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Spaceward Ho! IV (Macintosh)

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MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.6
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Maury Markowitz (226)
Written on  :  Apr 25, 2014
Platform  :  Macintosh
Rating  :  3.6 Stars3.6 Stars3.6 Stars3.6 Stars3.6 Stars
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Summary

Great, fast paced 4X game

The Good

This really is the whole 4X concept boiled down to its most basic. No race design, serious diplomacy or spy craft, just ships blowing up planets and moving on.

Basically the game's strategy boils down to staying alive while you build up your "tech", which improves through money spent. Money flows in through taxation, which is based on the total population. More planets, more people, more tech, more blowing stuff up.

One neat twist of this game is the ship design and build system. Both dialogs are combined into one - you can select an existing design to build more copies of, bump the tech levels of one of them, or design a new ship from scratch. In practice you can do all of this in a couple of clicks - select a basic design class like "fighter", click the "Max Out" button to improve the tech, and start building. I also liked the way there was a fee for designing the ships, not just building them, so building existing designs was cheaper. I also liked that you could go into debt to fund an emergency building program.

Planets have only three qualities, temperature, mass and metal. The first you can terraform over time, which improves the maximum population. The second you can't, and defines the ultimate capacity of the planet for your race. The final one you simply use up as the colonists mine it.

Combat is a simple affair, with no user control. The fleets can only meet over planets, and there's only one planet per star, so that's greatly simplified, just fly to a star and see what happens. The ships start shooting and one side wins. If the planet below is allied to one side or the other, they also get to shoot, but generally if you win in space you'll blow away the population on the ground. One "trick" the computer uses is to shoot at your colony ships first, so if you build a fleet with some combat ships and a colony ship, you might win the battle but loose the war.

There is a VERY basic system for building alliances, and it works against computer players, but I suspect the real reason for this was to allow human players to form alliances. Ho! was released in the era before ubiquitous networking, but allowed multi-player games with up to 16 people on a LAN.

The best thing about Ho! is that you can play it while doing other things. I used it as a backdrop while compiling, but compiles don't take any time any more, so there's that.

The Bad

In spite of much simplicity in terms of gameplay, the UI had a number of instances of dramatic over complication. Lots of mini-windows that didn't seem to really offer anything useful, floating pallets that you only really used once in a while, etc. The result was a somewhat cluttered screen, for no apparent reason.

The Bottom Line

Many reviews call this "beer and pretzels MOO". Works for me!