it seems to be lacking in the fun front…

    Disappointing, I was hoping for something more involving.

  2. This game is great for what it is: a simplified mobile game and/or lunch break game. I see this as a replacement for “Strange Adventures in Infinite Space” as opposed to “Master of Orion”.

    There are plenty of people like myself, who love space games, but who only have 10-20 minutes at a time to play games, who are very excited about games like this.

    If there is anything wrong with this game, it is with the marketing which presented it as the next epic 4X game as opposed to a “beer and pretzel” game.

    But speaking of this, I think it would be a great idea to have a podcast about “lite” or “lunch break” or “beer and pretzel” style space games.

    1. Welcome to the comments Rex, and that is a great idea for a podcast. Now here’s the thing about this game. I love the Infinite Space games. LOVE THEM. They put the entire Starflight experience perfectly into 10-20 minute chunks. I figured that was the case here, but tried to approach it with an open mind, and even then I didn’t find it very fun. I love quick games, especially roguelikes, for example, so one would thing this was right up my alley, but it’s just so…middling. I have a hard time connecting to the universe nor caring about what happens within it. It just feels so bland, and bland gameplay isn’t fun whether it’s in one minute or one hour of playtime.

      1. Thanks for the welcome Brian!

        I think the Infinite Space games where amazing games, and their universe was a lot more interesting than Starships, however I wish they would have a lot more planet events/encounters. It didn’t take long to have seen every possible encounter. I think that Starships has more content (even if it is more bland). I haven’t played the mods, as I play the Infinite Space games primarily on iPad.

        I think my biggest problem with Starships, is actually the very unsatisfying explosions. Even though it might seem like an inconsequential detail, explosions make any space game. And the way the ships seem to pivot standing in place in a hex, and move only in straight lines, instead of flying to the landing hex in a more realistic/organic fashion. Even though it doesn’t directly effect gameplay, it does take away from some of the feel that you are actually flying a fleet of spaceships and instead makes them seem like boardgames pieces. I think if they didn’t cheap out with those details, it would have made the whole thing feel a lot more satisfying.

  3. I really wanted Starships to capture that same geek joy of playing Amarillo Design Bureau’s classic tabletop game Star Fleet Battles which ate up a LOT of my time as an undergrad. It IS a fun game but there are 41 pages of bug reports on Steam and NO response from the developers. More than 600 people – myself included – are left wondering if Firaxis gives a damn. I am one of the lucky ones in that I can at least launch and play the game and it has been fun. I wasn’t expecting something as in depth as Starfleet Command and of course it’s no 4X like DW:U. It is a fun run around a “galaxy” and blow things up game. [Pet peeve alert: It drives me to distraction that game designers can’t seem to grasp what galaxies are and it rally drives me nuts when game designers talk about exploring the UNIVERSE. Please! Pfft]. Anyhow, I am one of the folks who are experiencing a MAJOR memory leak in this little game such that every time on exit, the game freezes my PC and I am forced to execute a hard reset. Firaxis support first claimed that the problem was Win 8! They suggested I run this in Win 7 compatibility mode. I tried that and while it mitigated the exit crash a bit, it still exists. It’s not fun playing a game knowing that within 20 minutes I have to exit safely exit or else everything freezes. I reported this to Firaxis and they said, “oh, it must be a memory leak.”

    Really?!

    What’s more, one of their community managers created an “issues” thread on Steam. That is the mammoth 41 page thread I wrote about in the first paragraph. The moderator, after some cajoling, admitted that the Firaxis developers do NOT read the Steam forums and that the point of the thread was for players to help one another. Many attempts were made and so far, very few folks have reported successes. Exacerbating this is the fact that the very same community manager is stating on the 2K/Firaxis forums that peiople “are just comolaining because it’s not a Civ game.” Another moderator commented to me on Steam that he was mystified as to why the first moderator even created the issues thread in the first place!

    I DID compliment the moderator for doing a good job in keeping the fire from becoming a full blown conflagration and I had suggested that perhaps his work there could help those of us who want to play the game by being a liaison between Firaxis and the community. THAT comment – and it was very courteous – got me BANNED from commenting on Starships’ community hub until 29 March.

    So, it sits in my Steam library, still installed in the vain hope that Mr. Meier or some other developer MIGHT actually visit the Steam forums. I doubt it will happen though. On the upside, I am so hooked on Approaching Infinity that I really don’t care if Firaxis solves the issues or not. Lesson learned.

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