After mankind exhausted the Earth, after humanity’s Great Mistake, we looked to the stars for our salvation. The Seeding was our greatest ambition arisen from our greatest defeat: hundreds of interstellar colony ships launched at hundred of potentially viable star systems. Even if only one of them found a viable life-sustaining world, we thought, humanity would survive on its new home.
And humanity did survive. We’ve already seen the tale of the colony ship that ventured to the aquatic planet of Terra Atlantea. How the eight sponsored factions of colonists made planetfall, founded colonies, and starting taming and adapting to their new home in different ways. And how it was Élodie of Franco-Iberia who rose to dominance in a cybernetic autocracy, and how the race for Terra Atlantea seemingly ended right where it began — back on Old Earth, with the stagnant masses of our erstwhile home ready for assimilation into the Supremacy.
But the colony ship bound for Terra Atlantea was far from the only ship to make it to its new home. The galaxy is wide, after all, and teeming with habitable worlds. Dozens of new human worlds have sprung up across the cosmos, each one a story of conquest and deceit and love and triumph in its own right. And far from being the final chapter humanity’s interstellar adventures, the Seeding was only the beginning…
Greetings, readers! Welcome to Jarenth Plays (Sid Meier’s) Starships. That’s right: the saga of Franco-Iberian conquest is not over yet! I, er… it turns out I kinda still have my work cut out for me.
See, it’s like this… when we ended Beyond Earth, I was all a-glow with confidence re: my impending total victory. I was going to assimilate Old Earth into a robotic army billions large, remember? And after I was done with that, I’d conquer Terra Atlantea. And then, the universe. The second step in particular seemed like kind of a foregone conclusion: none of the other factions left were much of a threat to the new army I was assembling. I figured they’d either band together in one last desperate attempt to stop me — which would’ve failed — or they’d throw themselves at my feet to work out some kind of deal to stave off assimilation — which I wouldn’t have accepted.
They surprised me by taking the third option.
Remember how, when I left, Samatar’s scientists were busy scanning the skies for extraterrestrial signals? Well, they found some. Not alien signals, god no, that’d be a thing. But what they did find were signals from other human-inhabited worlds. Other successful Seeding projects, all throughout the sky. It’s almost a miracle we didn’t pick up their broadcasts sooner.
As it turns out, there were quite a lot of successful Seedings. Human-inhabited planets numbering in the dozens, on a wide variety of planet types. And on most of them, a more peaceful version of our tale played out in some form or another: of the many factions to make planetfall, one would rise to military or political dominance, assimilating all others into some stable planetary union. Most planets seemed to have reached some sort of peaceful convergence of ideals, as a matter of fact: the simmering-tension-erupting-into-several-open-wars of Terra Atlantea was apparently relatively rare.
A decision was then reached by the remaining six faction leaders. Rather than quarrel over technology or resources, they all banded together to design new spaceships capable of interstellar travel. Each of them built a small fleet of ships, capable of carrying their part of the population, and they all… set out. Each of them set a course to a major population center adopted by their sponsor, in the hope of finding a new home.
I found all of this out when I returned from Old Earth with my new army. Can you imagine how downright eerie it is to find your previously-bustling planet completely abandoned? The colonies were empty, the trading stations were gone… even the notoriously hostile native bug life seemed oddly absent. I’m not entirely sure what the deal with that is, if I’m being honest. I only found out where everyone went by piecing together bits and pieces from scattered logs, reports, and blueprints.
It seemed like a blessing of sorts at first. Without even token resistance, I was able to return my new army to Terra Atlantea and make it my own, clearing out the remaining — oddly aggressive — wildlife and converting the empty cities and installations to improved Supreme designs. Then, I figured, I’d copy the designs the others left behind, improve on them (naturally), chase the stragglers down across the cosmos, and finish the forcible conversion that I started.
What I hadn’t counted on was the fact that the crucible of war that was Terra Atlantea forged more than just me in its fires. It turns out that the levels of technology and strategic organization displayed by my erstwhile planet-mates, once necessary for standing up to each other and me, were almost unheard of across the galaxy. War, huh? Guess it’s good for something. Not only was each of the ‘straggler’ factions happily and lovingly absorbed into the greater unions they fled to, but their overall technical skill and prowess made them natural forces for guidance and change. The six leaders I last left on a bug world ripe for the taking have risen to become the six leaders of planetary governments, empires ready to make the leap for the stars. What I accomplished by converting the population of Old Earth to robots, they accomplished by warning the galaxy of me: a force capable of taking the cosmos, and the will to make it happen.
