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Armada 2526 Review

By on March 7th, 2010 6:07 pm

Armada 2526 is a 4x turn-based space strategy game, developed by Ntronium Games and published by Matrix Games. In December 2009 I wrote a first impressions “Armada 2526 – New 4x space strategy game – First Impressions” here at SpaceSector.com. At the time the game was at version 1.01 and I still stand for most of what I wrote back then.  I invite you to read the first impressions before you read this review to have the full background about the game.

Since then Ntronium Games has released a new Armada 2526 patch (v1.02), that brought some nice new features and overall improvements to the game that undoubtedly contributed to a more finished and solid product. So the scope of this review will be to give a more in-depth overview of the points that I did not grasp in the first impressions, after many more hours of game play, and I will also concentrate in providing you with information about the races, AI aspects, game setup customization, victory conditions, game balance, v1.02 enhancements, overall conclusions and game score.

Armada 2526 Scope

Armada 2526 follows on the footsteps of games like Master of Orion 2, the Space Empires series, Galactic Civilizations, Sword of the Stars, StarTrek: Birth of the Federation and many other sci-fi TBS titles. In this sense Armada 2526 provides the traditional 4x TBS space strategy gaming experience.

The Races are diverse and charismatic, but there is no central game story

Armada 2526 offers 12 races for the player to choose from. There is no race customization option so you’ll have to make your pick according to your liking since each of them has its own specific traits, victory conditions and gameplay styles. In spite of having no race customization the races are sufficiently distinct, charismatic and in a sufficient number to give you more than enough options to choose from. Each race will play quite differently due to their distinct traits and pursuits for victory however they all share the same technology tree and are allowed to build the same buildings and most of the available spaceships.

Armada 2526 Races
Armada 2526 Races

The story in Armada 2526 is … well there is no story in fact, only a background story for each race. And although this might be ok and even pleasant to the hardcore fans of the genre, in the sense that people may come up with their own stories, this may shun the less core fans or other gamers that are novice to the genre. So the game has no intro cinematic or background story, the player is thrown into the galaxy where he is expected to start writing his own tale from that point forward.

Game setup customization is rich and flexible

When you start your game you have the option to choose to play the tutorial, play a scenario or chose to customize your own game. If it is your first game you definitely should start from the tutorial. After that you probably will choose to generate your own custom game. Customizing a game is simple and Armada 2526 does a very good job at providing you with lots of options. You may choose the amount of stars in the galaxy or the way they are distributed. You can set your galaxy size, the map type (condensed or disperse), the enemy races, the number of turns you would like to play and the difficulty level.

Victory conditions variability add depth and re-playability

In Armada 2526 you win if you eliminate all your rivals or if you get the best score (victory points) when the number of turns you set at the beginning run out (you may continue to play after that point if you want to). Each race has its own traits, both negative and positive, but most importantly they have different victory conditions which lead to a different path to victory and ultimately a different style of play. This is good because at the same time that this variety of victory conditions provides more gameplay options it also increases the game re-playability value which is a rather important feature every good game should always aim for.

For example playing with the Human race you get an unrest penalty and a psychic and hyperspace research fields penalty however you get a general research bonus. You earn victory points if your population is happy enough and if you accomplished glorious victories during your game.

Armada 2526: Game Customization Screen
Armada 2526: Game Customization Screen with Victory Conditions

If you play with  the Unn Pirates you get radically different traits and victory conditions. When playing with the Unn you get extremely low population penalty and suffer from high unrest and low-income, however you get more money from loot and have biological immunity. You win with the Unn if you can get lots of money from booty and if you can achieve a decent amount of population.

The AI does the job

Generally speaking Armada’s AI plays well. Rival races really do well on wars and are good at the negotiating table, however at times the races do behave a bit erratically. For example, the races sometimes reject extremely favorable deals and are very reluctant to accept some types of deals (like trade offers) or some times just start doing very repetitive behaviour stating demands that the player keeps refusing over and over. During war the AI sometimes tends to create too many ships of one kind, like transports ships, colony ships or small ships.

With the intent to reduce high-micromanagement stress the game offers very nice automation options to the player. If you want you can set colony management to automatic and set the development policy you’d like to set up for that system from that point forward (you can change the automation policy at any time). For instance you may set a system to develop the military (that will create more war ships), to develop defenses (that will create more troops, missile bases and starbases), to develop research, improve income, increase population or just use a balanced development.

So in conclusion, although there are some minor deficiencies the AI in general does a very nice job and is quite coherent. For instance the AI races seldom attack you with no clear reason, and will trade favorably with you if they like you and attack and reject deals if they don’t like you.

