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StarDrive Review

By on April 30th, 2013 12:04 pm

StarDrive | Review

If you’ve been following SpaceSector’s coverage of StarDrive, you probably already know that StarDrive is a game I’ve been writing about for quite awhile now. I admit that I’ve been rather enthusiastic and excited about it, even since its early days, as I really liked the concepts and mechanics it was introducing. I have been waiting patiently for a 4X game that ticked all the boxes on its way to success. This past Friday, StarDrive’s status was officially changed from beta product to released product. Has it managed to meet my expectations? Let’s find out.

Background Info

I’ve spent over 40 hours with StarDrive since it’s Steam open beta release, and dozens more prior to that during the closed Steam and Desura betas, which I have been a part of since nearly the beginning. Typically, I prefer to play on an above average difficulty in a small to medium size galaxy. I know that some players prefer to play with an epic size galaxy, and I felt it was very important that I test the game’s capabilities under those settings as well.

Therefore, in preparation for this review, I have also played a game on the epic map size with an AI difficulty of brutal, which is the highest difficulty mode available. Obviously, this not only tests the AI’s capabilities, but also gave me some insight into how well performance held up under the most extreme conditions the game has on offer. For that reason, I also played the game on both my desktop and my laptop.

Overall Gameplay

StarDrive is a 4X game about conquering the galaxy. The only game mode currently present in StarDrive is sandbox, so those looking for a story centered mode or alternative game modes won’t find them here as of now. StarDrive at one point in its past had a few different alternative modes in the game, but these are not present currently.

StarDrive features 8 different races each with their own unique diplomatic videos/avatars, their own ship designs, their own fully customizable traits, and in the case of AI controlled races, their own somewhat randomized personalities. After selecting and designing your race, setting up your galaxy settings like size, planet abundance, and overall pacing, you’ll be ready to start playing the game.

Gameplay consists of the core 4X features we all know and love. You’ll be exploring the galaxy for planets and artifacts, colonizing worlds, researching technologies, designing ships, conducting diplomacy, and participating in offensive and defensive actions throughout the game. Victory is achieved by wiping out either all other races, or wiping out some and absorbing the others into a player-led federation. There is neither a science or wonder type victory condition in the game, so in all cases you’ll be forced to take an active part in the ways of war if you hope to win the game.

StarDrive | Review | No place for pacifists

Thankfully, ship design and combat are a lot of fun in StarDrive. Each race has aesthetically different and technically different ships, each of which contains different module layouts inside. I’ve discussed this before, but it is worth mentioning again, that StarDrive’s ship design system, combined with its combat, are truly it’s most worthwhile attributes.

Even though it’s not turn-based but a real-time (pausable) game, it still delivers a very strong “one more turn” sensation due to its design system. Once I’ve designed a brand new ship, there’s just no way I can step away from the PC until I’ve built it and seen it in action. There is no greater glory then watching your newly minted ship pulverize the hulls of your enemy into space dust. Watching them beg for peace when you’ve just finished bombarding several of their planets is a close second though.

To fully show how versatile the ship design system is, I tried designing some corvette class ships that were heavily armored on one side, and then placed my unprotected and vulnerable weapons on the other. I then assigned them the attack pattern that forced them to always try to circle their enemy while keeping the protected side facing them. The nice thing about this is that weapon projectiles and direction actually matter, so by keeping my armored side against the enemy, I could protect the reactors and weapons that I placed unprotected behind them.

This worked fairly well, although not perfectly, as sometimes my ships would inexplicably either change targets or fly directly towards an opponent, leaving themselves exposed. It was good to see that some creative use of these advanced attack patterns could be made, even if it wasn’t a perfect experiment. Squeezing every last bit of efficiency out of a ship is a tough thing to do, and I expect we’ll see people debating potential best in class designs for each hull for some time to come.

StarDrive | Review | An internal look at ship modules and damage

Exploration is enjoyable, although not as intense as it could be, as in reality there are only a handful of surprises to discover and these will be revealed after only your first playthrough of the game. You won’t find an any space monsters or pirates in the current game. The closest thing to space monsters is the Remnant, a grouping of ships that orbits some of the best planets in the game, but they seem like more of a “gear check” to see if you are powerful enough to take them rather than a viable or exciting threat to deal with. They do offer a few surprises, but even these are limited in scope.

Technically, pirates do also exist, but they feel more like the start of a good idea rather than a fully fleshed out feature. They also seem to be biased against the human player, which is a mechanic that I find a bit cheap and unfair.

In terms of planet exploration, StarDrive does have a few planetary surprises to discover. These are certainly worth collecting, as each will provide a somewhat significant bonus to the player of some kind. Every race in the game can benefit from these items, so grabbing them as quickly as possible is important. Every race also prefers the same exact climate, richness, and production except for the Opteris, so exploration is also very much a race to the best planets all around. I’d have preferred to see some races that preferred and thrived on swamp, desert, or ice worlds, rather than each race preferring Rich Terran ones.

The tech tree and research options are of debatable quality and quantity. Having researched and played with every tech in the trees, I feel like the number of techs is generally sufficient without having too many unnecessary options. There are some that are of only situational use, such as things like EMP weapons and missile defense systems that may not fit your current goals, but most will be useful to just about everyone.

Tech progress may still be a bit fast for some, and with no “end game” endless technologies, the player is left with an empty research queue once everything has been discovered. There are ways to slow the pace of tech during initial game setup, should you find this is the case for you. I’d have loved to see a mechanic whereby existing weapons could be miniaturized or improved, so as to keep even early stage weapons somewhat useful ala MoO II.

One nice thing about StarDrive that may redeem it in this area is its openness to modding. There are already several tech mods available, and I’m sure we will see even more additional techs from the community in the future. Whether or not these will suit your taste, be balanced properly, or will be used by AI effectively, is a different matter.

Aside from ship design, exploration, and research, a lot of other mechanics are quite similar to 4X games of the past. I’ll discuss diplomacy and espionage a bit more in the AI section, as these are a little different than other games.

Freighters and trade routes can be manually controlled, and in StarDrive each and every one of these ships is an actual ship flying about the galaxy. Like most things that don’t have to do with combat, these can be automated, and I would recommend doing so as it does a great job moving your goods around for you.

Colony building is limited, with only a few building choices to worry about. You will change your queue when you research a new technology to incorporate the new structure. Beyond that, you will generally leave it empty, build ships or stations, or since troops currently have an insignificant cost associated with them, you’ll be smart and just train troops during any planetary downtime. Even with planetary governors managing your colony, I feel that a large number of buildings could become somewhat tedious to manage, so the limited selection is acceptable in my opinion.

StarDrive’s primary gameplay focus is on ship design and combat, not colony or trade management, and the limited options and automation available help keep things that way. If you’re looking for Civilization in space, you’re in the wrong place. If you’re looking for epic battles between hundreds of ships with lasers, cannons, fighters, and missiles flying everywhere, then StarDrive has exactly what you are looking for.

StarDrive | Review | Behold the Destruction

Multiplayer is not present in StarDrive currently. While I myself am not an avid multiplayer gamer when it comes to these types of strategy games, I know a lot of people are disappointed that they can’t test their ship designs out against each other at the present time. One very important thing to note, however, is that the game somewhat compensates for this through he use of its own adaptable AI. I’ll discuss this further below, in the AI section of my review.

AI

In any single player 4X game, the capability and competency of its AI controlled opponents is of the utmost importance. Can the AI manage its holdings effectively? Can it defend itself from external threats, yet continue to expand and take offensive actions against others? Will it have rapid personality swings and make seemingly schizophrenic diplomatic decisions?

I know there are players who are going to be concerned with whether or not the AI cheats or receives unfair advantages in any way whatsoever. The answer is, yes, StarDrive’s AI does receive unfair advantages at higher difficulties. I’m not 100% sure how many they receive, but it is fairly obvious based on the diplomatic/espionage screen that their advantages are quite extreme, at least on the highest difficulty level (brutal). Does it matter in the long run?

That’s ultimately up to the individual player, but in my opinion, as long as the AI is competitive, this is a forgivable sin. In most playthroughs I am far and above my opponents in all categories, but against 7 opponents on brutal difficulty, I found myself in close to last place in each category for a significant length of time, meaning I was going to have to work very hard and effectively to survive. This, in my case, makes me feel comfortable with their advantages. This is pretty common in 4X games anyway, but I did want to point this fact out to those that may have been wondering.

StarDrive | Review | AI receives massive bonuses at higher difficulty

Offense and Defense are two important areas and StarDrive’s AI has gotten a bit better about handling them. For both offense and defense, the AI builds quite a few different fleets and assigns them different purposes. While their individual ship designs are not always the best, they tend to be rather effective at building workable fleets. For example, they tend to leave their troop transports in the rear and send their battleships in first to clear a path. Should they sense the tides have turned against them, they also aren’t afraid to cut their losses and retreat as quickly as possible. In addition to troop focused fleets, the AI will also equip many of its ships with bombs, and will assist the war effort by bombing your planets into oblivion if given the chance.

