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Sword of the Stars 2: Enhanced Edition Review

By on December 21st, 2012 3:58 pm

Sword of the Stars 2: Enhanced Edition

Roughly one year after probably one of the worst strategy gaming releases of recent history, Kerberos Productions and Paradox Interactive re-release the space 4X game Sword of the Stars 2, now with a new subtitle – Enhanced Edition, plus an expansion – End of Flesh.

Simply put, Sword of the Stars 2: Lords of Winter was released unfinished and extremely buggy back in October 2011. But, that is history now. To know more about the game’s state at release, and three months after, have a look at our first impressions and first review. Both the developer, and the publisher apologized for the bad release and promised to fix it.

As most of the game’s description was already done in the first review, this re-review will concentrate more on how stable, playable and fun the game really is, after a year and a ton of patches.

So, is it stable and playable now?

Yes. Sword of the Stars 2 is now playable. The game is also quite stable, at least comparing with the game’s state at release. You still bump into occasional crashes, but Kerberos has been addressing those in successive patches. And, they are still releasing many patches, even after roughly one month after this Enhanced Edition’s release.

So, one of the worst aspects of SotS2’s debacle release – its stability – is now mostly fixed.

One aspect that also plagued playability was the User Interface screen transition time, that could take many seconds to switch from one panel to the other. This is also mostly fixed now, with some occasional delays still, but nothing too serious, perhaps in the order of 1-3 secs tops.

So, in conclusion, SotS2 is now playable and stable enough. It is now finally possible to delve deep into SotS2’s gameplay.

What about the non-intuitive, feedback-lacking and unpolished UI?

Unfortunately, the UI has not evolved much since SotS2’s initial release. Even if you forgive the lack of polish and occasional glitches, like non-fitting strings or erroneous numbers – that show up from time to time – it’s still extremely hard to grasp what things mean and what you can and can’t do. So, there’s no way you will learn how to play this game just by playing it. It’s imperative to read the manual (since there’s no in-game tutorial) to search for clues and to learn what things are for. However, a top to bottom read approach is probably not the best strategy, at least at first. The best is probably to play the game, and when you have doubts – and you will have many – switch to the manual and read the particular chapter about what you don’t understand. But, a full top to bottom read is imperative at some point in time.

But, even with the improved manual – I know because I read it top to bottom at first release and now – it’s still hard to understand some of the game’s concepts. For example, the game’s support concept requires that your systems have enough of these “CEs” or Cruiser Equivalents. So, if you have a fleet with 5 cruisers, you will need at least 5 CEs support capacity to allow that fleet to be stationed on a particular system. Ok, simple enough. The problem is that this, and other concepts, are poorly described in the manual, and many times you end up discovering what things are for only after playing hundreds and hundreds of turns across several games.

As an example, I discovered only very recently how to calculate distances between systems in light years. Or, what about those small numbers “26/100” that are shown below the system name? These numbers mean, in this example, that you have 26 CEs (cruisers) stationed in that particular system at the moment, and 100 is the cap. But, why is it 100? No clue at first. You need to dig up the manual again, or even search in the sots2’s online wiki (and sometimes the game forums), to understand how certain things are calculated. The problem is that these are basic concepts that should be presented by the UI in some way, being it via tooltips or in a simple tutorial. But no, everything is still very hard to figure out in SotS2. So, be prepared for probably the steepest learning curve of space 4X gaming history.

A word on Diplomacy

When the game was first released, the diplomacy system was still in its skeleton phase. Barely functional. And that was when you could experience it at all, since the game was unplayable at the time.

What about now?

Well, you can establish several types of treaties, do espionage, offer gifts and demand things. All the basic options you look for in a diplomacy system worthy of the 4X name. But, unfortunately, SotS2:EE’s diplomacy system feels barren and absolutely not engaging, even if you exclude the bad aesthetics, which is really not the essential part. The problem is that the diplomacy system feels disjointed, random and nonsensical in many occasions.

It feels like everything is there at your disposal but the actions that you undertake, or what the AI does, doesn’t feel natural but almost purely random. Basically it feels disconnected from the game. Say, you request a treaty and you obtain a “No”. Now, why was that? No clue. You lobby an alien – bribe or do fancy talk – and receive a “Not interested”. Why? Don’t know. The AI offers you a non-aggression pact, and you think “Hey, great!”, and you’re even presented with a heart shape and a happy face in a UI dialog pop up, both signals of good mood from that race towards you, right? Then you check relations – or mood indicator – and they got … worse? Why?

Sword of the Stars 2: Enhanced Edition - Diplomacy screen

And then, the AI just pops up an occasional request for money, or info request about a particular system that doesn’t really make sense. I mean, why did the AI just demanded to know about a system that is so far away from their territory? I mean, it’s on the opposite side of their territory? They should be more interested in knowing what’s going on closer to their borders, no?

You can’t help but thin that many things don’t feel right about diplomacy. The implementation feels wrong. I mean, the diplomacy concept in itself is quite interesting. You can’t just engage at diplomacy to your heart’s content. Like, talking to your neighbours every turn or so. No. And that’s cool. You must first generate a pool of diplomacy points so that you can spend them in diplomatic actions. You must research diplomatic chambers that fit your adversaries’ comfort needs. And, you need to install them in diplomatic stations, that supposedly are more effective when they are established closer to the AI territory. This all sounds great.

But, how many of these diplomatic points am I generating per turn? And, what is generating them? You can’t really tell. You will not find the answers neither in-game nor in the manual. Yes, that’s right. You need to go online, check the wiki or the forums to find the answers to these questions. And even when you do get the answers you simply can’t check them in-game because the UI lacks those features. So, you must know some things by heart, and do the calculations yourself.

Basically put, the diplomacy system, although much better now, is still very unsatisfying and clearly not up to par with other 4X games. There’s still a lot of work ahead to make it work.

A word on the AI

And now we reach an area where the game is still quite weak. The artificial intelligence, or AI.

We know that the AI plays a key role in games, especially in strategy games, and even more in 4X games, where the majority of players enjoy to play single-player. We also know that this is a sensitive area. We know it’s hard to implement a decent and convincing AI, and that it cannot be as good as Humans, yet. We also know that usually the solution is to give the AI enormous bonuses so that they can keep up with Human players. We all know this.

But, at least we must feel that the AI can give a fight and feel alive. We must feel it’s worth to invest the time because ultimately the idea behind a 4X game, or any strategy game, is to achieve victory by vanquishing your opponents. Not that it means through war only, but beat them. If no challenge is felt, then why bother? If there are no competent adversaries to make you plan and think your strategy through, then you don’t have a strategy game in your hands, but a simulation game. Nothing against simulation, of course.

At its current state I don’t think SotS2:EE’s AI is challenging enough. Even if you take out the already discussed lacking diplomacy aspects, the game fails at providing you with enough challenge. In all my games I never felt threatened. I seldomly saw an AI fleet close to my borders, and when I saw them, or pay them a visit, all I saw was mostly survey, colonization or construction fleets.

And you may say, “Well, what about those random encounters and grand menaces? They can provide quite a challenge.”.

Those are random events generated by the game to keep you busy while you’re developing your empire. And some of these encounters are indeed fun to play and can be quite challenging, and even dreadful. But, they are just that, random encounters. Battle instances spawned from nowhere (literally nowhere) to satisfy your combat’s appetite while nothing big is happening in the real game.

Frankly, I don’t like the random encounters system as it is implemented at the moment. They do give a fight, keep you mildly entertained, and make you prepare for them. But, they feel too artificial. They are not a result of your actions, but just something that is thrown at your face, and mostly they are unpleasant surprises. All surprises are good, that’s my philosophy, but not when almost all of them are negative and make you feel hopeless about them all the time.

So, you end up feeling frustrated with random encounters. They cripple your progression, which would not really be a problem in itself if that would lead you somewhere. So, random encounters just pop from time to time, to give you a hard time and the feeling of running after ghosts. In fact, there’s even one “Ghost ship” in one of this encounters. Fortunately, you can switch off random encounters at game setup.

In conclusion, I didn’t feel engaged while playing, nor interested in developing my empire, because ultimately I felt that there was no point. I just felt that the AI was doing its AI random business with no actual consequence, and I was in my backyard trying to survive all those random encounters while struggling with all the doubts and frustrations the UI throws at you. Where are my fleets? Where was my most productive planet again? Where is that planet that I just spied two turns ago? What menace did I just discovered in that system?

If you play multiplayer maybe you can take more from this game, but if you’re more into single-player, then don’t expect to find much challenge here.

What about the good stuff?

Fortunately, there’s a considerable amount of good and even great aspects in SotS2:EE, that allow some people to enjoy this game.

Most of the good aspects were already thoroughly described in my original SotS2 review, and in the first impressions article, namely the engaging and fun real-time combat system, which is probably the deepest and most gorgeous to date in a 4X game. However, and for the sake of conclusion, I will mention them again in this re-review.

SotS2:EE’s combat system is very good. Graphics are great, perhaps the best up to par with Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion (also a highly combat-focused 4X game), and in some cases even superior. But, the comparisons to Sins stop there, because there’s much more to SotS2:EE’s combat than eye candy. There are a lot of tactical options available in SotS2:EE. You can decide what the best positions to face the enemy are. You may decide to stay at long firing range or engage in direct fire. You have several interesting types of ships available, like torpedo ships or carriers that launch battle riders at your command, which are kind of fighters or destroyer-sized ships. There’s also psychic (psionic) warfare.

Sword of the Stars 2: Enhanced Edition - Space combat

There are also a good number of shield options to go for. Some protect only the front of your ship, while others protect all the ship but are less effective, or you can even cloak ships. You can also plan before hand where to spread your fleets across a system, where sometimes it’s required to protect several planets, and you may even decide to break a defense fleet into squads. And, you can also design formations for your fleets. So, as you see, there’s a lot of depth in tactical combat, and it’s very pretty too.