The Music helps set the right atmosphere

The sound effects of Armada 2526 are not spectacular but the music is very good. Some scores are even brilliant and really help set the mood, especially during the exploration and expansion phases were you don’t know what lies beyond and which systems you expect to find.

The User Interface is ok but fails to provide enough control

Information is control and this is probably one of the aspects where Armada 2526 falls short. But this is not saying that the User Interface is bad, far from it. The UI is successful in providing basic functionality like colony management, research management, feature rich charts, good diplomacy screens and good system overview, however the UI does have its weaknesses.

When Armada 526 was first released (v1.01) it had serious problems regarding the UI (that you can read more about it in “Armada 2526 – New 4x space strategy game – First Impressions“). There were lots of information shortcomings. For instance not knowing which fleets are stationed in a planet, not knowing enough details about each building (which are the dependencies and which are the improvements), not knowing what the diplomacy indicators meant or how they are affected (the manual was also poor at explaining this). Some of this issues were solved in v1.02 (the version  released in early March 2010) while others were not yet sufficiently addressed.

There are also some basic functionalities missing in Armada 2526 like a planet list screen to present the player with all explored systems details: the planets that are colonized, not colonized, its mineral abundance, presence of asteroid fields, etc. This is a key feature that is missing, in my opinion, since it becomes essential at some point to provide this information to the player so that he does not lose track of things, especially during the exploration and expansion phases of the game.

Armada 2526: User Interface - Fleets Management
Armada 2526: User Interface – Fleets Management

Another poor UI functionality is the fleets list management screen. The fleets list really provides … well the list of ships, but does not categorizes or merges them in sufficiently meaningful ways. For example you cannot sort the fleets list by type or by colony. So what happens is that at late games, when you have dozens or hundreds of ships, you tend to lose control of them. I speak by gaming experience, I tend to forget completely about the fleets list functionality in my games and this is not a good thing.

A word about patch v1.02

As said above Ntronium Games released a new patch for Armada 2526 in early March 2010. Among other fine-tune enhancements and fixes the patch provides a new automatic population transport system that alleviates the burden of having to micromanage population immigration between systems. This was a nice improvement in my opinion. It works well and relieves the player from unnecessary boring tasks of relocating population almost every other turn.

Some research and economy tweaks were also performed, like an option at game start-up to set the research speed (to solve the issue of research techs running out too quickly) or an option to reduce or eliminate the bureaucracy effect completely (a found annoyance by many players).

But one of the most important features introduced by this patch was the overall improvement of information about the game, mostly done via tool-tips improvement which now includes a way to see the number of ships stationed in a designated area just by pointing the mouse cursor to it, among other information additions: the amount of discount on production an asteroid mining enterprise employs or the amount of pollution a technology complex produces among many other pieces of information. For a complete list of patch features please check the Ntronium Forums v1.023 Full Changes List.

Bottom line

Armada 2526 is a very solid game, it is well designed and provides a good gaming experience to the player. However it may not be for everybody, and in fact this is in line with the actual Ntronium philosophy which in its own words “targets  the discerning minority of hardcore strategy fans, rather than the mass market”. Armada 2526 is coherent with this motto, its non-linear sandbox mechanics allows (or forces) the player to make up their own stories and reduce the amount of micromanagement generally needed to accomplish some tasks. The game also puts gameplay before graphics, which are nothing too fancy but just ok.

Another good aspect about Armada 2526 resides on the high-involvement of the player during the development process and the continuous improvement of the game by its developers. The Armada 2526 game forums are very active with vibrant game discussions. The developers are always willing to hear the player and most of the changes introduced by patch v1.02 were in fact in response to many suggestions and bugs reported by the community.

So in summary, if you’re a hardcore fan of Sci-Fi TBS (in the line of Master of Orion 2, Galactic Civilizations 2 or StarTrek: Birth of the Federation) or simply a fan of 4x strategy games in general this is the right game for you to try next. If you’re a fan of strategy games in general you may also like Armada 2526, but chances are that if you’re not into this type of games probably, this is not the right title for you unless you want to start being a fan :)

You can buy Armada 2526 from Iceberg Interactive (boxed version). Alternatively you can buy Armada 2526 from GamersGate (digital download version).

Armada 2526
Buy at GamersGate
Space Sector score: 8.0
(about the score system)
The Good:
– Variable victory conditions provide different gameplay styles and enhance re-playability
– Automation options relieve the player from boring micromanagement tasks
– Music is very good, setting the right atmosphere
– Races are distinct and charismatic
– AI is strong with only minor deficiencies
– Customer support is great, developer is continuously evolving the game
The Bad:
– User Interface has some control shortcomings (even after patch v1.02)
– Some aspects about diplomacy are not streamlined and are a bit confusing
– Lack of campaign and central story may be ok for hardcore fans but bad for casual players
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15 Comments


  1. GJ says:

    Good review. I hope they fix the remaining issues with ships and planets screens. THat would be very handy. HO\ow many hours have you played the game?