Offensively, the AI has surprised me a few times with its ferocity. The AI spares no expense in its fleets, and will often send more ships then you’d been expecting. I was also surprised to see it execute a few multi-pronged attacks, even at one time hitting three of my systems simultaneously. What I did not witness was the AI using specialty weapons or boarding techniques, even in circumstances where they could have clearly dominated me had they used some ingenuity.

Defensively, the AI will respond to threats throughout their empire pretty quickly in my experience, but it does not always handle very focused attacks from the player all that effectively. Players using vast quantities of troops to attack enemy planet’s by bypassing defensive ships, as well as fleets built primarily of bombers, have proven difficult for them to overcome.

StarDrive | Review | Example of AI Fleets

AI ship designs are somewhat lacking, but one of the best features of StarDrive is the AI’s ability to steal a player’s designs. Did you wipe the galaxy with your epic Draylok designs last time you played? Don’t be surprised to see them used against you the next time you play as a different race. This is a feature that often catches players off guard, and one you truly can’t appreciate until you’ve played a few games with different races. Combined with the AI’s offensive capabilities, this can create a very tough challenge for those caught unaware.

From a diplomatic perspective, the AI has been relatively consistent in its actions. Relationships rely on several factors including whether or not you have planets they desire, whether or not they feel you are a threat to them, whether or not they feel they could easily conquer you, the length of your relationship with them, how you have treated others diplomatically, and so on.

Each AI is also assigned a personality at game creation, and this can and will impact their willingness to negotiate with you and with others. Establishing a relationship early, typically with a non-aggression pact, can reap long term dividends as it can later lead to a trade treaty, an alliance, and perhaps, even a willingness to join a player led federation.

As an example, I was able to form an alliance after some time with several races and maintained them without issue. Even though I denied a request to declare war against their rival, and this did hurt our relations, they still remained my ally and did not act irrationally. Another time I accepted their request to declare war, and shortly after that they signed a peace deal that left me at war alone against their former rival. Not very nice, but it shows that using caution when dealing with your ally’s requests is rather important.

I’m also pleased to report that your allies will often agree to your requests to declare war against another race, although whether or not they decide to do anything other then make a declaration is difficult to tell. There isn’t a direct request like “send me help now”, or “go attack target X” that I could find, so it seems war is more a state of what could happen rather than what will happen.

The AI also participates actively in the espionage world. If you don’t build some spies, even for defensive purposes, you can fully expect the AI to steal things from you at every chance they can. Your income will go down at times mysteriously, you may notice the AI has some new technologies they didn’t have before, and so on.

Spies are dual purpose, so training a spy up and leaving him “unassigned” will provide you with defense against enemy spies, while leveling him up and sending him out to steal from others will of course provide advantages as well. Should you be caught spying on the enemy, expect them to react as they should, with anger and resentment towards your attempts. In this aspect, the AI handles itself quite well.

Stability and Performance

Throughout the beta and now the release, I have been fortunate enough to have both a desktop and a laptop to experience the game with. I spend the vast majority of my time on the desktop, but after spending some type on my desktop experiencing the game so I could write this review, I decided to let my laptop take a crack at my ongoing sandbox game by transferring all my save files and designs over to it. I am glad I did this, as it wasn’t really until I played StarDrive on my laptop that I truly began to understand some of the frustrations others have expressed with its stability.

Sound has been an issue throughout the open beta for some players, but I have not experienced any sound issues on my desktop in StarDrive’s release version. Also, I had not played StarDrive on my laptop in a few months prior to this review, and had not experienced any sound related issues at that time.

It wasn’t until a few Opteris attack fleets showed up on my doorstep that I experienced a complete loss of all sound and music in-game while playing on my laptop. I tried to turn sound and music options on and off, but nothing beyond a complete exit and restart of the game would bring the sound back. In addition, the sound would cut out shortly after re-loading once the Opteris showed up again. I think that beam weapons may have been a factor in the sound loss, but it is hard to say.

I soldiered on through the sound issues as I was really interested in seeing my fleet clash with the Opteris space and ground forces. Unfortunately, I was unable to proceed with my defensive strategy ultimately because of a far worse opponent. StarDrive completely locked up and I was unable to exit without using task manager to end the application. I restarted and reloaded a prior save and all seemed fine, even sound returned, but the sound dropped off and shortly after that the game seemed to lock up again as the Opteris attacked, even without my attempts at boarding.

After three attempts to restart and reload the game only to have it lock up shortly thereafter, I had no choice but to exit the game until I could get back to my desktop to see if it could do any better. Returning to my desktop did allow me to proceed, so your experience may vary.

I experienced good performance with the game overall, at least until the later stages. Playing StarDrive on its epic size setting with brutal AI is a very demanding task. There are a substantial number of things going on, and tons of ships flying around. I did notice in the later stages, several hours into the game, that this combined with some intense combat situations did introduce some lag on my desktop. This was particularly noticeable when my beam and missile ships clashed with some Ralyeh missile ships, and projectiles began flying everywhere around the screen. It wasn’t a drastic difference, but it was certainly noticeable.

Aside from this, the only other time I experienced lag was when I increased the game speed to 2x, 3x, or 4x, and only again in these later stages. In these modes the game must process everything going on in the galaxy at an increased speed, so for that reason I feel like some lag is not unreasonable. Returning to 1x cleared up the lag as long I was outside of intense battle situations.

StarDrive | Review | Some noticeable FPS drops occurred during combat with the Ralyeh

Mods

One of StarDrive’s best added value features is its mod support. Even if development itself some day halts, it has left the door open for aspiring designers to add and contort mechanics to their whim. I’ve seen in the past how mods can truly transform titles that were good ones into great ones, so the importance of a good mod or modding team can not be easily dismissed.

Bugs, Exploits, and Room for Improvement

Troops are one of my biggest pet peeves right now, and one that I believe are going to see attention very soon. They are very cheap to build, free to maintain, and are the most versatile units in the game. They can of course defend your planet and attack enemy planets. One issue many people have expressed concern over is that they can assault other planets often unescorted since they can typically bypass enemy ships completely. StarDrive does have some optional gravity wells and in-system warp speed settings that can be changed upon game setup to prevent this exploit, but these didn’t seem like suitable fixes for the core problem.

In addition, this is not even the biggest issue I have with troops. Troops can also directly assault enemy ships. In my recent playthrough, I discovered that nearly every enemy ship I encountered, from the smallest fighter up to cruisers, could not only be defeated, but could also become one of my ships, if only I sent one or two troop ships to capture them. Imagine stealing 6 or 7 600+ value cruisers with only 7 or 8 troops which took only 50 production to create. That’s a huge swing, and a much better alternative to destroying them, and also, it is completely broken.

StarDrive | Review | Defending against a Ralyeh invasion

Playing around with troops highlighted another issue with ship assault and boarding. I noticed that enemy ships that have been captured still belong to the enemy fleet. Even though I try to assign them new orders, they will continually start flying off into enemy territory without my instruction. It was only awhile later that I realized that they were obeying instructions that their former master was giving to the remainder of his fleet. This became rather frustrating as I captured more and more of the enemies ships.

In addition to the two issues above, there were numerous other bugs I noticed while playing. These bugs were generally annoying rather than game-breaking though. I received a blank message, that appeared to be a declaration of war, after destroying a Ralyeh colonizer. I noticed a lone Federation marine on one of my planet’s that was filled with troops, and received no notification that he had arrived. My troops also had to be manually ordered to destroy him, even though we were at war at the time. A couple of the titan class ship designs are not in the game yet. Filling a planet up entirely with troops prevents any enemy troops from landing.

Furthermore, there are some features that I hope see some refinement and I will briefly list a few of them here. Pirates are currently in game, but consist of only a couple of ships that are either paid off or destroyed, and they seem to only target the player. There is one minor race in the game that has relatively little impact. There aren’t any space monsters or neutral threats to deal with aside from some creatures that will spawn when investigating anomalies. Random events are quite limited, consisting primarily of a few planet quality changes and hyperspace flux. It isn’t possible to see a race’s diplomatic stance when it comes to other races, so making informed decisions is nearly impossible currently.

Speaking of features you may feel are missing, and if you are someone who values community interaction, I feel it is worth mentioning that StarDrive’s developer currently has over 2600 posts on his forum, which is an average of over 7 posts a day. If you’ve ever been frustrated by the silent treatment some developers present you with, or have felt like your voice hasn’t been heard, then StarDrive may make you feel differently. I have personally witnessed numerous ideas and balance changes presented by the community that have been implemented throughout the beta period.

StarDrive | Review | I captured this ship, yet it is still part of an enemy fleet

Final Words

In my opinion, I do feel StarDrive’s release is a bit premature. While bugs and balancing issues are expected post-release, some of the issues I have described experiencing with this release version are a bit more serious than that, especially when playing on my laptop. Since the game was already available to anyone interested in playing as a beta, I’m not sure why the game’s release wasn’t pushed to allow more time for features to be finalized and for bugs to be squashed. As such, those who are easily frustrated by technical and gameplay issues and who don’t like to participate in beta versions because of them, may want to wait a bit longer for these things to be patched out.

