Space Empires

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Emperor [insert name here], Your Empire awaits...

Space Empires is a series of Turn-Based Strategy 4X games by Malfador Machinations. First released in the early 90's, it's currently on its fifth iteration. It has been called "a spreadsheet in space" because of the grid system it uses - which isn't really all that different from other games of the genre.

Its main selling point is its moddability and multiplayer, as the AI sometimes leaves something to be desired.

The series also includes Starfury, a Gaiden Game of sorts set in the Space Empires universe.

According to Malfador's own page, the first Space Empires was made in 1993 by Aaron Hall. Two years later, Malfador Machinations was formed, and Space Empires had been polished enough to become Space Empires II - released as shareware.

Another two years later in 1997, with the help of a friend-turned-coworker, Space Empires III was released, again as shareware. It was in Space Empires 3 that detailed orders, increased map sizes and simple graphical modifications were introduced.

In the summer of '98, work began on the fourth offering of the series, and it was completed two years later in July 2000. Space Empires IV massively expanded upon the third game with new unit types, diplomatic relations, political relations, graphical enhancements, and improvements on the features of Space Empires III.

Based on information from The Other Wiki:

Space Empires Starfury was released in 2003, and was a Genre Shift from 4X to placing the player as the Captain of a single starship. Campaigns and other systems allowed them to develop their character, ship and so on whilst following a general plot. It was not as well received as the main series, no doubt in part due to the shift.

Three years later (in 2006) the fifth 4X, Space Empires V, was released. Expanding into 3D strategic and tactical views, it also brought real-time tactical combat to the table, helping to offset some of the inherent flaws in a turn-based combat system. The fanbase is somewhat divided over V (They Changed It, Now It Sucks syndrome) and some insist that modification is vital to improving even basic gameplay... but that could be said of all religions of the games in the series.

Due to customization, it's possible to find all sorts of scifi tropes in the Space Empires series. Let's try and focus on the ones in the stock games, okay?

Needs a Better Description.

