StarDrive: Let’s Get This Party Started…

Pew Pew! Woosh!
Pew Pew! Woosh!

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?

I Really Like the Cordrazine
I Really Like the Cordrazine

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.

This is What the Tutorial Looks Like...
This is What the Tutorial Looks Like…

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.

It's a Stealth Bomber! Or a Flagship.
It’s a Stealth Bomber! Or a Flagship.

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.

Go Science! Go!
Go Science! Go!

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.

Hi Space Bears!
Hi Space Bears!

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.

10 - Busy Colonies
Busy Little Colonies…

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. ;)

I Never Liked Bugs...
I Never Liked Bugs…

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.

I Like These Missile Things...
I Like These Missile Things…

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…

Oh Really? Bring It, Creepy!
Oh Really? Bring It, Creepy!

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!

Series Navigation *** StarDrive: Trust Me, Stuff DID Happen, I Just Don’t Have Pics to Back it Up… >>

24 comments on StarDrive: Let’s Get This Party Started…

  1. You see “Kilrathi”, I see “Bulrathi” from MoO :)

    Agree with everything in the review so far; I think this is a really good game but not a great one. Of course I have not gotten any further than you have in this review in any of my games so far, so I am waiting with great interest to the next installment!

    1. Yeah, so far the word I’d use for it is “solid”. It definitely gives a solid experience, which is better than other recent installments to the genre. ;)

    2. Yeah, I was gonna comment about the Bulrathi as well. I guess that Bulrathi + Kilrathi = Kulrathi, some kind of tiger-bears.

      I enjoyed reading this installment and look forward to part 2. I am assuming that you will cause me to put yet another new game into my overflowing queue.

  2. When I play a 4X game I want to control everything. I never set an AI to control my cities in Civ for example.
    I somehow want to like Stardrive, but it just doesn’t let me. It’s simply no fun to me at it’s current state.
    And that isn’t because of bugs, but because the game basically tells me to not play it.
    Example: You build your scout. It’s finished and you get no message. Then you send it out to a system you want to explore. At some point it arrives. You don’t get any message. And it does not explore the whole system. You try to make a route to explore each planet of the system – not possible only one planet at a time…god damnit, ok I just put scouts on Auto and don’t bother anymore.
    Basically the same with freighters…
    It feels like the “management” part of the game is reduced to check lists of what the scouts explored, to think what planets to colonize next, regardless of their position. Even the production of most of the planets is probably better off with the AI.
    And that’s not because the AI is so good, but because the feedback you get from the game amout the options is so bad.
    If you want to get some anomalies, you build troops, get zero information when they are ready. Then you launch them in space and can’t use them directly in space. You unpause and pause again and then set them on their wait until…you get no message that they arrive. You land and get the anormalies…no feedback, no fun. At least for me. Can’t even stand playing till big battles occur.

    1. Huh, those are all very valid concerns, no doubt. Didn’t even realize about the lack of feedback until you mentioned it. I’ll keep an eye out for that on my next go ’round. Have you played Distant Worlds at all?

      1. Let’s say that “I took a short look into it at a friend’s”. Didn’t play around with it more and half an hour or so and can’t judge it regarding to the feedback you get there. I’d probably check it out if there was a demo or buy it if it had a reasonable price. But they seem to have a “we only want your money if we get all of it”-policy :P
        You think it’s better there?

        1. I ask because in a lot of ways in Distant Worlds you have even less control. You don’t control the private sector at all, for example, so I was curious if you had a take on that.

          1. Having no control is better than having the option of poor control I’d say, even if it’s not my kind of game then.
            But what I mean is: In Civ you have control over the cities or you can give it to the AI. You know you can do a better job than the AI, so you do it yourself. In combat you just order your units to attack and the result is randomized. You have no control there and you don’t miss it.
            But in StarDrive you are teased at every corner that “you could do it better but we don’t give you the interface to do so with ease”. I mean in theory you could outperform the AI in stardrive. What you need to do is to press pause after each tick and manually check each system. This is when you play the best you could. Is it fun? Not so much.
            Other pausable Real Time strategy or tactics games have either notifications and/or a “log” and some options to “pause game if XYZ”. If stardrive added that, it would solve a lot of my issues with it.