For a game designed and developed primarily by only one man, the range and scope of StarDrive’s design has had to have been a monumental undertaking. To succeed where entire teams of 4X designers have failed, is simply remarkable in my opinion. While I’ve listed my fair share of shortcomings with the game as it is, it is important to realize that the game itself is still a good game that is fun to play as long as you aren’t experiencing some of the actual technical issues that I experienced on my laptop. StarDrive is a solid title that is enjoyable but not infallible, and much like every other title in the genre, has its own shortcomings that may prevent some players from enjoying the game.

StarDrive (PC)

Buy digital at GamersGate, GameStop, Green Man Gaming, Steam or Amazon

Space Sector score:
8.1/10
great
The Good:
- Ship design is fantastic and allows the player to feel responsible for ship effectiveness
- Enemy AI will use prior player designs to its own advantage
- AI races behave reliably in diplomatic matters rather then erratically
- Espionage offers an alternative form of combat and advancement
- The AI offers a significant challenge, especially for inexperienced players
- Developer is very active with the community and patches frequently
- Supportive of the modding community
The Bad:
- A lack of variety in random events and non-race threats like space monsters
- Numerous features, like pirates and minor races, feel like concepts rather then full features
- Stability and performance are issues for some players and hardware configurations, especially in the late game
- Limited victory conditions
- Game still feels unpolished in several areas and is in need of bug hunting and refinement

Keith Turner, also known as aReclusiveMind here on SpaceSector, has been an avid gamer ever since he first laid his hands on a Commodore 128 in the mid 1980s. He enjoys multiple computer game genres, but his primary interests are in deep strategy games, 4x games, rpgs, and action rpgs. He enjoys writing and hopes to contribute with additional reviews, previews, and informative AARs to the community. See all Keith’s posts here.

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92 Comments


  1. Kordanor says:

    Nice review, however I think you missed one big point. The point which among others gave MOO3 the reputation it has: The interface.

    I think the interface in this game is very bad. But of course it really depends on what you like to do and what not. If you are fine with having everything automated, you will probably not miss much. But if you want to react to specific events…you do not get any notifications in SD, neither do you have an event log or options to set “pause game when xyz happens”.
    Examples: You build your scout. It’s finished and you get no message. Then you send it out to a system you want to explore. At some point it arrives. You don’t get any message. And it does not explore the whole system. You try to make a route to explore each planet of the system – not possible only one planet at a time…god damnit, ok I just put scouts on Auto and don’t bother anymore.
    Basically the same with freighters…
    Also the sames with any units you build like troops to discover anmalies on planets. You build them – don’t get a message, you launch them into space, then need to unpause the game to do anything with them, pause again and then send them to their destination. When they arrive – you don’t get a message.
    So to play as good as possible you would need to pause the game each tick to check if anything happened. Or you could automate stuff and accept that you don’t do everything as good as possible. But for me this is a no go.
    I mean if I would just want do do space battles, I might play sins or Gratuitous Space Battles. But if I play a 4X game I want to play the 4X part and not leave it to an AI.
    But I think it is “easy” to fix and so I hope that when I check back into the game for the Multiplayer mode, that a proper interface was also implemented.

    • Seraph says:

      The interface isn’t “bad” per se, it just needs some small improvements like filters or additional informations in ship or planet overview (for colonizing), which as i understood Zero will of course improve on!

      Some design choices like only the buttons for main menue, shipyard and empire screen been presented as fully written and sizely presented at the top and some just with icons besides the mini-map is at one hand i believe a personal preference and on the other a simple problem of habit. only time will tell if people can go into the habit of using this style of interface efficient or zero may need to adjust them, but overall i would say that UI not only means a certain standard of direct control over the game on the main screen but also efficient means of getting the needed info at an adequad amount of time, which at least in most cases is given.

      but hey, there is a forum and i think it’s still an active discussion so why not hop into :).

      • Kordanor says:

        Yep. Maybe it wasn’t good to take MoO3 as an example. ^^
        But what I meant wasn’t (primarily) what you wrote about. The “interface” itself is fine though can use improvement. But the communication with the player is hardly existant. And I’d say that this is an interface component as well.

        Already wrote about that in the forums (interface thread).
        But I wanted to mention it here as this was the one thing which “ruined” the game for me and wasn’t mentioned in the review.
        As the combat mechanics in XCom “ruined” my game there as well and wasn’t mentioned in the review either.
        That does not make these bad games. But I guess that it’s not only me who sees these things as fun killers and therefore I think it’s worth mentioning.

        • SicJake says:

          For sure needs some extra polish, but functional as it is. Endless Space has spoiled us with it’s GUI :D

          My only gripe is it’s hard to find ships on the map. You can zoom out to universe level but even then the icons are tiny.

          Galciv2 made ship icons get bigger while zooming out, wish that was the case here.

          Otherwise I love this game, none of the current gen of 4x games has appealed since Galciv2. This game takes everything from GC2 and adds on real time combat and ship designs that now matter! Plus modding? Hell ya!

    • Mezmorki says:

      My biggest complaint about the interface is the size and readability of the font. I have a 16″ laptop and I struggle to read the fonts about 80% of the time.

      That aside, there are kinds of other issues I have with the interface. There isn’t enough feedback or notifications when things get attacked. I’ve sent off colony ships to remote systems, only to have them destroyed by priates/neutrals and never recieve notification that there lost. Meanwhile, the AI had cued up another colony ship and sent it off to die as well. Grr…

      Also, the fact that there is no icon/higlighting for your ships when zoomed out is really frustrating. Given that ships can be positioned anywhere, it is really easy to loose your units, forcing you to dive into the ship list menu and track them down.

      I hope StarDrive the best – and I’ll continue to dabble with it and see how it continues to be refined over time. But presently the interface readability is making it somewhat frustrating to play.

  2. DevildogFF says:

    Yet again, I’ve come to the right place for a fair and well-written review. This is pretty spot on. The foundation is set, however, and I’m really excited to see what happens when Zero (Dan) brings in some help. I can only imagine how great this game will be then, especially since it’s already top 3 4X of all time for me.

    This is why I keep coming back to this website. The writing is great. The reviews are objective. The community (for the most part….) is friendly and mature.

    It gets a solid 8/10 for me, too. Is it perfect? Hell no. Is it fun? You bet your ass it is. It can only get better from here, too!

  3. Seraph says:

    very thorough and well expressed review, all the strength and weaknesses have been marked and the overall verdict is – including the potential and the still active developement at the moment – spot on :).

    let’s hope Zero has the time to iron out the mentioned weaknesses and maybe some suggested improvements and the game will truly shine.

  4. Chris says:

    Yeah it definitely needs a lot of work at this point. It’s a solid base – very impression for 1-2 people and a modest budget, but it does need work. Stability first, then the balancing issues imo. UI could use an upgrade too. It probably could have used a couple of more months in beta.

    The big long term problem is that the game needs more depth. Right now it’s for a 4X game, rather shallow. More technologies, probably a better ground combat system, and maybe more higher end weapons for the large hull size could be a start.

    Well, we’ll see. There’s quite a bit of potential for the game.

    • Mezmorki says:

      For me, “depth” doesn’t mean more “stuff” (techs, detailed combat, etc.). To have more strategic depth the game needs more compelling grand-scale choices and trade-offs. The biggest gap in the design the lack of any victory conditions outside of galactic conquest – as it doesn’t create or incentivize alternative stratgies beyond some version of “build the biggest fleet and crush the enemy.”

      • Chris says:

        It also comes down to the quality of the content as you note.

        Things I would like to see:
        1. Other strategies for victory as you have noted

        2. Maybe team games

        3. More uniqueness among the races

        4. Bigger weapons – the Titans need weapons that are well, truly titan sized and more of them

        5. More compelling reasons to choose a specific weapon

        6. Better diplomacy

        7. More random menaces and a few “super” menaces that could be game changers (with the option to turn them off)

        And of course, the obvious bug fixes and balance fixes that are still needed. Most of these could probably come in future patches or even in future expansions.

  5. csebal says:

    Well written. Agree for the most part.

  6. Samwell says:

    Hmm nice review adam.

    I was wondering though, given everything, which game would want to play more, stardrive or distant worlds?

    • Joe says:

      I am not Adam, but let me guess: Distant Worlds :)

    • Adam Solo says:

      Samwell, the review is from Keith.

      • Samwell says:

        youre right ofc, i derped there…

        My sincere apology, and no disrespect intended.

        Let me rephrase then:

        Keith, in your opinion; DW or Stardrive?

        :-)

        • Keith Turner says:

          Hi Samwell. In most aspects, I’d say Distant Worlds is the superior title, especially if you are looking for more depth in your 4x game.

          StarDrive has excellent combat and a fantastic ship design system. It is clearly better than Distant Worlds in these areas, so if warfare is your thing, I’d choose it over Distant Worlds. Outside of these areas, its other features are fore the most part matched or beaten by Distant Worlds. For instance, Distant Worlds, with expansions, has far superior victory conditions, a more involved pirate system, in depth resource management, and so on.

          These comments are based on both games being free, as I don’t consider price when writing my reviews. If we start factoring cost into the equation, StarDrive starts to look better as Distant Worlds is very expensive to get into.

  7. Towerbooks3192 says:

    Great review. I must say that the first couple of minutes I have with the release version is a bit underwhelming. I am not sure if its because I have been playing paradox games left and right these past couple of days and that is why I feel that way but then again for something made by a small developer, it is great.