Tropes used in Space Empires include:
  • Abusing the Kardashev Scale For Fun and Profit: Type II and beyond, easily. You can create a Dyson Sphere. You can also shield and cloak it completely.
    • Type II is late-game, sure... you can easily get up to Borderline Type III if you have too much time on your hands too, as simply building enough Dyson Spheres will qualify you for that. Then there's the Quantum Reactors, which... well, tap into limitless energy sources. Plus there's the tools to sculpt the systems like silly putty and tools that can prevent that sculpting from occurring in the first place.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Averted for Master Computer controlled ships. They function almost identically to crewed ships, only being susceptible to computer viruses instead of mind control.
  • Airborne Aircraft Carrier: While you can have carriers, they only launch fighters and then scurry away to the edge of the map. The fighters themselves can attack planets.
    • Large enough ships can be genuine Battlestars if you set their AI properly and outfit them with shields, armour and weapons. A truly viable tactic in the fifth game, where a dreadnought with a full bank of weapons and it's own fighter escort can be a terror: the dread trashes big ships (like other Dreadnoughts) whilst the fighters take out smaller ships like Escorts or Frigates and enemy bombers.
  • All Planets Are Earthlike: In the official artwork, only the Rocky Oxygen atmosphere planets fit.
  • Alien Invasion: Anytime anyone invades anyone else.
  • Alien Kudzu: Which infests an entire star system.
  • Antimatter: But of course.
  • Anti-Air: More like Anti Space. In SE3, units gave planets space capable weaponry. in 4, that purpose is served by weapon platforms.
  • Apocalypse How: Runs the gamut from Class 0 all the way to X-2. You don't just destroy stars, you can create black holes.
  • Arbitrary Maximum Range: Weapons have a maximum range that is baffling. Most direct-fire weapons just conk out and don't do decreasing amounts of damage the further they are from their target.
    • Averted by modifications in many cases.
    • And when not, usually hand-waved to some extent by "maximum viable range": that round CAN go much farther, but you have little hope of hitting the target either from decreasing accuracy or the target moving; doesn't explain why it's so hard to hit a planet...
  • Armor Is Useless: Averted. It's useful for soaking up damage pre-shields, and can have special effects such as restoring shield energy or regenerating damage. However...
  • Armor-Piercing Attack: Some weapons can skip armor, shields, or both.
  • Artificial Atmospheric Actions: The AI players will send random general messages to you. They'll exclaim surprise at how fast you're expanding, even if you're still on your homeworld and haven't done anything.
  • Artificial Stupidity: Malfador themselves don't recommend turning on the political AI minister, as it doesn't let you see outgoing messages. You could be declaring war all over the place and wouldn't know it until a few hundred ships start glassing your homeworld.
    • The stock A Is are pretty dumb, even with all sorts of boosters. This has lead to players creating their own "optimized" and finetuned A Is that are, quite frankly, terrifying for new players to meet, even on the easiest difficulties with no bonuses.
  • Artificial Gravity
  • Asteroid Miners: Automated.
  • Asteroid Thicket: They damage fighters and missiles in tactical combat, and some can damage ships in strategic movement.
  • Awesome Yet Practical: You can create a Dyson Sphere, but it takes massive amounts of time and resources. But when it's completed, boy is it sweet.
    • Once you have it up and running, those things have natural resource levels massively exceeding any conventional planet, even with resource output boosters and quality enhancements - which top out at about 150%. These things have a cap usually in the 300% to 500% range. That means all production for that resource (such as mineral mining facilities) have their output boosted by that amount. Yes. Each individual facility can have it's output tripled or more. And due to their size, these things pack on the order of a hundred individual facilities. Do the math.
  • Baby Planet: A mod adds miniature gas giants.
  • The Battlestar: Since ships are customizable, you can make any combo of weaponry and fighter hangars you see fit. You can even tow a starbase (or bring a baseship, rather) into battle!
  • Beam Spam
  • Big Dumb Object: Ringworlds and Dyson Spheres. Also possibly starbases, baseships and such.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: Airsurfing slugs, triple-helix DNA, energy beings...
  • Blue and Orange Morality: Don't even try to wrap your head around the AI's behaviour, it's just no use.
  • The Bridge: An essential component in designing starships. You can also put in an auxillary bridge.
  • Casual Interstellar Travel: At a high enough tech level, you can create wormholes for easy access to far-off systems.
  • Cloning Blues
  • Colony Drop
  • Command and Conquer Economy: You have to set production queues yourself, otherwise your citizens will just happily reproduce away.
  • Cyborg: A couple of the races.
  • Death From Above: Oh the myriad ways. Napalm, radiation bombs, plague bombs, smart missiles, death rays, all to rain down on a hapless world. Unless the planet is shielded.
