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From the Database of Home of the Underdogs

GAME DESIGNER:Jeff Johnson & Jeff McBride


GAME PUBLISHER:Empire Interactive

Copyright 1996, Mare Crisium

Undoubtedly one of the best and most underrated 4X strategy games ever made, Stars! is a massive strategic romp through the universe that plays best in multiplayer mode. Your goal? To take over said universe… or any of several other victory goals; universal domination is just the most fun and challenging.

What distinguishes Stars! from other galactic conquer titles is the multi-faceted complexity that is concealed beneath a deceptively simple mouse-driven interface. The game runs smoothly in a window, and everything you need to know about your budding empire (or a thriving war machine) can be accessed via menus or shortcut keys. After choosing the size of the universe you want (five sizes are available, from Tiny to Huge), you can add up to 15 (!) other players, both AI or human. Then you can set this up as play-by-email (PBEM) — a welcome feature that unfortunately not too many games nowadays support. The beauty of Stars! is that the game gets more complex as you play, without bogging you down with tedious micromanagement. It is not uncommon for a huge battle later in the game to involve hundreds of ships or more, but the interface is so well-designed that managing your fleet is a breeze. The ship design interface is one of my most favorite features in the game: similar to Master of Orion, you can design your own ships by choosing various components. Stars! boasts even more components, and numerous technologies that can upgrade each area. The computer AI is more than adequate, although the game is most fun in multiplayer mode against fellow human commanders. With a top-notch user interface, addictive “just one more turn” gameplay, and a challenging computer player, Stars! is a worthy entrant in our Hall of Belated Fame. Aside from dedicated support to the game, developers Mare Crisium are also hard at work on Stars! Supernova Genesis, the sequel that has all the makings of another underrated classic. Highly recommended!

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