  2. Adam Solo says:

    I may have played around 20 games by now but only 4 to 5 full games (large size galaxy, hard difficulty, sparse stars). What about you? Are you enjoying playing? What’s your score for Armada 2526?

  3. GJ says:

    I havent played the game yet. But I have been visiting the forums. I first want to try out Distant Worlds before I might try this one.

  4. Dota 2 forums says:

    I’ve gave it a try as I love this kind of games but found it not so very good. There are better games on the market, I loved what game promised from the menu and start-up but the more I played it the more I hated it.

    + i loved the soundtrack

  5. Paolo Bertiglia says:

    I never finished one game. Tried again yesterday evening but I’m finding it really boring… I’m puzzled, what I’m missing?

    • Adam Solo says:

      After some point the game suffers from the same thing as almost any 4x game. When everything is done and you have a huge armada the only thing left is to steam role (wipe out) everyone else on your way. That’s the way it is. MOO2 was the same, Sins is the same, GalCiv2 is the same.

      The first stages and middle stages of Armada 2526 are definitely engaging. In the late stage, as the majority of 4x games, the game becomes boring. Now, with Supernova things may be more fun in the end with the introduction of trade networks, planet special features more techs. I’m having more fun with Supernova expansion in general. I’ll finish a couple of Supernova games and then let you know if something has changed in later stages.

  6. Paolo Bertiglia says:

    Also the user interface is really depressing (not speaking about the funtional aspect, just color and design).

    • Adam Solo says:

      I find the User Interface good at this stage of development. In terms of functionality the UI was a mess in the beginning but now it is much better, with the introduction of the “search” function that allows you to spot colonizable planets for example.

  7. blessid says:

    Armada 2526 is also available on Steam.

  8. samjac0 says:

    Wow…. after reading this I had absolutely NO CLUE what the game was like. The point of the review is also to describe the game and when you say something like “I can’t see ships in planets..” we say “ok…so???” You fail to describe the best things about the game…. THE DETAIL. ok so… rich customization… so what? what does this mean??? When you say you can set star systems… how many? is there a limit? Also you failed to be personable… the point is to describe funny or generally awesome experiences… Focus more on the cool things and the things that just really tick you off!

    In short…. I read this review and was left so disinterested that I didn’t even bother watching a “let’s play” until I remembered about it a few days later…. Cmon man! sell the product!!! or don’t sell it be very opinionated!! Give us more indepth examples!! Tells us what you hate and what you love. don’t leave us with stuff like…. it’s ok… computer does a good job…its a tbs 4x game…..

    • Adam Solo says:

      Well, this is always a very subjective matter, but thanks for your honest criticism, I really appreciate it. It’s true, some parts may feel a bit dull, like a preview more than a review at places. I do provide some info about the game but I should have given my personal opinion about stuff more. This was one of my first reviews, so, I was still getting a hang of it :) I want to believe that my reviews are more interesting now ;) Thanks.

    • cornelius says:

      Samjaco – the space strategy game genre is fueled more by the passion of developers and people like Adam than it is by money. Although Adam makes money from advertising on the site, this is a tiny market, so it’s probably not a lot. You probably think you’re being helpful by posting these kind of opinions, but you’re not. You’re just discouraging Adam from contributing to the community, and you come across like a complete asshole. If you want to post ungrateful invective about a resource provided to you completely for free, do so elsewhere.

      Adam – please keep up the good work, some of us do appreciate it!

    • Adam Solo says:

      Thanks for your kind words cornelius. I do make some money from the site through advertising and from some games affiliate sales. It’s not much as you say but it does help pay some bills, and I truly appreciate all I can earn, as little or as big it may be.

      But the money is really not the reason why I write in the blog. I write because I really love what I write about. That is the reason why I dedicate so many hours of my life to it. All opinions are welcome, and I appreciate criticisms when I find them to be constructive. So, don’t worry, I will not get discouraged with the type of comments made by samjaco, by the contrary I get even more motivated to write even better content ;)

  9. Zapture says:

    I bought this game and Pandora: First Contact after reading your reviews & I am enjoying them immensely.
    Keep up the good work sir. It’s hard to find a good site dedicated to 4X strategy games which gives you as much detail as yours does.
    I will be coming here regularly from now on.


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