Could I still convert them all by force? Well… I could try, that’s for sure. But the reality of the situation is that even the planets that aren’t yet aligned with any of the six unions are technologically and militarily advanced enough to pose… not a challenge, per se, but an obstacle. It’d take time, is what I’m saying: time, effort, and manpower. And while I’d be doing that, the other powers would be hard at work convincing planets to join their unions through a much easier, quicker, more cost-effective method: the elbow grease of interstellar diplomacy.
As we speak, right now, the fleets of the six great powers are gearing up to make their trips around the cosmos. Their goal: to convince as many ‘neutral’ planets to join their budding empires as they can. Through diplomacy, favours, and — if push does come to shove — shows of force and intimidation. And technology has not stood still while I was out conquering Earth: their ships are tough, powerful, and more than capable of weathering the stars.
Their ships, and mine. Because while I admire the clever way the others made my military prowess effectively pointless overnight, I’ll be damned if I let them forge the scraps of this scattered galaxy into an eternal empire of the stars.
Brace yourself, universe. Franco-Iberia is coming.
Or, if you prefer a less fanfic-y approach*:
Hey, everyone! Welcome to Jarenth Plays Sid Meier’s Starships, from here on out referred to as ‘Jarenth Plays Starships’. This spiritual-sequel-of-sorts to Pirates (also by Sid Meier) sees the player fly across a galaxy of inhabited planets, performing missions and doing favours in order to slowly expand their empire. It features battles, construction, research, trading, diplomacy, and treachery, and it’s patterned in theme and aesthetics as a narrative sequel to Beyond Earth. That I would Let’s Play this game if it proved at all feasible to do so was beyond any doubt. And hey, you’re reading these words right now! So… here we are, I guess.
That Starships is a narrative and thematic sequel to Beyond Earth doesn’t mean it’s in any way a sequel to Beyond Earth. Rather, as mentioned, Starships takes most of its cues from Pirates: most of the game sees the player directly control one fleet of ships (of the star variety), flying to and fro various planets and engaging in interstellar hijinks and tomfoolery. Players attempt to assimilate planets into their empire, which forms the backbone of a very light 4X-game: the fleet gameplay is really the main act, here, with empire-building, research and diplomacy playing supporting cast.
What Starships does have in common with Beyond Earth is this:
Or, more accurately, this:
In Starships, players can choose to rule one of eight factions, following one of three Affinities. Yes, those factions and Affinities. I hope you enjoyed being Purity, Harmony, or Supremacy again, because, boy! This game has a lot of that.
(I think it should theoretically also be possible to play a mix between two Affinities? There’s some poorly-understood account system that connects Starships to Beyond Earth, and which is supposed to make achievements in one game unlock bonuses in the other. I’d love to try this out, but given that my Beyond Earth saves are all non-cloud-stranded on my old PC brick — and that my previous achievements apparently didn’t transfer, given that I wasn’t logged into the aforementioned nebulous account yet — that’s not gonna happen for now.)
In theory, choosing your faction and Affinity is a well-thought-out choice, based on the specific bonuses each combination provides to different play styles. Purity players gain double mission rewards, Harmony players repair their ships more cheaply, and Supremacy players start with a free Wonder. And factions — leaders, really, that’s what you’re selecting — work similarly: Suzanne, the Economist, gains credits more easily. Kozlov, the Industrialist, produces more metals. Samatar, the Benevolent, produces cities more cheaply. And so on, and so forth.
In practice, of course, I made this choice before I even first booted up the game. Of course I’m going to be cyber-Élodie. Of course. Even if I wasn’t going to write a whole Let’s Play’s worth of fanfic here, Supreme Franco-Iberia is just the path I’ve chosen in life.
As the Charismatic leader (*snrk*), Élodie’s special power is that she ‘increases crew morale by 10%’. I have no idea what this means, in gameplay terms, but I can tell you that any mention of ‘morale increase’ under my Élodie should probably be taken with a few grains of salt. Think less ‘force of personality pushing crew to greater heights’ and more ‘forced process optimization routines increase maximum possible runtime before catastrophic malfunction occurs’. But hey, then again: we’ll find out what kind of effect this has (if any) when I start my inevitable galactic conquest.
There’s not a whole lot more practical setup to talk about. The maximum amount of opponents you can choose is 6, so I pick that number. The largest of the four map sizes is Epic, so I roll with that. I set the difficulty to Moderate, because I have no idea yet what to expect, and all victory types to ‘enabled’, because I like to keep my options open. And with that, we’re off!
So, er, yeah. Franco-Iberia is still coming, galaxy. I wouldn’t stop bracing myself just yet.
*N.B.: If you do prefer a less fanfic-y approach, you might want to gear up for disappointment w.r.t. the rest of this Let’s Play. I predict about a 50/50 split between pure game mechanics and me babbling about my personal vendettas with made-up characters this time around. And these elements will not be as cleanly delineated as they are this time around. You’ve been forewarned.