Author Topic: Sword of the Stars and Sword of the Stars II (I am reviewing both)  (Read 1017 times)

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Offline interstellarshadow

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I will be reviewing two games, both in the same series (these games actually got me interested in aurora)

Sword of the Stars (The original)

Sword of the Stars is a 4X space game with a turn-based strategic map and tactical battles played in real time.     It involves an in-depth (but not nearly on par with Aurora) tech-forest (their term, but fitting) and allows for quite a bit of tactical variety.   

As with all good 4X games, it has a decently steep learning curve and a few of its races are less than intuitive until one gets used to them, however it isn't truly that bad, and once you get over the initial challenge, it is, while not mind-numbingly easy, not the hardest game in the world.     Its challenges are mostly the ones you set for yourself or by stacking the enemy against you.     Four expansions are currently sold in one package for about twenty bucks on steam, so while it isn't the cheapest game out there, it is still affordable.   

The graphics are now dated, but they weren't when the game came out in the mid '00s (for which they were actually really good) and the game can get a bit clunky once you have fleets of over 100 ships.     However, I do not think that this really detracts too much from the game.   

Now, however, I will state, without pulling any punches, what is lacking from the game.     For me, the single planet systems was actually a letdown, because it didn't allow for any real tactical manoeuvring, or for truly robust colonial systems.     Additionally, when one sees the data about planets, some of the numbers don't really make sense (that might just be because I am a sci-fi nut and actually care about that type of thing), for example, an earth-sized world (which is what I assume the homeworlds for a player is) is considered to be size 10, and thus can support 1 billion working people and 1 billion more civilians +the extra twenty percent that comes in later.   

The combat system also has a couple of issues for me.     While fleets can be as large as the user wants, only a certain number of ships can be fielded at the same time (while both of these things can make sense, I do not believe that they really fit together), causing issues when you have a fleet that is too large conducting an attack.     When a ship dies (as long as it is not your command ship), the ships that haven't yet engaged in the battle warp in (or whatever your races drive system uses) and you are restored to original strength.     While this does supply interesting tactical ideas, I do not particularly like it.   

My verdict is that it is an excellent 4X game, even despite some of the issues I have with it.     It is a little simplistic (though that could be said of many such games, when compared with Aurora) but still can supply hours of fun.     Your time might just get away from you when playing it.   

Sword of the Stars Two (SOTS II often denoted ][)

SOTS ][ is a re-imagining of the original, set at a time where fusion power has been researched and the second drive tech has been imagined.    With an extra race created, and a revamped graphics engine, it promised to be much better than the first, which was still a good game, with a dedicated fanbase.    However, as sometimes happens in the game world, the devs were pushed to publish the game before it was truly ready, causing what was effectively a beta version of the game (versions were actually numbered rev 28471b and such), with all the bugs that that label would imply.   As a result, the game was received with almost universal criticism. 

However, the devs, who were not going to take it lying down, did two things: they started an intense schedule of patching and updating for the game and offered those who were not willing to wait for a patched version a refund.   In November 2012, they released an enhanced edition, which was a free expansion for those who owned the game, and would be offered with the game for no extra price (it was, in fact, the only way that you could purchase the game). 

When it first came out, a friend of mine purchased the game, and I played it in his computer for a while, until he took the refund option, because he could not stand the bugs.   Being a programmer myself, I was willing to force my way through them, even if the game was subpar in the stability realm. 

Now that the enhanced edition has come out, I purchased it, and am enjoying it. 

First off, unlike SOTS 1, Systems can have several planets, including gas giants, their moons, and asteroid belts.  However, I do not like the scale that the systems take in relation to the ships and the orbits of the planets and their sizes (Though, dealing with those scales can be a real pain in the butt).  It doesn't feel right.  The drive systems are largely the same as the ones used in SOTS Prime, so I have the same opinion of them.

Secondly, I think that the Fleet system is vastly improved over SOTS Prime.  Now, fleets are limited in size to what the command systems can support on the field at one time.  I actually like this, even though a few people on the forums for the game do not.  The way that fleets are ordered around has been totally reworked.  It is still a little glitchy but is a great feature.  All the actions that were done at the destination system in SOTS Prime are now ordered before a fleet even leaves its base system.

Finally, there are still some drawbacks in the gameplay.  As I mentioned before, the fleet orders system can sometimes be a little glitchy and have counter-intuitive issues with relocation of fleet bases.  Additionally, there are issues with transitioning between screens.  Closing out of any menu screen for managing your space empire will take a solid five seconds or more.  This may not seem like a lot, but, when playing, if you are trying to choose a tech to research, you might transition between the research screen to the main star map (Which is in beautiful 3D) and then open your ship design screen, before going back to the research screen to make your choice, stuff like this can cause the time to add up in a hurry, and if your game lasts until the 1000 turn mark (which it easily could) you may be talking about over an hour in screen transition time (especially since fleet orders are confirmed on a full-screen menu).

On the whole, this game, which is still receiving at least monthly updates, is still an excellent 4X allowing for very complex strategies, and as my first action on this board, I wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone who plays Aurora.



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