Stardrive is an addictive game. An indie game in the spirit of the grand old dame of space empire domination Master of Orion 2, it follows the 4X tenet of grand strategy games: eXplore, eXpand, eXploit and eXterminate. Boy can you exterminate in Stardrive.

It is a game that’s built on MOO2’s heritage and spirit, even though it is a pseudo turn based game, which allows it to be played much more at your own pace. Indeed, there are many references to its predecessor, such as the aforementioned samurai bears whose name is very close to a very similar race in Orion 2. I don’t mind that. After the fantastically abysmal Master of Orion 3 which was more complex and unusable than the tangle of wire that was your set of headphones after you pull it out of your pocket. Many of us crazy old gamers who enjoyed MOO2 have been waiting for something similar to replace it. I believe that Stardrive is it (well, at least for me). There are of course, foibles with the game, but these are not insurmountable problems.

The main issue is that I find the technology tree far too shallow. There are some crazy technologies for eXterminating enemies right off the bat. For instance, once you research Magnetic Artillery, you have access to the second most powerful ammunition based gun in the game. All this at the start of the game as it’s a basic technology. To me, it’s a clear sign that the technology tree wasn’t perfected and could (should?) be further expanded to include other possible technologies. A fantastic feature of the game is that it actively supports mods and there are already quite a few released and ready to go. This will add to the replayability of the game with new graphics, technologies and ships and ensure there is longevity in the community.

However, the fun part of Stardrive is in the fully customisable ship designs. You choose a hull, it tells you what types of modules can be inserted in which area and away you go. My personal favourite so far is designing a human capital ship that pays tribute to the Battlestar Galactica. Lots and lots of big guns and fighters. Your imagination can run wild with the possibilities. Also, unleashing it on the enemy is especially fun when Galactica has many of its siblings and escorts in the vicinity. The combat is real time though it can be paused and it adds to the ability to micromanage a fleet and even set its formations.

So far, I’m seeing excellent support for Stardrive from the developers who are actively trying to improve the game on all fronts, whether it be stability or features. I think it’s disappointing that its initial round of reviews belie the game’s strengths because I found it to be the best successor to Master of Orion 2 so far. It’s fun, addictive and with the right mods, lots of new ways to eXterminate or eXploit your enemies.

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