Sword of the Stars 2: Enhanced Edition - Research screen

Another SotS2:EE’s strong gameplay aspect is its research system. SotS2:EE research is varied, somewhat randomized (some techs may not appear in different games) and ultimately very appealing. The UI research screen is very intuitive and easy to navigate. Not the case when SotS2 was first released, but now there’s only good things to say about research.

SotS2:EE’s ship design is also a very strong gameplay aspect. Although not all the UI aspects are that intuitive, namely the ships weapons’ damage or the firing arc, the ship design screen is very easy to use and quite rewarding overall. It’s very fun to design new ships.

Sword of the Stars 2: Enhanced Edition - Ship design

The modular concept remains from the first installment, so, you start from a vessel type base, then choose the role of the ship (torpedo, carrier, standard armor, other) and then equip the weapon mounts and choose from a set of optional modules. Then you need to build a very expensive prototype, and after that you can start mass producing your ships. And, you can also retrofit your ships. This is basically all you could ask for in a good ship design system.

The stations system is also very good and quite deep. You can construct several types of space stations: trade, military, science, mining and diplomatic. You can also develop these with additional modules and upgrade them to even bigger installations, which will grant you even more bonuses, but that also lead you to specialize in certain aspects in favor of others.

Sword of the Stars 2: Enhanced Edition - Station Manager

There’s definitely plenty of depth and variety to keep you occupied deciding what your stations strategy should be. Should you expand your military stations, or invest in trade? Should you stimulate mining to boost production or should you increase your diplomatic influence? It’s really very fun to plan your space stations’ development, and they evolve into bigger and bigger installations which is also nice to watch.

End of Flesh expansion

Besides improving the core aspects of Sword of the Stars 2: Lords of Winter, the Enhanced Edition also brings more content, namely a few more techs, weapons, new random encounters and new Leviathan class ships, but particularly a new race, the Loa.

SotS2:EE’s lore, and the available playable factions, are quite interesting. The game features seven different species – or races – and six different playable factions. In SotS2:EE, a faction can be a combination of two races, and that’s what you play, and not the individual races themselves.

The Loa are a new race and playable faction, a cybernetic one. The Loa rebelled against their makers (the original races) and they now seek revenge, and the opportunity to subjugate them or ultimately terminate them, therefore the term “End of Flesh”. To counter their emergence in the galaxy, the original races now have a new tech branch called Cybernetics, so that the organic races can better deal with and counter the Loa. Of course, the Loa don’t have that tech branch.

The Loa are very distinct from previous available races gameplay-wise. Opposite to others, Loa don’t favor what others consider hospitable planets, but the contrary. The Loa can’t use Psionics, a special tech tree devoted to psychic powers, so they don’t have use for living organisms. Terraforming for them is actually to wipe out all living presence from a planet. How cool is that?

Another major difference of the Loa, is in the way they travel the stars, which is always something radically different from race to race. The Loa travel through gates that must be installed in a system in order to accelerate travel. But, they also need to build hoops between systems to keep the speed.

But, above all else, what makes Loa so distinct are their space ships, and especially how they are built and used. Contrary to all other races, the Loa don’t assemble permanent ships but a collection of cubes that can be later re-assembled into something else. So, if you need to colonize a system you can just instruct your ships to “morph” into a colonization fleet. If you need to construct a station you just order your fleet to transform into a construction type fleet. Wow! Sounds too good to be true, right? Yes. It’s much easier to start with the Loa but they do have their disadvantages.

Sword of the Stars 2: Enhanced Edition - Loa ship profile

For instance, they are quite weak against EMP weapons, and their ships seem to be much weaker in combat, in terms of armor. Their FTL drive also seems more limited than some of the other races’s drives later in the game. Moreover, they also need to protect their gates to keep the travelling speeds. But, the Loa are definitely very flexible, and very easy to start with. For instance, they don’t need to spend as much funds on security, because they don’t suffer from corruption.

Overall, I feel that the expansion brings interesting and meaningful new content. I only played a couple of games with the Loa but I find them a good and interesting addition to the SotS2’s universe.

Further scattered thoughts and observations

There are still missing art assets – voices and event images. At least, the Human faction has much more voice effects than the Tarkas, for example. But, there are definitely missing images in the event window, at least when playing the Tarkas.

When moving ships around – or relocating from reserves to a different base – you can’t send ships from different systems at once, but need to use the relocate function several times over until you gather all the reserves you want. Also, the UI allows you to relocate a fleet to a system that shouldn’t be able to support that fleet in the first place, only for the fleet to get back to the initial base, and leaving you wonder why was that.

Everytime you use the Battle Manager to place your defense fleets throughout a star system, the current positions reset. So, you cannot tweak the positions but only always start from scratch.

Adjusting your research spending in a quick way moves credits to extra security and stimulus instead of diverting funds to savings, which would be my option 99% of the time.

Although innovative, the missions concept makes it very hard to understand how many turns a particular fleet actually takes to do things, because the ETA sums the time it takes to reach the destination, do the mission itself and the time required to head back to base. And, some Admirals have traits that speed up some missions, and you end up not being sure if that was accounted for in the ETA calculations or not. It’s a bit confusing. This is something that the devs can’t really do much about at this stage, since it was a design decision. It sounded good at first, but it really isn’t that brilliant and is actually quite complex and mouse-click intensive to accomplish things.

You don’t seem to be capable to invade a system with multiple fleets, but only with one at a time.

The broken battle report (showing wrong number of destroyed ships) was fixed just a couple of days before this review was up, which was about three weeks after release.

You constantly need to tell your ships to Patrol a system. Then need to issue Patrol again, and again. And this multiplied by all the systems you control. So annoying.

The star map is not very user-friendly. It’s not easy to grasp where your colonies are, and you don’t get a territorial sense, a so fundamental aspect in 4X games. It’s also very hard to understand where your fleets are, and which colonies have fleets on them. The Fleet Manager is too convoluted, with too many non-essential information and poorly organized. I just want to know where my ships are.

Sword of the Stars 2: Enhanced Edition - Fleet Manager

Say you want to prototype a very expensive new design. You don’t seem to have a way to quickly tell which is your best productive colony, or the one with the most population. These are very basic requirements in a 4X game.

The colonization support mission is a very interesting and fun new mechanic in a space 4X game, which lets you speed up terraforming with a colony fleet. It’s interesting because it forces you to decide whether to invest on colonizing a new planet, or enhance an existing one, because while supporting a planet your colonization fleet can’t do anything else.

Sometimes the UI shows wrong or strange numbers, like ‘990’ when it should read ‘1990’. Bad string truncation at places.

Why can I see the numerical damage a particular weapon does when I build ships or in the tech screen, but not when I’m designing ships?

The diplomacy screen is very unpolished. Example: What is a C/F or NAP? Ok, should read Cease Fire and Non Aggression Pact.

Voice over inconsistencies. Sometimes you get a voice saying “you got an early breakthrough”, when it took more time than previously assumed to research a tech? Humor?

An event reads “You won a battle against a meteor shower (with a trophy image)”. But, in the end my colony was wiped out. Humor?

There is no such thing as ETA: zero turns. Either one thing takes one, or more turns, or the thing is already done.

What does a trade treaty actually do? Not sufficiently described in the manuals.

Not possible to have multiple victory conditions set. You choose one at the beginning and need to stick with it. And there doesn’t seem to be a way to see what it was again in case you forget it.

The dynamic government type that adapts to your play style is a great and innovative idea.

Very cryptic support/range concept. How exactly does endurance and supply work? Manual reads “Fleets can only go on missions when the mission length is less than or equal to their endurance” but wiki says “Fleets will only draw from their own supply if outside the supply radius of the Empire’s colonies and stations.”. It’s the latter I suppose, but this means the manual is wrong. Confusing at best.

Manual and wiki read that the Imperial Population of a planet is largely responsible for the empire production and research. But, research spending is allocated from the treasury, that supposedly is generated from trade and taxes, which only the civilian population seem to be responsible for.

Note: Even if some of these remarks are explained in some less obvious way in the manual (since I read and re-read it). Or, if they were already fixed on some recent hotfix. Or, some of this is described on the online wiki, or explained beautifully in the forums, that’s still not the way you should be playing a game.

Ok. But, is it worth it in the end?

No. Personally, I don’t think it’s worth it in the end. I mean, to endure the pain of learning how to play this game to finally start to have a few glimpses of fun from time to time. But, to ultimately realize that (at the moment) it doesn’t mean much in the end because the AI isn’t much of a challenge in any case.

I played around 650 turns total for this review, spread over 8 games, with the longest game session reaching 179 turns for a total of 92h played, says Steam (although I can’t tell if that includes Lords of Winter play time as well). Honestly, I think I invested probably 75% of all that time just to learn how to play the game.

But, if you love a steep learning curve challenge, the discovery feeling – and I mean not gameplay-wise but discover in the sense of how to play a game – then by all means try it. However, consider yourself warned.

Bottom line

So, you see? Now, as before, I feel that Sword of the Stars 2 should have everything to be a great 4X gaming experience, perhaps one of the best. Especially now with the Enhanced Edition re-release and the End of Flesh expansion. Perhaps one day, but not today.

Unfortunately, a great game is much more than the sum of its parts. It takes much more than good ideas and sound concepts to make an excellent game and ultimately a fun experience.

Who may enjoy this game? I would say fans of the previous Sword of the Stars installment, the people who are familiarized with the extensive (and quite interesting) lore, they could probably like to play this game. Also, people who favor tactical combat aspects and don’t mind having a subpar strategic layer. Or, perhaps other hardcore gamers who love a very steep learning curve, don’t mind the lack of polish, don’t get bored by reading manuals, wikis or go to the developers forums. Or, still, enthusiasts who just want to help the developers to continue fleshing out the game.

One thing is certain, no matter if you’re a fan or a potential one, you have to be aware that you’re buying a work-in-progress game. The research, ship design and especially the combat are very good and solid, but the strategic experience, the whole experience, is simply not ready yet.

