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Astriarch – Ruler of the Stars: New Indie Space TBS Gold 1.0 Released – First Impressions

By on May 19th, 2011 9:50 pm

A couple of weeks ago Mastered Software released Astriarch – Ruler of the Stars gold version (v1.0.0).

Astriarch – Ruler of the Stars is a turn-based single player space strategy game implemented in Silverlight (a Microsoft framework to develop web-browser plugins), which means that Astriarch is a browser-based game (at least for now).

Astriarch was previously released as free public beta. In the gold version Mastered Software added music and sound effects. The game is still free. They plan to develop future enhancements which will include multiplayer mode, a research tree and the desktop version of the game (i.e. a non-browser-based version).

In their website Mastered Software says that Astriarch was inspired in many aspects from other classic space strategy games like “Master of Orion 2 (MOO2), Stellar Conflict (1987 Amiga), and Star Control“. I can speak for MOO2, they really captured some aspects of the MOO2 soul. You can notice it here and there while playing.

As a curiosity the devs explained that the name Astriarch comes from the Ancient Greek words for star (ástron) and ruler (arkhos).

First Impressions

I went to the Astriarch homepage, watched the two video tutorials and started playing right away. All of this was done in the same web page. No registration page, no download required (although I had Silverlight already installed, you will need to download it in order to play). I setup a game versus 3 computer players and started playing.

As I previously watched the video tutorials I jumped into the game very quickly. I built my first farms and mines and started hitting the end turn button. Then I strolled around to see what each thing was for. The tool tips are very nice providing you all you need to know, short and incisive information.

The game is completely sandbox, so there is no story, campaign or anything like that. You setup a scenario and off you go.

User Interface

The User Interface is very simple, clean and intuitive. You get your main interaction with the game from the main strategy star map. You can see your stats, your ships and select your different planets. You have two additional panels to interact with: the planetary management window, which is the heart of the management decisions you need to make, and a fleet window in order to move your ships around.

The interface is not pretty but it does not have to be. It is functional and it completely captures the retro feel of this type of games.

The Economy System

In Astriarch your resources are food, gold, ore and iridium (a very hard high melting point metal).

You need enough food to feed your population and keep them happy (or  they revolt). You need the other three resources to build your structures and your space ships. Iridium is key to build your spaceships as I understand it is the material needed as an alloy.

Production in Astriarch is a factor of the number of Farmers, Miners and Workers you assign using the sliders in each planet to that effect. More farmers with more farms produce more food, more miners with more mines produce more ore and iridium, and more workers with more factories build things quicker. But there is a limit to the number of structures you can build in each planet and to the number of people you can hold.

The type of planet you own will affect your food, mining and production levels as for your maximum population and maximum building slots. But nothing has been left out; you can increase your population number by building colony structures.

I find Astriarch’s economy system elegant. It’s simple and easy to grasp while at the same time it is sufficiently rich and realistic. It is very well done.

Combat

There are five types of spaceships in Astriarch: Defenders, Scouts, Destroyers, Cruisers and Battleships. Some of which require certain buildings to be present at planet in order to be produced.

Combat is auto-resolved with a presentation of a screen pop-up informing you of the results. Combat is not tactical but has a very nice twist. Each spaceship type has advantages and disadvantages against each other so there is a nice degree of strategy that you can play with. For example, Scouts are good against defenders and cruisers are good against battleships. These bonuses are definitely a very interesting mechanic that really adds depth to the gameplay and to the overall what-to-build decision-making process.

There is no ground combat, no troops and no ground invasions. When your spaceship forces defeat all the garrisons holding a planet that planet is immediately captured to your side. From what I saw there is no option to bombard planets, i.e. to siege planets. You attack and win or lose. There are no retreats.

A Word about the Music

Astriarch’s music is … how shall I put it? Brilliant! It creates a great sci-fi atmosphere that transports you to the stars and really helps immersion. Great job!

Left Outs

There is no spaceship design, no research and no diplomacy in Astriarch, although Mastered Software has promised to develop a research tree in future game improvements.

Suggestions

A minimal diplomacy system would be nice. It would not need to be very complex. Just a peace and war option could be interesting to have. Right now your only interaction with the computer races is through war. To be qualified as a 4x game this is a key aspect to include, if that is what you are aiming for, of course. There could also be trade but that is probable asking too much for now.

If you could pull it off easily enough it would be very nice to add some RPG elements to the game. The minimum would be for ships to level up. This system would not need to be very complex. Each time a ship wins a battle it gains some points. After some threshold is hit they gain a level and that could give them a bonus percentage in combat. I think this is probably not too hard to implement (although I understand it’s not that easy also) and would improve, in my opinion, space combat fun dramatically.

I understand that research is planned to be a future game improvement. Minimum research options like attack and defense improvements and production enhancements, just to name a few examples, would be nice. This is another requirement, in my opinion, for the game to be qualified as 4x (you’re very close).

Optimally there could be more spaceship designs in the future, maybe a Carrier type and a Dreadnought for example. And even better, being able to tweak the ships somehow would be great.. There could be a custom ship that the player could design. Now that would be something.

Another important factor would be to introduce the element of surprise more often. It is more than proven in game design theory that fun goes side by side with surprises. If done well even negative surprises can be good elements for fun. Maybe you could add events like strikes (you already have revolts), derelicts or special features or bonuses in planets that could boost or decrease production and habitability even more, just to mention a few examples.

I think all these suggestions could be implemented quite simply without complex mechanics, fancy graphics or exquisite interfaces. It’s my 2 cents for your future plans for game improvements.

Bottom Line

Astriarch is probably one of the simplest space strategy games I’ve ever played and its brilliance is only surpassed by how strikingly simple it is to play. At the same time it provides more than enough gameplay complexity and requires that you make enough decisions to qualify it to be really worth your time.

I recommend you try Astriarch out. It should be more than enough to satisfy your space strategy craving for an easy, quick, or not so quick, game experience.

Astriarch is being discussed in this forum thread which was started personally by the Mastered Software developers. Feel free to participate in the discussion about the game and to present your suggestions directly to the devs.

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5 Comments


  1. Randi Relander says:

    Very well written review. I checked out Astriarch when it first came out but it fell off my radar. Will have to give it a second look.

  2. James P. says:

    I played a quick game. Real easy and lots of fun. Quite cool!

  3. Ged says:

    Hi Adam!

    Loved the blog. I really didn’t knew that there were so many new 4x sci-fi games. Maybe that’s because I’m also 33 and don’t have that much time to game as before :(

    • Adam Solo says:

      I’m glad you enjoy the blog. Yea, there’s always little time, that’s why part of my job with the blog is to give you guys enough info to save you the trouble on finding suitable games. Cheers.


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Post category: Game First Impressions, Game Previews, News & Announcements