By the time the Dolphins on Earth invent Jazz, their progress is nigh unstoppable. They race through the digital age into the space age and hurtle into the singularity like it's nothing. They've begun sending ships out into the universe, looking for intelligent life in space. They don't know about the race of sentient plants not too far away from them that I've been guiding, trying to keep them alive long enough to meet the Dolphins and hear their music.
The Fermi Paradox is a new game in early access on Steam where you play as a sort of distant god, helping developing civilizations as they go from primitive tribes to complex, technological societies that travel across the universe. The level of intervention is pretty limited. As time constantly flows in The Fermi Paradox, you pick up Synthesis, the currency you need to influence civilizations. Sometimes when you pick up Synthesis, it will gently influence the morals of one of the races you're guiding. When you pick up Synthesis that has the symbol related to scientific development and a plus sign, that race's technological progress speeds up a little. If it has the nature symbol and a minus, then that race depletes the natural resources of that planet just a little bit more. These stats represent the core values of these races, and they're judged on things like how much they value scientific progress, how utopian or dystopian their society is, as well as their potential for destruction if they ever get into an armed conflict.
Sometimes, time will pause to alert you to a choice you need to make about one of the civilizations developing on one of the planets you're watching drift through space. Will the race of sentient plants become a warlike race, or will they embrace pacifism and create a religion that reveres wisdom? Will the birdlike Kaar become fascist conquerors, or can you guide them into an age of peace? Once you've influenced a race enough, getting them to go against the core will cost more and more Synthesis. In the case of the Kaar, after a certain point getting them to embrace peace was too big of an ask. They got into a war over their depleted resources and went extinct—their ability to destroy was too great.
The goal of The Fermi Paradox is to have enough civilizations survive to the point that they can contact each other. I haven't yet reached that point. Although the game feels pretty bare bones in its early access state, which has some temporary art and not a lot of variety in its choices so far, I still feel like The Fermi Paradox already has the kind of web of complexity that's appealing in a game like Crusader Kings III. In Crusader Kings, I'm also gently nudging history by influencing the lives of a single leader. The Fermi Paradox doesn't have the same level of detail and control as you do over the lives of your leader, but the small touches in this game make you think about what it would be like to live among the races you guide. Now, whenever I visit the Dolphins on Earth, a jazzy leitmotif plays. The Dolphin Jazz Age became an integral art movement, and the image of a Dolphin playing the saxophone just tickles me.
The Fermi Paradox is already a fascinating game in Early Access, and I hope it will continue to be as the developers continue to add art and more storylines to the game. The updates I'm anticipating most are changes to the UI to make it slightly more clear what actions you're taking as a player and how they influence the universe. That, and a little more Dolphin Jazz.