With the overwhelming success of Minecraft and the large number of games in Steam's Early Access, there's an increasing number of interesting games that don't fit neatly into reviews and previews. They're tough to preview, because everyone can buy and play them; they're also tough to review, since they're constantly changing. Consider this new column, Alpha Test, a guide to sorting through this. We'll take a snapshot profile of specific Early Access or public beta games, examine what they're planning on doing next, and round up news about specific games.
I know a man who was once consumed by Gratuitous Space Battles. The stand-offish strategy lets you design a fleet, sketch out a plan of attack and then deploy them against the enemy. It's like cultivating a bionic army of space-pokemon. Once they're away, you can only watch as they're lasered, rocketed and bombed into shimmering clouds of galactic debris. My friend spent hours tinkering with the modules on each ship. He tried sending hordes of tiny fighters into the fray. He tried lone rocketeering behemoths. With every iteration his score increased until he entered the upper echelons of the global high score table. Then, one day, he was gone. All that remained was his chair, a puddle of alien goo and a note in cryptic cosmic shorthand.
I sometimes wonder what happened to that guy. I like to think he was recruited by some interstellar warmongers to direct their ships. Wherever he is, I'm sure he's playing the new Gratuitous Space Battles expansion, The Outcasts.
Space-borne strategy, Sword of the Stars 2 is out next week, and the new screenshots hosted over at Blue's News are just beautiful. Sword of the Stars occupies the strangely empty 4X space strategy genre. With only the likes of Sins of a Solar Empire and Galactic Civilizations for company, the Paradox published follow up should be welcomed with open arms by fans of glorious laser space war. See some of those very lasers tearing up the cosmos in the ten screenshots below and check out our Sword of the Stars 2 preview for more on the new race that will be invading everyone for the sequel.