Horizon is a turn based, 4X-style strategy games that takes you to the stars as humanity expands further into the universe after an alien probe gives humans a plethora of data that jumps the human race ahead a few centuries, technologically speaking. So, you grow your empire even as you come into contact with other species. Some of these species are much, much stronger than you while others are curious and helpful, but either way, you have to try to lead humanity into intergalactic dominance while avoiding the pitfalls of rival alien empires.
Horizon is currently sitting as a single player only game (there is talk of expanding into a multiplayer mode, but that is just talk at the moment) that utilizes the 4X, turn based style of game play to create an immersive and time consuming game as you build your empire and be dominant by either economical or military strength. Now, this guy is definitely more accustomed to your Age of Empires or Command and Conquer style strategy game, so I wasn’t fully prepared for the undertaking I was about to embark on. When I realized that my back hurt from being hunched over my computer like Golem for six hours without a break and I had only explored half the map and was ranked last, I was a little taken aback at how much time had passed.
That is the strength of Horizon. It is highly addictive and quite expansive and you have a variety of options of how to win the game. When you have 23 colonies that you’re running upkeep on, as well as seven fleets that are starting to tax your funds while engaged in a proxy war with an ally as well as an actual war with another race while trying to maintain your economic strangle hold on the galaxy, you start to put together where all your time is going. It took me an entire day to get to that point, and I wasn’t even close to being done yet.
The other unique thing about the main story line (you can un-check missions at the beginning of a new game and just have at it if you’d prefer) is that as humanity, you are behind all the other races in the game. Some are far more advanced while others are only a few steps ahead. The big bad villains are way ahead of everyone, so if you find yourself starting out on their borders, you better be prepared to grovel to avoid getting smashed early on. Which makes for an interesting dynamic in the game because it’s not often that you have to start behind everyone and carve your own niche in an already populated universe (like I’m sure we’d have to do in reality) which is quite difficult to say the least. Unfortunately, for all the time sucking positives that Horizon brings to the table, it also brings a whole slew of negatives with it.
The graphics for Horizon are fresh, new and innovative… if this was the year 2000. Seriously, the cut scenes looked like a non-pixilated scene from the first Half-Life. In all fairness, it didn’t really detract that much from the game play, but on more than one occasion I did ask myself if I had actually got the right game or if I’d accidentally picked up a pre-millennial game with a similar title. Then, there was the abysmal combat interface. Remember about three sentences ago when I referenced the first Half-Life as being dated? Well, the combat screen is basically on par with Chrono Trigger… but in space. There was the backdrop of the system and then some 3D ships flying around in it but with no interaction between them. It was very Super Nintendo-esque and I was baffled as to how they thought this was passable.
When I actually got into a battle, the tutorial walked me through how to go through said battle, turn by turn. Once the tutorial was done, I had no idea what I was doing and was growing increasingly frustrated by the second. Luckily, I found the AUTO combat button at the top of my screen and just let the computer deal with it. The rest of the battle went on for 47 more turns. No exaggeration… and I was expected to go through each turn of each battle, each one about the same length. Suffice it to say, that Auto button got pushed a lot.
Another part of the game that needed some work, is the tutorials, or lack thereof I should say. Not one tutorial sufficiently explained to me what I needed to know and I ended up just winging it and hoping for the best. Not that the tutorial wasn’t a long, arduous process of sort of half explaining things. Oh no, it took a long time to get through, I just didn’t really get it when all was said and done. The other aspect of the game that was both good and bad was the music. The music, while you were doing anything but combat, is this epic, dark toned music that you almost don’t notice, but gives a real ambience to the game… then you get into combat and it cuts into a bad version of a Super Nintendo battle sequence. Seriously, this is the second time I’m mentioning Chrono Trigger, but the combat music was hilariously close to it and it’s the only thing I could think of while playing this Horizon.
Earlier I talked about how time consuming the game was. This is one of the things I really liked about the game because there’s something really satisfying about fostering a mighty empire and becoming a dominant force in the galaxy. However, it also became a drawback. You can play as almost all the races which is cool, but I found myself not wanting to embark on these other paths since I didn’t really have three days to play. I did play one on one against another race and I crushed them as fast as I could with a mighty military force and it only took me six and a half hours. So, while how deeply immersive the game play can be, I would have really liked a mode that you could play through a little quicker. That way, I wouldn’t be so wary when looking to try out another species or just starting a new game in general.
Overall, Horizon has its heart in the right place, but doesn’t bring enough to the table to be a stand out. While you can get lost in the game for hours without realizing it, sloppy interface controls, a just plain awful combat system and dated graphics are all making sure that you don’t get as much fun as you could be getting from game time. A good effort from Iceberg and L3O, but ultimately, Horizon is going to be overlooked.