The Fermi Paradox is a sci-fi strategy game about avoiding extinction

The Fermi paradox posits a very interesting and slightly disturbing question: The billions of stars in our galaxy seem to make it likely that intelligent life and advanced civilizations have evolved elsewhere, many of them long before humans got started on Earth. So where the hell are they? 

That's obviously an oversimplification, but you get the idea.

There are a number of theories that attempt to explain the paradox. Some say extraterrestrial civilizations are actually far rarer than we believe, while others think they're out there but intentionally hiding from us because, well, obviously. A friend of mine believes it’s because of the essential self-destructiveness of "intelligence": Through warfare, neglect, or some other stupidity, civilizations inevitably wipe themselves out.

Those are the sorts of theoretical bullets you'll have to dodge in The Fermi Paradox, which with slightly different capitalization is also the title of a "choice-driven sci-fi narrative strategy game" that's headed to Steam later this year. 

Unlike most sci-fi strategy games, you won't try to lead one species to galactic domination in The Fermi Paradox. Instead, you'll guide up to ten civilizations at once through eons of history, to a "victory" of survival and contact. It promises a range of unique alien species to lead, "from nightmarish deep sea creatures to graceful sapient plant-beings" and even some weird naked apes. You won't micromanage their development, but will instead make big, broad choices drawn from more than 400 events—world-ending floods, nuclear wars, sexual revolutions—that will impact their evolution.

"Alien societies grow and develop on their own—but you can alter the path of their development during crucial moments of social upheaval," the Steam listing states. "How will society change when animals are domesticated, world wars break out or if civilizations begin cloning their own people?"

"Each play-through will become a unique interstellar saga. From the first decision of which lifeforms will evolve into sapient species, there will be numerous choices determining the history and values of that civilization – from their views on sexuality and religion to their treatment of weaker members of society."

Even if you survive long enough to actually fling souls into the inky blackness, the job isn't done. Starships can take generations to reach their destinations, and there's no guarantee that they'll find anything more than bones and ruins when they arrive.

I don't have the mind or the patience for strategy games in general, but even so I have very high hopes for this one. The 'big picture' approach to decision making and the fate of the species strikes me as a lot more interesting (and, hopefully, accessible) than fretting over the details of resource production or battlefield formations already found in 4X games like Stellaris. It's more thoughtful than going to war for a particularly desirable chunk of property, too. Is there hope for us?

The Fermi Paradox is slated to come out later this year. We're taking a closer look at what it's all about by way of a preview build, and will have some thoughts to share on it soon.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.