2014 Holiday Space Game Buying Guide: Complete Experience Edition

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16 Responses

  1. gs says:

    Just wanted to say – THANKS for the round-up. With so many games out there it is difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff.
    I find it remarkable/interesting/depressing that so many of your top picks are over 10 years old. Unfortunately I can’t disagree, I still get a (big) kick out of playing MOO2, and MOM.

    • Brian Rubin says:

      Hey gs, welcome to the comments, and I’m glad you found the list useful. Yeah, the sad thing is there was a huge gap in both games and the quality of space games we had for around a decade. While the original Space Rangers 1 and 2 fit in the middle of that gap, there was little else to keep us going, so I agree it’s a bit weird/depressing.

  2. Dennis says:

    Great job, Brian. I’ll be looking for some of these during the Steam winter sale.

  3. Space_Enthusiast says:

    So, you would recommend Evochron Mercenary over Starwraith’s newest game, Arvoch Alliance? It’s hard to get much information on either.

    I would disagree on a couple points though. With the new titans, yeah, Sins ships look amazing, but the combat isn’t much to see. Except for 3 new units and strike craft, ships mostly stay still like dueling partners; not exactly naval battles in space. If Empire At War ground combat seems dull, I’d recommend playing with a friend. The way teams share upgrades and resources is a fun dynamic I thought.

    Also curious on your opinions of the other Sword of the Stars games(The Pit and Ground Pounders), since you’re a fan. Would you still recommend against SotS2, even after all the patches?

    • Brian Rubin says:

      Hey Space_Enthusiast, lemme answer your questions one by one!

      Arvoch Alliance is more along the Wing Commander style linear militaristic combat sims, rather than an open trading and combat sim like Evochron. Evochron is also the better game, I think.

      I’ve played a bit of both The Pit and Ground Pounders, and I enjoy them both. I’ve not touch Ground Pounders in a long time, shortly after their IndieGoGo campaign ended, so I should revisit it, but it definitely had a fun Panzer/Star General vibe to it.

  4. mezmorki says:

    So many 4X games have been released over the past few years, almost all of them have been tough sells.

    For the life of me I can’t penetrate Distant Worlds – despite trying over and over. In part it’s the UI, in part it’s the issue that I DON’T want to have to relegate swaths of my empire to automation. I can see the appeal among people wanting an-ultra detailed simulation of galactic empires with all the bells and whistles, but as a playable GAME it comes up short for me.

    I’ll mention two other space 4X games in its place:

    Endless Space – A game I have some issues with (fleet management, weird AI behavior, star lanes to name a new) – but is otherwise one of the more complete and polished 4X games in recent memory. The UI and visuals are stunning, there world is reasonably alive, and the strategic gameplay is pretty good.

    Armada 2526 Supernova – Totally under most people’s radar and written off for having cumbersome real-time tactical battles (seriously, just ignore that and use auto-resolve) and a lack of ship and race customization. However, as a STRATEGY game that requires players to make some tough choices in how to manage their empire, it’s the best among the last decade worth of space empire games, IMHO.

    I suppose some people would say GalCiv2 deserves a nod – I never had much love for that series.

    Lastly – if you have an iOS unit – Starbase Orion deserves a mention. It’s about 90% of the way to being a MoO2 replica, but with a modern interface and plenty of other bells and whistles. This one IS the best 4X space game I’ve played in the past decade – and it’s a mobile game. Imagine that.

    • Brian Rubin says:

      Sounds like I need to give Armada 2526 a fair shake. I have it, but I’ve not touched it yet because the reviews were so middling.

      I so wish Starbase Orion would come to Android.

      • mezmorki says:

        Just because, below is a ‘mini’ review I’ve posted in various places as I (mostly pointlessly) advocate on behalf of Armada 2526’s merits (with the supernova expansion / gold edition! You need the expansion!).

        ————————————————————-

        * Very cool trade mechanics in the game. Rare resources (anti-matter, rare minerals, etc.) and galactic wonders (e.g. tourist traps!) provide opportunities to establish port facilities that allow goods to be imported or exported to your other worlds OR to other worlds where you have established a trade mission (e.g. with other empires). Visually the trade routes look really cool.

        * Research system is really interesting, allowing you balance the degree of specialization vs. generality in your research across 9 different research fields. It works well and makes for some legitimately interesting choices in the game.

        The technologies themselves are all pretty awesome – very few are of the incremental +X% nature – they almost all add new strategic capabilities to your empire. For example, the hyperspace tech branch focuses on fast ship designs and technologies that allow you detect and traverse wormholes. The biotech branch focuses on terraforming but also biotech weaponry. The information tree gives you cool navigation abilities – the ability to change orders midflight, or even to send fleets to deep space, awesome for creating picket lines to intercept enemy fleets.

        * I “Love” the information war side of the game (and the associated technologies). Building stronger levels of sensors + detection and building stronger levels of stealth technology is a constant arms race. But very cool. Add to that the ability to infiltrate special forces and spies into enemy empires and it makes for a cool game.

        * Diplomacy is handled quite well – and I think the options you have for treaties and the like are more robust than most other 4x games I’ve seen.

        * The game lacks ship customization – but I’m totally fine with this, in fact I’m growing to prefer it. There are still probably 40-50 different types of ships in the game – so there is more than enough diversity to keep things interesting.

        * I was initially quite skeptical of the combat, which is real-time. But I’ve had a few revelations about it that makes me enjoy it much more. First, you can always auto-resolve, which is fine for many battles. When you manually control the fight, the key is that you are supposed to PAUSE the fight periodically to issue new orders and inspect the various units on either side. It’s really hard to assign orders in real-time (a bit clunky interface).

        What is really cool (if graphically a little ugly) is that the combat includes space combat and ground combat all working at the same time. You’ll use assault shuttles to drop storm troopers, tanks, and the like (or use your infiltrated special forces!) to start attacking the ground defense systems while the space war rages overhead. Pretty cool.

        * The economy isn’t terribly complex – bit it works. One thing I really like is how construction projects work. Colonies have a main building that you use to build other building (shipyards, research centers, etc.). You can construct more of these main buildings if you want. But you can also construct multiple shipyards within a colony. So when you get that awesome rich system – you can fill it with shipyards to crank out ships. The game largely avoids having all kinds of finicky bonuses and modifiers to the game – which keeps you focused on the big picture. I really like that. It’s the opposite of endless space in that regard. All the buildings you construct serve a very clear and focused purpose, and the amount of buildings you can make is linked to the systems total population. You always have tough choices on what to construct.

        * My only major gripe is that the interface is a little clumsy “at first” – but after having played a few games and learning the in’s and out’s – it’s pretty straightforward and does the job.

        * Victory is based on either setting a turn limit and competing for highest score (and each race scores in different ways), or ignoring the turn limit and playing for domination. Not the most original – but it works.

  5. Brian Rubin says:

    Hey kids, I didn’t expect this one to go on sale, but Starships Unlimited is an exceptional value at $9.99 right now.

    http://www.matrixgames.com/products/316/details/Starships.Unlimited.v3

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