Horizon is a 4x strategy game that lets you explore the galaxy, expand your population into other star systems, exploit resources on a planetary scale and exterminate those alien races you come into contact with. Offering ten different civilizations to encounter and interact with, your primary focus is in building up humanity’s nascent space faring technology. Beginning with exploring a derelict ship orbiting Pluto, the game does a decent job of introducing you to the fundamentals of moving, colonizing and exploring.
The majority of the action takes place on a turn based strategy map of the Milky Way, in all its glory. While the graphics aren’t Hubble-worthy, there’s a distinct feeling here that you’re playing a Mass Effect mini-game, ordering scout ships into uncharted territory. When encountering other species at first there won’t be much combat involved, but when you do decide to declare war (either formally through diplomacy, or quietly through a raid on an unprotected colony) you’ll zoom down to a tactical map where the besieged planets float quietly in the background.
Ship to ship combat again isn’t the most beautiful of affairs, but the colored lasers and shield flashes get the job done. Though there’s a great deal of nuance in positioning your ships (where even their weapons are customizable during construction) the game offers an auto-resolve feature that lets the computer take control and play through the turns for you.
The auto-resolve on the combat is helpful, but mostly because the game doesn’t do enough at this point to explain the benefits and consequences of specific elements of gameplay. For example, each colony you have can contribute to your empire’s income by trading, researching, entertaining, farming, or building things. With a limited number of buildings available, it can be hard to judge what to construct, where and when.
What Horizon suffers from the most at this point isn’t being overly complicated – there really isn’t that much to assigning what technology you’ll research, or deciding if you need a Mothership for your fleet (hint: you do). But there’s a level of trial and error, where the learning curve seems like it could be a little better managed. That’s great news as far as the game’s future is concerned, as it means that what Horizon has to offer is interesting and engaging enough for me to want to know the answers to these sorts of questions.
With a little bit more polish and some added guidance as to how to outfit ships, win in combat, or help a colony turn a profit, the fun factor of this game would increase tremendously. And fortunately for creators L30 Interactive, during this Steam Early Access phase, those tasks are ones that could easily be accomplished, making Horizon an easily-accessible space-Civilizations contender.