Games, and in particular 4X games, live and die for how compelling their gameplay actually feels in the end. The player needs to feel that there is a cohesiveness, the feeling that all the game parts are all part of a wonderful experience. And this is where I think Sword of the Stars 2 still fails.

Sword of the Stars II: Enhanced Edition (PC)

Buy it at GamersGate. Also available on Steam and GameStop.

Space Sector score:
The Good:
– Excellent combat system with lots of tactical depth. And it’s very pretty also
– Cool stations concept lets you build and upgrade massive space stations in a fun way
– Elegant research system, with random elements and good tech tree depth
– Designing and building spaceships is fun
– Alien factions offer a distinctive way to play, and their lore is also interesting
– The End of Flesh expansion adds an interesting and fun new race to play – the Loa
The Bad:
– Lack of in-game information and UI feedback shortcomings are quite frustrating
– Lacking starmap and UI don’t help you control your empire in an enjoyable way
– Very steep learning curve
– Diplomacy is not appealing or engaging enough, not up to par with other 4X games
– The AI is weak. The game is simply not challenging enough
– Occasional bugs and overall lack of polish
– Strategic layer lacks cohesion and is ultimately not that fun to play
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  1. RandomBlue says:

    Nice review.

    I’ve been playing this a decent amount since Enhanced Edition came out but decided to shelve it again. The AI, as you noted, is just bad. Even on hard it’s not a challenge. They’ll continually send wave after wave of survey or colonization fleets to planets where I wipe them out with minimal losses over and over, just throwing away resources and wasting my time with repetitive combat.

    After 20 or so turns of this I decided to try and let auto-resolve handle it since I was taking them out so easily. So I put my defense platforms next to their spawning sector and place my fleets there in the battle manager and start auto-resolution. The first thing my fleet does is fly back to my colony, leaving the platforms to be wiped out and doing next to no damage to the enemy fleet during the 5 minute simulated combat.

    Another automated combat attempt I had a fleet with 2 rows of ships, 2 in the front and 5 in the back. They spot the enemy ships and the 2 in front go attack by themselves and die while the other 5 just sat there.

    After those two combats within 2-3 turns I alt-F4’d and decided to shelve it for a few more months.

    The game is probably fairly fun in multiplayer assuming the crash issues have been resolved, but unfortunately I don’t have the time to play a game like this in multiplayer.

    Total time played for me is about 93 hours, ~30 of those on EE and ALL of it on unfinished games, mostly due to bugs encountered or other gameplay issues. My longest game was around 250 turns I believe.

  2. larchy says:

    Appreciate your in depth review – thanks!

    As A SotS1 fan I’ve been holding off on the sequel, and I think I’ll be skipping it unless there’s a dramatic improvement in the ease of actually playing it. Sounds very frustrating to even accomplish some basic things.

    “So, be prepared for probably the steepest learning curve of space 4X gaming history.”

    – goodness, surely even this can’t hold a candle to Aurora?

    • Gary says:

      I have to agree with larchy on this one… surely SotS2:EE can’t have a learning curve as steep as Aurora?

      I’m waiting for the day that Steve either writes a real UI for Aurora, or someone else does it for him :) Because underneath that impossible UI is a very good and extremely complex game!

    • Alexpar says:

      I think Sword of the stars II still has a long way to go before it even comes close to Aurora in complexity, that game is just insane!

  3. Jorus says:

    Spot-on review: I thought it was me, but I could not grasp the mechanics of the economy/diplomacy, nor could I develop any enthusiasm for the continued growth and well-being of my empire.
    It seems that meteor showers occupied most of my time, and I could have a lot more fun blasting asteroids on an arcade game.
    Thank you for making me feel better with my decision to drop this game.

  4. henrikcomn says:

    Great review.

    I guess there is a lot of mixed opinions about this one :) but I do trust YOUR review the most!

    Great work as always Adam!

  5. Devildogff says:

    Seriously, if I was to write a review of this game as-is, and I was as articulate and well written as you, it would be incredibly similar. You really hit the nail on the head.

    This is exactly why I’ll continue reading your website. Some of the best writing I’ve read…well, ever. Couldn’t agree more with this re-review. Great job!

  6. Cem says:

    review is great.

    I was wondering if the game worth to spend time…

    Let’s stick to Distant Worlds while waiting the Star Drive.

  7. LuckyLuigi says:

    A fair review. You nailed it pretty well.
    SOTS1 is the better game but I do feel it should be emphasized the battles and the ships are bloody gorgeous.
    Even as an Ex-SOTS1 player it took me quite a while to figure out how to play SOTS2. Eventually you do get the hang of it and most of the problematic areas can be solved by using a little flexibility (for example, I rename a fleet when it relocates or goes on a mission so I always know where it is stationed and what is is doing).
    Some bugs you mentioned have already been solved. Patrols will continue indefinately for example.
    However some low hanging fruit is still not solved (example : Why do fleets without constructors in them show up when I want to do Build Station mission ???).
    Anyway, I agree with your verdict 95% but it really does deserve a bonus point for the glorious ship combat (7/10)

    • Adam Solo says:

      I also rename fleets to where they’re stationed. It does help.

      “Why do fleets without constructors in them show up when I want to do Build Station mission ?”
      Yes, a good question.

      Believe me, the excellent combat system was taken into account, as you can read in the review.

  8. Jeff P says:

    I was very irritated when Kerberos announced SotSII as a brand new game limited to the Vista/Win7 OS. I loved SotSI and was very discouraged I would not be able to play the updated game (I haven’t upgraded to Win7 for reasons of cost). Now it looks like my frustration wasn’t warranted: neither SotSII nor the “Enhanced Edition” seem worthy of the SotS mantle.

    I’m a fan of the Borderlands series, and that game (as well as Sins, Fallout 3 and Gal Civ II) demonstrate how to produce a worthy successor: don’t mess with what works, add lots of fresh content, and tweak enough aspects of the game to set it apart from its predecessor. “Re-imagining” a successful game is too often a recipe for a failure.

  9. hakkarin says:

    It looks like the game still isn’t really any good.


    Perhaps there will be more expansion packs in the future that will make the game actually good.

    • A bird says:

      There will be future expansions. I’ve read on a forum, that there is going to be 2.5 expansions. (End of flesh, something with a new race and something like Argos Naval Yard that will give you some new techs)

  10. David Carron says:


    Adam, your time and acumen invested in this is sorely appreciated.

    I suspect that they will eventually get their crap together. Then again, many were hoping that MOO3 would amount to something other the anti-fun exercise that we were left with.

    I suppose those Hive eggs will I have will have to go back into storage for another year. At least we can keep hope alive with all the tasty offerings coming down the pike. (Or would you have MORE?)

  11. tim says:

    i agree with some points and disagree with some other points

    it can get frustrating at times, like the stations in planets bug a while back, or a bug i had in my previous game where the ai had built ‘the black’ and everytime i fought it i ended up with a ctd

    but there are really awesome moments as well, like running into ai counter fleets early in the game, where i’m still using mostly missile cruisers, suddenly i run into a fleet that deflects my missiles back at me, forcing me to scrap most of my current fleets

    or running into ai fleets with front shielding, having to flank them with 4 ships, slowly getting behind them and then take out their engines one at a time

    the ai can be bad at times, but that’s because it seems to make too many survey and colony fleets, so it’s a good idea to give the ai a headstart: 6 starting systems, max tech and credits at game creation, this will allow for a better game

    one thing i’d like to say though is that playing 179 turns is still very early in a sots2 game, in fact you haven’t reached the midgame yet by then, most of your efforts will still be focused towards colonizing expanding and exploring the systems around you and improving your economy, and i doubt either you or the ai will have started prototyping a dreadnaught fleet, in fact i think the ai (in a standard game setup) will probably not have antimatter engines yet

    but i agree the ai needs help, and lots of it, if you ally yourself with an ai midgame or late game, you’ll notice they’ll have dozens of colony fleets parked at random systems, dozens of survey fleets not doing anything and they’ll be running into huge debt, they’ll needlessly upgrade certain stations (naval is very costly but they need to do it because of the huge amount of useless fleets) and they sometimes wait to long to design a new counter fleet, instead they keep sending a continuous stream of week combat and invasion fleets that you chew up too easily

    the ai also tends to split its defense fleets up for the defense of single planet systems, making an invasion too easy, since it’s easy to take on 4-5 ships at a time with a full fleet

    and if you send 3 fleets at an ai system, chances are if you leave 1or2 ships alive (the cnc) you wont to have fight another fleet during your 3 combat phases

    anyway i typed to much, i’d give it a 7.5/10 simply because i love it so much despite a lot of problems still, but the devs have been doing their best and i have good hopes for a good ai somewhere down the line

  12. Dagonite says:

    Fair review. Personally, I probably would have given it a higher score, but the content is absolutely spot on and I agree with you on pretty much everything.

    The AI does suck, and that really makes a lot of difference, murdering immersion and making it all feel “hollow” in the end. With a decent AI, that uses diplomacy in a non schizophrenic way, I think it could easily make 8-9, despite the high learning curve.

  13. Mark says:

    Excellent in-depth review Adam. I know you had a difficult time with this one, but I think the result was really worth it, the review came across as fair, balanced and informative.

    I haven’t really played the game enough to notice how bad the AI was, so that was the most disappointing piece of news for me. It seems like such a waste to put all that time and effort into playing the game when the AI cant even put up a decent fight. I also agree that the learning curve is just horrific, I’m still nowhere near to understanding this game properly although I have found that there are some tutorial videos (by a Kerberos forum member called Rorschack) which do a very good job of explaining the basics.

    I think that in spite of everything, I will still persevere with it, just for the amazing tactical combat. So few 4x games even attempt to do tactical combat as well as this one. I just hope that they will eventually do something about the AI as well as the multitude of other issues you highlighted so effectively.

    • RandomBlue says:

      If you haven’t played Sword of the Stars 1 with all the expansions I’d recommend that over SotS2 for now. Tactical combat is similar but the rest of the game is much more streamlined and fun.

