More poetic samurai space bears? Hell frickin’ yeah!

Stardrive is one of those games that satisfied the desire to take over a (fake, electronic) galaxy. With lots of space ships, of course. Made by Zerosum Games, a one man band, it was certainly good, but flawed. Stardrive 2 is its successor, but in more ways than one, it’s also the successor to the old dame itself, Master of Orion 2 that we’ve all been waiting for.

Stardrive 2 is now a fully turn based strategy game on the main map, with individually loaded fleet battles, which are still restricted to a 2D plane. Still, the turn based overview on the main map is definitely an improvement, because it gives you a much better feel for the grand strategy required to play this game.

The graphics are also much better than what you got from the first title, and the interface is more intuitive as well. There are a few little touches that I miss from the first game though, like how each planet orbited its parent star. Nonetheless, this game is made by one person, which means that little touches can easily be thrown out in place of things that will actually make a difference to the gameplay.

Another, more deleterious change to the gameplay, which mimics MOO2, but is unrealistic, is that you can only move one unit of population at a time for any one job. In Stardrive, you could finely control how many of a planet’s citizens were farming, producing or researching, using sliders. While I understand this system may have been implemented because of the way freighters now work, I can’t help but think that the original system was better.

The technology tree, which was essentially a shrub in the original, is far longer and more expansive now. On the other hand, you’ll also have to pick a technology from each tier as you move up, without any ability to gain the technologies you missed out on, much like Master of Orion. You could pick the Creative racial trait, but it costs fourteen points, which is ridiculously restrictive on any other bonuses you could pick up.

On launch, there were some concerns that the game was too hard, and that the AI was somehow exploiting loopholes or cheats. That’s not really the case, although the difficulty levels were adjusted somewhat in postlaunch patches. I’m hoping that once this initial round of technical support is completed, the game can be expanded upon in some areas, especially the size of galaxies.

So, is Stardrive 2 worth getting? Personally, I love it, but like all games, there are flaws that we all have to live with. It’s definitely a diamond in the rough, but it’s a big diamond, so once the polishing and cutting is done, perhaps it will shine like it’s supposed to. Until then, it’s a matter of waiting and seeing.

Rating

A good game, which conversely can feel like a case of two steps forward and one step back.

Play this if you…

Need a spiritual successor to Master of Orion 2 in your life.

Don’t play this if you…

Wanted the sequel to Stardrive 1 with better graphics. It’s not quite the game you are looking for.

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