“What time is it?” I ask myself.
“18:00 hours Sir” I reply, escalating the gravitas to a more respectful tone.
“ETA of Victoria Sponge?” I say, remembering I have named all my fleets after desserts again. Sigh.
“07:43 Tuesday, Sir. The fleet is en-route via a few systems.”
“Time until they breach Yellow’s scan range?”
“Roughly two hours. Sir, it seems their scanner tech has rapidly increased again.” Damn! I pound the arm of my chair, dramatically spilling my Coke Zero.
“Email Blue, try to bargain some weapons tech. Reconvene here at 20:00”
Here we see Jam Rolly-Polly advancing on Chocolate Brownie...
Neptune’s Pride is a free to play, browser-based 4X strategy game skinned back to it’s purest form. It’s multiplayer only and you play it in real time. It’s the most horrible game you will ever play; methodically turning you against friends, depriving you of sleep, and giving every conversation you have with fellow players an agenda. It will make you talk to yourself. It is brilliant.
4X games have been around for a long time, running off the familiar ‘explore, exploit, exterminate, expand’ mantra, but Neptune reduces this formula even more – down to the hard maths. Looking down at your starmap, there are only fleets and systems. Fleets are characterised by their weapon tech, scan range and travel capabilities, which can be enhanced by capturing systems and harvesting their resources. More resources; more, better ships for you to conquer more systems with. That’s it.
It might sound too simple, but when you remind yourself that it’s multiplayer only and played in real-time then you start to get a sense for the immense depth and scale it offers. A game of Neptune’s Pride takes, on average, a month – a real world month – And it never stops playing. It’s glacial even in comparison to the likes of Sins of a Solar Empire. In the early days you can spend days just waiting for your first orders to run their course. This isn’t like in those all-too-common free to play web games where you’re waiting for a building’s complete timer to tick down; this is sending fleets towards enemies' system and watching them crawl across the galaxy.
And once a fleet has started on its way, you can’t stop it or change your mind. You’re committed.
Neptune's Pride looks boring, but it's still the most dangerous game ever made
“Sir, scanners have picked up an inbound fleet approaching the Miram system”
“Never mind that, Yellow has no idea how many ships we have in orbit there,” I say, sipping tea.
“Err...yes, no, Sir, this fleet is Blues. And it’s big.” I spurt tea all over the screen.
“Blue? The bastard, I guess I’m not getting paid for that weapon tech then. How many ships?”
“Three hundred, sir.” Another spurt of tea leaves my monitor steaming.
“Eight hours” I calmly remove the tea from my desk, just to be safe.
“Do we have any fleets close by?”
“We have Rhubarb Crumble in the Blamet system, which is two hundred ships strong - but it would take fifteen hours to arrive, Sir.”
“Self, take an email. Dear Blue. Up yours. Regards, Red.”