June 19, 2015 12:30 PM | John Bridgman
Certain combinations of genre and setting just work. Take, for example, 4X and space. The 4X elements lend themselves logically to space as we tend to perceive a species spreading through the stars, colonizing and developing as they go along. Meanwhile, space is, in general, such a fascination that it can help but distract from some of the genre's more tedious trappings. Paradox alumni Chris King and Pontus Åberg's new studio, Crispon Games, have turned their talents to this combination with their first game, the newly released Galactic Inheritors.
This is fairly standard 4X fare. You choose your starting race from one of five, each with advantages and drawbacks to make them play differently, and then you start with a single star system under your control. From there, you explore routes connecting other star systems and begin colonizing. The limited paths between systems can make for some interesting strategic decisions, such as colonizing a resource-light system as a chokepoint against your enemies before going for systems with greater benefits.
Research is straightforward, the tech tree being a series of incremental improvements to production, economics, defense, research, and military. These in turn unlock upgrades you can make on your systems for the corresponding improvements. This honestly isn't particularly interesting, and it feels like your improvements aren't impactful. The game doesn't do anything very good job of giving feedback to how you improve, so it seems you build simply because that's what you do in a 4X.
Standard and average tend to be the specialty of Galactic Inheritors. The UI is what you'd expect, the visuals are just enough to convey basic information and nothing else. This is an issue since a good 4X needs to give plenty of feedback and information to the player to allow for informed strategic planning. This game doesn't do that and so your decisions don't seem to matter.
Contributing to this is how deliberately paced the game is. Progress is slow, and while it does give a sense of a species slowly creeping across the galaxy as it develops, it means a lot of turns where you do very little but a couple mouse clicks.
There is a very unique and genuinely interesting element to the game. You don't build military ships like in other games. Instead, you purchase ships through private companies. The more a company builds for you, the more experience they get. You then can upgrade that company's ships with that experience. It's a really interesting idea, though I don't think it's explored as much as it could be. All the companies are identical, so you can just focus on a single one, losing the effectiveness of the concept.
Galactic Inheritors is not a bad 4X game. It's just not great either. Average is what it does best, and 4X fans will probably be engaged for a game or two, though it likely won't be the game to draw in new players to the genre. The unique way you build up your fleet is a good hook that's worth experiencing for genre veterans, even if it's not as deep as it could be. Much like the game as a whole.