    • Seraph says:

      as keith rightly observed, the game focuses more about designing your ships and to fight with them in combat. the colonization part is decent but could yet need some improvements / additions (where mods or the community in general could help), but he overall selling point of this game is it’s ship design and combat engine (also the moddability).

      if enough modder put out good quality mods (where i have no doubt) and zero maybe would consider to integrate some elements (ship designs, buildings, weapons, etc.) and also add a little bit more life into the galaxy in forms of more pirate activities (or maybe even some space monsters … aka “space terrors” as in the feature list described^^), then the game could easily get MY personal rating of 9/10

      • Seraph says:

        …also the UI and general user feedback need some love, but all the stated “problems” are relatively easy to achieve and the community with it’s talented modders can also help a great deal.

    • Towerbooks3192 says:

      If there is one game where I love the background story, it is endless space because of the story events you could see and what the endless have left everyone with though the gameplay was too shallow for me. As for the galaxy being “alive” I will give it to distant worlds because of the number of ships that scurry around the map but it feels lifeless at times. As for the feeling of interacting with the factions with different personalities, I love the way Master of Orion 2 and this game did to their factions.

      I will give it some more time to mature. I am busy with study and I am just sneaking in some time and hopefully once my schedule clears up, this game will be polish its rough edges

  8. Fimbul says:

    am I the only one who thinks this review is overoptimistic? A great 8.1 of 10 with all the bugs and issues!? shouldn’t it be rated how it is at the moment and not what it could/should be?

    • Keith Turner says:

      Hi Fimbul. I did not consider what it could/should be when scoring the game. While I do notate the level of developer interaction, as I feel people are interested in games with involved developers, the score is based only on the game as it is today, flaws and all. Were these flaws and other features not missing, my score would have been higher.

  9. Jake says:

    This was the best review I have ever read, ever… Keith please continue to write reviews.

  10. Jeff P says:

    Seems to be a very balanced review, and particularly helpful to someone (ahem, me) who is still on the fence about this game. I was particularly pleased to see that you didn’t fall into the grading-on-a-curve trap: my gaming time is valuable, regardless of how many people developed StarDrive.

    I question whether the 8.1 score isn’t a bit generous for a game with persistent “Stability and performance are issues…” Nothing kills an gaming experience faster than a title that crashes frequently.

    I’ll hold off on purchasing StarDrive until I’m more confident that the game will be more fun than frustrating.

    • Keith Turner says:

      Hi Jeff. Thanks for the comment. My score is based on the level of enjoyment I had with the game, despite its flaws. I did deduct points for its stability and performance issues, as well as the missing features and bugs. I feel that others who enjoy the things StarDrive highlights, warfare and ship design, will enjoy the game as well.

      In the review, I do notate that people who aren’t interested in the potential for some technical or performance issues should probably stay away a bit longer. Not because you will encounter them, but you could based on my experience. I haven’t seen a large amount of people complaining since release about this, and many people are enjoying the game without issues, including myself on my desktop. Still, I always advertise caution and waiting if you aren’t sure.

      • csebal says:

        Well, if we want to be totally fair and look at the scoring guideline right below the score itself, you would probably also agree that its not a 8+ game.

        I would rate it 6-7.5 myself, closer to a 6 than a 7.5, which would also be in line with the scoring guide.
        7+ says:
        “A game in this range provides a solid game experience but already shows some noticeable weaknesses.”
        -check, solid only in certain areas, very weak in others.

        “Fans of the genre will enjoy playing these games but will surely be able to point out a few deficiencies and some things that could have been done much better.”
        -check, a lot of deficiencies though.

        “Not all genre fans will be overly pleased though.”
        -check, most definitely check.

        “At this range games start to attract more gamers of a particular sub-genre. Some of the overall genre fans will still love playing these games, however some will be lost along the way”
        -not sure what this means frankly :)

        “But overall these are good games that totally deserve to be looked at.”
        -check, totally deserve a look, but one should not expect to play it for months.. the game is simply not there yet.

        “Casual and new players to the genre should start being cautious at this point. Their probability to enjoy these games has dropped significantly.”
        -check, most definitely not something I would recommend for casuals. I don’t even recommend it to all my friends, only to those I know can handle dealing with incomplete games.

        While the 7-8 range is already a pretty good match, lets go one lower and look at the 6-7 range too:

        “At this range games start to lose their shine. There will be many players who still find these titles quite enjoyable but many people will be lost at this point and will most likely not have that much fun playing these titles, at least not for a very long time”
        - check.. i sure as hell do not play stardrive as it is right now, simply because it is still missing those few bits that would keep me glued to it on the long run and i’m definitely not alone with this.

        “Games at this range already show significant problems.”
        - check. Though this is highly subjective, I think we can all agree that the game has several bigger issues.

        “Maybe there are stability issues, major user interface shortcomings or a serious balance problem.”
        - check. on all counts.

        “Some factor or factors may have been neglected completely or there is something that just doesn’t feel right.”
        - check again.

        “Many times things may still be worked out with patches to fill the gaps and fix any major issues.”
        - check.

        “Fans of the particular subgenre will probably enjoy these titles and possibly some casual players too but chances are that a great majority of people will have issues with these games.”
        - check.

        So if anything, the 6-7 range is an even better fit than the 7-8 range of scores.

        While I would not go as far as to rate this a 6/10 game, it is not even near being a 8.1 game. Sorry. That score is nothing but your enthusiasm speaking.

        Personally I would not give the game more than a 6.5 rating at the moment.

        • Keith Turner says:

          There is a reason why review scores are not provided by an ever increasing number of sites. Review scores are not a perfect science, and a number can’t replace the thousands of words that have gone into creating a review. I feel the text of my review is very fair, and makes it very clear what the positive and negative aspects of the game are.

          Everyone is certainly welcome to their own opinion, and I respect yours, even though it does not align with mine. I would contend that the game is fun, regardless of its issues, and my score reflects this. Just because it is fun for me, does not necessarily mean it will be fun for someone else. I would encourage anyone on the fence to also watch some Let’s Play videos, research the game site’s forums to see what’s being discussed, and to read other reviews as well as all tastes vary.

          To say that “one should not expect to play it for months..” is completely unfair in my opinion, as there are tons of people playing, and enjoying, StarDrive right now.

        • csebal says:

          See.. thats just it. your review clearly notes most of the deficiencies of the game, yet you assign it a score that should go to games that have none of those issues based solely on the fact, that the game will eventually get better and that you are enjoying it regardless.

          You seemingly fail to realize who your target audience is. Its not you yourself, or me, or others like us, because we already own the game. I bought it the day it went up on steam, and about anyone who would be enjoy it in its current state for longer periods of time has done so as well. People reading your review are the casual players, the kind of players who just want to have a fun game without any of the issues, without having to mess around with mods to get a full experience, etc.

          A 8.1 score is just that.. a game without any major issues. Sadly though, SD is not that game, not yet.. and even though i’m also hopeful that one day it might be, when you write a review it should be about the present state of a game, and not some future prospects.

          So if I were to simply look at the score, your review would be highly misleading and it is not even in line with what you wrote about the game yourself.

          Which is why I cited you the site’s very own guidelines on interpreting scores. I’m certain you are aware of them, but I figured it might help me point out how the game is not yet in the 8-9 score range.

          Artificially inflating the score of the game does SD no real service on the long run. Its just trading a few more sales for a lot of disappointed casual players later.

        • Wodzu says:

          I agree here with @csebal. I’ve enjoyed reading the review, however it is not the first review here which has too high score considering it’s current state. I would never gave a game 8.0 / 10 which has flaws presented in this review. I would give 8.0 a game which has not bugs in it and no performance problems. 8.0 is for MOO2 after patch 1.21 or Civ 4 with 2 addons. 8.0 is for a game which is mature, stable, well balanced and occassionaly, very very rearly can have some minor issues.

        • Adam Solo says:

          @Wodzu
          I’m genuinely curious. If MoO2 after patches and Civ4 after 2 expansions would be 8.0 games for you, what game(s) would be a 9 and a 10 score for you? Care to give an example or two?

        • Adam Solo says:

          @csebal
          “Artificially inflating the score of the game does SD no real service on the long run. Its just trading a few more sales for a lot of disappointed casual players later.”~csebal

          I understand that you have a different opinion about Keith’s score, but nobody here is “artificially” inflating anything. This implied suggestion of yours offends me and my site’s colleagues. I think there’s enough proof already that we score as we think games should be scored. Are our scores perfect? Of course not. There’s no such thing as a perfect score. They reflect the opinions of professionals with lots of experience with this kind of games, but, we’re fallible as anybody else.

          But you above many should know this because you’ve been a long time reader and have surely read all this site’s reviews. It’s really sad to read this kind of insults after so much hard work has been put on this free service to the community. Sigh… (feeling frustrated).

        • Miquel says:

          I fail to see any “insults” in csebal answer, honestly.

