Last week, I published my second look at the StarDrive beta, getting a good look at one of the later builds and seeing how well the game played. This is a game that I and many others have been excited about for a long time, with a successful Kickstarter campaign and a lengthy open beta, this one has been on people’s radar for a while. Now that it’s out, does it live up to the hype? This series of articles that will constitute the game’s review will hope to answer that.
The question I have for myself is…will this 4X been good enough to dethrone my current favorite, Distant Worlds? ;) That said, we’ll also look at the game on its own merits to see if it’s worth your time. Now, with that said, let’s dive in and see, shall we?
For this review, I began a whole new game using the release version (1.07B), and checked out the tutorial menu as if I was new to the game. The tutorial has been changed, it’s a series of static images with text that are both less wordy than the help files but more streamlined. They felt both less informative and moreso at the same time, hard to explain really.
Anyway, I checked and there’s still no manual with the game, so these tutorials and the in-game help as discussed in the previews are all new players get. Honestly, I’m not thrilled with this, as I’m concerned new players will be thrown into the fire somewhat unprepared. Correction, there is a manual, I just suck at finding it. Thanks to reader Mezmorki for pointing it out. I’ll take a gander at it and talk about it in the next installment.
Moving on from the weird documentation sitch, I chose to play a whole new game, and chose my so-far favorite race, the Cordrazine. I think it’s because I like their space owl things. Also they were funny in the games whenever I wasn’t playing them. I kept their racial traits the same (though I like how you can tweak them like you would in a role-playing game, which positives subtracting points and negatives adding points to your pool). As you can see, the Cordrazine have a decent amount of negatives, but some fun positives like “Efficient” and “Skilled Engineers”, which are a good time. With that, I jumped into the game proper.
I like having room to grow, so I set this galaxy up to be large, with seven opponents and normal difficulty. That way it’ll start to get cramped but not tooooooo soon, you know? :) Once I was in the game, I set my scout off to explore the galaxy and kept my flagship and colony ship around my homeworld. I turned on every option for the AI since I didn’t wanna deal with building freighters and crap (new colonies need help with production and food, so freighters can export extra production and food from your homeworld to new colonies to help them grow). Eventually I built a new colony on Mephistionerul I (lordy lord I hope I spelled that right) and set the AI to build a “core” world so it would focus on a balanced building queue. I then queued up a ton of research, such as power cells, reaction drives, corvette hulls and so on, and told them dang scientists to get to work.
Again, based on the beta at least, research trees appear to be the same from race to race, which is fine I guess, since different traits cause faster or slower research, but I would hope for a little more racial variety. That said, research in the game is a good time, as improvements feel a bit more realistic (i.e. 20% boost to maneuverability and sub-light speed for new engines, for example) rather than simple +1 to missile power, for example. The improvements are immediate and empire-wide, which is a nice streamlined feature compared to other games.
Eventually I met my first other race, the Kulrathi. Now I’m gonna be honest, every time I see “Kulrathi” I giggle because it’s only one dang letter away from “Kilrathi”. I know one is bears (Samurai bears!) and one is cats but still, c’mon, change more letters in the race name, dangit. ;) That said, they were pretty nice, agreeing to a non-aggression pact straight away. This is good because I didn’t have much of a military as of yet. There were some enemy Xenos in my first colonized system, Mephistopheles (or whatever, you try and type it), but they never attacked the colony nor the freighters that kept jumping in and out of the system. They seemed perfectly content to just sit there and look menacing, keeping three little red exclamation marks on my map at all times (for recently spotted hostiles). I thought it was a bit weird that they never reacted to our nearby movements into their territory, but whatevs, it gave me time to build a bit.
At this point I had three colonies (the AI colonized Baphos I all on its own! Good AI! *pat pat*) and set ’em to automated so they’d deal with things they own self. They seemed to be doing a fairly responsible job of both doing their own thing and reacting to my demands (I need that fleet NOW dangit). Setting the colonies to “core” AI and the homeworld to “research” kept production, money and research all flowing well-enough that I didn’t even think to change my tax rate, which was nice. Eventually more research and diplomacy happened. I met the Pollops, the Ryleh Devoted and the Draylock, who all agreed to non-aggression pacts. The Kulrathi even offered me an open-boarders treaty, which I totally agreed to. It’s nice being liked. ;)
Then we met the Opteris, who didn’t take to our non-aggression pact suggestion at all. That wasn’t fun, but no time for them, there’s Xenos to deal with so I can colonize that planet they’re guarding near my other colony in Methlabopolis (whatever). Once I finally had the corvette hull available, as well as missile technology, I built a missile-based corvette to go along with the gun-based model revealed once the technology was researched (researching a new hull gives you a design or two to start off with). I therefore made a new fleet of combined fighters, corvettes and my flagship, and set off to deal with the Xenos scum.
Around the planet in question were some heavy probes and smaller fighters. My fleet of maybe a dozen or so ships took care of the enemy Xenos fleet in short order, leaving us a nice terran planet to colonize without fear of any reprisal. I then sent my fleet home to rearm and refuel when this happened…
The Opteris kinda-sorta threatened us? Whuuuuuuuut? We didn’t do a dang thing to them, but fine, FINE. You wanna be that way, you ugly bug-looking things? Fine, let’s build another fleet or two to handle whatever you’re cooking up. This is where I’ll leave you for now…wondering if the Opteris will attack, and if I’ll be ready for it. ;)
Overall, I had a fun time with this first session of the release version of StarDrive (wow, that’s a sentence for ya…). The biggest downside was that there were several periods of basically nothing to do. I mean sure I had the AI set on all over the place, but that doesn’t mean I should just sit there twiddling my thumbs, does it? Wait, I’m being told it does, nevermind. ;) Next time I’ll turn the AI off and see if it feels more interactive, but I gotta tell ya, even with the AI on in Distant Worlds, I thought there was plenty to do. The universe doesn’t feel as alive in this game, sadly, but maybe that’s not what the game is going for.
Anyway, tune in next time to see what happens to the peace-loving-yet-don’t-mess-with-us Cordrazine (no, it’s not a skin cream, dangit), and until then, please enjoy the screenshots I took for this entry below. Thanks for reading, and have an awesome day!