      • Mark says:

        Yes I do have SOTS I with all expansions and I have to (reluctantly) agree with you that it is a better game. Hopefully SOTS II will eventually eclipse it although sadly it has a long way to go in order to do so.

  14. Samwell says:

    Thank you, Adam.

    I was hoping your review could show me any game aspects I might have overlooked, or that were newly added. And I am very sad, yet not surprised, to read that this game is (still) fundamentally flawed.

    My own experience matches yours spot on, except for stations, which I find a horrible micromanagement disaster / though thats more of a UI issue.

    But the core statement holds absolutely true: It’s not fun.

    There is no sense of accomplishment whatsoever, and frankly I am not sure that even a “great” AI could remedy that. At no point in the experience did I feel that I really “built” something there, and that, in my mind, is the worst thing to say to a 4X game.

    So yeah, shame, but it’s a good point as any to put a PERIOD on that game for good.

  15. Fimbul says:

    Thanks for the rereview. it’s right to the point.

    compared to SotS1 is it just lame. even the battles feel slower and not so fun. but for me is the strategic part the most lame. stations are ok but tend to too much micro (sending all around your constructor fleets) and a lot of the dynamic of SotS1 is lost of the new mission system. how stupid is it to send first a survey mission and then a gate mission? which is what hiver ai is doing.

    it’s sad, there are so many promising parts, but they weren’t able to take over what makes SotS1 to a great game.

  16. Evil Azrael says:

    I think 6/10 is still a little bit overrated. The game sounds too complicated with too little documentation. The manual is really bad. In the 90s such games had manuals with 150+ pages, nowadays this has been reduced to 20 + a in game tutorial and Sots2 still lacks this tutorial. With this steep and long(!) learning curve you might discover how to use the UI (the “how”) and perhaps get a grasp of the basic concepts but you will never understand the hidden mechanisms (the “why”) and this is what definitively has to be documentated. Is anybody still working on that?

    To be honest, despite loving complex games (and their manuals) i doubt that this game will make fun in the near future and i think this game will sooner or later become a second Legends of Pegasus. I guess they need the money from the DLCs to survive so they improve the game but currently i doubt that anybody really wants to invest his money in the game. So the decision is, do i keep my money and wait until they bust and I will have a half-completed game foreaver or do I invest my money in a DLC to a game that in the current state is not enjoyable and hope sometime it will be a good game?

    • caekdaemon says:

      There ain’t any DLC for the game. If your talking about End of Flesh, it’s the free expansion pack for the game, which raises the game to Enhanced Edition status.

      • A bird says:

        No, there are DLCs for SoTS 2 (at least they were), they add only alternative painting style for the ships of six factions (except Loa), new avatars and badges

    • Adam Solo says:

      Good point, steep and “long!” learning curve.

      Regarding the decision on “what to do?”, meaning, if you should decide to re-buy or buy the Enhanced Edition to help the devs finish their game or not? It depends on you and you alone. If you’re part of the “enthusiasts who just want to help the developers to continue fleshing out the game”, and you have the money, I don’t see why not. But, as you said, you will be spending your hard earned money to buy a game not to play but to “invest”, so that hopefully one day you will have another enjoyable product.

      But you said it yourself: “I doubt that this game will make fun in the near future”. Really, it’s up to you where you spend your money. Do you prefer to buy a finished and enjoyable product or invest on an unfinished one? Or both? It’s up to you.

  17. caekdaemon says:


    I managed to learn how to play the game entirely in game, without touching the manual. It’s a really easy game once you take a look at it.

    And very moddable, too :D

    • caekdaemon says:

      Just read more of the article :P

      The Random Encounters are actually a byproduct of your actions. Especially the VN.

      The VN will come along peacefully to mine your system and your ships. If you kill the VN Mothership in that fleet, they send an attack ship. You kill that, and they send the Berserker.

      I don’t know what happens after that :O

    • Adam Solo says:

      “I managed to learn how to play the game entirely in game” ~caekdaemon

      “It’s a really easy game once you take a look at it.” ~caekdaemon

      “They’ve done marvelous work on the game, it’s in excellent shape.” (a comment you made on Sword of the Stars 2: Enhanced Edition Announced post) ~caekdaemon

      Wow caekdaemon, just wow. We’re playing the same game right? ;)

      So, who from the “Who may enjoy this game?” list are you? (see “Bottom line” in the review)

      • DevildogFF says:

        The kind that is in Kerberos’ pocket.

        I just don’t see how else you can say any of that…

      • caekdaemon says:

        I’m probably the kind of player who has been burned by bad releases so often in my life that I don’t care about the state of a game anymore. If it runs, it is playable.

        I don’t care what state a game is in, anymore. LoP, MOO3, SOTS2, they are all playable to me. In comparison to some of the other games I’ve played in the past, SOTS2 is in great condition. The crashes are pretty few and far between, but yes, the AI is in a sorry ass state. But if you play it on MP, you don’t have that problem, and with drop in drop out MP, it don’t matter if you have the time to play. You can just pop in for twenty turns and go.

        Everything in game is very, very easy to understand (remember this is coming from a guy who considers HoI3 pretty casual :P ) . The mission system makes perfect sense, when you get down to it, and it’s more realistic than the older, SOTS1 style mission system, where you could send a ship around the galaxy to map tons of systems, then scuttle it when it runs out of fuel. Instead, your crewmen are no longer willing to leave and never come home.

        The game does have it’s faults. Mostly, the Loa. I can’t stand trying to play those guys, and the survey system has taken away a huge section of human gameplay.

        So yes, I’m the guy who has long since stopped caring. My gaming standards died off years ago.

        • DevildogFF says:

          Well, when you put it that way….

          Guess we should ALL just start lowering our standards so we can have fun with 4X games again….

          I feel you on the burned part. Keep an eye out for Stardrive, though. I’m a total fanboy of it as it’s actually really good already. More time – and the eventual expansions/dlc/add-ons – will probably solidify it as one of the all-time greats. Of any genre.

        • Gary says:

          caekdaemon said: “Everything in game is very, very easy to understand (remember this is coming from a guy who considers HoI3 pretty casual :P )”

          Well, that explains it! HoI3 casual? SMH :)

        • Adam Solo says:

          I don’t know if you were being serious, but no, allow me to disagree. We should keep our standards high and push for better products. I think it’s preferable to have less good products to plenty of mediocre products. If you choose to lower your standards, that will just lead you to the slow death of the genre. And, one day, nobody will even remember what a 4X game was again.

          And, it’s not like there aren’t great and even excellent 4X titles around. Civ5:G&K (2012), Distant Worlds: Legends (2011), Armada 2526:Supernova (2011), Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion (2012). And even Fallen Enchantress or Endless Space to some degree (maybe a bit more time for this one). And StarDrive is coming, and there’s a good chance it can be a great title. And the ones starting now: MORE, Predestination, Star Lords, Horizon and others.

          Please, don’t embrace mediocrity. Push for quality. Give a chance to indies but demand a fun experience in the end.

        • RandomBlue says:

          Legends of Pegasus is playable? Hilarious.

        • Mark says:

          Yeah, my standards are higher than that, I actually have some!

        • Devildogff says:

          @Adam No, sorry, I wasn’t being serious. Sarcasm doesn’t come out well on the internets. I completely agree. I do feel a little burned by recent releases, but I will not lower my standards. I’m too ADD to reduce my standards anyway because if it’s NOT a great game, my attention diverts elsewhere very quickly.

          So no, not lowering my standards. Have high expectations for ALL those games listed, especially Stardrive.

  18. t1it says:

    Excellent review (gave me several smiles too LOL). SotS fails in two of the main pillars of what makes a good 4x game; [at least a decent] interface and [a competent] AI. It’s very sad as I’ve grown to appreciate it’s in depth game play (even the strategic part) and all the sweet details of ship combat. It’s quite fun and refreshing to see a game with this much emphasizing on logistics and combat. But you also has allot of unfun from the interface, the random events (god I so agree with you on this one) and the AI. This end up killing much of the potential fun and immersion and you’re left with annoyance and frustration.

    I’ve heard the dev team is decimated too (but still fighting on, kudos to them) so I’m not sure when this game will reach full potential.
    Too bad. I really like complex games but this game has the “complicated and confusing as fuck” parameter on top of that. Not worth it.

  19. lammaer says:

    Adam, I’m sad to say, but your review is just… right.

    Everything what you listed on the negative side is so true, these “tiny” missing bits really ruin the game for me as well. It’s like the game is bleeding from thousand of tiny scratches – one by one they are just tiny, but together they just kills the game.

    THe only thing what keeps me playing is the space battles themselves. They are awesome, I really enjoy even just sit back and watching the show is my beams rip apart an enemy ship.
    Also the races are greatly invented, they are so distinct that it “forces” the space strategy fan to at least try them. This is where SOTS shines. If they could make tha strategy part just as good, this game would be the best….

    But lets hope they will keep working on it.

  20. Gary says:

    Thanks for the review Adam. I guess I would be considered an “investor” in the game, since I bought it during a Steam sale for 75% off, and haven’t even played it yet. But I continue to see updates for the game, so I’m hopeful :)

    • Alexpar says:

      I think that I too am an investor. I am trying to understand the game, but it is a very difficult and unfriendly game.

      The attitudes of the dev’s over at the Kerberos forums don’t help either. Any sign of disagreement with them and your thread is quickly locked, after they have the last condescending word of course.

  21. Pynchon says:

    The computer game industry is not what it used to be, and a lot of strategy game reviews do not take into account the fact that it is simply a miracle in this day and age to get ANY funding for a computer strategy game, let alone one with the all the expectations that people are bringing to them. You might say, “well, look at Civ 5 and XCOM” . . . those are indeed great games, but the former is a legendary series that has arguably had little innovation for the past several iterations in game mechanics while most of the development effort has focused on improving the UI and the graphics. XCOM would have NEVER been made if it didn’t have a console focus behind it.