          For a one man project, funded through crowd sourcing, it’s a great achievement. I do think that the review does a good job at not downplaying the shortcomings of the game. Nonetheless, even with scores not being perfect, Adam, it cannot be glossed over that in an age of aggregate reviews and scoring, of the information in this review, 90% of people wondering about the game will just see the contribution made to the average and make their purchase decision based on that.

          One thing that attracted me to this site were those honest scorings you gave to Distant Worlds at release, or, thank you since that review saved me some $$$, Sword of the Stars II. Even more interesting was the fact that you and others went back to those games after expansions were released (who does that? not many besides Tom Chick, Rock Paper Shotgun or PC Gamer). In the case of DW, you adjusted your scoring so that the “bottom line” went from the red well into the black. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case for Sword of the Stars II. Interestingly, this hasn’t been the case – yet – for Endless Space.

          So the honest question to answer here should be: how does StarDrive compare with Distant Worlds at release? I’d say they should have a very similar appraisal. DW at release offered an strategic depth that SD simply doesn’t, on the other hand, SD offers a tactical depth that DW really doesn’t. Both titles had similar problems at release.

          Invoking “professionalism” in this context, puts me off slightly. Because if one says “professional” one opens the door for people to wonder about possible conflicts of interests. Given that this title was crowd funded I’m wary of reviews like the above: all the backers have become in one way or another stakeholders of this project, and that allows to read this review (and especially the final score) in a not very benign light.

          As Caesar said to his wife: “Caesar’s wife doesn’t just need to be honest, she also needs to look honest”.

        • Adam Solo says:

          @Miquel

          I hear you Miquel. My reply to csebal was based solely on his “artificially inflating the score” suggestion. My interpretation when reading that was one of insult and frustration. Moreover because I known csebal has been following this site for some years now, so his remark offended me more profoundly because of that. That’s why I copy pasted the paragraph where csebal said that. I have no problem with the rest of his comment.

          So, you’ve been following this site’s reviews, and think they were accurate enough, even the scores. It’s good to know that you found the reviews useful.

          About your SD vs DW state at release question, unfortunately I can’t tell, because I didn’t play StarDrive yet. Only when it was in early alpha. StarDrive was covered by Keith (2 previews and this review). And, I’m sure he did a great job, as he always does. If you’ve been following him you will only find praise to his work. It’s not the first time someone says that his reviews are the best they’ve read, ever. I’m among them on that observation.

          About the scores, as I say in the score system page: “we do our best to be objective and to stick to the point, however there’s obviously always some degree of subjectivity involved. Nonetheless we stand by our reviews as reliable opinions made by expert gamers, and we’re confident that they’re accurate enough to be useful in helping you make your decisions.”. So, while we’re confident on our appreciation and on the scores we give, we also realize that scores are not objective in nature, but more a subjective aggregate that may even change between individuals.

          I’m not afraid of what some people may think. Our work should speak for ourselves. That because there are ads in this site for the game in question, that that may somehow interfere with the editorial. As I said in the review score page, our reviews are 100% independent: “we don’t sell reviews, period. Our focus is the player and we are obsessed in providing the player with reliable, helpful and accurate information. We truly believe that what will make this blog’s genre stronger in the long run (the blog’s mission) is not achieved by making easy profit at the cost of truth.”.

          The games genre covered in this site is not very big, and many of this site’s readers are long time gamers. In many cases with even more experience playing this kind of games than myself or perhaps Keith. So, there was simply no way that dishonest work would slip through on the long run. That would never work on a site like this.

          Moreover, what I think distinguishes us from other review sites, is that we give review-post-support, so to speak. We get involved with the community and defend our reviews over time and help gamers with tips and other suggestions. So, we just don’t put our review out on the blue and run. We stand by our reviews. Because, you see, as we’re honest, we have simply nothing to hide from. We give face and stand by our reviews.

          So, our work is honest, and the reviews we’ve been putting up over the years should be enough proof of that. Some reviews may have been more accurate than others, particularly about the score, but that’s why we provide thorough reviews, so that there’s more than enough information available for a good assessment from the gamer.

          The review score, is just another tool to help gamers on their assessments, along with the pros/cons list and, of course, the thorough text itself. Of course, different people will give different scores. This score is Keith’s opinion about this game, and therefore it is SpaceSector’s opinion.

        • csebal says:

          I realize that my words might have been seen as an implication of maliciously inflated scores, but that was never their true meaning or intention.

          I’m 100% confident that all the reviews on the site are written with the best intentions to the best of the reviewer’s abilities and are not paid for in any way to appear more favorable.

          So please take that last sentence of my previous comment with a pinch of salt and do not take offense in it as there was no offense meant.

        • Adam Solo says:

          @csebal

          My reaction escalated from the interpretation that you were suggesting a maliciously “artificial” inflation of the score, yes.

          From what you say now, I see that that was not the meaning you were wanting to give to the word.

          “So please take that last sentence of my previous comment with a pinch of salt and do not take offense in it as there was no offense meant.”~csebal

          I see now that my reaction could have been generated from a misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the word “artificial”. So, your suggestion for artificial in this context could be seen as an unconscious act.

          No grudge hold. Let’s move on.

        • Wodzu says:

          @Adam I think that I have not played yet a strategy game that deserved 10/10 score:) As for 9 I could say that IMHO Civilization 2 and Heroes of Might and Magic 2 deserved those scores :)

        • Adam Solo says:

          @Wodzu
          Boy are you tough :)

          I do agree with Heroes of Might & Magic 2 being a 9. Perhaps even more than that. Incredible game. I replayed it again not long ago (bought on GOG). It’s amazing how actual and fun that game still is. I guess that’s what makes it a classic.

        • Wodzu says:

          @Adam, yes a great game:) I am glad that you still had fun with it after all these years :)

  11. JiminyJickers says:

    I’m glad you mentioned that you tried on a laptop. I only have a gaming laptop at the moment and have a Realtek soundcard, which seems to be causing some issues.

    I will wait until the issues are resolved before I will give this a go. Nearly gave in a few times already but you have convinced me to wait a bit longer.

    Now if only the Shadows expansion for Distant Worlds would come out already, haha.

  12. Tiberius says:

    My biggest issue with the game is that the later weapon technologies in many cases are inferior to earlier ones.

    Case in point: Quantum Torpdedo Cannon vs. Disruptor Cannon Turret. These come from the same line of tech, with Quantum Torpedo Cannon being the final tech in that line.

    Why would I put a Quantum Torpedo Cannon on my ship when I could fit six disruptor cannon turrets in the same space? Sure that gives me 16% less DPS, but at only 48% of the cost and 24% of the mass. The power consumption may be more, but so is the firing arc, so I consider that a tie.

    I guess my complaint is that end-game weapons should feel awesome, but instead I’m not convinced they’re any better than earlier ones.

    • Keith Turner says:

      Hi Tiberius. Interesting that you bring this up. I hadn’t put a lot of thought into it, but I’ve taken a look at these techs since you brought them up.

      I think the weapons may really be built for different purposes. Here is my thought process based on a look at the in-game stats and the two weapon’s xml files.

      One thing I noticed is that the quantum torpedo cannon also has 3x the range (6000 vs 2000). Whether or not range matters is debatable, but in larger fights between capital class ships I’d say it is.

      I feel the torpedo is a vastly superior weapon vs slower, more durable targets. Here is why: the torpedo does all of its damage (7500) to one specific area all at once. A disruptor turret on the other hand is very likely to spread its damage (175 per shot) across the enemy ships as your ship and their ship both move. Also, the torpedo has a damage radius of 75, while the disruptor shots have a radius of 1, so the torpedo damages a much large area when it hits. I would argue that doing a ton of damage to one area, likely destroying multiple modules at a time, is superior… but only if the cannon hits.

      When fighting smaller ships, I’d agree that the torpedo cannon is likely to not be as effective as a miss with it is huge due to its reload time. If it does hit a smaller ship, that ship is going to be in very rough shape of course, but Multiple disruptors are probably superior in this situation as some missed shots are not as detrimental.

      So perhaps torpedo cannons are later in the tree as they are meant to defend against other late game techs like titan class ships? I’m not sure this was the intent, but perhaps it makes sense. This is mostly theorycrafting though, I didn’t use the energy cannons the last couple times I’ve played.

      Thanks for the comment, it was nice to think about this.

      • Tiberius says:

        Yeah, I just feel there should be a more obvious benefit from doing all that research. Same for engines, they’re only very slightly better with each upgrade.

  13. Zaknafein says:

    A very good review :) Takes into account all the stuff that is great and lists the short commings, just what I’d come to expect from space sector :)

    I think it is worth mentioning that the game is highly moddable, some of the mods already expand the game considerably.

  14. Zophos says:

    This review by itself is a paragon what a game review should be. But people play games not reviews.
    I must confess that I was very skeptic about this title from the very beginning. And now I want to ask: why should I pay 30 euros for THIS? Are you kidding really? 30 euros? Half-made skeleton of a probably decent-somewhere-in-the-far-future game? Ship design system from Space Empires 4-5, races from Master of Orion 2, economy system from Galactic Civilizations 2? Is THIS 4X? When I want fierce space battles – I play Sword of the Stars 1. When I want “exploration feeling” and Civ-like experience – I play GalCiv. When I want intricate planetary management and charismatic races – I play Master of Orion 3. When I want VAST space and IMMENSE galaxies – I play Lost Empire. When I want play all-around comfortable game – I play Armada. What should be my reasons to play THIS for 30 euros? Moddable? Meh… Pay us 30 euros and make game by yourself! Ha-ha…
    It’s just a blende. “An ore of zinc, 1680s, from German Blende, a back-formation from blenden “to blind, deceive” (see blind (adj.)). So called because it resembles lead but does not yield any” (Online English Etymology Dictionary).

