Sword of the Stars is another stab at the 4x genre of turn based space strategy games.
They are perfect for any kind of arm-chair space general or player that likes to take their time in a non-rushed atmosphere. SotS is a very competent entry to the genre that stands by the side of other entries such as Galactic Civilisations 2: The Dread Lords
and does a decent job of adding nice touches.
It’s a lot simpler than the other 4x fare and that doesn’t mean it’s a bad game.
The story is a fairly decent one and revolves around mankind’s usual expansion into the vast reaches of space, when out there they discover that there’s a lot more than just stars and nebulae. They discover hostile alien species and they must learn to utilise the weapons and tech at their disposal, wiping out any kind of threat before they are wiped out.
Mankind must learn to wield the Sword of the Stars, as the intro states.
When it comes down to it the gameplay is pretty much the standard fare that we’ve come to expect from a 4x game, there’s the 3d tactical map of space that’s packed with static information and icons to represent fleet movements and explored/unexplored worlds.
You issue orders here and can build fleets. It’s wise to note that each of the races, from the Humans to the Lizardy Tarka, or the Liir to the Hive, have different styles of tech and ship and can colonise different planet types.
I really did like the way the game allows a large amount of customisation via sliders, when you start a new game. You can alter every kind of feature about your new game including the kinds of tech and research (Note: the tech tree is shuffled around at the start of a new game, so you might not get the same tech twice) available to the various players – you can set up for games that can be blasted through in a single night or take months and months to complete.
There are also specific set scenarios that tell the story of the game, some of these would be great for online cooperative or adversarial gaming.
Fuel consumption is a concern in the game so it’s advisable to build tanker ships and make sure that your fleets have enough resources in that respect to move through space. Human fleets move via the Node Jump drive, whilst the other alien races all have various different modes of transport – knowledge of these travel modes is essential to planning an effective strategy as that race.
In the turn-based planning and colony building stages the game plays like many of the others in the genre, it does lack a lot of useful feedback for the player and you will spend time trawling through windows looking for certain things. I hope the developers increase the amount of player feedback from certain events and actions, as of now it is good but a little bit more work on the interface wouldn’t have gone amiss.
Minor feedback and interface gripes aside, which could be a personal issue. The game has a tech and research tree that is full of nice options, personal cloaking and bigger and better guns. The problem for me is that while the tech’s good, it feels little more than a collection of ‘Blast’R’Us’ ship parts and technology, there’s very little in the way of ‘cool’ tech here.
The ship designer is a nice feature; it works really well and allows you to custom build your own ships and designs. These are not just cosmetic features but they actually impact the ship’s performance and you’ll be able to see from successful (or unsuccessful) battles, what works and what doesn’t.
You should spend a lot of time researching and re-tooling your ship designs since the AI will be doing just that, they’ll be upgrading their fleets and trying to counter your weapons with their own new technology.