    SotS is an old-school strategy game in a time period of razor-thin margins for game companies. The fact is, in today’s market, gamers are not going to get what they want: a truly innovative product with high production values and super-user friendly UI.

    Let’s take a recent example: Endless Space. After reading this article: , it’s clear that when a company does focus on UI and graphics, something has to give–namely innovative and deep gameplay. Not to mention, Amplitude have stated that their game was a “moderate”, break-even success. IN fact, the devs don’t sound all that pleased with its performance. Gamers want the best 4X game–ask yourself, where is the money going to come from in this market? What investor is going to greenlight a game that is only going to break-even in a space with some of the most finicky and obsessive fans alive?

    As for the actual review, Adam missed a few key points and in some places was incorrect at describing some of the games mechanics. Also, some of SotS2’s innovations were not described or understood:

    1) The allievation of late game micro/macro management tedium. The stimulus system is an interesting way of having the computer take over the colonization, trade, and production resources for star systems. The more money you put into stimulus, the more the civilians “take-over” colonizing planets, building trade freighters, and building mining (resource stations). Through tech research, you can then “reclaim” or incorporate the colonies from these independent nations.

    What this means ultimately is that the stimulus mechanic is essentially a mid-to-late game tool that allows the player to focus on other fronts, perhaps war-time activities. Without having to focus on colonization and trade, you can focus on designing ships and blowing-up and raiding other empires (more on this below). Don’t want the computer to take over these activities? You can always adjust how much stimulus is contributing to these things.

    There’s even a deeper side to civilian activity as well. Different governments and races affect the role of the civilian versus imperial split in a given empire. More civilians means more taxes. YOu can manipulate your immigration policies to allow other races to settle your colonies (the open vs closed system that was not even touched upon in the review). What’s the downside to this? If your morale drops too low, those civilian colonies can rebel and even take your fleets/admirals with them.

    There’s a few other finer points covered in some excellent tutorials by an expert SotS player, Rosarch, on youtube. I recommend these vids for anyone curious about the more advanced strategies and mechanics in the game.

    2) The system boundaries and defensive/offensive placement of war assests was not described. Basically, every system has terrain that can be “claimed” by an empire’s fleet or colony. What this means is that different empires can fight for control of individual systems with different territories being contested. This has greater impact in terms of placement of defensive structures because you can only place defense and fleets in your territory.

    Each system then becomes much more than just a unit of ownership. There is a very fluid back-and-forth conflict provided two or more empires with the means and will to fight over a system (particularly a valuable one).

    It also plays tactically into the design of your ships. Sometimes the best ships are not the ones with the best weapons, but ones that can manipulate the tech and the terrain to outclass a larger or more advanced fleet. Unlike other 4X games where tech rules the day, that’s not the case in Sots2 necessarily. Tactics matter.

    3) You can definitely “siege” a system. Each battle for a system can encompass three rounds per turn. You can have different fleets (or the same fleet) queued up to fight on a given round. What this means is that you can have one fleet dedicated to cleaning out system defenses, another fleet devoted to raiding fleeing or remnant defenses, or another fleet devoted to just sieging and taking down the planets. Finally, you can have a non-combat fleet devoted to repairing and salvaging tech from the invaded system.

    Some of Adam’s other points have merit. The AI does lack teeth. The diplomacy lacks bling and polish (although, to be fair, on the list of features for a 4X game, who really cares much about diplomacy? Sins of a Solar Empire, although not a traditional 4X game, did NOT have a diplomacy moduel until its second expansion–did anyone criticize that game for not having this feature?).

    In the end, SotS2 is indeed a very difficult game to play, but also it is difficult to evaluate properly. It does have some really innovative concepts, and the devs should be commended for pushing the genre forward, even if they haven’t quite succeeded in all aspects. Given the slim market for these types of games, I’m willing to give them my support simply for trying and nearly succeeding.

    • Adam Solo says:

      Didn’t know about Amplitude’s perspective on Endless Space sales, and that they were only “moderately successful”. But, from Iceberg Interactive’s perspective (the publisher) it seems that it was a good success, at least for them.

      Look at what Iceberg’s CEO said about Endless Space, when talking about StarDrive. “If for example we can repeat the Endless Space sales, then we will do really well” ~Erik Schreuder.

      I don’t know if you work for Kerberos Productions, but by reading your comments I was left with that impression. Or, at least you sound like someone very close to the development or at least you’re also a developer and follow the game for a long time.

      You do realize that this was a re-review, right? I did a very extensive first review and first impressions article at first release containing more details.

      I don’t question what you wrote about the good concepts and sound design decisions and also the industry difficulties. If you read my review completely you will see that I give merit to the game for the innovations and good concepts it brought to the table. The problem was/is the implementation. That was always the problem. That was evident from day one. The UI is one problem. The AI is another one. Implementation. In the end there’s no cohesiveness and the overall experience is poor.

      Back in 2011 and now again I say, SotS2 had everything to be great. But, in the end of the day my job is to review a product. Not a company, not a publisher and not the circumstances surrounding it. And, not how hypothetically a game could be 6 months from now. My job is to analyse how good, fun and valuable a game product is, so that other people can have more information to help them decide to buy and invest time in a game or not.

      And, I don’t fully agree with you when you say that the industry is not favorable to strategy gaming and that it’s extremely hard to pull it off. And that, I think that’s what you were implying, we need to accept bad releases and be patient, again and again. And you don’t need billions and a throng of people to pull it off in strategy either. Just for the sake of example, look at Distant Worlds. Started bad. 4X games never start well in any case, but DW started with a lackluster release. And look at it now. Distant Worlds: Legends is an excellent 4X experience. And, do you have any idea of how many people were behind that game? No, not many. And most of the game is attributed to a single guy’s work, a one man’s show. But this was just an example.

      The problem I see is that many people think that space combat and shiny graphics are integral part of what makes a 4X game great. Well, in my opinion they are not. They are not essential. Look at the genesis of the genre and you will see that it’s true. And it still is. Distant Worlds: Legends graphics are subpar to Sins or SotS2 or Civ5 or others. You don’t need millions. This is acknowledged by people in the industry, including developers and publishers, to make a great space 4X game. So, shiny graphics and deep combat increase development complexity a great deal. If you can pull it off, great. If you can’t, maybe you should think twice before jumping into development.

      “Adam missed a few key points and in some places was incorrect at describing some of the games mechanics.”

      You can’t describe everything in a review, and you know that. But, regarding the “and in some places was incorrect at describing some of the games mechanics.”. I’m receptive to criticism.

      “the devs should be commended for pushing the genre forward, even if they haven’t quite succeeded in all aspects.”
      You see, my job here is not to criticize the devs nor to praise them, nor publishers nor anybody involved. My only focus for my reviews is a game product. I’m careful with that aspect, or at least I try to.

      So, ultimately, I agree with many things that you said. The game has sound concepts and good design. It has also innovative areas that push the genre forward, like the automatic government type or the missions concept. But, I stand with what I’ve wrote in my bottom line. SotS2:EE has many good and even great components but also others that are poor and in the end it fails on gluing everything together and doesn’t offer a fun experience to the player. Or at least to a good percentage. Of course, some people will still enjoy the game. Therefore the score: 6/10

    • Devildogff says:

      *I* really care about diplomacy and to think no one does is just ignorant. Look at the standard 4x games: Civilization, Gal Civ, MASTER OF ORION. You know what makes them all great? They focused on all of it and made great games.

      People care about diplomacy and it CAN BE DONE on a limited budget if it’s important to you (which it should be!!) And I have a perfect example: Stardrive.

      It’s obvious why this game isn’t good now. Your feature priorities are completely out of whack…

  22. Pynchon says:

    A few other points that people might be unaware of about SotS2.

    – The devs explicitly stated they did NOT want to just make SotS 1, only better. In other words, they truly wanted to make a different kind of 4X game, even different than the games it is being judged against like MoO and Civ.

    – The game needs a way to teach players HOW to play the game as it is intended to be played. A tutorial won’t help with this because it only tells the player how to do things, not what the right strategy is. For example, the game, bad design or not, allows you to build a lot of stations–however, building stations at every system is bound to lead to economic trouble. Instead, you’re supposed to think about which stations can be best utilized at a given system. Station spam is not the right way to play, but you wouldn’t know that unless you learn how to play the game.

    – The fleet system IS a mechanic that helps late-game tedium. This unfortunately has the adverse effect of defying what every 4X gamer is used to, especially MoO players. If you understand how to use the fleet mission system, it alleviates the need for a robust fleet manager or database (although to be sure, the current manager could be cleaned up a bit).

    – It’s a weird design effect, perhaps one the devs didn’t anticipate, but in SotS2, you’re NOT supposed to care about every star system. Again, this defies MoO – 4X logic. You’re only supposed to worry about critical systems that are resource rich or that have some strategic value on the map. This has the effect of NOT needing heavy defense or even any fleet at most of your star systems. You only need stationed and supported fleets at key systems, but the game doesn’t quite have a way of teaching players this notion, leading players to be frustrated at not having absolute control over where their fleets go.

    – For most star systems in a SotS2 game, you really don’t have to do much with them. Once they are developed, you can basically “set-and-forget.” Some do force critical choices to be made; for example, you can research a tech that allows you to specialize huge worlds. You can make a “forge” re: production world, or a “gem” re: high population world. The downside? You will lose resources or biosphere depending on your choice. So, you as the player have to ask yourself, do I want more income and less resources? More productivity but less psionic power?

    – A lot of the design of SotS 2 is about making the player question their desires. Again, this isn’t clear from the UI or a tutorial, but almost every mechanic has a positive and negative aspect to it. A lot of SotS2 is about balancing risk and reward, and it takes a long time in game hours to realize this depth.

    • Evil Azrael says:

      – The game needs a way to teach players HOW to play the game as it is intended to be played. A tutorial won’t help with this because it only tells the player how to do things, not what the right strategy is. […]
      Sure, then give me a good manual. What is not documented is not existent.