            1. It sounds like your beef is less with control and more with feedback, which makes total sense. An emperor needs to know what’s going on in every corner of their empire. ;)

    1. Welcome to the comments Mezmorki, and thanks for the link. I looked on the Steam page and didn’t see it. Yeeeeeeeesh, they need to make this easier to find.

  3. Hey Brian,
    I’ve been waiting for your impressions on this one. This has been on my ‘watch’ list but, so far, I don’t think it’s going to make it to my ‘bought but too busy to play” list.
    I was curious on how it compares to Endless Space from the same publisher. ES was a solid if uninspired 4x that I enjoyed but didn’t love.

    1. Hey carllundstedt, welcome to the comments, and it’s not fair to compare it to ES since that one was turn based and crap. I’m initially enjoying this more than ES, however, if that helps.

      1. Actually that does help. The real weak point with ES (for me anyway) was the tactical clip shows. I was really grateful when they patched it to accept the battle cards and resolve but the game didn’t really hold my attention after a couple of play throughs.

        I think the real problem for me is that I’m not in the mood/market for a new 4x. I always think I am, but then I don’t play them as much as I used to.

        Keep up the great site.
        Carl

  4. Unfortunately, StarDrive is an unfinished product, despite the 3 years that the developer points out that he has been working on it. Perhaps in 3-6 months it will be worth buying, but not in its current state. The publisher of this game, Iceberg Interactive, has a history of allowing games to be released by developers before they are are ready for prime time. This is the same thing that happened with Endless Space, also published by Iceberg Interactive. It was released for sale on July 2012, but was not finished for general public consumption. Only now, 9 months after it release, is ES worth the $40 price tag ($30 + $10 to ship from Europe). StarDrive is suffering the same fate, thanks to the publisher. Again, if you are the type of consumer that simply expects a game to work when you buy it and expects a good value when spending your money on gaming entertainment, then pass on StarDrive…for now.

    1. You really hit the mark here. I’m noticing a major trend in nearly ALL publishers/developers releasing buggy/unfinished games well ahead of time. People should honestly be demanding their money back, and allowed to choose purchasing the game at a later time. Without taking a hit in the wallet, none of these companies will care that they have angry customers; I mean, they’re STILL customers.

      It’s time to send a message.

      1. Sadly I think there will always be a subset of gamers who either have to buy a game immediately upon release or pay for early access. While I’ve been guilty of both, now I almost always wait for a sale (unless it’s a space game, because I’m weak). ;) But yeah, that’ll always just be a constant, I think. :/

        1. I recently thought about this pre-purchase fever that’s taking place in the market. I think it gives people a greater sense of ownership in the game. I haven’t pre-purchased or kickstarted many games but each one I’ve done that with I’ve been very eager to promote once I’m convinced they’re not crap. I’ve also felt more invested to play that game and give it a greater share of my time.

          I think Joshua is correct in that we need to stop that, we’re reaping what we sow.

          1. I was just listening to the latest Three Moves Ahead podcast which talks about the very dangers of early access. I think the level of transparency is indeed awesome, but you’re right, the sense of entitlement has gotten noticeably worse.

        2. This has been a major pet peeve of mine since online content patching became possible (the point, I think, when games started releasing unfinished MUCH more often). We don’t suffer the same problem buying a new car that’s missing a muffler and battery, why does the tech world get a free pass?

          Keep it real, dude. There’s not enough honest reviewers anymore.

          1. Yeah, this has been a sad trend for years. I recall the days wherein if you wanted a patch, you had to get a floppy disk freaking mailed to you. Ahhh, simpler times. Post-release patching has indeed set a dangerous precedent. Thanks for the kind words, by the by. :)

Chime In!