Stars in Shadow is a game that has been in development for a long time. Six whole years to be precise. The 4X game, which makes a number of homages and tributes to a grandfather of the genre, Master of Orion 2, is developed by a team of two. The game focuses on exploration, colonisation and empire-building in a colourfully-crafted universe.
The game puts you, in command of one of seven races, at the helm of an empire at the dawn of interstellar travel. You’re charged with guiding your race through four major epochs of technological advancement. Along the way you’ll encounter a number of colourful races, enemies and allies, all incredibly detailed and well-drawn in the game's comic book style.
The factions included in the game come with their own special abilities and character traits that can alter the way you play. In a welcome departure from the norm, humans aren’t your bog-standard jack-of-all-trades empire - they’re a race of space-faring nomads who have long ago forgotten what Earth looked like.
Diplomacy is fairly rudimentary in the game but doesn't lack weight. Along with your usual resources your empire will collect “influence” that can be used to increase the likelihood of deals. Your empire economy is again fairly simple, consisting of farms that need to be upgraded, their produce shared across worlds. Mines are constructed for minerals and labs for research.
Combat is turn-based, with ships following predetermined paths that can be edited by the player. Certain ship types have more actions per turn, requiring a little more strategising than simply throwing numbers at a problem. The game also features a ship designer for the player who likes to micromanage the way their empire fights. Some races also have ship types that are unique to them depending on their background and attitudes - this too might mean that you’re locked off from super-heavy ships for some races, which might be a little aggravating depending on your playstyle.
Overall, Stars in Shadow is looking like a 4X game for the purists out there who aren’t fussed with shiny graphics and bells and whistles and want to get down to the nitty gritty of running a galactic empire. The game is currently making waves in Steam’s Early Access system and is slated for release some time in Q1 2017.