Do you have a hankering for domination? Is one world not enough? Do you fear incursions by hostile alien forces? Do you enjoy building your own star-ships or doomsday super-lasers? Then you might want to see a therapist because you may have had a psychotic break after that 12 hour Firefly marathon. However, if you are not currently being treated for wearing a tinfoil hat maybe you are just the right type of person who might be thinking of checking out StarDrive 2, a turn-based strategy game currently for sale on Steam.
This successor to the original StarDrive is all about using your economy, military, diplomacy, intelligence, or science to try and dominate the galaxy at large. Being a turn-based strategy game, we already know that StarDrive 2 will not be for everybody. It takes a lot of hours and a lot of micro-managing to really get the full enjoyment out of the game and that’s not everyone’s bag, but that’s cool. Some people play video games turn off their brain, however, we here at The NYRD -well except for Todd- are avid fans of clunky customization TBS games, and if there is one you can say about StarDrive 2, it can be clunky.
There is a lot going on and a lot to oversee, which as we said, is a plus or minus based upon your gaming desires. However, it also seems as if StarDrive 2 sometimes has an unfinished quality. The galactic map is beautiful, if not a little annoying to navigate, especially when your empire really begins to expand. Even the star-ship battles, despite the fact that they take place on a 2D plain -we guess someone hasn’t seen Wrath of Khan– are still very fun and engaging. The land battles however are pretty straightforward and their graphics are far below those of the rest of the game. Also load times seem longer than they should be, and the game has a tendency to lag, especially in ground combat. When you are given a mission the text display is often painstakingly slow, but for some of the instances you can at least click to get the full paragraph without having to watch as each word gets spelled out in front of you. However, the studio, Zero Sum Games, has been working hard to fix all those bugs and we applaud their efforts. More importantly, for all the flaws there are a lot of upsides.
What we enjoyed the most was that StarDrive 2 is almost as customizable as you want. You can rearrange the traits of starting races, you can rename planets and ships, and you can even redesign the specifications of those ships. This allows any-would-Admiral-Ackbar to create new roles and strategies, based upon how you build your fighters, corvettes, battleships, etc. Our biggest complaint is the fact that you cannot rename any of the star systems, which is a minor flaw, but when you are making the galactic civilization equivalent of the Seven Kingdoms, it would really help to keep you in the moment if you could be allowed to rename an entire star system to “Dorn,” or “The North,” but we are digressing… Seriously though, All we’re saying is that Emperor Robert Baratheon ruling from the planet of King’s Landing, should be situated in the star system of The Crownlands, not Sol… Okay, we’re done.
Another thing we enjoyed about playing this game was some of the tongue-in-cheek jokes that you find along the way. Admittedly, the stupid robot anchorman for the Galactic News Network got old fast as it kept popping up to interrupt our game-play. However, the parody references to Star Trek, Futurama, Mad Max, Rambo, and others of our favorite properties did not go unmissed or unappreciated. Even better, each anomaly, hired hero, or random event comes with a story line you can choose to pursue. Doing so not only gives the universe a real personality, but often results in some sort of scientific, economical, or military boon to your civilization. Unfortunately, those events do not randomize from game to game, so once you complete them once, you always know what to expect.
Lastly, the AI of other galactic civilizations is a mixed bag. Each civilization has its own personality and interacts with you in different ways by using different strategies, however they are not really that different. Besides a few minor things, each AI player still follows the same path of making demands, and -no matter how unreasonable those demands are- if you do not meet them, they hate you almost immediately. Even the friendlier races follow this same basic principal so most of galactic diplomacy comes to debating which unreasonable demands you can accept and which you can ignore to hold off an opposing player long enough for you to build up your space fleet and preemptively strike at their bases before they do the same to yours. During replays this can make the game follow similar rhythms, regardless of your race or build strategy, and ultimately it feels limiting to the replay value of the game.
Overall, we would recommend this game to anyone who enjoys and is well versed in turn-based strategy gaming. For casual gamers this may not be for you, especially at a price tag of $30.00. Our advice is to wait for the next Steam sale before you pick it up. It will give the developers more time to iron out some of the glitches and you can save a few bucks in the process… or BC’s as they say in the universe of StarDrive. Regardless, remember to hold onto your tinfoils hats, because we promise its going to be a crazy drive.