It’s a brave task to try and take on the space-based 4X genre. It’s such a crowded market these days that it’s difficult to stand out, with such an old genre that it’s tough to do anything new. Will Polaris Sector be any different?
We’ve had access to the game ahead of its release later this month and it’s clear that while the game isn’t looking to do anything unique or original, it could offer up the depth and complexity that fans of the genre might be looking for.
In particular it’s the ship designer system that looks to be the most important. This is often an integral part of any space-based 4X game since it gives you the freedom to customise your fleet of ships, with some games handling this better or more in-depth than any other.
Polaris Sector uses specific hulls as templates to build onto, giving you a sort of puzzle game as you try and slot in the parts that’ll enable the abilities you’ll want this ship to have. It’s a balancing act, and one that’ll take a lot of experimentation to figure out.
It ties so heavily into the combat section of the game, however, that you’ll really need to spend the time to decipher its ship designing systems. It’s clear from the start that it won’t be enough to build the most powerful cruiser to take on all threats, because everything has a counter.
Even the biggest, most dangerous ships can be destroyed with smart ship design and unit control. You could swarm the beast with as many torpedo-equipped ships, or draw the slow-moving ship into range of a longer-range attack vessel of your own.
We’ve yet to really figure out the intricacies of this involved system, but the initial depth of strategy is quite promising - especially when combined with the ship designer system and the potential variety of ships that are available.
The exploration aspect of the game isn’t especially different to many other 4X games of this ilk, but it does give you enough control over a planet’s development to ensure your faction can guide itself down a particular route - whether that’s food for the population, production for your army or science for research.
Speaking of which, the research system is particularly novel. Rather than picking a new technology to develop, research in Polaris Sector is instead a more continuous stream than a linear tech tree. That is to say that instead of unlocking a single technology one by one you instead control sliders that affect the speed at which certain technologies are researched. Since the game is played in plausible real-time rather than turn-based, you’ll have a long list of upcoming technologies with different times they’ll take to research.
There’s more, though. You have scientific fields and applied sciences, and the two are symbiotic - one unlocking access to new technologies and vice versa. It’s possible to micromanage these system to focus purely on the techs you want the most, or leave it more general to unlock more over a wider range of sciences.
It’s not yet clear what the best method is, or even if there is a preferred option - but it’s certainly nice to be given such a far-reaching and in-depth control over research, an element of games like this that rarely offer much innovation in this particular aspect.
What is certain is that this isn’t an easy game to beat, and it’ll take a lot of practise to learn and discover not only your own personal strategy but what works best to overcome such challenging odds.