    • Seraph says:

      first of all, you don’t have to buy right now, you can wait and look at the development of the game and decide for yourself if it takes the right road. you can even participate in the forum activities and suggest additions to the game, zero is quite active in the forum and listens to his community.

      furthermore, it’s not a “skeleton”…yes…some things like events and minor races are still gettnig fleshed out and the options for buildings and research is decent and varied but certain can (as most 4x games) be improved. but the overall variety is good, it’s not as deep in terms of 4-5x factory improvements but instead has as of right now a very good array of different things to research.

      the selling point for stardrive IS the shipbuilding and the combat with the combination of it’s colony management with as of right now decent building variation. furtherore it has also controllable ground combat. improvements and additions are still planned are on the way of implement as i understand. even the existing standard ship designs will be changed due to feedback from the community and will deliver more challenging ships for the AI to use.

      regarding you games list:
      - Space Empires: good game but sadly poor AI (but still great game)
      - Sword of the Stars I: nice game but for my taste only a battle simulator. colony management exists only in form of sliders for financial distribution. stardrive offers as of now at least decent building variation and surely more depth.
      - Galactic Civilization (2): GREAT game, i love it and play it still from time to time but sadly NO tactical combat and the shipbuilding looks and is great but regarding tactical depth, stardrive receives the point (positioning matters due to damage income and armouring…..much like star ruler but better in my opinion).
      - Master of Orion 3: for me and many other 4x gamers a no-go^^.
      - Lost Empire (Immortals?!): i haven’t played it yet but after my small research it received an overall very bad review / feedback.
      - Armads (2526?!): is an overall decent game, but for me personally overall very shallow and not very comfortable due to the UI and overall not so good information feedback.

      good modding support is a great and sometimes underrated feature. do you know mount & blade?! the game is a good game but with the different mods you can use it becomes a truly astonishing game. also some modding content can and surely will be implemented into the game if the community suggests it enough. good example are the ship designs where zero actually is collecting designs and input to evaluate the most fitting designs from the community.

      overall it’s you decision, i don’t mean to be hell bend to sell the game to you, you should view let’s plays, read the forums and decide if the game is for you. but you should at least follow the further development of the game.

      one recommendation from me, if you want a truly gigantic galaxy to play around which has a great “exploration feeling”, then i would recommend you Distant Worlds (at least with the Addon “Return of the Shakturi”). you can find very good reviews about that game on this site.

      • Zophos says:

        Of course, as you say, I don’t have to buy right now and I surely WON’T..:) But I can say, I’m almost sure I NEVER will. I’m just trying to discourse with pragmatic terms. What can I dig out of this game cost 30 euros? And is there a guarantee that they wouldn’t ask for another 30 euros for expansion/addon/DLC which would finally give this game all that it misses for now?
        I listed some games that are really superior than Stardrive in particular parts of gameplay, they all are cheaper too. And I really doubt that stea…ehm, borrowing from here and there is a good recipe for a tasty soup.

    • Mezmorki says:

      I sympathsize with your points.

      Interestingly, for all the generally poor opinions of Armada 2526, I find it to be one of the best, yet most overlooked, of the 4X titles in the last 10 years or so. It doesn’t have ship design, and the real-time combat is only so-so – but as you say I find it the best “all-around comfortable game.”

      The UI actually great when you get used to it, and you realize that the game doesn’t need all these hideous menus, tables, and management screens because the gameplay keeps you focused at a higher level.

      Anyway, the execution is a little rough in parts of Armada, but as an overall design, it’s very compelling and thoughtfully done.

      • Seraph says:

        armada 2526 as well as endless space are some good titles for 4x spacegame beginners or if you want a more streamlined gameplay. as i said, they aren’t bad but just not my cup of tea. depending of the possibility and accessibility i’m used to design my own ships in my 4x space games. armada 2526 with it’s set units and overall gamemechanics are too fixed for me. endless space has a very good UI but the rest i see as a very …let’s say userfriendly and light 4x game. for beginners or new players to the genre i think endless space is great.

        • Ashbery76 says:

          Armada Supernova is shallow and ES is a game for begginers,lol holyfan boy delusion.I can assure you Stardive in terms of the grand strategical campaign and economy is much more “streamlined” than both.

        • Seraph says:

          @Ashberry76: i’m surely no fanboy and just stating my personal survey. further i didn’t use “shallow” in my statement! besides being my personal opinion which i already clarified.

          endless space gives you a bunch ob modifications and a standard and very narrow modules for your spacecrafts to research.yes you can build a bunch of different kind of building, but these are to 99% (or even 100%, i only played the game until the release) only resource modifications. the ship design for endless space is very shallow (now i use shallow), because you just have a few choices you can make and the overall variety of weapons, modules and armor is very small. as i remember correctly, there is only missiles, ballistic weapons, armor and shields (besides troop transports and also ship modifications) of which you can decide in which relation you want them to add. the overall game is presented very nice and leaves you some choices, but the overall amount of choices and depth of strategy is very light. thus being very good for beginners / newbies to the genre (every review, be it user or press states the same).

          armada 2526 has a set array of buildings and ships, with no real space for personal designs….yes you can varied the types of colonies your building (choose different array of buildings), but the usually most engaging part of a 4x space game, the warfare / combat, is very fixed. further i personally (!) didn’t like the look & feel of the game, specially the art style of the races i didn’t like very much.

          and as i already said, the selling point for stardrive is the ship design and the combat because direction of incoming damage matters and is also implied to deactivate / destroy modules which can also explode, etc. positioning is meaningful….and the graphics are nice. tell me one 4x game of the later years with good ship design and combat?!

          i somebody would asked me to recommend him my favorite 4x space game, then it would be distant worlds, but if he wanted some good 4x space game with interesting ship design and engaging combat then i would refer him to stardrive.

          but funny to call me fanboy :-D.

          further…please…tell me what you preer at armada and ES?! maybe they have evolved and offer some goodies i haven’t discovered yet.

          btw: i bought into the beta of ES but got me a refund 2-3 hours before release, so maybe it has changed for the better, but latest let’s plays don’t look like it.

        • Mezmorki says:

          I won’t comment on Endless Space, because I don’t really like it that much after playing it for a while. Too many things about the design irritate me. But anyway…

          Armada 2526 (with Supernova expansion!) has been a terrific experience for me. This single biggest reason is that the entire design is geared around providing tough decisions at a grand scale. One might point a finger at it and say that’s it is a “light” 4X game because it lacks detail in certain areas (e.g. no ship design) – but it MORE than makes up for it in terms of delivering genuinely tough strategic decisions at the grand scale. One doesn’t complain that Chess or Go lack depth and are games for newbies because the “rules” are brief. Similarly, Armada’s design is simple and streamlined. That streamlined design is what enables you to engage with the game at a higher level of play, rather than being bogged down in the minutia of micromanagement details that plague some many other 4X games.

          Some aspects of the Armada’s design I really appreciate:

          - Technology tree forces you to make tough choices about what research branches you invest in. You can’t do everything, so you really need to pick a few key branches and build a long-term strategy around that. Technology actually DOES something instead of just providing little bonuses here and there. Achieving a new tech feels like a significant accomplishment that unlocks new strategic options.

          - Excellent trade system (added in Supernova expansion) that both requires some tradeoff decisions and is handled in a low overhead (i.e. no micro required) way.

          - Varied (race specific) victory conditions. The game isn’t about each player/empire racing from A to B, following mostly similar pathways. Each race has a fundamentally different objective and different things it needs to do along the way.

          - Diplomatic system is robust. Lots of options for establishing foreign trade routes (which are used then as a vector for transferring spies), entering agreements/pacts, embargo’ing other races, etc.

          - Excellent and “appropriate” level of detail in colony management – compelling choices without the micro. Building spaces are tied to population, so you are constantly having to a make tough choices and tradeoffs about what buildings to construct. Most other 4X games have way too many building slots/areas – so you just spam 1 of everything.

          - Combat initiation provides logical options for engagement. You can have ships stand-off, blockading systems but not engaging for instance. The real-time combat is mostly useless, but the auto-resolve works great 95% of the time.

          Outside of the lack of race customization and ship design (although you can mod both), Armada hits all the buttons for me, and thoughtfully implemented the major 4X mechanics in ways that make sense and provide a compelling experience. Plus it has an integrated PBEM multiplayer that works quite well.

          Unfortunately, the reactions to Armada were based on what it DIDN’T do, and people overlooked the great things it DID do.

