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#0: 04-15-2013 @ 11:41:27 am
Link to this Post: http://www.machvergil.com/gamenight/messages.php?go=5494#5494

MachVergilMachVergil

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  • Real Name:Adam
  • Joined:2010-01-22

I remember talking to BountyHunterSAx about this.  Based on the stuff I'd seen on Steam, I was worried that this game would not be that great, mostly because I still feel a bit almost burned from trying out Endless Space when it was free a few weeks back.

Today TotalBiscuit posted his WTF is on StarDrive and for what it's worth it does look like a more fun game than Endless Space.  Still some issues with late-game apparently, but if the price is right for someone looking for a space 4x, this might not be a bad grab.


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#1: 04-15-2013 @ 12:11:19 pm
Link to this Post: http://www.machvergil.com/gamenight/messages.php?go=5495#5495

BountyHunterSAxBountyHunterSAx

  • Real Name:Ahmad Rasheed
  • Joined:2011-06-29

I'd picked this up in a hurry after seeing hte trailer. Diplomacy with space bears was definitely a clincher for me ;). And in general, 2d space games are generally a good fit with me, after all.

Of course, it doesn't run on my laptop XD. So, will have to wait till i get to play this in DC before I can post about it.

-AHMAD


#2: 07-17-2013 @ 09:07:00 am
Link to this Post: http://www.machvergil.com/gamenight/messages.php?go=6043#6043

MachVergilMachVergil

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  • Real Name:Adam
  • Joined:2010-01-22

So I guess I've put 7 hours into this since I got it in the Steam Sale, so I think I can write some impressions.

TL;DR: Stardrive is a fun 4x space game with imaginative alien races, fun ship design, and an interesting real-time version of the normal turn based approach, once you learn how to play it.  Unfortunately, despite being a deeper 4x game, it just ends up feeling like it comes up short compared to Sins of a Solar Empire, and it feels hard to recommend to people who already love that game.

I figured the game would be a spiritual successor to Master of Orion, the original PC 4x Space Empire game series.  I expected it to be a turn-based, Civ-In-Space game.  I was surprised then when I started playing and saw that even though the game measures time in "turns", these turns progress automatically, making the game actually somewhat real-time.  At first this turned me off, especially since I think it makes the early game go slower than it does in actual Civ since you aren't blowing past all your shorter, early-game turns with one click.  In the end though it leads to some more interesting combat so over time it won me over.

The high point of the game is the alien factions themselves.  There are 7 and they are fun and imaginative. You've got the Kulrathi, who I like to call "Samurai Space Bears," The Vulfar, who are basically warmongering wolfmen, who are two of my favorites.  I also love the Cordrizine, who have enslaved adorable little Owlocks (tiny owl people) to do their bidding while projecting an obvious air of insecurity. It's also interesting to have to deal with an entire space fairing race who clearly worships Cuthulu and when you ask them if you have any grievances they answer "Are you alive?  Then we have a grievance."   This makes the diplomacy fun, and I like that I can see clearly how much an empire trusts me, is angry with me, or fears me by bars on the left side of the screen in the diplomacy menu.  I also like that I can choose to be aggressive, friendly, or fearful when I try to negotiate with them.  I've noticed that the Vulfar for example respond better to showing strength then being nice. It makes diplomacy feel deeper than it is in most of these 4x games I've played, including Civ V.

The other high point in the game is ship design.  If you've played Gratuitous Space Battles, then you know the drill here.  As you unlock new ship techs, be them armor, shields, weapons, or new ship classes, the game will provide you with a bunch of pre-set ships you could use, but to get the most bang for your buck, you'll want to design your own and update them with your tech.  Designing a new ship is free so long as you have the tech to design it, and for a fee you can retro-fit your current fleet.  There's something satisfying about unlocking a new class of ship, jumping into ship design and pumping the thing full of guns, ammo, better engines, and then unleashing it on your foes.  It even saves your designs for future games so you don't have to keep redesigning a ship over and over each time you play. 

