Death to the Barsig: PAR starts an interstellar war in Horizon
Those Barsig sons of jerks are going down. I was just minding my own business, building some space cruisers, scouting star systems, and enhancing my infrastructure when they came onto MY turf and started talking tough about how I better watch myself.
I aint havin' that. You don't come into my own house and tell me I should be scared.
So immediately I thrust all my money into the development of custom-rigged warships.
Those Barsig jerks are going down. Set a course for Raskan 3, Barsig homeworld.
This game is awesome
Horizon is a PC game about interstellar colonization and conflict. You begin the game on Earth, having just discovered an alien probe in the orbit of Pluto which reveals the secrets of interstellar travel and other technologies of advanced alien races. Under your leadership, humanity takes its first steps out into the galaxy.
Our solar system kind of sucks, however. You realize that pretty early on in Horizon. As you build your first colonization ship you'll only be able to build a colony on Mars. Every other planet in the Sol system is unihabitable, and Mars isn't that great. We've got Earth though, which is nice, but our planet habitability ratio in our solar system is something like 1.3 out of 9. Most other star systems don't even have one habitable planet, but some have several. If I were an interstellar explorer, I'd classify our solar system as “meh.”
That's fine though because we've got a whole galaxy full of star systems to explore and colonize. We just have to contend with the host of other races that are already out there among the stars trying to carve their own niche in the cosmos.
If you're starting to think this sounds like Civilization meets Star Trek, you're on pretty much the right track. This game gets all of its mojo from the simple fact that Civilization is an amazing template, and the opportunity to play it in space with aliens is just good fun.
It adds a couple of layers to the experience though. Most importantly is the ability to customize each of your ships and rename them. Each ship has a certain number of fittings and a weight allowance, and you can fit it with whatever you'd like as long as it comes in under the weight budget. This opens the door to creating specialized boarding craft for assaulting enemy ships or tank frigates or fighter carriers etc.
Bizarrely, none of this was as interesting to me as the ability to rename each ship. Give me the ability to rename my characters in a game and I'll fall in love immediately. I get the giggles when I'm allowed to give ships gloriously over-the-top names like the SS Infinity Dreams or the SS Eagle Freedom. The ability to customize and rename each ship adds a huge amount of emotional investment in each engagement.
And it made my war against the dastardly Barsig all the more painful.
This game is terrible
“On the way to Pluto, our pilot observed that we have not yet colonized Mars. Let's get to it!”
Wait, what? Our spaceship pilot was the first person to realize humanity didn't have a settlement on another planet? And he only noticed it because he flew past it, looked down and observed no settlements? Why did he fly past Mars on the way to Pluto?! That's not how space works!
That's the message that the tutorial sent to me as I was making my way through the introductory missions. It's just one example of how amazingly sloppy this game tends to be. The cutscene models look like they were stolen from the cover of an Nvidia graphics card from 1998. The music tends to be extremely basic, and the dialog (as you can see above) is sloppily written.
This game has virtually no polish. It's pure systems. This is a strategy game with only the thinnest of veneer. It's like a robot wearing a beard and trying to pretend to be a human.
The great thing about this is that it doesn't matter. The core template is so much fun that I barely cared that the graphics were terrible, or the dialog was bad, or the tutorial was dry.
If you're the type of player who cares about presentation then you need to stay far, far away from Horizon. But I have a history of falling in love with horrendously ugly, yet brilliant, strategy games like Mount & Blade.
Death to the Barsig
When I had finally coordinated all 15 of my ships in the staging area in the nearby system of Corianis and scouted the Barsig capital of Raskan 3, I moved in for the major assault.
When you reach the combat stage of the game, Horizon becomes a sort of turn-based strategy game on a grid. The entire solar system is open for the battle, and I moved my ships above their secondary stronghold, Raskan 2. After bombarding the surface and pretty much obliterating every breathing creature on Raskan 2, I moved toward Raskan 3.
The Barsig bascially let me blow up their secondary stronghold without a fight and decided to keep their defenses back at their homeworld. As I moved toward the homeworld, we clashed in epic confrontation.
They sent their fighters ahead to meet my scouts and cruisers head on, and I started gaining confidence when their smaller ships crashed upon my frigates like water on stone.
This might have been their plan though. While I was mopping up their fighters, they moved their own cruisers into position. Now we had our big guns standing toe to toe.
Even though I outnumbered them, I was no match for the Barsig heavy artillery. They had some crazy weapons that tore me to pieces before I took out even a single one of their bigger ships.
Lesson learned: Devote more time and money to weapons R&D if you're going to try to be a galactic bully.
Horizon is in a paid-beta stage and it's available for $25. It has so, so far to go before it can stand toe-to-toe with the giants which clearly inspired it, but the soul of a great game is here. If you don't mind that it's ugly as sin, and you're interested in a mashup of Star Trek and Civilization then you'll find a really fun game here.