In a departure from previous Space Empires games, players control a single spaceship as opposed to a fleet. Gameplay involves travelling between planets, accepting missions and upgrading the spaceship with new weapons. The game features three dimensional graphics, but movement is restricted to two dimensions.
Space Empires: Starfury is the first game developed by Malfador Machinations to use three dimensional graphics. The game was initially planned as the combat engine for Space Empires V, but it was decided that it was not "deep" enough for that purpose. Instead, the game evolved into a single-ship game based in the Space Empires universe.