This leads well into the game's biggest flaw however - it is not easy to learn.  It's not that the game hides things from you - on the contrary its screens show you a lot of information.  However it doesn't do a good job of helping you filter the important from the noise.  For example, when I built my first fighters, I didn't realize what "Warp recharge" was and wound up with a negative value there.  As a result, my fighters could only make short jumps through subspace before they had to recharge their engines, and it resulted in them not being able to effectively jump from one star to another.  In other words, the design was trash and I ended up just restarting that game so I didn't waste time with that fighter.  The ship design screen will also show you the DPS of individual guns, but don't provide you a good way of comparing the combined DPS of one ship design over another.  I think this is because the combat model works in such a way that positioning and ship damage are big factors on said DPS so the felt such data would be misleading.

The game also doesn't do as good of a job as I'd like keeping me up to date on important things.  For example, in Sins, every time a ship builds you get verbal confirmation, and when a planet is done building all queued ships a message appears on your news queue.  Stardrive does neither of these things, forcing you to constantly go back to your producing planets to check to see if they are done building ships yet.   Further more, I haven't found a way to set rally points on build, let alone have them auto join a fleet like I can in Sins.  That's not to say these options don't exist... in fact I'd be surprised if they aren't buried in the UI somewhere and I just haven't found them yet, but it's not as intuitive as Sins or Civ V. 

The combat at the end of the day is pretty neat.  Ships are designed so each class of ship is full of grids and each component uses up so many squares of that grid.  By making bigger weapons require more grids it effectively blocks them from use on fighters, and limits how many of them you can fit on corvettes.  The other thing that is interesting is weapons end up with facing rules based on the weapon.  For example, Ion Cannons and Railguns are fixed, they can only fire in the direction they point, while Flak Turrets are on a swivel and will turn to find their targets.  As a result you can choose when you design the ship to have all its guns facing forward and tell its AI to try and run head first at foes, or you can put all your guns on the starboard side and order it to keep the starboard side to its enemies.  These are built in AIs to the ship design so you don't have to micro it.  That said... slower ships will have a harder time keeping faster ships in their broadsides, so take that into consideration.  This is also important since when ships take hull damage, they lose systems based on where they take the damage.  If a ship takes a lot of rear hits, it may lose its engines and become immobilized.  If a ship's guns are on its port side and it takes heavy port damage, it may have troubles firing.  There's even a concern to keep ordinance storage on your ships with guns or missiles least they only get off a few salvoes before needing to return to one of your worlds to reload.  Energy weapons help you counter that, but they require more serious power storage and generation since they drain your ship's power more when they fire.  Sadly though at the end of the day the combat is still happening on a 2D plane, so its less interesting to look at then Sins's combat is.

One place where Stardrive differs greatly from Sins is that it models ground combat and colonies in more detail. When you attack an enemy planet, you'll still have to build specific ships capable of bombing it, or you'll have to build troops from one of your worlds and ship them over to invade.  Sending a ground force to invade is riskier and more expensive than orbital bombardment, but success results in the planet becoming yours instead having to re-colonizing it.   Ground troops get their own transports when ordered to orbit, but you do eventually research the ability to keep troops on your warships, which eliminates the need for each troop to have their own ship AND gives you the ability to board enemy ships to steal them.

Managing colonies is tricky. I'm still not sure if its best to just proliferate like crazy and then use trade agreements and freighters to keep your less profitable colonies afloat (this is what I'm doing in my current game and I'm swimming in money) or be smart about only colonizing planets that can earn you both food and production.  I'm sure that once I play more of the game I'll figure out that proper use of AI governors will mean that I can leave management to the AI so long as I'm smart about making barren, resource rich worlds about industry and lush worlds about making food for those worlds.

Overall I'm enjoying Stardrive, and I can't wait to play more and plunge into its secrets.  That said, again, if you're not bored with Sins of a Solar Empire yet I'm not sure you'll find enough new and fresh here to take you away from it.  Then again, maybe you will, if you always felt that Sins's ship design and diplomacy models were too simplistic for your tastes.  Either way, I've had fun, and if your itching for a space 4x, you can do a lot worse than StarDrive - like Endless Space for example.  This is better than Endless Space IMO.


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