Sid Meier's Starships

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Sid Meier's Starships Game Poster Image
Accessible, action-heavy space strategy with mild violence.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Educational Value

Kids will devise tactics and think about travel beyond Earth in this sci-fi-themed, turn-based strategy game. The strategic space combat should encourage kids to think ahead and plan out moves in advance as they learn to anticipate and exploit their opponents' actions. The game's depiction of future technology and space exploration could stimulate kids' interested in space travel and technology, leading them to further investigate concepts such as wormholes and different forms of interstellar propulsion. Sid Meier's Starships is an accessible and robust strategy game that could help nurture kids' interest in the science and the technologies involved in space travel.  

Positive Messages

Promotes strategic thought and planning; also suggests humanity will remain at war well into the future for petty reasons around territory, beliefs.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Faction leaders dedicated to helping their people prosper, multiply at the cost of using military force to quash any who resist. They are intolerant of ideological differences of their rivals.

Ease of Play

Simple compared with most games in the genre. Galactic civilization building, combat strategy explained in pop-up tutorials. Lowest of five difficulty settings easy enough for even strategy-game rookies.

Violence

Ships engage in space combat, exploding and breaking apart when struck by lasers, torpedoes. No crew members shown injured or killed, but players can hear loud shouts, screams as they die.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Sid Meier's Starships is a tactical turn-based space-combat game. The gameplay is simpler and more accessible than in many games in this genre, so younger players are less likely to grow frustrated. Its speculative fiction shows humans at war to gain territory and enforce their ideologies but likely will excite the imaginations of kids interested in the idea of space travel and visiting other planets. Depictions of violence are limited to ships exploding and breaking apart, but the complete destruction of ships is accompanied by brief, loud screams of crew members dying, without blood or gore. 

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What's it about?

Set in the same universe as Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth (a strategic civilization simulation that has players helping humanity settle an alien world), SID MEIER'S STARSHIPS skips forward a few centuries to a galaxy filled with planets occupied by human colonists. Your aim is to visit these planets and assist them in combat missions, earning their support to encourage them to join your empire instead of one of your rivals. Half the game takes place on a large galactic map, where players can travel to and develop worlds, purchase new technologies, talk to other leaders, and grow and upgrade their fleets. The other half is played on randomly generated planetary system maps, where players skirt around asteroids and jump through small wormholes while engaging in turn-based combat against computer-controlled fleets. Goals differ from one mission to the next -- for example, you may have to protect a colonist ship or fend off marauding pirates. Successful completion may result in a planet's endorsement, along with valuable credits and resources used to repair damages and develop your fleet and empire. 

Is it any good?

Sid Meier's Starships is a great alternative for anyone who enjoys Civilization games -- especially its turn-based combat -- but has difficulty finding the time to complete one of those games' epic campaigns, which can take weeks to play out. By contrast, a campaign in Starships can take less than a couple of hours (or as long as six or seven, depending on modifiers), making it possible to start and finish a game in a single sitting (or day).

The trade-off, of course, is the lack of complexity and nuance offered in a game such as Civilization. Combat is still pretty robust -- you'll engage in flanking maneuvers with fighters and cruisers, launch torpedoes several turns before you intend to detonate them, and make use of cloaking devices and long-range sensors. Unfortunately, other game systems, such as diplomacy and technology development, are stripped to the bone. Consequently, you'll spend a lot more time engaged in battles than negotiating with rivals and working out how to quietly expand your empire without drawing the attention of neighboring leaders. Still, there's a lot to be said about Sid Meier's Starships' accessibility and quick campaigns. It's much less intimidating than other games of its ilk and could be a good starting point for younger players interested in strategy games.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about space travel. Do you think humanity will eventually fly to other planets and star systems to colonize new worlds? If so, do you think we'll bring our petty squabbles with us and continue to make war with each other?

  • Families also can discuss appropriate screen time for games. What do you think is an appropriate amount of time to spend with a game in one sitting? What about strategy games such as Sid Meier's Starships, which is designed for single sessions but can last for several hours from start to finish?

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