    • Adam Solo says:

      No, the problem is not SotS2’s 4X style. I like most of SotS2’s vision and concepts for the strategic layer.

      Again, an example. DW:Legends is also very different from MoO and MoO2 and GalCiv in many aspects. And frankly, quite close to SotS2 in others, like the light colony building, the civilian/private sector and the fact that you don’t need to care so much for all planets because the game’s scope is very big, and you really can’t take care of everything in DW. Releasing part of control is acknowledged by the player, because DW has a private sector, much like the stimulus feature of SotS2, although visible in the strategic layer.

      DW also has a lot of ships flying around and it doesn’t need a complex mission system. Fleets assemble and can be automated if you want. So, DW:Legends is very different from traditional turn-based 4X games, and it offers a great experience. Just ask around.

      So, I don’t think anybody here has a real problem with SotS2’s style or even its design or even its features and gameplay mechanics on paper. The problem was/is implementation. The experience is simply not good enough. Maybe one day, but the game is not there yet.

    • RandomBlue says:

      I think the fleet system is an attempt at solving a problem that most of us didn’t have. I’ve played practically every 4X game released on the PC and I’ve never had a problem managing my ships/fleets. I have been a bit overwhelmed by micromanaging colonies at times but that’s about it. The system in SotS2 is just half baked and needs quite a bit more flexibility to be as useful as the standard non-mission based system. The biggest issue is not being able to perform multiple objective missions or chain missions. You can have a survey fleet with enough supply to survey 2-3 close systems but no, you MUST return home before you go survey the next one. Or what about surveying and then colonizing that system or surveying and then patrolling the system for border worlds? Nope, sorry.

      Regardless, that’s only a minor complaint I have with SotS 2. I can live with that issue even though I don’t like the system. My primary complaint now is just how bad the AI is and how bad auto-resolution of combat is. The AI spamming weak fleets and autoresolution being extremely crappy, leading to boring and repetitive gameplay where you have to manually fight the same fight (basically) over and over and over again.

      Also, good tutorials don’t just tell you how to do specific things in game, they also give you some idea of the way the game should be played. There is no reason a tutorial can’t cover stations and state that stations should only be built in high value systems due to their large upkeep cost, etc.. A tutorial won’t cover ever single detail and strategy but it should give you a good idea of how to play and be competitive on easy or normal level games. The exact details of other game functionality should then be discoverable in-game through good detailed screens, tooltips and built-in help. Manuals are great but UIs have evolved enough now that game manuals are usually for reference and backstory.

      • SQW says:

        I disagree with your first paragraph. Playing as Human in SOTS was a pain in late game as dozens of ships travel along node lines and I have a headache every time I try to remember where the bloody hell is my reinforcement. The other races’ logistic wasn’t much better either hence my preference for Hiver.

        Actually I’ve always wanted a fleet system even before SOTS 2. In real life, you form squadrons or task forces under a commander rather than assigning individual ships to do X anyway; the change in control mechanic RTSish to Fleet wasn’t really an issue for me.

        Could Kerberos have implemented the fleet system better? Definitely.

      • RandomBlue says:

        I should have rephrased that to “mission system”. Combining ships into fleets is pretty much a required feature now and I agree that it’s highly useful. If you’ll notice my complaints are about the actual missions and mission limitations.

        However, both SotS 1 and 2 have very limited fleet capacities (limited by your tech of course) so usually each combat group actually consts of several small fleets. In several other games you can combine a large number, unlimited usually, into a fleet controllable as one entity. This still isn’t possible in SotS 2 that I’m aware of.

    • Mark says:

      “- The game needs a way to teach players HOW to play the game as it is intended to be played.”

      Totally agree with this point and at this stage in my learning it’s the place that I am the weakest. I know how to do the majority of things that the game has to offer, but I have no real feel for WHY I would want to do them or when they would be most effective.

      The only way to learn these *vital* things seems to be to play and play and play until you pick it up by bashing your head against the learning curve often enough. There should really be a better way at least to get the basics down pat.

  23. GJD says:

    Thank you for the great review. I have tried SoTS 1, but the game was too much focused on combat for me, although I liked the universe and strategic layer. Aside from ship combat, there isn’t that much micromanagement, which is good imho.

  24. SQW says:

    Merry Xmas from Australia Adam and hope to see more of your blog in 2013.

  25. DissapointedGamer says:

    hey there, im an almost full time lurker and in regards to sots2 I want to get this off my chest.

    first off, fair review that is reasonable, concise, non-fanboyish. and hits all the nails on the head.

    one of the core gameplay design decision which isnt critizied or condemned enough is the mission system. oh how awful this thing is. instead of having logical free movement of your fleets they are pigeon holed into doing one thing for a limited number of turns in only one system at a time before a lengthy rebase cooldown.

    its ironic because the point of the mission system was to cut down on overall fleet management and strategic micro but in the end it INCREASE it because you need MULTIPLE FLEETS to accomplish very few tasks efficiently, like patroling a sector of space, colonizing, exploring/surveying or station construction.


    absolutely atrocious gameplay design. terrible. the mission system should have been a lategame tool for the player to help manage micro, not the main rule dictating fleet movement.

    they could have had the same free-movement systen from sots1, rename “fuel” to “supply” and have it drain every turn as opposed to every move when outside a naval base support bubble. want to deploy long range fleets? support them with supply based convoys. they could have further limited admiral availability as well, with say a max of 10-15 admirals late game. that would be plenty if youre fleets had free movement to accomplish more tasks in an outing.

    people complain that the AI is garbage? because instead of copy/pasting the AI fleet movement code from sots1 and modifying it, they had to practically start from scratch with these convoluted movement rules. if a player cant seem to efficiently make smart logical moves much of the time, you think an AI will?

    moral of the story is, the new mission system was no doubt a big contributor to this games current sub-par state. it had the innocent task of cutting down on late game micro and all it did was cause annoying frustration and make the AI suck.

    • Mark says:

      You make some good points. The mission system does appear to be ill-conceived to the point where it results in more micromanagement than it was intended to fix. The fact that you can only perform one mission before immediately returning to base is just….. breathtakingly stupid. Either the system is incomplete or somebody had very warped ideas about how real naval maneuvers are conducted.

      As you pointed out, the one mission system results in everything taking longer and makes it very cumbersome to accomplish something that would have been trivial in SOTS I. Unfortunately it also effectively nerfs the Human faction because if you interrupt their survey missions (with other factions or randoms), none of the node lines are revealed for that star and they are forced to return to base and begin over again. This pretty effectively kills the speed advantage that the Humans enjoyed in SOTS I and makes it impossible to strike behind enemy lines as they did so effectively in SOTS I. So where all other factions have their strong points, Humans really now have none at all thanks to the way that the broken mission system has impacted their strategy.

      Also, the need to have a C&C ship present, even with tiny fleets just seems bizarre. For example, I cant colonize a world with 1 colony ship without having a C&C vessel to babysit it. Does it really take an entire separate cruiser class vessel to coordinate one lone ship? There should have been a minimum number of ships you could control without any C&C ship or mission structure and if you chose to include a C&C ship, only then would missions have been necessary. That would have made a lot more sense.

      Another partial fix would have been to introduce C&C command sections (as opposed to mission sections) so you could design say colony ships that could act as their own coordinating ship and not require a dedicated C&C escort.

      • DissapointedGamer says:

        I dont mind that every fleet requires a C&C. I dont mind that there is a limited assortment of admirals. although the admiral system is a pretty half-baked feature that could have been much richer, but much like the provinces feature it feels rushed.

        what I do mind are full fledged fleets that are restricted to doing 1 task and only 1 task at one planet at a time. worst. design. ever. you cant use one fleet to survey multiple systems, you cant use one fleet to patrol multiple systems.

        i can understand why you would need to often resupply to colonize and construct stations because you need to load up on lots of colonists and heavy duty construction materials. but why cant i simply load up on these from another colonized system that is closer? you are forced to constantly play musical-fleets, relocating around to construct/colonize efficiently. this is why the AI for this game will probably always be terrible.

        yeah. I have whined enough. but let it be known all across space and time that the mission system in sots2 is the worst most awful game design decision ever.

  26. Adam Solo says:

    @SQW, everybody

    Merry Xmas to you too. In 2013 we’ll be here to continue covering our favorite games. I count with everybody to help us keep the quality, raise it if possible, and continue our interesting discussions. The site wouldn’t be what it is without your contribution and enthusiasm.

    Adam Solo in behalf of the SpaceSector Team.

    • Ace of the Stars says:

      Thanks a million Adam, since I discovered this site I make at least a visit per day, it really is that good.

      Oh, and I wish you all a great 2013.

  27. Dark Helmet says:

    I also ‘shelved’ the game. I got it on Amazon as part of a Paradox bundle of 5 other games for about $10. Basically each game for $1.60. I thought after spending a week prior reading some forum threads and watching a rather helpful YouTube series the game was ready. Hardly.

    After getting on the Kerbie forums it became apparent within days I was spending more time posting questions and waiting for replies than playing the game – as Adam mentioned very little is explained in-game. Even the in-game “Encyclopedia” is 90% empty. Anyways I started to get annoyed and frustrated and apparently posted one too many opinionated comments about the lack of proper in-game help and was promptly banned by one of their moderators. She became offended because I refused to apologize for ranking on the developers about adding functionality to the UI instead of cleaning up what already existed.

    Needless to say I will keep the game installed and occasionally start it to see if any substantial updates are made, especially to the UI, horrid combat system and in-game help. My gosh, if you are programming a game, why does it take so much more effort to just ‘scribble’ a note or two into some part of that game explaining what this and that button does???

    As mentioned by Adam, the combat graphics are great, the ship, station, platform and planet models are top-notch, but the UI is way too clunky.

    At this point the only saving grace was the Amazon sale.

