It’s no secret that outer space is the unofficial home of the grand strategy genre. In terms of setting, it embodies all of the core elements of a 4X game. Its undiscovered frontiers are a thrill to explore. It’s endlessly expansive. Alien worlds are full of resources to exploit, and there’s no shortage of foes to exterminate. Praxia Entertainment’s Beyond Sol takes all of these things and runs with them, while also injecting a healthy dose of action and RTS elements into the mix. The end result is a fairly solid strategy title on Early Access that shows a lot of potential, even if it isn’t yet as fully fleshed out as it should be.
The core gameplay is pretty typical of the genre. You start with a single ship in the middle of a randomly generated solar system, which you use to found a city. From there, you start exploring your solar system, collecting resources from asteroids, planets and other celestial bodies and using them to expand your base and upgrade your fleet. When you’re big and powerful enough, you take the fight to your rivals and wipe their colonies from the face of the universe. So far, so good, but there’s a few twists. Firstly, the focus on a single solar system rather than an entire galaxy turns the process of building up your city into something quite similar to an RTS or a city-builder, allowing you to place buildings by hand and mix and match different configurations at will. Secondly, the smaller scale adds an action element to the game, giving you the ability to pilot your ship in real time and perform all kinds of tactical maneuvers during combat. Also notable is the fact that each new game – despite being set in a different solar system – allows you to import ships and resources from previous conflicts, meaning that all the grinding you did last time wasn’t entirely for nothing.
As you can tell, Beyond Sol offers a pretty solid foundation for some deep strategy gameplay – but it still feels like it can be fleshed out some more. One element that feels a little weak at the moment is diplomacy; right now, it only allows you to trade items to other players and request help in a skirmish. Many features present in other games, such as the ability to forge alliances or play factions against each other (for example, by bribing someone to go to war with someone else for you) aren’t here in Beyond Sol. Also disappointing is the fact that each game only seems to end through combat – some victory conditions that allow you to win through a diplomatic or economic route would add more depth and go some way towards preventing games from feeling like the same thing on repeat. There also isn’t any tutorial or introductory scenario to help ease new players into the game, and I must admit that I felt a little overwhelmed during my first hour or two, not being the most proficient of strategy gamers. Still, for an Early Access title, there’s already a considerable amount of content in the game and the basics are certainly accounted for.
In terms of graphics and sound, Beyond Sol seems to be shaping up nicely. The visuals, while minimalistic, are stylish and functional and it’s very easy to distinguish between different buildings and units. The solar system which you’re trying to conquer is full of varied and colorful features such as nebulae and asteroid belts (even if the vast expanses of space between them all can sometimes seem a little empty). Even though there can be a lot on the screen at the same time, Beyond Sol also runs quite well, maintaining a consistent framerate at the highest graphical settings on a mid-tier graphics card. A minor thing to note that could be improved is the cinematic that plays on the title screen – the recorded footage actually lags at some points (most likely because the gameplay featured was recorded in an older, unoptimized version of the game) and it made me think my PC was having trouble rendering the main menu!
Likewise, the sound effects and music are polished and enjoyable. There’s certainly enough audio feedback to let you know when you’re under attack or about to stumble across a rare cache of resources. The soundtrack, which mainly consists of futuristic electronica similar to games like Civilization Beyond Earth and Master of Orion, is atmospheric and complements the gameplay nicely. I didn’t notice much variety between the different tracks that played, but the music is nice enough to listen to that it doesn’t start to become repetitive. Overall, if you’ve played a game similar to Beyond Sol before, you should pretty much know what to expect on the audio front.
In short, there’s a lot to like about Beyond Sol. It’s a competent strategy/action title with fairly deep gameplay and a solid foundation, but it’s not without its flaws either. There’s definitely some potential here, and this is a game worth picking up just to support the developers. It’s enjoyable to play even in its Early Access state, and for $16.99 you’re getting at least a weekend’s worth of gameplay before it starts to feel stale. I’m not a huge fan of strategy games, but the cool ideas in Beyond Sol had me hooked from the start.
Get Beyond Sol on Steam here.