Having found a 'cure' for ageing, mankind faced the looming threat of overpopulating Earth. To prevent this, humans have set off into space to explore different solar systems and build new settlements. In Beyond Sol your mission is exactly that. You are sent to a place called the Rim, the furthest reaches into space that man has reached. On the Rim, you'll explore, gather and build whilst fighting enemies and forging alliances.
Separately, these things may not sound new or interesting. Yet the fact it's all crammed together in one game makes Beyond Sol quite a refreshing experience. One moment you'll be managing a city, the next you'll be in control of your own flagship leading your fleet towards victory. Another appealing aspect is that Beyond Sol is set in space. The simple act of gathering materials is a treat due to the beautiful scenery and equally enjoyable ambient soundtrack. But don't get too relaxed on your flights as space pirates patrol the region.
You start Beyond Sol with one spaceship which you control directly. You'll be flying around a lot - gathering, exploring, and interacting with the world around you. You can upgrade your ship and get a fleet to accompany you on your travels. You can't directly control the ships in your fleet, just your own flagship. You can however buy different flagships to control, each with their own strong and weak points.
After you have established a command centre, it's your task to make it grow into a thriving city. Right from the beginning you will see pretty much all the buildings that are available for construction that you can expand your city with. Each building provides different benefits to your city and can be upgraded to increase said benefits. You can also build outposts outside your settlement, for example a radar to warn you from incoming threats. However, outposts come with the risk of having to fly back and forth a lot to fend off enemies.
Another important aspect to keep an eye on is the economy - in Beyond Sol you do not only gather materials to expand your own city with, you can also trade with other cities. Flooding the market with materials will make the prices drop, whereas carefully picking what you sell and who you sell it to can make you rich.
When encountering space pirates, or any other hostile threat, you must engage in combat. Unfortunately the battles aren't overly exciting; you simply click the target and press one of two available attacks, both of which have a short cooldown. After a while, we found combat to be boring and would avoid it by using our fast-jet ability to escape.
As you're playing notifications will come up to tell you what is happening around you. Messages will vary, from notifications about a comet with valuable resources detected close-by, to a fleet under attack crying out for help. You can choose to fast-travel to these places, or ignore the messages. These notifications are not scarce, meaning you won't have the feeling you're aimlessly flying around as there is plenty going on. You will also be kept up-to-date about which cities are at war or have made amends with each other.
In Beyond Sol there are three ways to win to become master of the solar system: economic victory, military victory, or diplomatic victory. Choosing the economic path, your main goal will be to make your city the biggest, and you'll focus on the finances. A military path asks for the strongest fleet and successfully conquering enemies, whereas a diplomatic path means forging peaceful alliances. Standard fare for this sort of game. As you are working towards which ever goal you have picked, neighbouring AI cities will be working towards theirs. When it unfolds which of the three goals other cities have picked, it's up to you to decide which type of diplomatic relations you develop with each city. The only faction you can't get friendly with are the space pirates.
Apart from the constant expanding, exploiting, or exterminating, you'll find yourself carefully calculating your every move. Forging an alliance with one city may worsen your reputation with another. Selling too many materials may mean flooding the market and prices to dramatically drop. Defeat can sometimes be completely out of your hands: a strong neighbour may decide they simply don't like you and declare war, demolishing your city beyond repair. Therefore the game can be harsh, sometimes unforgivably so seeing as though you can't save at any given point and reload for a do-over. If, however, you do manage to win despite the difficulty, victory tastes all the sweeter.
In multiplayer you'll get the opportunity to play with others, be that cooperative or competitively. You have the option to carry your ship progression across single- and multiplayer, allowing you to easily drop in and out of the game. If you decide to only play in single-player, the AI is responsive and intelligent enough to entertain you - no two games are the same.
If we could change one thing about Beyond Sol, it would be to have more options to customise the look of your city and fleet so that it doesn't look exactly the same every time. There isn't much visual diversity. We also didn't find the menus easy to navigate at first and struggled with the interface, but we got used to it over time. A combat system that would make battle a bit more engaging would be welcome too. We would have also added more music to game, simply because we found stargazing to nice background music almost as enjoyable as the game itself.
All things considered, Beyond Sol provides a good mixture of building, strategy and adventure - if you like any or all three of those, it's worth a look.