StarsinShadow-1.jpgReleasing into Early Access after 6 years of development time, 4X game Stars In Shadow looks like a lovely homage to the venerable granddaddy of the genre, Master of Orion 2. Developed by only two people, Sven Olsen and artist Jim Francis, the game started out as a labor of love and evolved from there, with its colorful comic book style being probably its most striking element.

Each of the 7 factions has special abilities which noticeably impact the game and of course certain character traits. The reptilian Gremak are aggressive warmongers and slavers, while the Phidi - your average space seahorses - are traders. Curiously, humans don't seem to be well-balanced at all; instead, they are refugees without a homeworld, barely scraping by. The AI is also not intent at winning the game at all costs - the races you encounter act according to their interests.

The diplomacy system is mostly par for the course, except for one big exception. There is an additional resource called influence, which you can use to directly influence negotiations. This almost feels like cheating but hey, all is fair in galactic conquest and war. Speaking of which: the turn-based battles allow you to group ships and have them act as one, which will significantly reduce the length of armed conflicts and also cut down on micromanagement. The only part I'm not at all convinced of was the ship builder, but that's mostly a matter of user interface and will hopefully be fixed somewhere along the way.

All in all, Stars In Shadow promises any hours of classically-tinged 4X goodness. The game will enter Steam's Early Access on September 15. For more information, you can visit the game's website or follow developers Ashdar Games on Twitter.