Written by  :  PCGamer77 (3236)
Written on  :  Mar 12, 2002
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  3.4 Stars3.4 Stars3.4 Stars3.4 Stars3.4 Stars
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Awesome attempt at a beer n' pretzels 4X space game -- but watch out for bugs.

The Good

Spaceward Ho! dispenses with all of the extra trappings of Master of Orion and offers a stripped-down galactic wargame. Simple does not mean "simplistic" in this case, though, as the design incorporates some rather sophisticated economic concepts, such as diminishing returns to investment, higher costs for building new "prototype" spaceships, and interest paid/earned on government debt/savings.

Ship design consists of moving slider bars for the various generic tech categories (weapons, shields, miniaturization, etc.) -- again, simple yet elegant. The game also economizes on information. For example, "temperature" represents everything you can change about a planet through terraforming, while "gravity" represents everything you can't change. Similarly, "money" represents all of your wealth in renewable resources, while "metal" represents non-renewable (finite) resources. The scarcity of metal adds a sense of urgency to your early-game expansion, and it can prove be a deciding factor in late-game wars.

There are tons of options for game setup, including galaxy size/shape and number/intelligence of opponents, giving the Ho! a high replay value.

The designers clearly wanted their game to be humorous as well as accessible, and so the cowboy-themed sights and sounds are a nice touch. The paper documentation and online help are well written and cover everything you need to know.

The Bad

The game may be simple to a fault; if you want to direct your fleets in tactical battles and build individual structures on your planets, a la MOO 2, then Spaceward Ho! is definitely NOT for you. There are no races, there are no scanners or espionage, and there is no diplomacy. Also, the whole "galactic cowboys" theme cuts both ways; the game's lighthearted feel destroys any sense that you really are engaged in a epic space war.

More seriously, I had a major technical issue running the game: the save game file frequently became corrupted. Since you can only save to one file, and the program prevents you from making copies (I suppose to prevent cheating in multiplayer games), there's really no way to work around it. It didn’t keep me from enjoying Spaceward Ho!, but it has discouraged me from ever revisiting it.

The Bottom Line

Spaceward Ho! 4 is a delightful, if highly simplified, spaceploitation game that's a pleasant diversion from more serious strategy gaming fair -- provided you can get the program to run without crashing on you.