    • Mark says:

      “Anyways I started to get annoyed and frustrated and apparently posted one too many opinionated comments about the lack of proper in-game help and was promptly banned by one of their moderators.”

      Yep I know the one, insults and flames the hell out of you, puts words into your mouth and then locks the thread so she can have the last word. Some people shouldn’t even be allowed to use the internet, let alone be moderators.

  28. Dark Helmet says:

    I forgot to ask in my previous post, is the first SOTS worth installing? I received this as part of the Paradox bundle but did not want to waste time downloading it from Amazon and installing only to realize that version is no better than #2.

    • RandomBlue says:

      SotS 1 with all the expansions is definitely worth it. It’s much more streamlined, complete and stable. The horrid mission system is not there either. The UI still isn’t the best but it’s better than SotS 2 by far.

      • Quartz says:

        SOTS 1 is one of the best strategy games ever. The AI is decent (you find ways to counter it over time, but for a while it will keep you pinned), and the combats are involved and cool (though a bit long on large universes).

        Definitely worth it.

  29. Evrett says:

    Hmph…this from the guy who deleted my comments for being “too harsh” on the original release. Glad you could make it to the party..albeit after others have done all the hard unpopular work.

    Sots2 is pretty space combat simulator. That was the only thing this dev team had to show to the press before release and its all they’ve still got now…the other X’s are a mess.

    One thing that always has bugged me is the mantra of innovation. Its like a crime against art for these people to go with simple and safe. Stop trying to reinvent the wheel and just give us Moo2 with a graphical upgrade.

  30. rektide says:

    The only thing keeping me from playing the hell out this game is the anemic AI. The computer is truly wretched. Use a slightly complex map and the AI will choke.

    I thought that perhaps, switching seats every 12 turns or so, I could keep enough players in the race to have a fun time latter, but the AI simply refuses to issue a real challenge, even when I’ve been helping it out for the first 100 turns to keep it from lagging.

    The mission system I’m not a fan of either. There’s a lot of hackery one can enact to dodge around it- a colonization fleet may return, but if you bring two command ships and transfer all but one lone command ship to the new planet, you can create a new fleet immediately.

    One other comment, there’s no more random maps! SotS1 had really sweet map generation, all kinds of tweakables, but with SotS2 you only get a couple more than a dozen maps and thats that. A lot of great points in the review. It’s mostly moot for me though, given AI that seems to have no initiative.

    • Mark says:

      There’s a map generator mod which actually does a pretty good job of creating random maps. I wonder if the Kerberos devs are red faced that a fan added such basic functionality to their game when they were apparently incapable?

  31. Jake says:

    Great review as always Adam. I always appreciate the detail, especially on AI and diplomacy which IMHO are the most important aspect of 4x.

  32. Happy Corner says:

    A skillful and thorough review, Mr. Solo, and more than fair given the situation with this game. I wrote off this franchise long ago, and from what you’ve written there doesn’t appear to be any reason to reconsider.

  33. Joshua says:

    I really wish I had read this before buying. I find it so frustrating to see a game with SOOO much potential that after a year just isn’t finished.

  34. Ace of the Stars says:

    Crap, seems like I will have to postpone (again) my campaign on this game, at least until they finally fix most of the bugs.

  35. LoveGood4xNot4xCrap says:

    Good review. The AI is very important in strategy games and in SotS2 the AI is still horrible, after all the patches the game is no longer a pain to play but there is no challenge at all, the AI opponents looks like sitting ducks.
    I broke my rule of not buying games on release day for the first and last time with SotS2.
    Unistalled SotS2 forever and back to Distand Worlds.

    PS Excuse my english :P

  36. Gjd says:

    Thanks for THE review. How is the AI in distant words?

  37. Dark Helmet says:

    This game really needs no more bad publicity, but the link is to a thread where the Kerby moderator, “Erinys, Kerberos Goddess of Lore” jumps in unnecessarily while Adam tries to justify this Web site and the reviews of SOTS & SOTS2. As is her tactic, she steps in to defend the dev, insults the poster (aka Customer) and then promptly either bans the person and/or locks the thread.

    Turns out this chick also wrote most of the SOTS lore, hence here tag “Kerberos Goddess of Lore.” If you read some of it and think, damn this stuff sounds angry, guess why! So instead of stepping up to contribute to a better user manual she assigns herself to write the fiction part of the game, which in my opinion adds no value when the player spends hours trying to figure out how the Diplomacy screen works because the user manual is so horrid.

    • Mark says:

      Actually, I think that Erinys (Arinn Dembo) is a very talented writer and some of her sci-fi is the among the best I have ever read. A lot of the soul behind SOTS is almost entirely due to her efforts.

      That being said, her handling of the thread that you mention is a totally inexcusable abuse of moderator power in a thread where no forum rules were being broken and the only flaming was coming from the moderators. Unfortunately, it’s only one of many threads where she or one of the other mods will step in and insult and abuse the OP, delete inconvenient text, put words into their mouth and then lock the thread, always after having the last condescending word of course. They don’t often ban people outright, but they very often lock threads, and honestly who is going to stay around if they cant even be heard?

      It is totally unprofessional for someone representing a game company and even worse, it engenders an enormous amount of ill-will, even from those like myself who are only observers. I can only guess what the victims feel like. I know that after witnessing the way that some customers have been treated on the Kerberos forums, I would be reluctant to ever throw another penny in their direction. For a bunch of smart and talented people, they certainly know how to act stupid.

      • Happy Corner says:

        Pretty much what Mark said, minus the part about Arinn Dembo having any talent whatsoever. (she almost certainly googles her own name just to see what people are saying about her.) There’s absolutely no reason to give your money to Kerberos when there are plenty of 4X developers out there.

        \Moderated. Warning: No swearing or insults.

  38. Gary says:

    Holy overreaction by Erinys, Batman!

  39. Sartan says:

    I do agree with many of the points of this review, but I do not agree with the end summary or score. When the game came out and was full of STD’s and barely playable, then I would have given it 5-6, 6 after a a month of patches making it playable but still missing alot of content as even with missing content, it had more than most polished games have in the end. Now I would give it 7-8 based on depth and fun you can get from it. I’d actually give it 8-9 if they just put more tooltips in the game making finding out how stuff works more convinient. Also, in a strange way, even I don’t really love it, the steep learning curve is something I miss in most games as games are being made simpler, stupider and less challenging all the time to allow more of the masses like them without putting any effort on their part to understand the game.

    While their release was on of the worst I’ve seen, I would like to rise my hat to them for actually fixing their game and improving it constantly. Like in sots 1, it was somewhat unpolished at first but ended up being one of the most polished and fun 4x games I’ve ever played after a couple of years of patching and add ons, which is what I exept from sots II aswell :)

    Many promising games have been release by BIG companies with bugs and crashes, which they never bothered to fix making the games frustrating to play.

    oh and ps. Commenting on a weak AI is kinda silly, as I’ve never played a 4x game where the AI is on par without MASSIVE production boosts with a human player who has ever played a 4x game before -.-

    • Adam Solo says:

      On the AI ps. There’s a difference between an AI that is not up to par with the Human (they almost never are) and an AI that simply cannot give a fight and feel alive (threatening enough), and that fails to keep you engaged in the game. Not to talk about the diplomacy-AI aspects.

      And, you seem to focus a lot on bugs and crashes in your post. Have you played recently? Or after the Enhanced Edition? At the time I played for this review (which was about 2-3 weeks after the EE release), the problem was not really the crashes and bugs anymore. That, I agree, was satisfactorily dealt with. The problem really was on the gameplay itself.

      And, I think your next sentence says much about your judgment about a game.

      “When the game (SotS2) came out and was full of STD’s and barely playable, then I would have given it 5-6”.

    • Mark says:

      “And, I think your next sentence says much about your judgment about a game.”

      “When the game (SotS2) came out and was full of STD’s and barely playable, then I would have given it 5-6″.

      Lol, I thought exactly the same thing after reading this. Giving an essentially unplayable pre-alpha release of a game 5-6??? WTF?

      Glad Sartan’s not in the business of reviewing games for a living, any one that actually worked would get 11 out of 10 :)

  40. Andrew says:

    Really!? The games not that good. What a shame I though it would be a good total war game but in space, anyway really good review

  41. Ace of The Stars says:

    So, I´m planning on trying this game once more, is it worth it since this review (end of 2012)?

    Or should I wait (yet again…) more than a year.

    • Mark says:

      There are still a massive number of problems with the game, Adam’s review is pretty much spot on and if you’ve read it, you have a good idea of where the problems lie.

      My take is that the game has a lot of potential and there is some fun to be had if you have the patience to scale the enormous learning curve and put up with the multitude of bad design decisions that cripple the game.

      Although there are still some rare CTD problems, most of the issues with the game are now just bad design decisions which will never be fixed because the devs like to surround themselves with brown nosing sycophants and fanboys who praise their every move, including the stupid ones.

      Anyone who disagrees even slightly with the party line is either banned or has their thread locked. With an attitude like that, this game will never be anything but mediocre.

      • Cícero says:

        “Although there are still some rare CTD problems, most of the issues with the game are now just bad design decisions which will never be fixed because the devs like to surround themselves with brown nosing sycophants and fanboys who praise their every move, including the stupid ones.
        Anyone who disagrees even slightly with the party line is either banned or has their thread locked. With an attitude like that, this game will never be anything but mediocre.”

        The saddest part is that this statement is pure and simply…. true. ;_;

  42. Ace of The Stars says:

    I had read it, but had hope anyway. :(

    Thanks for the update on the state of the game, don´t know what I´m going to do with this game, I wanted to play it before but the CTD´s were a killer for me, and now I see it could have been much better than it is.

  43. Rain says:

    The devs are currently working on the AI, and trust me the AI is working much better now.The devs are still pushing out patches every week or so, and with each patch the game gets a bit better.For the past few months they focus on adding and repairing the feature and content of the game, and with that finished they moved on to the AI part of the game.The UI gets a bit love as well (such as you can now view firing arcs of your turrets in ship designs now.

