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Armada 2526: Supernova Expansion Hands-on First Impressions (Preview)

By on March 27th, 2011 9:47 pm

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.

New Features

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.

Venusian Planet Type

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.

Passanger Spaceport and Landing Station

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.

Trade Networks

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.

Florian Diaspora and Cancerian Potentate

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.

Spy Trained in Grey Order's Planet

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.

Batlecruiser

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.

Supernova Multiplayer

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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13 Comments


  1. mbar says:

    You describe lots of new stuff in Supernova very well. PBEM works great. The game automatically checks the gmail account you create for PBEM and loads the game for you. Then you do your turn and upload your game by simply press the end turn button. It’s very slick.

  2. Adam Solo says:

    @mbar
    Glad you liked the preview. Thanks for sharing the info about PBEM! Yes, it does sounds slick and smooth.

  3. SDJ says:

    disappointing how the research is still generic, it would only make sense that certain species would have access to potential research that would be incompatible (not possible) with other species,

    the fact that all species can research everything there opponents can is…… very generic, also same problem with ships, not so prominent, but there does appear to be a generic feel to them although i know there are a few certain models that are species type specific, but not really enough, or not immersion enough.

    i also found that colonizing has a very spamming effect feel to it, the colonizers are created far to quickly, colonizing should be very difficult and should be extremely expensive for an empire to support, yet Armada 2526 doesn’t have an option to slow this down, the AI is able to colonize 5,10, 15 planets in 25 turns…..this feels so arcade!!!! it would…should take a long time before a new colony can fully support itself, and during which time, the empire should have to pay for that overhead (the worse the planet the more turns it takes before the colony in question becomes self sufficient) no more spamming colonizers, and no more having 15 planets in an empire in only 25 turns. the realism would really immerse the player in there empire more, and bring the player closer to there colonies (because of the time and massive investment it took for that colony to grow)

    • Adam Solo says:

      You mean special-to-a-race research like in Galactic Civilizations TOA. I favor random and specialized research. You can read about it here if you want: http://www.spacesector.com/blog/2009/07/dynamic-and-specialized-technology-research-in-space-strategy-games/

      Star Ruler and Sword of the Stars are the leading games on that area (especiallized and random research). To find out about Star Ruler type of research check here: http://www.spacesector.com/blog/2010/09/star-ruler-review/ Very interesting, although with some problems at the time of release.

      I don’t quite agree with you on the colonizing aspects of Armada 2526. I think Colonizing is fairly difficult and requires some thinking and special techs. You say that the AI can colonize 5, 10, 15 planets in 25 turns. That would only be possible if they find only habitable planets (without the need for superior technologies). This would be Ideal, Habitable and Barren planets (if you’re not aquatic, because if you are you can forget about Barren).

      I agree with you though on the “costs of colonization”. They should be much higher than it is now. I give the good example of GalCiv2. Colonizing in GalCiv2 is very expensive. If you start spamming planets you’ll ruin the economy fairly quick. In Armada 2526 that’s not the case. You can found new colonies quickly (again if they are habitable, ideal or barren) without much penalty. The fact that you can construct a mine very quickly (if the planet is not poor) is an example of this.

      All things considered I think Supernova colonization is fun and definitly more exciting than before (now that you have special features in planets).

  4. Finebone says:

    Also with regards to “Colony spamming” – That can come back to bite you if you’re not careful. There is a built-in mechanism called “bureaucracy”. Basically, the more total colonies you control, the harder it is to maintain control of all of them. I’ve played many games of Armada and I think 10 colonize by turn 25 is pushing the upper limit… and only applies if the map is large enough for unimpeeded expansion on all sides.

    If you colonize everything in sight, that really only works for certain species. Defensive-oriented ones whom don’t plan to expand a lot after securing borders and those that have the special trait that ignores bureaucracy, for example. Aggressive races in particular really have to pick-and choose because if they’re bent on galactic conquest, their empire can crumble from within while trying to eliminate all resistance.

  5. Adam Solo says:

    @Finebone

    Correct, the bureaucracy effect penalizes you in the long run if you control many planets. That works as a for the total number of colonies (you can control the bureaucracy effect in the game setup).

    SDJ’s point however was more one of the initial planet colonization rush, the fact that it may be very quick and not fun. As I said in my comment above I don’t think so. I don’t think it’s that quick due to the need to have special technologies to colonize special planets.

