Full Review (with pictures and rating): http://www.gamingv2.com/2014/02/25/review-horizon/Gaming V2 Review - HorizonRating: 5.5/10
Throughout my life, turn based strategy games, otherwise known as “4x” games, have been a major part of my biggest hobby; gaming. They often pit you in control of massive armies, whether it be soldiers in the medieval era, futuristic ground combat, space or naval warfare, or any other possibility, they have always given you a god like perspective. Waging war through physical might, mass numbers, stealth strategy, greasy politics or even just being friendly. Something the typical shooter or adventure game just can’t provide when you’re typically in control of just one, or a few characters. Even the most robust RPG doesn’t give you the options to play the way you like as much as a 4x game does. So Horizon already has this going for it right out of the gate, but how does it compare to the plethora of turn based strategy games being released on a regular basis?
Turn based strategy games rely heavily on their interface and menu systems, as that’s pretty much how you get everything done in game. These systems are very involved, with text books full of key information at your fingertips. The hardest part is giving the player everything they need to see without overwhelming them, but also not making them have to go and look for it. Some games have these interfaces perfected pretty well, such as Sid Meier’s Civilization. Granted, Civilization has had 5 games and many expansions to perfect this, but that also means they are a great place to look to see how to accomplish this extraordinary task. L3O Interactive seem to have decided to go it on their own, using nothing learned from previous successful games from other developers. This leaves Horizon with a very clunky, unintuitive interface that makes the player click around guessing and hoping to find what they are looking for, even for the simplest of tasks. A prime example are your build queues; something so integral to gameplay that you should always have easy access to them at all times. Instead, you have no visible queue what so ever. You will need to click on each solar system (aka a settlement), then click on each settled planet in that solar system to see what it is currently building. By the time you have several settlements, this task becomes tedious at best, often causing you more headache than enjoyment.
Along with the issues of the interface itself is the complete lack of help or information the game gives you as you are playing. Basically, Horizon is not friendly to new players, even seasoned 4x veterans like myself. You are stuck at guess work most of the time, just wondering when things will happen for you. You can fly your Colony ships out to new solar systems and colonize habitable planets and make them your own, and there are no shortage of them around. The thing is, sometimes the best solar systems require some terraforming to be done in order to colonize a planet first. Sure, sounds great in theory, until you realize that you colony ship doesn’t have the ability to perform this task. Okay, so I go into the ship builder and see if there is a ship that can do this for me. Nothing. Okay, not an issue, let me check my tech screen to see if this is something I can ‘train’ or unlock. Nope, nothing there. At this point I was lost. I had all but given up on the idea of terraforming planets for my empire’s expansion throughout the galaxy, even though this was clearly a feature that was built into the game. I just had no idea how to do it or where to find it. I shouldn’t have to try this hard to locate a built in feature, a pretty important one too, of the game. In fact, most games would give you tips or hints as you are playing, or at the very least when I’m looking at a planet that requires terraforming, give me the details of what I need right there. Instead, as I’m skilling up existing technologies, I suddenly unlock the Terraforming technology as a new tech that can be trained. This was apparently done by increasing my skill in a different skill, perhaps Xenobiology? Who knows. Not me, that’s for sure. And there’s no way to find out either. This is just one of many issues with the lack of information given to the player throughout the game. The tutorial was fine, but very simple, and literally just stopped after teaching you the most basic features of the game and interface, at which point you are 100% on your own, without a single tip or guide given to you as you play.
One thing 4x games aren’t really known for is their campaigns or story modes. Heck, some don’t even have them in game at all, rather they just give you an open map and several win conditions and let you loose. Horizon is different in that regard, as they give you not one, not two, but a story mode for each playable race. That’s 10 in total. Of course you can play the classic open map version I mentioned above, but at least you’re not limited to it. The story missions can be quite interesting too, giving you a good backstory and view on each race, from each other race’s perspective. They give you goals to strive for in the form of exploration, diplomacy, military might and much more. Of course you can choose whether to complete these missions, or which sides to take in each of them, so the variety and customization is definitely there to keep anyone busy for a long, long time.
Combat is rather unique in Horizon as well. It does a great job of no longer being a simple numbers game, where your two units beats my 1 unit. Instead, when combat takes place, you are brought into the action, allowing you control over each unit, assigning individual attacks, defense maneuvers, and more. All weapon have varying arcs that they can target within and each side of each of your units has its own shield, and once that shield is down you start to take hull damage, so placement and facing your units is of the utmost importance. With all of this at your fingertips, Horizon allows for a small squad, an underdog, to emerge victorious if played right. A lot of turn based strategy games don’t allow for this type of gameplay, which is a shame on them, but a big plus in Horizon’s column.
Full Review (with pictures and rating): http://www.gamingv2.com/2014/02/25/review-horizon/