  • Death World: Any planet which has an atmosphere your race can't breathe.
  • Deflector Shields
  • Depopulation Bomb: Neutron bombs. Wipe out the population without damaging the planet's conditions or facilities!
  • Design-It-Yourself Equipment: Starships and units. You'll need to, because there aren't any default designs.
  • Disintegrator Ray: The high energy weapons branch.
  • Drop Ship: How else can you get your troops in and conquer that world?
  • Dyson Sphere: Yes, you can make one. And their smaller cousins, ringworlds.
  • Earthshattering Kaboom: You can destroy planets and stars. You can even turn a star into a nebula or black hole.
    • And in an inversion, you can destroy black holes, clear out nebulae, create stars, and form a planet out of the chunks of asteroids left over from the kaboom. And they are instantly viable worlds ready for colonization, even if you blew them up just a month ago.
      • Don't like the type/atmosphere combo you got from reforming the planet? Blow it up again!
  • Easy Logistics: All you need for your ships are resupply depots, and for your troops and units, cargo holds.
    • The sequels are getting increasingly complex, however. In the third, ships lose supplies in a fixed rate, regardless of whether they move. In SE4, the concept of supplies is expanded - most things on a ship now cost some amount of supply to use, like weapons and engines. By the fifth game, weapons need ordnance that is separate from general ship supply.
  • The Empire: You, of course. And your competition.
  • Energy Absorption: Emissive armor absorbs weapons fire and radiates it harmlessly into space. Crystalline armor does much the same, except it sends the energy it absorbed into shields.
  • Energy Beings: The Eee.
  • Energy Weapon: The Energy Pulse and Energy beam weapon branches of the tech tree. Surprisingly, no Lasers, or at least things called Lasers outright.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: Averted. There is none whatsoever, and all interstellar travel is done through wormholes. However, since you can put a wormhole generator on a ship, you can technically have a jump drive.
  • The Federation: You can make either an eponymous Empire, a Federation, and everything in between. In SE5, a federation is a possible political system. But since the game operates under a Generican Empire system, you can call your Federation an Empire and have it be an Oligarchy, or whatever combination of terms you want.
  • Fish People
  • Fog of War: You can't see any ships, colonies, or the like in a system unless you have a physical presence there (like a ship, colony, or unit of your own). You can turn this off in the settings and have omnipresent view.
  • Game Breaking Bug: Space Empires V runs on a 3-D engine that is exceedingly dated nowadays. The reason why this is bad? If you aren't running the game with a Windows XP OS, the game drops to single digit FPS levels. This makes the game neigh unplayable and since the developers shut its doors its unlikely a official fix will ever be published.
  • Game Mod
  • Gang Up on the Human: This will happen if you grow too large. You can also set a game to have the AI behave like this by default.
  • Generican Empire
  • Genesis Effect: Yep, you can recreate planets that you've blown up.
  • Genre Shift: Starfury
  • Hive Mind: The Cryslonites from SE4.
  • Humanoid Aliens
  • Infinite Supplies: Bizarrely, you can build a base in the other end of the galaxy and it has infinite supplies. Ships do not, and may need refueling just puttering around one system. Eventually you get a perpetual energy source and resupply depots become obsolete.
  • ISO Standard Human Spaceship: The Terrans in 4 have a blue and white color scheme, and seem to be made up of pieced-together modules instead of solid rectangular blocks.
  • Kill Sat: You can fit a Wave Motion Gun in a satellite, if you like. Who said they had to be aimed at the planet they're orbiting? In fact, who said they had to orbit planets in the first place?
  • Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: Unless you have a mod that puts them in, they're few and far between.
  • Lensman Arms Race: Until you've researched the entire tech tree, you'll have to keep researching better and better weapons. Your enemies certainly will.
  • Lightning Gun: Introduced in the Organic Weapon tech tree in 4.
  • Little Green Man in a Can: The Praetorians.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: A viable strategy to overwhelm point defences. Interestingly enough, the ones that make the best out of this are planets, and can launch literally hundreds of missiles if they're filled to the brim with missile-packing weapon platforms.
  • Master Computer: They serve as AI for a ship, replacing its crew.
  • The Milky Way Is the Only Way: There are no other galaxies, or wormholes leading to them.
    • Justified in that warp points generally only take you a few dozen light years away. The most advanced warp point generators can still only make openings going a couple hundred or so light years away.
  • Mini-Mecha: Some of the ground troops.
  • Non-Entity General
  • Numbered Homeworld: Homeworld planets are not automatically renamed when players are placed, though you can rename yourself if you want.
