Reach for the Stars is a turn-based adventure/combat that has its roots in the science fiction world of galactic exploration, colonization and conquest. The number of turns in the game can be set as high as 150 by the player but the game doesn't necessarily have to end when that limit is reached. Some games have been known to go upwards of 300 or more turns when the competition is fairly even. Four players (empires) participate in each game of Reach for the Stars with the computer filling in for human opponents when needed. Gameplay revolves around seeking out and exploring new star systems, colonizing planets and then producing resources which are managed and distributed to various enterprises such as military defense, growth in industry and population concerns. The game system utilizes an approach based on movement and production turns and a hex-type environment. A short tutorial is also provided in the manual for those who need a jump start and the game ends when one of the four empires has completely eliminated the other three in the star-field of combat.
Reach for the Stars is the original "spaceploitation" game. The player has the opportunity to name his civilization and those of his (up to three) AI opponents before he begins his attempt at galactic domination. The game is very bare bones by modern standards: the 2D galaxy map is marked only by planets and their names in few different colors. Also, there is no diplomacy and no player control over tactical combat.
What remains is a hard-core game of grand strategic and economic production. The player must tweak his planets, build ships, research new tech levels, and deploy fleets. A nice feature of the game is that just about all of the underlying dynamics can be altered and customized by the player, which means that Reach for the Stars is infinitely replayable.
The first time I read about Reach for the Stars was in a computer magazine at the local library, after reading about 10 lines of the review one thought flashed in my brain - I must have this game! I never found it, so my expectations was huge, also due to the fact that it is regarded as one of the first and best 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) games.
Even though the interface is well designed and the graphics is ahead of its time, a look in the manual is recommended as one mistake could seriously cripple your ambition to rule the galaxy. The game universe is quite large, and in every star system there can be several planets, so in the late game you'll have to command vast space fleets while keeping your rapidly growing population from consuming all production. You can choose to play the game on the basic level (default) or advanced level that adds complexity, expanding your options for research (which is quite limited), random events, and more. The AI is excellent, in my first game I was utterly crushed on the beginner level in turn 20. Reach for the Stars is one of the games the stand the test of time very well. It has it all: gameplay, excellent balance, tough AI, great replayability, addiction and fun-- qualities sadly lacking from many of today's games. After having played the original I can only say that I will be looking for the remake that SSI is about to release within a very short time - and this time I will get it :)
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