iPad Game Review: Eclipse: New Dawn For The Galaxy for iPad Review
Reviewed by Tom Slayton
Eclipse is an iPad adaptation of a popular board game of the same name. In spite of its board game roots, it plays much more like a traditional 4X game than what you'd expect thanks to the iPad taking care of all the stats, counters, chits, markers, and details that usually make board games like this inaccessible to all but the most hardcore gamers.
As you'd expect with a strategic game set in outer space, Eclipse puts you in the role of a human or alien race whose goal it is to eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate (hence the term: "4X"). If you were to play the physical board game, you would have to keep track of a dizzying number of game pieces, markers, and tiles; and you would, of course, need other players to do it with as they still haven't figured out a way to include an AI in cardboard form. Thankfully, we have Big Daddy's Creations, who has seen fit to adapt this amazing game to the iPad. While they could have simply recreated the board game experience in electronic form, they chose instead to use all the graphics, rules, and features of Eclipse to create what feels like a more traditional 4X strategy game thanks to a fantastic interface, slick yet subtle animation, and a herculean effort to hide mundane things like dice rolls neatly behind the curtain. The result is a much more focused experience than other 4X games and a much more grand strategy experience than other board games.
Eclipse features all the usual trappings you'd expect from a strategy game like this. You will explore new worlds, encounter ancient alien technology, design/build ships, battle up to six other players (or a capable AI), manage your economy, and engage in diplomacy. What sets it apart, however, is how neat and tidy it all is. You will never feel overwhelmed or lost, thanks both to the meticulously designed interface and a limited set of options each turn. As good as Eclipse is, a game like this is made or broken on its multiplayer implementation. Thankfully, this is as good as the rest of the game. Eclipse features pass and play and (wait for it...) asynchronous online play. Thanks to its popularity, there are plenty of opponents to be found in the game's matching service or lobby, and Eclipse even supports private games if you don't feel up to playing against a stranger.
Eclipse is a beautiful game. The graphics are tight, colorful, and pleasantly animated. This may be a board game adaptation, but there is nothing static about the visuals. You won't see 3D enhanced explosions or cutscenes in Eclipse, but this is a good thing, as Hollywood style graphics would be jarring and out of place in a game as clean and crisp as Eclipse.
The sound effects of Eclipse are functional and understated, but professionally done, and complement the mood and style of the game nicely. The soundtrack is a quiet techno track that also fits well, although, I ended up turning it down as I do with most in-game music.
In-App Purchases (IAPs)
There are no IAPs in Eclipse.
Eclipse is a board game adaptation that is so well done you will forget you are playing a board game. At the same time, however, it dodges all of the foibles usually present in strategic space games such as overwhelming scope and mind-blistering game duration. Eclipse is a game that walks that elusive line between two genres so well, that it almost creates a new one. It's a fantastic game in every respect, and will reside on my iPad for a very long time.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 5 - crisp, clean high-resolution graphics and interface. Sound: - 5 - The effects may be simple and sparse, but they are perfect for this type of game, and have a nice polished sound to them. Controls: - 5 - Intuitive interface that feels like the product of painstaking effort and passion. Gameplay: - 5 - The best of a board game and the best of a 4X game.
Playing Hints and Tips:
Start with a peaceful AI. This will allow you to learn the game without worrying about anybody attacking you. Don't hang your hopes on the tutorial to teach you the nuances of the game. Play through it once, but because of the limited options available to you each turn, you will learn more and by tinkering on your own with peaceful AI opponents.