  • Organic Technology
  • Our Wormholes Are Different: They provide instantaneous travel. And you can make your own, eventually.
  • Plant Person / Plant Aliens: The Organic Technology Racial Trait tends to be a staple of these. As for the races themselves, you get them to varying degrees.
  • Point Defenseless: Point Defense is actually the best defense against enemy fighters, missiles, and drones. If the opponent doesn't use any of those, then you can put in more shields and armor instead.
    • They become a bit more inportant in 4, where they are autotargeting and autofiring, and most other weapons can't harm missiles.
    • Dedicated point defense vessels are an efficient way of defeating fighter swarms and Macross Missile Massacres.
    • Might as well stick a couple on a Destroyer and up anyway, since they're among the smallest weapons out, and you'll almost certainly have to use the ships against someone who does use one of said weapons.
  • Portal Network: Both natural and artificial.
  • Precursors: Naturally, they left behind technology. Some of it is extremely advanced and cannot be ever traded to the other races once discovered. Other times you get something vaguely useful. Or something you already knew.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Jraenar's hat. They're also Reptilians.
  • Psychic Powers: The Psychic Technology Tree.
    • Mind Over Matter: They bash ships with telekinetic force. They can even make miniature psychokinetic black holes.
    • Brainwashed/MindControlDevice: The Allegiance Subverter weapon, which you can get with more research on the Psychic Weapons branch, basically brainwashes enemy ships into joining your empire. Using the Master Computer instead of an actual living crew prevents this.
  • Random Number God: Random events. They can range from something good (planet conditions spontaneously improve, a ship recieves a massive experience (and thus offense/defense) boost, etc.) to anything between a Class 0 to Class X-2: your star will explode in 20 turns.
  • Ramming Always Works: Ramming didn't even exist until SE4, and you need explosive warheads on the ship to actually do some damage.
    • On the other hand it can be incredibly broken in certain situations. Mods tend to adjust this so that the rammer takes much more damage than the victim.
  • Ringworld Planet
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: Apparently, you can pack a few billion people on a starship with the proper application of cargo tech.
  • Shattered World: In SE3, you can colonize the asteroids that remain from an Earthshattering Kaboom. Of course, you can create planets as well, and if you happen to do that on an inhabited asteroid field, whoops!
  • Shout-Out: Well-hidden one - In SE5, one of the distant-background nebulae looks suspiciously similar to a Federation insignia.
  • Spin-Off: Space Empires: Starfury, which is more like Privateer or Freelancer.
  • Starfish Aliens: Since hand-drawn artwork or 3d models can portray more than just Rubber Forehead Aliens, these are to be expected. They even come in actual starfish flavours, sometimes!
  • Star-Killing: You can blow up stars, turn them into nebulae, or collapse them into black holes.
  • Stealth in Space: You can cloak ships. You can cloak planets. You can cloak Dyson Spheres. You would think that a structure a hundred million miles across would be hard to hide, but no...
  • Tech Tree: More of a forest, really. Thankfully organized into neat categories, like Economics, Construction, Defense, Offense, and so on, but finding what you want can be Guide Dang It inducing sometimes.
  • Terraforming: In three years, you can turn that arid, desolate, or hostile world into the perfect planet for your citizens to enjoy.
    • Three years, at minimum. The maximum for atmospheric terraforming is around five years (fifty turns, in 4, ten turns to a year), and that's not connected to condition terraforming. Yes, your planet may be breathable now, but that doesn't mean the environment itself still isn't extremely inhospitable. Good conditions mean happy people and faster population growth. Bad conditions lower population growth and impact morale, sometimes significantly.
  • 2-D Space: Never truly escaped, even in the fifth game, though ground and space combat has a certain degree of it.
  • That's No Moon: With the appropriate techs unlocked, you can construct artificial planets.
  • Time Travel: The Temporal Technology Tree. You can't do time travel yourself, but a weapon can apparently send whatever it hits to the beginning of time.
  • Tractor Beam: And repulsor beams, too.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: Colony ships are rather defenseless, and will be destroyed by any random scout ship that flies by. They are, however, moderately bulky. Since the millions of colonists aboard are going to die anyway if the colony ship is attacked, why not set the colony ship's strategy to "kamikaze" and take out whoever attacked it as well?
  • Weather Control Machine: It improves the conditions of planets.
  • We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future: There are cloning vats that create clones solely for manual labor.
  • Wave Motion Gun: An actual component you can put on your ship. You can put several.
  • You Require More Vespene Gas: Minerals, Organics and Radioactives.