Friday, 8 August 2014

A Realisation, And A Bridge Burned: Horizon

It's been a year since I last officially reviewed (there's your realisation), and only now do I feel okay with venting my spleen about one of the three games that burned me from reviewing for such a long time (the other two were Record of Agarest War and the Inner World.) Let's talk about Horizon. Another realisation: This is probably burning bridges with some folks. I'll have to live with that, even if they already know what I say.

Horizon is, in the words of LEO Interactive, "inspired by" the Master of Orion games.

No. "Inspired by" is a phrase that belongs to things like GalCiv, Endless Space, and many other 4Xs that followed in their great-grandpappy's footsteps in some fashion or other. "Inspired by" belongs to games that innovate, that change things up in a useful fashion.

Now, before we continue, let's play a game. I'm going to post a few screenshots, and you get to play "How similar is that?"

That one's Horizon. Now for MoO 2.

Now for Horizon again.

Back to MoO 2


MoO 2...

Keep in mind, I could keep this shit up for nearly every UI element in the game. The research screen: Almost identical. The planet screen? Same idea, same problems. The diplomacy screens? Nigh identical. So what, in the end, was actually different?

Well, remember how Master of Orion was slowish? Horizon is slow-er. It'll be a good while before you colonise, and as for a full game? I never finished, because I didn't want to spend three days on a single game. I especially didn't want to do it in "Story mode", which, yes, would have added some nice backstory on the many races and the universe, but would have involved me in a disadvantaged start (less tech, less resources, less systems), where the AI players inevitably found me before I could communicate with them, which led to another quirk of this game.

The AI defaults to a neutral state, and, while they modelled racial diplomacy alright (some races respond better to an aggressive approach, others passive, some like bribes, others won't touch them, etc), I often didn't have a chance in story mode. You see, the longer you know an alien species, without being able to communicate, the more they come to hate you. Oh, you have to be in communication range to communicate, obviously, and your signal strength depends on your tech level. Everyone you meet will eventually declare war on you. The missions, while a potentially interesting addition, are mostly bland and forgettable... Go kill these guys here, conquer this here, research this, loot this... It all adds up to a big, frustrating mess. The techs don't really differentiate much, and the key to winning the game, even now, is building up tourism and trade, and rush-buying. Oh, let's not forget surviving long enough to make these strategies work. Even in the non-story mode of the game, you're going to find people hate you before they even get to know you.

And if you were to purchase this game? That would be £23 you've, essentially, wasted. For that, you could have played Endless Space, Master of Orion 1 and 2, and possibly with enough left over to get one of the older GalCiv games. And any one of those would, awkwardly, be a superior experience.

I'm only sad I waited a year to say that even once.

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