The classic 4x space strategy game Armada 2526 is back with more. Ntronium Games and Matrix Games announced the first Armada 2526 expansion pack called Supernova.
Armada 2526 Supernova will be released in April 2011. In Bob Smith’s (Ntronium Games Managing Director) own words: “There’s no definite release date yet, it’ll be done when it’s done, but the aim is to have it in shops in Europe in April, and probably on the dl services by the end of March.”
A Word about Armada 2526 Original
About Armada 2526 I can say this: it is one of the best 4x sci-fi strategy games currently available in the market. I recommend it any day to any sci-fi strategy game fan.
The founder of Ntronium games is Bob Smith who was the project director and lead designer of Medieval 2 Total War, as for the other preceding Total War Games: Rome Total War, Shogun: Total War, and … Armada 2525, the preceding 1991 oldie.
Armada 2526 is said to be Master of Orion meets Total War. Impressing combination right? The question is, do words turn into facts? In my opinion they do! I invite you to read my Armada 2526 review for an in-depth appreciation of Armada 2526 (I reviewed version 1.02).
Supernova Hands-on First-Impressions
I got my hands on Armada 2526: Supernova a week ago. After playing for a while here are my Supernova first impressions. But first let’s look at what’s new.
These are the main new features introduced by the Supernova expansion:
- New Star and Planet Types
- Planets now have special features
- 2 New Races
- 50 New Technologies
- New and more powerful Spaceships
- New Ground Units
- New Defenses
- Stealth Ships
- Trade Networks
- Defenses Sabotage before Battle
- Espionage Missions
- Multiplayer: Play via Lan, Hotseat or PBEM (Play by Email)
New Planet Types and Special Features
In Supernova exploration is now cooler than ever. There are new types of stars and planets. I found 2 new types: Venusian and Eccentric. Venusian planets are, well, like Venus :) They are hostile, very hot and toxic planets. Upkeep is higher in these planets but in the other hand they are easier to improve to more hospitable planets than others.
Eccentric planets orbit their stars in elongated orbits. The suitability for life varies during the orbital period.
One fabulous new feature in Supernova is that planets now may have special features. These features may be permanent or temporary. This is an extraordinary new addition. These special features alone increase the value of exploration dramatically since owning planets with special features may be determinant for the overall strategy for domination.
For example, a planet may have a pollution resistance, may be cursed or may have exceptional gems on it, just to name a few specials. Pollution resistance is obvious. A cursed planet has increased unhappiness. Exceptional gems present in the planet can be exported using the new and exciting trade network feature. There are plenty more special features like deep caverns, biodiversity, past civilizations, gravitic anomaly, solar flares and surely others that I did not encounter yet.
Trade Networks add a new Strategy Dimension
Trade networks are probably one of the best additions of the expansion pack in my opinion. It’s possible now to build space ports in the planets. They begin by being landing stations, which makes the planet able to import goods from your own colonies or from abroad. The landing stations can be upgraded to space ports.
With a space port a planet is not only able to import but also to export goods present in the planet (example: gems) to your other planets or abroad to other races. A space port can be upgraded to a passenger space port. When a planet has a passenger space port it can export tourism, this means that if the planet has extraordinary wildlife (one planetary special feature) the planet can cash in extra revenue from tourism each turn.
When trade routes are established the player can see them as lines connecting the planets with goods flowing from the exporting planet to the importing planets. Players may raise trade embargoes at any time. Embargoes may be fine-tuned for specific goods or for all trade. This embargo feature is also very interesting from a diplomacy point of view. You may launch an embargo upon a player or negotiate the lift of an embargo set by another race.
Two New Races: Giant Crabs and Carnivorous Plants
Supernova introduces 2 new Races: The Florian Diaspora, intelligent carnivorous plants that may seed planets to grow more of their kin. These sentient “flowers” favor ideal planets.
The other new race is The Cancerian Potentate. These slow moving highly armored giant crabs favor aquatic planets. They tend to be cautious and defensive.
New Espionage System is Simple but Effective
Another new interesting aspect of Supernova is that it allows the player to train spies and send them in espionage missions, to steal information and secrets from the planets where they are based. Spies may inform the player about techs the spied race has and other pieces of information. If spies are caught this may harm diplomatic relations severely which can even lead the race to raise a trade embargo, or worse.
This actually happened to me. I trained a spy in a nearby planet owned by another race. I obtained information from that spy. At some point my spy was caught by the Grey Order. They immediately raised a complete trade embargo on me. Ohh and watch out for tourists, as they may, also, be spies :)
More Techs, Spaceships and Ground Units
Supernova adds 50 new technologies to the original game. There are new weapon’s research, like beam weapons range and power increase. There are new shield’s technologies, like anti-matter warheads (that require an available antimatter resource). The stasis shield that enables a vessel to be temporarily immune to attacks. There are also other types of shield improvement technologies.
There are new spaceships like the Neutrinum Dragon and the Battlecruiser Heavy Spaceship.
In addition to new ships, Supernova adds new ground units, Special Forces and Extreme Ops that can infiltrate enemy colonies. There are also new defenses (the Guardian II or a the Fighter Station), stealth ships that can scout and gather intelligence without being detected, and plenty more.
Armada 2526 gained Multiplayer
Supernova adds multiplayer to Armada 2526. With Supernova the player is able to play via Lan, to play as hot seat or to play by email. I did not try the multiplayer options because they were not finished, or stable, in the Supernova version that I had access to.
You may play in hot seat, setting up a game in your computer for multiple players to play in rounds. You may play via Lan, you can host and join previously created games. In addition to this you can also play by email.
First Impressions Bottom line
I am really impressed with this Armada 2526 first expansion. Supernova really adds a lot on top of an already solid and fun Armada 2526 gaming experience. Ntronium Games deserves an applause by delivering the goods and holding to what they promised in the promo video trailer (that you can find below).
I think Supernova has all the ingredients to be a success. It adds significant new features that improve the original game in many ways. Although, there are probably areas to improve, there always are, I dare to say that Armada 2526 Supernova has been the best 4x sci-fi strategy gaming experience I had since Master of Orion 2 and Galactic Civilizations 2, and that is saying a lot.
There is still room for improvement of course. For instance there is no spaceship design in Armada 2526 yet (and probably never will be) which is so dear to so many 4x sci-fi fans. There is also not a great deal of personality in spaceships, for instance there are no leaders nor spaceship RPG elements (like levels, experience or special powers).
There is also no central story in Armada 2526 yet (besides each race own story) and there are no single player campaigns (although there are a couple of custom maps available in Supernova). This last aspect is not very important, but the first 2 aspects (spaceship design and RPG elements) in my opinion are. Maybe they’ll include these aspects in the second expansion :)
I highly recommend Supernova to all Armada 2526 fans and to all 4x sci-fi strategy fans in general. Taking into account the level of maturity that Armada 2526 has reached with this expansion I think the game is ready to appeal also to the casual non-Sci-Fi strategy player.
You can buy Supernova at Iceberg Interactive (boxed version) . If you don’t own the original game you can also buy Armada 2526 (boxed version) from Iceberg Interactive. Alternatively you can buy Armada 2526 from GamersGate (digital download version). You can also buy Supernova at GamersGate (digital download version).
Supernova Official Trailer
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