Here's a mouthful for you: Starborne is a free-to-play, massively multiplayer, 4X space strategy game where rounds last six months. Such is the ambition of Solid Clouds, an indie studio based in Iceland and headed by designers like Ásgeir Ásgeirsson, EVE Online's former art director, and Hrafnkell Óskarsson, who played a major role in EVE's lore and design.
Solid Clouds wants to fill a perceived void between multiplayer games and 4X strategy games. Inspired by Travian T3, Civilization and Hearthstone, and obviously influenced by EVE Online, they set out to create "the first 3D MMORTS game," a PvP-powered space strategy game with persistent multiplayer campaigns.
"Starborne actions take real-time," the FAQ reads. "Whether it's mining an asteroid field, spying on your neighbors, attacking your enemies, manufacturing ships or constructing buildings and outposts, everything takes real time … no one wants to wait for thousands of people to finish their turn, so each player's 'turn' is limited by the number of actions they can perform (a number that increases as their empire expands). Once their available actions are depleted, players can log off to return later when their ships have returned and their queues are empty."
Starborne is still early in development so it's tough to pin down exactly, but the gist is this: join an alliance, explore the galaxy, discover resources and complete missions to unlock cards, use those cards to upgrade your character and fleet, and fight against rival alliances over territory.
"Each game of Starborne has a definitive conclusion where a single alliance (or an alliance of alliances) will be declared a winner," the FAQ says of win conditions. "A single game will take around six months to complete. A game of Starborne is an epic long-term political struggle between alliances healthily dotted with conflicts."
In addition to their fleet, players can customize their role within their alliance by choosing one of five classes. Scouts gather intel and sabotage enemy outposts, while industrial players focus on constructing and maintaining structures. Offensive players clear out enemies, defensive players shore up the homefront, and bombers target enemy gunships with pinpoint attacks. Customization is also powered by a card system, but Solid Clouds says Starborne is not a card game.
With Starborne being time-based and free-to-play, Solid Clouds has openly addressed understandable pay-to-win concerns, saying "there will be in-game purchases but, importantly, everything you can buy with real-life currency, you can gain with meaningful in-game activities." The studio added that gating mechanics will prevent players "from advancing solely via purchases." In other words, you can't just pay; you have to play.
Solid Clouds does not yet have a projected release date, though it is slated to hit open beta mid-2018. In the meantime, you can learn more about its upcoming October alpha here.