  15. JohnR says:

    First off I wanted to say that I was a bit troubled reading all the back and forth vitriol, finger pointing, and disrespect in the comments thread to the previous Stardrive post. Also, I think Mr. Dan was ill-advised to post the couple of defensive and self-righteous comments he did. They definitely didn’t help his cause. Gosh, I think it must be true what one person said about how Kickstarter games tend to have rather zealous, even over-zealous fans. ;)

    Having said that, I did enjoy Keith’s review. It gave me a really good idea of what to expect in the game. The review also seemed remarkably unbiased, considering how close SpaceSector has been to Mr. Dan the past year or so. Anyway, I now anxiously await to see what GameSpot and IGN have to say about Stardrive.

    • Adam Solo says:

      About the vitriol on the other StarDrive thread. I was as shocked as you. But above all I’m very sad about a great deal of what was said, but in particular the how it was said.

      Part of the blame is mine however, of not moderating the thread on time and by not offering comment editing to users, as I should have done a long time ago.

      But, comment editing is possible now, so hopefully that will help reduce insults and vitriol, as people now have a chance, for an extended period of time, to think the comments over, and perhaps change some parts they regret having said in the first place.

  16. shbs says:

    Thanks for a great in-depth look at SD. After reading though, I do agree with other posters – this game should not currently be given an 8.1 – sorry.

    Any game rating 8 or above must be complete and with no bugs or issues. You can’t possibly rate this game at that level – sure it’s got potential to get to a 9 – but not yet.

    I think Space Sector is doing it’s readers a dis-service with this rating.

    If I bought this game based on the rating only, (a lot of people do) and encountered the problems talked about, i sure would not be happy, I mean you even admit it in the review – parts of the game system are simply broken at present.

    Sorry Keith – but rate it as it is – not it’s potential.

    And please don’t defend by saying some parts are great – yes they are, agreed – but if the AI took over my cruisers with troop transports or bypassed the fleet to attack the planet, or I couldn’t land troops because the “pattern is full” man, i’d be absolutely fuming and i’d be coming after you big time – for giving this game an 8+.

    Let’s all be honest here and give this game say a 6.5 to 7 – but look to a further review by adam or keith in 6 months to see if deserves more.

  17. Zophos says:

    “And as i already said, the selling point for Stardrive is the ship design and the combat because direction of incoming damage matters and is also implied to deactivate / destroy modules which can also explode, etc. positioning is meaningful….and the graphics are nice. tell me one 4x game of the later years with good ship design and combat?!” (c) Seraph

    Sword of the Stars series, but even better – Space Empires IV and V (choose between turn-based or real-time battles) whence Stardrive borrowed inner and outer ship decks, module destruction and such…
    Let’s see which is now shallow…:)

    • Seraph says:

      “regarding you games list:
      - Space Empires: good game but sadly poor AI (but still great game)
      - Sword of the Stars I: nice game but for my taste only a battle simulator. colony management exists only in form of sliders for financial distribution. stardrive offers as of now at least decent building variation and surely more depth.” (c) Me :)

      SotS is almost ONLY warfare, expect colonizing further systems and adjusting a three-way pie-chart (SotS 1), you can’t really call it colony management.

      as of Space Empires, yeah…regarding tactical combat, ship design and even research they are one, if not the greatest 4x space game on paper…….but sadly the AI is severely broken (V) or at least in IV very dated. It’s an diamand but sadly no AI which you can play against to your satisfaction.

      • Zophos says:

        I repeated your own words that “the selling point for Stardrive is the ship design and the combat” and I gave you two games that are the paragon for me in terms of ship design and combat. Why are you talking about AI and colony management?
        The fact is that considering every aspect of game there are games better than Stardrive. Thus, even having all of these aspects copied, borrowed and stolen, Stardrive is still worse in these borrowed aspects… So we have Frankenstein whose limbs are not his own and they are sewn together in trying to give life to this monster. Frankenstein cost 30 euros. If it is not robbery so show me what is…
        It’s time to recall that greed is a way to loss.

        • Seraph says:

          well boy, what should i tell you?! as you said right, it’s your opinion and everybody is entitled to have one. but be a grown-up and accept that some people have different viewpoints.

          you talking about borrowed and stolen?! ehm….you know, not every game invents the wheel again?! space empires is somewhat a robbery from master of orion 2, or at least heavy borrowing. sword of the stars has good battles, BUT the game ONLY consists of battles…there is nothing else! and i played sword of the stars for like 5-8 hours and got bored, because there is only battle and changin sometimes the pie chart (yeah…”fun”). stardrive has these feature with as of the moment “decent” research and build options and some light diplomacy options. but it’s also still in further development and things will get added.
          it’s the mix which got stardrive right and if it’s got a little bit improved at the aforementioned parts then it can become a great game and potential classic.

          i’ve talked about the ai because what good is a space empires if the ai isn’t able to use all the features and content?! yeah, you can play it via multiplayer, but you know what? i prefer to play 4x games in singleplayer at my own speed and time, so ai is a pretty important part!

          furthermore i don’t think of sword of the stars or space empires as paragons of battle and ship design!

          my personal (!) top3 4x space games are 1. distant worlds, 2. galactic civilization 2 and 3. master of orion 2.

          and for your post down below: lol…if you’re bashing a 4x game because it has realtime, then you must also hate distant worlds, star ruler, sins of a solar empire, Europa Universalis, Crusader Kings, etc. …. they are ALL in realtime! and some people like it! you can also in most of these games pause and change the game speed so that you can adjust the gameflow for your pace! even the battles in sword of the stars, your paragon game, has realtime battles…..so very funny to bash realtime ;)….yeah you could say that SotS isn’t always realtime but the combat makes at least 90% of the game…every other aspect, be it research, adjusting your pie chart for more money or production is tuned towards the next battle in SotS.

          you ask why make an 4x game in realtime? easy answer: in sins of a solar empire, distant worlds, star ruler and stardrive you can have and command dozens and sometimes even hundreds of individual ships, good luck ordering them seperately in a 4x TBS game. and you know what, i love 4x tbs games MORE than realtime, BUT these game wouldn’t function turn-based! look at all the 4x games, most of them don’t have tactical combat and also the overall unit / army count is hardly over a dozen….who would want to give commands to several dozens of even hundreds of units each turn?!

          furthermore, by stardrive being in realtime it can seamlessly blend together the combat and civilization parts. in space empires and SotS you load into another space which disrupts the athmosphere at least a little bit. in stardrive (or distant worlds and star ruler) it’s all in the game space…so another +1 for realtime!

          and for SotS and space empires being paragon of ship design and combat, so please tell me where exactly do you think lies the superiority in this department at these games?!

        • Adam Solo says:

          @Seraph
          Insults or implied insults are not acceptable. Please, don’t do that in the future.

        • Jeff P says:

          I have never played a real-time 4X game that provided a satisfactory grand strategy experience. Strategy requires contemplation and never benefits from the pressure of time. This is why so many classic 4X games (i.e., MoOII, Civilization, Galactic Civilization series) are turn based.

          Gameplay in Age of Empires alway felt rushed to me, while the complexity of the ship design and colony planning in Star Ruler required many tedious play throughs to develop a library of designs and templates. SoSE is not a 4X but an RTS; I’ve never played Distant Worlds, but I lurked on their forums long enough to see many posts complaining how the real-time aspect allows the game to play itself.

          This is not to say that StarDrive is doomed to failure, but I feel that real-time strategic play does not add to its appeal. As for emulating features from other games, I have no problem with that with one caveat: it isn’t the feature, it is the implementation.

          SEV’s ship design system is accessible because it allows you to edit and upgrade designs easily and test them in a simulator.

          IGII and SEV have ground combat that is memorable due to its upgradable units and tactical minigame.

          SotS real-time tactical combat is successful because your input is often critical to victory and the command point system limits the ships you must deal with to a manageable number.

          Only time will tell if StarDrive is able to overcome its technical issues and successfully integrate the “borrowed” features into its design.

        • Seraph says:

          @AdamSolo: i’m sorry if the text is reading like an insult, i’m no english native so my writing isn’t perfect, but i didn’t (!) try to insult Zophos.

          @Zophos: if it came the wrong way then i’m truly sorry!!!!

    • Alexodia says:

      The only games that I have seen that is not a modified derivative of another game is Distant Worlds, Star Wars: Rebellion, and Imperium Galactica. almost everything else was inspired by the 4x Genres early games.

  18. Zophos says:

    Well, now I played beta for a while. Know what? A year later, you will hardly recall it. Real-time looks wildly for 4X games, transforming them into awkward flatulent arcade. What could be reasons to make 4X strategy game in real time? Aim for multiplayer in which lies the inability to make a decent AI…
    Ship design is inelaborate and comparing it with Space Empires or SotS is simply incongruously.
    No upgrades can make this title the real 4X startegy game. Bizarre mutant that has no future. Dixi.

    • Ashbery76 says:

      Desura user? lol.

      • Seraph says:

        “No upgrades can make this title the real 4X startegy game.”
        <– lol…it didn't try to achieve godhood or be the graal…what did you expect? the new pillar of 4x space game?!

    • Alexodia says:

      Real-time looks wildly for 4X games,

      Sorry I would say Imperium galactica I & II does not have any weird feel in fact It was what introduced me to 4x first. I would love to see a modern version of it.

