439479_largerThe term “4X game” is either scary or foreign to you if you are not a strategy gamer. Even if you are one, like myself, they can still be daunting. With Eclipse: New Dawn for the Galaxy [$6.99 (HD)], Big Daddy’s Creations has attempted to make this genre more accessible. Based on a complex board game of the same name, Eclipse simplifies the the 4X genre by providing guided, limited options and a set game length. That is not to say it is simple, but it has elegant European design; imagine Masters of Orion and Settlers of Catan had a baby.

What is a 4X game you ask? It stands for the four basic actions you can take in this type of game: eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate. Examples include Starbase Orion on iOS and Heroes of Might and Magic on PC. In Eclipse you take on the role of one of several alien or human races with the goal of building your empire over 9 rounds. By exploring and claiming sectors of space, researching technologies, and engaging in combat with other players you will earn points which will contribute to your empire’s overall reputation. There are also other actions to take like engaging in diplomacy, building new ships, and upgrading those ships that round out the experience.

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It does seem like there is a lot going on (and there is) but Eclipse is focused in its approach. Each round you have a limited number of resources to work with based on planets you have colonized. Materials allow you to build spaceships, fighters, and other constructs. Out of materials? Ok, then those options are gone. Science allows you to research new technology which can help you colonize new sectors of space or outfit your ships. Do you have enough science to research this round? Maybe only once, ok that’s easy to plan out.

Lastly you have money which determines how many actions you can take that round and how many sectors of space you can control. Clearly knowing how much you can do each round keeps you focused. This is the secret sauce that makes Eclipse so palatable as a grand strategy game. Rather than giving you freedom to control every unit you have in play each round, you are funneled into taking whatever actions you can fit in.

Of course, this is not solely an economic game, there is also deep space combat. As you explore the galaxy you may encounter “Ancients” which are a remnant of the former controllers of the galaxy. You also may spar against other players as you attempt to invade their territory. Combat in Eclipse is basically done by a roll of a die, but smartly the designers don’t show you some cheesy dice rolling animation. Instead there is an interesting combat animation as ship goes against ship.

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Eclipse also features a very cool ship customization system that is as easy as dragging and dropping. As you research new techs you will get things like bigger guns, better armor, and faster engines. You can upgrade your ships by adding these different techs to what is already on the ship. It has become apparent after playing this game for the past week that ship construction is a key strategy in winning the game.

The sleek UI design given to both upgrading and combat is carried throughout the app. There is a lot of information to process and access, and it could have been a nightmare to access it all. Luckily, this is some of the best UI design I have ever seen. You always have a view of the galaxy at large and can quickly access trays that contain the other information you need to know. For what is at its heart a port of a board game with about a gazillion pieces, Eclipse is designed so well I am not sure you would have known it was based on a board game if I had not told you.

Staying true to the goal of a grand space opera, Eclipse can handle up to 6 players. This can be all human players gathered around your iPad as you pass it around like some sort of deep strategy peace pipe. Of course, finding five friends that can all be together at the same time can be challenging. The game features AI opponents which may be the main way to play the game. They are challenging at each level and play differently to help you perfect your skills.

For example, the peaceful AI will never invade your territory allowing you to learn the game without having to defend yourself. This builds up to the hardest AI which starts with an advanced spaceship and is very aggressive. For the brave at heart there is also asynchronous online play. So far there has always been a healthy crop of opponents from around the world to choose from. The system even allows for private games and features in-game chat. There is even a public chat lobby which has a very early StarCraft vibe. Our forum community has been loving Eclipse since its release as well.

Eclipse is an accessible and polished strategy game that feels at home on iOS. This is not a casual game, but if you have been interested in the 4X genre or strategy gaming in general, this is a great place to dip a toe in. Even with the game's excellent tutorial, it requires some repeated play to really master. If you are ready for a grand space strategy epic, this an amazing specimen on iOS.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • gca3020

    So how does this compare to Starbase Orion?

    • Dracil

      Not the same type of game at all. It's a board game with a design principle of making sure no players get eliminated (and can thus enjoy the game to its conclusion), while trying to cram 4x gameplay into a short enough time so people can actually finish it within a single play session at a friend's place.

  • baelnor

    This is a fantastic game and I have been playing it HEAPS! Totally worth the price tag, and they probably should have charged more for just how good it is.

    • finbikkifin

      Go out and buy the hardcopy if you want to spend more! It's cheaper than a second iPad!

      You also get beautiful physical components.

  • http://www.facebook.com/benjamin.detweiler Benjamin Detweiler

    Only 9 rounds doesn't that limit the gameplay? Seems like it would make the game shallow.

    • kurzz

      Is that 9 turns? Is there unlimited mode?

      • Dracil

        It's a Euro board game with a 4x theme, and euro board games are all about min-maxing your score with limited resources and actions in a finite amount of time and frowns heavily on player elimination, so no. It's better to approach these games as a form of interactive problem-solving with limited randomness.

      • finbikkifin

        I approach it as a 4x game with euro elements, and play it as such. I've known players who loathe euros and love Eclipse, so it's clearly doing something right. I have to be bribed to play Le Havre and I've never felt that way about Eclipse.

      • phandaal

        There is a chance to perform multiple actions in each turn, depending on how much you can afford.

        Trust me, I was also leery of the 9 turn limit, but it works brilliantly.

        This isn't a game about min-maxing every tech and grinding your opponents to dust. It's about short, sharp engagements that unfold differently every time. That's what gives it great replayability. Unlimited mode would be boring and wouldn't work in this format.

    • Greyskull

      Probably a boardgame restriction to keep the length of a single game manageable.