    Anyway, if you still have any hope for this game, you probably should try it out in a few months from now.One good thing you can never dismiss is that the keberos production’s continues support for their games, just like the SOTS prime.

    • Mark says:

      True, they may have released a lemon, but at least they’re still working to try and sweeten it up, long after others would have thrown in the towel. They get an A for persistence.

    • Gary says:

      I purchased SotS II when it was on sale on Steam for 75% off. I knew at the time that I was purchasing a game that wasn’t yet ready. However, I can attest that the devs are constantly updating the game, as almost every week there is an update for the game. So I still have hopes. One day, I’ll even play the game :)

  44. Dark Helmet says:

    @ Gary – not sure what version you have but SOTS II has not seen an update since January. Post all over the place including their closely guarded forums elude to the fact not many customers are at all happy with this game, even years later. They need to overhaul the combat system and stop wasting time on other unrelated endeavors like the Pit. WOW I could work that one all day long!

    In all fairness I could care less about SOTS or any other crap Kerby Kids releases – patiently waiting for Planetary Annihilation in July.

    • RandomBlue says:

      Actually there have been a few updates since January, they just haven’t updated the news feed in Steam. They do post the changelog to their own forums though. I wish they’d post it in both places since it’s easier to check that in Steam.

      Gameplay wise it’s still not a good game yet IMO, but it’s getting there. The main problem, for me currently, is the AI is just horrible even at the highest difficulty, so it’s not worth playing through a full game. Last I checked multiplayer was crash happy as well, but that have been resolved with one of the recent patches.

      It is progressing, just slowly. I still have hope that it’ll end up being a good game eventually.

    • Mark says:

      I have version 2.0.24917.5 which was installed just a couple of days ago, so Gary’s right, they *are* patching quite regularly. Certainly there have been several since January.

      Mind you, none of the patches have done anything to address any of the serious problems noted in Adam’s review. They’re moving forward, but only very slowly.

    • Gary says:

      SotS II has been updated almost every week. They just don’t post changelogs on Steam. Then again, neither did XCOM or Civ 5 when I got an update, today.

  45. Dark Helmet says:

    I stand corrected…just fired up the game after a month of not even considering it and lo and behold it must have done a silent update to v2.0.24917.5! So I hop over to the Kerby forums and no changelogs since January. Actually there is a v2.0.24917.4 changelog that looks about 3 seconds long but it’s buried in their General forum. Seems they’re doing their best to hype The **cough** Pit **cough** instead.

    All in all this game is dead. With so much better stuff at the next intersection I can’t see anything they put out being relevant enough to keep the revenue stream level. I wouldn’t doubt Paradox dumps the whole group by the end of the year.

    Likely my last post on the subject because I’m in the midst of formatting my WIN7 gaming computer and really have no intention of installing this game again. Thank you Amazon and Paradox for a $1.65 beta. It was almost worth every penny!

  46. Buddahcjcc says:

    I got this game the day it came out. Massive disappointment was an understatement. It didnt work at all for me and I got one of the refunds they offered. Its sad to see that this far on they still havent made the game GOOD even if theyve made it stable :(
    I had high hopes for this title after how good the first one was

  47. Noldor says:

    June Situation:
    More bugs fixed, but still the game does sometimes crash. I recommend frequently saving (do not rely solely on autosave).

    However, the underlying problems remain.

    1. Seriously micro-intensive game, largely due to the design choices made. You have to shuffle between a station manager (and managing constructors), a “battle rider” manager (for managing large battle riders – pretty much oversized fighters for capital ships), and then there’s the mission system. Playing as Loa adds to that micro.

    2. UI still lags but faster than before. However, the underlying problems have not been fixed – the UI is a pain to use.

    3. The pace of the game is very slow – by turn ~150 on SOTS1 you’d be winning your first war against aliens, in this game, often for the first 300 turns, no encounters (esp on larger maps). The slow place seriously detracts from the game.

    4. AI is getting better but still very dumb. Sometimes they implode their own economies. Diplomacy is very limited still.

    5. Lack of documentation still a persistent problem. This is the type of game that NEEDS to ship with a 200+ page manual plus all the useful information on their Wiki as a reference. Sotspedia still incomplete/hard to use.

    I’m going to be putting together a writeup myself on the matter.

    • Gary says:

      Noldor, when you say “I’m going to be putting together a writeup myself on the matter” does that mean you’ll be writing a guide or tutorial that teaches _why_ instead of just _how_? If so, please post here when you do, with a link :)

    • Cícero says:

      I´m waiting eagerly for your report, Noldor.

  48. Noldor says:

    The only other thing of note I should mention is that the SOTS 2 community is much less active than before.

    Apparently there has been difficulty finding players for multiplayer due to the dearth of players (although from what I understand, this may not be a huge loss as multiplayer is not entirely stable). You can tell from the forum activity too, it’s much lower than I remember it being in the heyday of SOTS1:ANY.

    The bigger problems though, remain. There is a very high degree of group think and well, fanboyism among the people that stay. Also, there is very little tolerance of suggestions, even when worded in a civil and re-conciliatory tone on the forums.

    On the whole, I am pessimistic about the future of the game, largely because of the state of the community and it’s management. The bugs may get fixed, but well, so much goodwill among the majority of the player base seems to have been lost and the few that remain are not very apologetic. The CTDs may mostly get fixed, but the underlying problems with the game – well in the eyes of the developers are features, rather than something the majority of the potential player-base dislikes.

  49. Mark says:

    Sadly this is all true. The SOTS dev’s failure to listen to their customers has pretty much killed this game.

    If there’s ever another one – and that seems pretty unlikely – I wont be buying it.

    The whole SOTS II saga should go down in history as a textbook example of how bad “blinkered” game design, fanboyism and failure to listen to your customers can utterly kill a promising game concept.

    • khamul says:

      And that makes me terribly terribly sad.

      Because I think the core 4X design of SotS1 may have spoilt any other 4X game for me.
      And I think that the ideas behind SotS2 may have spoilt SotS1 for me.

      But I don’t actually want to play SotS2, because trying to play the game is just such a painful and frustrating experience.

    • SQW says:

      Funny, a lot of new players find the mission system intuitive. It took me a while to get use to it having cut my teeth on SOTS Prime but the mission system is actually quite nice to use.

      You just need to change your mindset from RTS’s ‘very unit is independent’ to a more realistic, ‘everyone fight as a fleet’. Reinforcement is also much simpler in II now that I don’t have to manually tell every newly constructed ship at core system to reinforce somewhere on the front line.

      Sure, after 3 years it still has faults. UI, AI, AI, AI, AI, system optimization just to name a few. However the core of the game mechanic is as good and robust as the original.

      Yes, I’m bumping this dead thread up because I’ve finally upgraded my computer enough to play this game. And that I think SOTS II in its current iteration deserve credit for effort than the shallow carbon copy that is GalCiv 3.

      • RandomBlue says:

        SotS Prime had a fleet system based on command points. No-one is saying fleet systems suck or the fleet system in SotS 2 is that bad (I don’t think), it’s the mission system. The two don’t have to be tied together. It’s the mission system that sucks and it still sucks IMO, but it’s a lot more usable now for sure.

        As you mentioned, the UI, AI and performance still suck. Without at least a decent AI, the game is worthless for single player and the last I heard it was still shit for multiplayer due to crashing and/or getting out of sync.

        So, in summary, both SP and MP and broken, STILL, so there is nothing there to actually play. The game basically demos several interesting and fun features/systems that could be really great in a game that you could actually play. However, that game doesn’t exist. So no, they don’t deserve credit.

        I also haven’t heard much positive from others about GC3 and I don’t have high hopes myself as it appears to be GC2.1, but I’ll reserve judgement until that game is actually released.

  50. Ashok09 says:

    Hi, everyone!

    I think the review is quite accurate. To the AI. It’s a sad thing. Not only does it not pose a challange most of the time. In one of my games I had one of my enemys nearly down, when he suddenly kept pumping out dreadnoughts from air. With only a few planets remaining, and therefore no Economy. He couldn’t possibly have afforded such fleet’s with so few systems remaining. It’s broken.

    I had high hopes for the game and even preorderd it. According to steam I have played at least 277 hours and I think its more since I reinstalled it once. So I think I can say one thing or two about the game. There are really things I love about this game, but still there are to many problems. One thing i find really anoiing was that it was said that there will be a campain, today there are still not even Szenario’s. It was said to include ground combat. They completle droped it.

    One of the worst things is the UI. It is far to fumbling and things are needlessly complicated. Also changeing from the Map to the research tree or simmilar things takes far to long even at the start of the game. It is mentioned, but 1-3sec is still to long if you have to constantly change because you always need to go to a submenu to issue orders upgrade your stations…. What wasn’t said is that starting at turn 150 around (depending on the map you play) it is getting worse and worse. And it is not my computer. I have an Intel core I7@3,5 Mhz, 8GB 1600 Kingston RAM and a Geforce 660 Ti. Still the performance in late game is underworldish.

    Another issue is combat. Yes, there are many options and you have tactical deeph. Something I always wanted. But the starting distance of the encounters is often far and you can’t accelerate time yourself. Waiting minutes for something to happen is just not fun. While in SotS1 space was far to cramped it is now properly large. But there would be needed a speed button to skip the waiting. And you also don’t want to play out every battle. A simple function for simulating combat with for example pirates would have been great. Yes, you can auto battle, but it still takes it’s time.

    While they kept patching it up it still is a game you just don’t know what to make of. While there are cool parts the complete experiance is ruined by all the said issues. I desperatly wanted to love the game, but there is just one thing to say it. You can enjoy the graphics and cool ideas. But it won’t be a cool game experiance. In the End you will just end up frustrated.

    If you are content with an unpolished game and blessed wiht a endless high frustration level feel free to try it. Sword of the Stars 2 has it’s moments. But if you want a finished good working game with working mechanics: look somewhere else.

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