I’m always looking for a new strategy game I can sink dozens of hours into and for the last couple of weeks that game has been Horizon. Developed by L3O and published by Iceberg Interactive, Horizon is a turn-based space strategy game. Following up my interest in StarDrive, I turned to Horizon. Does Horizon offer those hours upon hours of gameplay that a strategy should offer? Yes.
You’ll choose from one of ten races. You can choose the technological level you start at and even choose to have story elements and missions thrown in. Choosing missions to be available in your game adds a story element that changes the dynamic greatly from just playing a skirmish. A master race, the Varian, created another life form to be a companion to them. This race failed as a companion and the Varian chose to wipe them out. This race escaped and created more alien races itself in order to gain allies to fight against the Varian.
Each race has it’s own unique set of story missions. These missions are more like side missions in an rpg and completing them will give you advantages in your playthrough. One of the more interesting aspects of story mode is how the Varian act as opposed to skirmish. The Varian act more like a boss in a game during story mode. When they arrive you know things are about to get intense and good luck and trying to appease them enough to hold off on their declaration of war on your race.
While skimming the surface of Horizon it seems shallow and that much of the minutia of a 4X strategy game has been removed. This is very far from what is happening in Horizon. L3O has all but removed some parts of a 4X game, added story missions, a new way to research upgrades and some cool customization. Much of the production and economy aspects of a 4X strategy game have been streamlined, almost too much. Many players including myself, would like to have a little more control over your economy and being able to balance out budgets and such. At the same time this has been lifted off your shoulders allowing to see easily see what colonies are producing what and how that can be altered. Trade routes between you colonies are automatically established freeing the player up for more pressing matters, like research.
Research in Horizon is streamlined in it’s approach and easy to follow. You’ll be presented with a screen of numerous research projects you’re currently working on and what category they fall into. Each research project has a level next to it, a percentage of completion and the number of turns required at your current research pace, to advance to the next level. If there is a specific project you want completed asap, you can have your research focus on an entire category or even one specific project in order to cut down the number of turns it takes to advance to the next level. Also, each project can lead to new future projects down the road as you hit new levels.
Now for the combat of Horizon. There are two ways in which you’ll engage in combat; one is obvious space battles with opposing fleets, the other an invasion, whether it’s your planet or another race’s planet. Invasions comes down to a basic numbers game. A screen will pop up to show yours and the enemy’s forces. It will show the total amount of troops available, what units are being used and the strength of each unit. After that it simply counts down until one side is zero, anti-climatic if you ask me. Unfortunately at this point not much strategy is involved. Just check to see how many soldiers are on the planet you’re invading and make sure you bring more, that’s it.
The space combat can be way more tactical, if it’s not too drawn out. When engaging in space combat you’re taken to a screen in which yours and the enemy’s fleet are, the space your combat plays out is that of the solar system you’re engaging in. You’ll then move your units one by one for positioning and firing on the enemy. What’s great here is the options available to use. The different weapons you may have at your disposal, the ability to board enemy ships and claim them as yours to Horizon taking into account which part of a ships shields is getting most damaged. You won’t have to fire away at an enemy ship constantly until the shield disappears, just target one spot on the shield and tear through.
I enjoyed the space combat of Horizon to a point. There were times when I had a pretty decent sized fleet going and so did the enemy.This lead to very long battles of moving ships one step at time. After a while the fight would end, then after the next turn, start back up and go on for some more time. One battle took me almost 45 min to finish completely. I would hit the space bar to just start the auto-battle but this would still drive me nuts as the computer moved ships back and forth one by one. Horizon could definitely benefit from shorter space battles.
I said above that skimming the surface of Horizon makes it seem very shallow, this skimming though is not cased by the fault of the player, but that of the interface. Many areas of Horizon you may not even know are there because there are hidden in obscure locations. Even after going through the tutorial (which is actually very helpful) there’s still much of Horizon you’ll have no idea how to access. The only way I discovered these areas to just keep clicking everything until you found your way to something new you could do or change.Approach with Caution Horizon will definitely not be for everyone, even for those that love 4X strategy games. But with that being said, there are countless hours available here for anyone that wants to get lost in a fairly simple to follow 4X strategy game.