    • VeganTnT

      It sounds limiting but the "Rounds" are a LOT longer than you think. Each player takes one action at a time and passes play until all players have passed after taking zero actions, generally this happens because because each player can no longer afford to pay the upkeep cost of taking more actions. A game of Eclipse can take anywhere from 1-4 hours depending on number of players and how good they are.

      It's really more like a 4x game where you have a deadline. It gives you a sense of urgency and can even sway decisions. I often feel compelled to attack when I'd rather defend because I'm trying to cripple enemy supply lines as the game draws to a close. An added benefit is that you aren't wasting time eradicating the enemy since that isn't the goal of the game.

      Dice based combat means anyone can win/lose at any time which brings some nail biting tension to battles. Units having a hard cap also means you can never feel "safe" in this game since you can only have 2 of the biggest ships in the game.

    • finbikkifin

      Trust me, it doesn't limit it or make it shallow. It is a constraint, but rounds last a while (as VeganTnT explains) and it's a definite improvement over a hypothetical infinite game.

  • http://twitter.com/DotComCTO DotComCTO

    I just did a double-take. TA just reviewed a STRATEGY game? I was thinking that today must be April Fools, or maybe I came to the wrong site, but nope...it's good ol' TA...reviewing not just a strategy game, but a strategy board game!

    Will wonders never cease?! :-D

    • http://twitter.com/Neumannium Dave Neumann

      They had to get Brad from Boardgamegeek to do it, though...

      • http://twitter.com/DotComCTO DotComCTO

        Nice! I saw Brad's name and didn't put two and two together!

    • GiHubb

      They did review Battle of the Bulge a few months ago (it also got the perfect 5 stars score) so in all fairness they do review strategy games every now and then.

    • IpadGamer

      TA has reviewed Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne and a few other Board Games as well. Maybe these examples don't have as much strategy as Eclipse, but TA has been sure to cover [some of] the best board games out on iOS.

    • http://twitter.com/DotComCTO DotComCTO

      @toucharcade-4fc9669f543abba50fd776facbcd7694:disqus & @IpadGamer:disqus

      I know that TA does do reviews of strategy games, but it feels far and few between. That's OK. I get that these types of games are niche titles, and TA focuses on looking at games that have a broad market appeal as that brings in more readers (and thus revenue). Besides, for the areas that TA doesn't ordinarily cover, I do go to sites like BGG and Pocket Tactics.

      ...I just wanted to break chops a little bit. :-)

      • GiHubb

        Yeah I also read Pocket Tactics, it does give a broader view of strategy games for sure.

  • Gordon Ross

    Benjamin - it's a eurogame, it's meant to be somewhat superficial. The point is to have fun with your friends when you play it once every few weeks at game club, not to stand up to intensive multiple times a day play.

    • Gordon Ross

      Don't get me wrong though, these games can still be great fun and I'd recommend downloading without hesitation, just don't expect a game like chess which you're going to play 2 hours a day for the next year. Ultimately it's a $5 game, treat it that way and you won't be disappointed

      • finbikkifin

        I couldn't call it superficial. The board game is selling for £70 in my usual store, and it's absolutely worth what they're charging. Of course, that's £70 for a game that takes a few hours to play with four people, so if you play it only three times (just enough to get comfortable with the humans and play a game with the alien races) it works out as about £18 each*, and there's plenty more to explore after that.

        You won't play it for two hours a day for a year, but if you like it and especially if you play it with friends, there's a damn good chance you'll get in a monthly game in amongst the other games you play.

        __
        * My last group didn't do shared ownership of games, so one person bought it, but other people bought different games so it all kinda averages out on pricing.

  • inginious

    I'd like to see a video of a couple of rounds... A game like this deserves a video review, not just txt explanation...

    • VeganTnT

      If you search YouTube for "Eclipse board game" you'll find tons of tutorials and games.

      It's one of the benefits of board game ports that we can google the physical version or search it on bgg and learn more than any review could possibly tell us.

    • VeganTnT

      Hmm, my last reply didn't show up :/

      Try going on BGG or searching YouTube for "Eclipse Board Game"

      The great thing about board game ports is that there is generally tons of info on the core game so you can free videos of people playing and read in depth reviews of the game mechanics.

  • Pedroapan

    Ipad2-owners beware. Very choppy and poor performance. Kind of ruins the game, at least for me.

    Pedroapan

    • phandaal

      I play on an ipad2 and have not experienced this issue.

    • Plynx

      Not just ipad 2. I play on ipad 3 and 4 and experience the same issue. Maybe the game is thrashing memory and is subject to allocation lag every second or so... You can see if you drag an icon in the upgrade screen or the slide to pass bar the regular pauses the game makes, like spikes where the game loses priority and the ipad reallocates something. If you bring up the multitasking tray while the game is runnnig you can see the same lag and choppy animation affecting it there too, which tells me it's not frame rate, but resource thrashing...

      • Pedroapan

        Hopefully it is something that can be addressed in an update. I'm really looking forward to dig in to this game, but the present presentation ruins the experience.

      • ednan

        iPad 4 here, works flawlessly

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Micah-Neveu/1160696016 Micah Neveu

      That's odd. I play on an iPad 1 and it runs slightly choppy at times - but nothing so bad that it is unplayable.
      Though it seems GREEN is ALWAYS taking longer turns! Hurry up! :P

  • memphis12

    Is this game very in depth and how long can a singe play-through last? (Longer the better)

  • profhuggybear

    Is this an iPad only game? If not how does it play on an iPhone 4S screen?

    • Derek Kupper

      iPad only - there's too much to cram on an iPhone screen.

  • hourglass

    I saw this when it was called Starbase Orion.

Eclipse: New Dawn for the Galaxy Reviewed by Brad Cummings on . Rating: 5