So with me, previews are typically a one-hit wonder. Play a game for a while, write my impressions, and move on while I wait for the final version. However, with Drox Operative, something different happened. I just could NOT. STOP. PLAYING IT. Even with my (admittedly few) issues with the game, I found it so addictive and compelling that the other games I should have focused upon sat there unplayed while I kept improving my ship and saving sectors in Drox.
I began to feel guilty — not guilty enough to stop playing, however — but enough to blog about it so folks wouldn’t wonder where the hell I had gone to. Well, in that blog, Istvan suggested I write up another entry on the game, which seems so BRILLIANT in its simplicity that I feel silly for not thinking of it myself. The game has received several patches since my last article — this article is based on changes up to 0.905 — and my ship has improved dramatically, so let me now take you back to the universe of Drox Operative to see what’s improved and what hasn’t…
Edit: As I was writing this, Soldak released ANOTHER PATCH to the game. Wowie. I’ve not had a chance to try it, of course, but I just wanted to note that my comments below don’t reflect changes found in this latest patch, 0.906.
Let’s first talk about some of the larger changes the game has seen since we last spent time in its universe, both positive and negative. The first major one is now when you choose a specific race, you’re allowed race-specific enhancements. For example, I’m a Drakk in my game — sorry, haven’t tried any other races, too attached to my character at the moment — and I now have an extra slot for a Drakk crewmember — which I happened to have — and a fighter bay, which I’d never used before. Fighters are fun times, even if their energy requirements are a bit on the high side.
The next major change, to me, is the presentation of the trade screen. Whereas in my original game, it was more difficult to differentiate between light, medium and heavy items, as well as which items might be more rare and therefore more useful, now it’s all much easier to see at a glance. Items and slots are better color coded to be much easier to spot (at least it feels easier to me), and now have small colored pips which denote whether an items is normal, uncommon, rare, an artifact and so on. There are now also green plus symbols to denote an item is better than the one you have, but this seems a bit odd, as an item might have a green plus for being better in only one stat. Regardless, it’s a definite improvement.
The final big change, to me, is the change of victory conditions. Previously in the game, when you had all of the races ally with each other and with you, the sector was declared won and you could move onto the next one. This is how I left the game one night. Imagine my shock and dismay upon discovering when, upon applying the next patch, that the sector was no longer won, and I couldn’t move forward. This was due to a change in which a sector could only be won if you were allied with the last remaining race. This was an insanely frustrating development, and I just felt so…jolted by it that I started a whole new sector as a result. While this game is a work-in-progress, I am hoping that multiple, flexible victory conditions are added which can be chosen before a game begins, as in most typical 4X games. Having only one victory condition wouldn’t result in too many replays of a 4X game, and I hate to say it, but the same is likely true here.
There are tons of other, small changes to things like energy usage and so on, but I’m not going to dwell on that sort of minutae, I’m now going to talk about how Drox Operative plays with all of these new changes. After I switched to a new sector, I found the game felt much, MUCH more lively than it had before, which was one of my few complaints in the last article. In the new sector, I was inundated with quests from multiple races, including everything from wiping out growing space monster hordes to destroying incoming comets to finding stolen plans and so on. This made the game feel MUCH more varied and alive, and I was VERY busy jumping from system to system finishing quests. This totally upped my fun factor, as did my new ship. ;)
It seems as if the population of space monsters also increased, as now the battles I’m in are more frequent as well as larger in scale. The enemies are becoming more varied as I go on as well, some of them deploying mines of their own (oh how I still love using mines) as well as fighters and other more advanced defenses. I’ve gotten much more used to using the shield, energy and hull buffs throughout combat just to stay alive, which again totally adds to the excitement.
Thanks to my new racial bonus, I now can have a fighter bay as well. I’d never used these before — didn’t want to sacrifice a heavy slot for one — so I was surprised at how much fun they are. Sure they have a pretty high energy use, but watching them follow you around and then attack your enemies as they swarm around is really a sight to behold. I’m still getting used to using them since they’re so new, but overall I’m finding them to be a great asset.
I could go on and on, but by now you’re likely wondering if I still think this game is as awesome as I did in my first preview, or if it’s better or worse, and if it’s worth your hard earned cash. First off, for the most part, this game is even more awesome than it was when I first began playing it. The Soldak folks are VERY good about listening to suggestions and bug fixes, and as you can see just from the changes in the patches alone, they’re working very hard to improve this game for it’s 1.0 release.
I think ultimately it’s a better game than it was when I first began playing it, with the caveat of the narrowing of the victory conditions — which could be fixed, and hopefully will be. The additions of race bonuses, more efficient energy usage, better shopping options and so on are going a long way from not only improving the game, but making it more accessible to new players as well, I think. While there’s still likely an early-game slump — I don’t know, I’ve not tried a new character yet — the universe feels much more lively than it did when I began, so I’m hoping that’s true for new characters as well.
Finally, I think this game is as worthwhile to receive your hard earned dollar as I did when writing the original preview. There is a TON of gameplay here, and if the game keeps improving at the rate it’s been, it’ll just continue to get better and better before it’s released, which is when the price goes up as well. If you have any interest in this type of game, whether from the 4X element or the ARPG element, this game is totally worth the $15 they’re asking for it at the moment.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this second look at Drox Operative, and now have a better understanding as to why I can’t stop playing the dang thing. It really, REALLY is that good. In closing, I thank you for visiting and for reading, and please enjoy the gallery of all the screenshots I took below. Have a great day!