      • Seraph says:

        yes, i also prefer turn-based over realtime, but at some games and for certain scopes (meaning unit-count) it’s better to have realtime (pausable). further for some people turn-based is a no-go or didn’t deliver the necessary feel (it can be more stressful at times, where turn-based is more slower paced).

        • Alexodia says:

          depends I was a IGII fanatic it was 4x RTS that was absolutely outstanding. I don’t mind TBS I play quite a few but IG will always be the winner I compare any game too in 4x

  19. JohnR says:

    I agree Seraph, Distant Worlds is wonderful. My favorite 4X space game by far. I’ve never seen a 4X game do large empire management better, and that includes the revered Sid Meier. Speaking of DW, isn’t the ‘Shadows’ expansion now seriously overdue? I’ve seen absolutely nothing about it the forums.

    BTW, also a bit off-topic. I’ve seen Planet Calypso advertised here at SS. It looks interesting. I’ve read good and bad about it (as always), but wish you guys would do a review.

    • Adam Solo says:

      We’ll have DW:Shadows coverage soon. Stay tuned for that ;)

      About Planet Calypso, what can you tell me about it?

    • Seraph says:

      i’ve followed the dw forum actively….ds:shadows is due until end of may.

      • JohnR says:

        Oh great, I’ll be revisiting Star Trek Online at that time for the playable Romulans. Timing is everything. BTW, aren’t the Seraph from Guild Wars 2??? ;)

  20. JohnR says:

    Hi Adam, surely you jest about Planet Calypso??? ;) But seriously, the good things I’ve heard are that it looks visually stunning, you can do all kinds of professions and it’s a big open sandbox like Star Wars Galaxies and EVE. Also, there are a plethora of planes, boats, and spacecraft you can commandeer, though I’ve heard they are expensive. The bad I’ve heard is that although free to play, it can be a big money pit. That is, everything you do takes money, which means you either grind or whip out your credit card.

    Can’t wait to hear your update on DW Shadows. I’ve been anxious to revisit DW, but have been holding out for Shadows which I had thought would be out by now. BTW, I love the Star Trek mods you guys recommended. They’ve made DW the best Trek game I’ve ever played. I’ve also been using the SINS Advent ships skins. ;)

    Back on topic, I’ve not counted out StarDrive just yet. I’m waiting to see if Gamespot and IGN corroborate the mostly good things you guys say about it. BTW, I would hate to have to go to war with those space bears and space rodents though. They look too cute. lol

  21. SYN says:

    Sigh, after reading this i personally see the frivolity of arguments.

    1) This game CATERS to a select group of people who loves to see how their designs work in combat.

    2) Those of you who complain about this game….
    a) If you don’t like it based on generally understood 4x games then go design and build your own game.
    b) Those of you who see the game is not complete enough then WAIT for more content/patches to come in.

    3) I do have minor complains and i fall in the group of B which means that should have more content (e.g. maybe some story and rewards for taking some ships)

    4) overall this game, i bought, is OKAY and it allows me to see what/how the devs made it and what potential it has. <—pretty good from my perspective.

    5) Apologies for any1 i insulted in the above.

    • Josh says:

      I love where the game has potential, and I love what it already has. What I don’t love is not being able to play past the building phase. A game about ship-building and massive battles loses all credibility when it can’t handle more than a dozen ships shooting at each other.

      I could honestly care less about the lack of end-game, quests, story, or even depth of anything else. The shipbuilding is absolutely awesome, and I want to be able to see my ships in action.

  22. Josh says:

    This review was way too generous, considering the wealth of bugs (some of which limit people from playing beyond the early game). This game has potential, but it is not at an 8.

    It’s more like a 5.5, with the potential to reach a 9. Most points lost on there only being 1/3 of a game here.

  23. Ace of the Stars says:

    Well, since I made up my mind on not spending more than 20 bucks on an unfinished product, I can also see that this game has a lot of potential, so anyone knows if I can get this for less than 20 bucks? And from where?

  24. Japperwin says:

    > plays on laptop
    > complains performance
    Dem casual gamers. Game runs fine on any good pc.

    • Josh says:

      No it does not. I have what you would call a “beastly” gaming computer and the game craps out on me during mid-sized fights. It’s not always about the computer specs; sometimes, games just don’t play nice with certain operating systems or graphics cards.

  25. Kruos says:

    Seriously guys.. ok the release is not a ‘finished product’ (please define a ‘finished product’ ;)), the dev has already said that the release is only the beginning. So you are looking for a reduction because of that???

    ‘Finished products’ at release simply do not exists, stop dreaming guys…

    I am having a blast since release with this ‘unfinished product’, more than 80h in less than a week, I can assure you, sincerly, this game own a 8/10 very well deserved.

    I cant wait to see the upcoming patch & features the dev is preparing.

    • Josh says:

      “‘Finished products’ at release simply do not exists, stop dreaming guys…”

      hahahahahahaaa ha..ha…ha……ha………

      Okay, now I’m sad. It’s official: our expectations for gaming products has finally hit rock-bottom.

  26. ncsufan61 says:

    Wish someone would do a remake of Stars!. Stars! was a great game and had a ton of the features that this game needs.

    • Ashbery76 says:

      I still rue the day Stars Supernova was canned.It looked like a game that would still hold up even now.

  27. Daniel Judah says:

    This game is simply, quite nice. But not nice enough.

    Firstly, the way the freighter move is highly frustrating. You can’t assign the freighters “transport X of Y to planet Z” although I think that is needed in these kind of games. Or at least, give us an AI who knows how to transport food, colonists, and production around our colony. Sometimes they pick up colonist at under-populated planet, instead of Earth. Sometimes I have a lot of idle freighters, who are stuck on “seeking route” although the route is obvious.

    The second thing, is just like a lot of people outline here, is the interface. There are no notice if I has discovered a planet that is able to support a colony (“Scouts have found a colonizable planet.” from Sins come to mind), or my ships has been attacked, and a lot of other things. Sometimes in the ensuing chaos of managing I lose track of my colony ships, only finding them eaten up by the Remnants, or by other factions.

    The third thing is about the ground combat, which I heard will be fixed soon. There are several other minor factors, such as lag in big combat.

    But on the other hand,

    Firstly, the ship design is mightily great. This is one of the best ship designer I have ever seen. In fact, one of my primary motivation to purchase SD is their ship design mode. There are so much customization that could be done here. Though I would have to say that this too should be polished. Features to easily upgrade our ships with less clicks will be great. The tooltips covering the ship design mode is also well-crafted.

    Secondly, I revel in the glory of the battle in SD. You could see clearly (though sadly, not visually) weapons get shot up, reactors explode, armor start to buckle, etc. With good positioning you could even defeat a better armed foe. The “balance” between energy weapon and ballistic weapon is nice too. Ballistic weapon tend to have higher range, less accurate, more damage, and requires ordnance while the energy weapons has lower range, lower damage, better accuracy, but requires power.

    Thirdly, the other races has quite good personality, but I think their way to conduct diplomacy is still need to be fixed up.

    Overall, this game is quite nice, but can’t match up Distant Worlds by far. But ask someone say above, if you prefer war and carnage, SD is for you, that I agree very much. In fact, SD is way better than Sins in all aspects, even in eXtermination which Sins excel.

  28. Ray says:

    And.. IGN just gave this a 4.5 out of 10 (BAD) review….
    That is going to take some coming back from even if you think IGN are unnecessarily harsh

    • Kordanor says:

      Wow, really harsh review. I am a big fan of the three moves ahead Poscast he hosts and give him extra credit for that and besides of XCOM I mostly had the same opinions as Rob.
      But it’s strange that even he doesn’t talk about the “feedback” and information the game gives (not) to you.

    • Daniel Judah says:

      I would have to agree that IGN review is too harsh. This game sure lacks some polish in key areas, but they do deserve at least a 6-7 in my opinion. If you read IGN’s review, you could easily see that they are bad at reviewing 4X games.

      • Ashbery76 says:

        Linear small tech tree,poor ground combat and no victory conditions was brought up many times in the stardrive beta forums pre release by sensible testers.The score is nasty but the review content is good.

  29. Jeff P says:

    I’m sorry, but I buy games, not “potential”. Let me know when StarDrive is ready for prime time. Every minute I spend playing a game that has serious bugs, balance concerns or crashes (all of which are reported by StarDrive reviewers) is a minute I could spend playing a game that is polished and complete and dollars I could have used to purchase a finished product. Also, I don’t buy a game “on the curve”: I appreciate that this game was produced by one man, but that won’t make it any more playable or enjoyable.

    I sympathize with those who bought StarDrive in beta and are plugging the game to ensure its continued development, but don’t expect me to purchase a defective product in the hope that it will be a classic sometime in the future.

    • csebal says:

      Nobody is expecting you to do that, in fact it has been stated over and over again, that the game is not recommended for those who are not willing to look past some (or more) flaws and issues.

      I’m not playing it either, personally.. its simply not there yet in my book. I hope one day it will be though.

  30. sly ostinato says:

    I really like this 1-minute review video. It cuts through all the blah-blah-blah of all the other reviews that are out there and goes right for the meat…and the problems. This review definitely mirrors my sentiments after struggling with this game for 3 weeks now.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cVbdmdYFtNY

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