    A quick planet rush could happen in larger maps with many stars since ideal and habitable planets would be abundant however even there you would run into the bureaucracy trouble very quickly.

  6. Mazza says:

    I played Armada 2526 for as long as I could. I really wanted to like this game. It seemed rather unpolished and buggy to be honest. And there were many elements that just seemed incomplete. Its a shame because for a game that cannot boast graphics, it really needed a solid gameplay to keep it competitive. Now my only hopes lie with Sots 2 or Legend of Pegasus.

    • Adam Solo says:

      Have you played Armada 2526′s expansion Supernova?

      Armada 2526 experience became more mature and complete with Supernova. It added a significant number of new features that improve the original gameplay in many ways. Anyway, as I said in my Preview of Supernova, the game is far from perfect though, and lacks some important elements. However I think Armada 2526 (w/ Supernova) is still one of the best 4x space strategy gaming experiences out there.

      Let’s see what Legend of Pegasus, SOTS2 and other titles can bring fresh to the genre.

  7. Steve says:

    Is this what became of the STARS! Supernova Genesis project?

  8. Claude says:

    Fantastic. I was immediately hooked, despite the fact that I had troubles with my Nvidia video card (freezes or crashes; they are working on a new patch I think to fix it). No problem at all now with an ATI.

    I just wish that they continue to improve the game. It deserves it.
    More “victory conditions” as an example.

    My favorite space strategy game. :-) “Master of Orion” with better graphics? Mmm…

  9. fafrin says:

    Any news on futher expansions to what is IMO a very good game?

    • Adam Solo says:

      Unfortunately there aren’t good news about that topic. Bob Smith, Ntronium Games Managing Director has officially said to be working on a next game title, and it isn’t a space 4X game or an Armada 2526 expansion either from what I could understand.

      “[Ntronium's next title] it’s an historically themed strategy game. I said that before somewhere. I think most people who enjoyed Armada will enjoy it, apart from the ones who only like space games.” ~Bob Smith

      “One thing I can tell you is that for this project I’m working with John Carline, an ex colleague from Total War. He’s a top top artist, and has worked on many AAA games, so expect it to be better looking than Armada.” ~Bob Smith

      “Armada 2526 was a conservative design (deliberately so, as the studio’s first product), the next game will push the boat out a little further.” ~Bob Smith

      You can read all about that in this Ntronium’s forum thread.

      Armada 2526 Gold Edition is already a very cohesive title. Perhaps Bob saw no point in extending it further in its present form. The best for him to do next in my modest opinion would be to make an even better space 4X game, now with all that he has learned. But, it looks like he’s going to explore other areas next. Too bad for us. Well, at least his next title is a strategy game :)

  10. JonathanStrange says:

    I’ve played at least two dozen Armada Supernova games at the Expert level. I’ve abandoned (out of boredom) probably twice that many games after a couple hundred turns.

    What’s a typical Supernova game like? The first stage is the well-known colony rush; the AI species are really good at this. The human player can do well enough colonizing mostly richer, habitable planets. The second stage is more about researching necessary techs, building planetary facilities, and constructing fleets; the AI empires are competent here. The third stage is taking colonies away from the enemy species; depriving them of population-based victory points and earning either the same points or glorious battle points or both; the AI is terrible here.

    The AI’s very passive; often nearly comatose. I’ve never seen an alien species get eliminated by war. I’ve rarely seen any but minor border planets be captured. The AI species declare war every so often but it’s not a big deal. Most of the time, the AI empires just have their “armadas” flying back and forth and back and forth. And often, those battle fleets aren’t the toughest ships around but the poorly armed faster ships.

    I can usually win every game mostly because the AI doesn’t seem to try to do much once its colonized every unoccupied planet. The AI empires will break off trade and diplomacy with me when I’m greatly stronger but othewise they just continue aimlessly flying their fleets nowhere even as I crush one race after another.

    Armada’s ultimately a game that doesn’t deliver a challenge. It’s fun, at first, establishing your empire. There’s a little action, sometimes: an unguarded border colony will be taken, a large enemy fleet arrive for a fight, empires break off trade relations. But it’s all perfunctory: short of not building any defenses or warships, the Human player isn’t in any danger. If the AI wins it’ll be on points or because of time limits – and the “losing” player can often be capable of destroying every single enemy planet if they had chosen to.

    I’d prefer a game where survival itself is on the line.

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