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Star Ruler 2: Wake of the Heralds – Impressions

By on May 2nd, 2016 10:15 am

Star Ruler 2: Wake of the Heralds | A real-time (pausable) Space 4X strategy game by Blind Mind Studios

Blind Mind Studios released their expansion Wake of the Heralds for Star Ruler 2 on April 22, 2016, a pausable real-time space 4X strategy game. The expansion also comes with a patch which offers many little fixes and tweaks that all owners of the core game will also get.

Changes that are available without the expansion is the improved AI settings, improvements to the AI’s behaviours, graphical improvements, and planet biomes will better match their resources visually, which was one of my immersion breaking criticisms for original game.

The expansion itself brings extra content and fleshes out many of the existing mechanics. There are more options and cards in diplomacy, a mechanic to win the game via the influence system, the addition of Attitudes to further specialise your faction, more techs for more ship design options, and two new races along with a new invasion game mode.

Overall, the expansion is pretty meaty for fans of the game. The expansions gives a lot of extra content in many of the existing systems with a few unique additions, along with the two new races which have more distinct mechanics than the initial races. There is enough to make someone who took a hiatus from the game to give it another go. However, I don’t think the content will change someone’s opinion of the game unless it was on a knife’s edge.

Star Ruler 2: Wake of the Heralds

Adding to the Existing Pot

As mentioned before, the game adds a lot of content to the existing systems. More technologies with new ship modules and templates to further customise your ships more. Players can now build dedicated carriers that only use support ships, or build specialised vessels that have no support but are better at being standalone worships. There is even a template to maximise the concept of a super spinal-mount weapon.

More noteworthy is the additions to the diplomacy system. First there is way more card options, a lot more. The nature of the diplomacy is still a miniature card game where you collect cards that are spawned randomly, spending the influence you gather. The largest addition is becoming the Senate Leader; which allows the player to gain and use special cards, build a special station, and even play two powerful cards which when both are played triggers an eventual victory. This effectively adds another victory condition to the game.

There is also a new FTL drive system, the Jumpdrive. Similar to Hyperdrives, the drive makes ships instantly teleport to their destination but there is a safe max distance you can jump to. Along with this, capital ships can now gain veterancy in combat, making it valuable to retreat your ships as they can come back to fight another day stronger.

Overall, all these new additions are welcomed. As mentioned in my review, a lot of the game is built around a sandbox experience allowing the player to do many crazy things one sees or reads about in science-fiction. This expansion gives the player even more choices to manage and create the ships they want or achieve even more powerful plays in the diplomacy and influence system.

Star Ruler 2: Wake of the Heralds

The Newer Brews

The expansion does also try to throw even more unique additions to the game. The first is the invasion game mode which is a cooperative mode where the players fight off waves of ever increasing attackers. In this mode you can still expand, settle systems, and even be a jerk in diplomacy. This mode is a little reminiscent of tower defense games as you build up your defenses and fleets, expanding deeper into your sector, while turning your forces to help defend the boundary systems. You’re game over if you lose those systems.

Personally, I am not a fan of this particular type of mode. That said I do appreciate different game modes or scenarios, as there are those I do enjoy, it’s just this is not one of them. However, I’ve never been a fan of tower defense or horde modes, but there are those that do and they might find this mode interesting.

They have also added Attitudes, which is a set of several traits pairs you can unlock. You can only take one of each pair as they represent opposing Attitudes. Since there are many trait pairs, you can take up to five (out of six pairings) Attitudes. Each require you to do something to unlock each level and get the stronger bonuses, these are retroactively gained, so tasks done before picking up the trait still counts.

The system seems to reward playing the game a certain way and focusing on a certain strategy. However, it offers a wide selection of strategy the player can employ. It also gives the player more options to tailor their faction the way they like to play. Overall, it is a nice addition to the game as it helps guide the player towards certain actions and rewards them.

Star Ruler 2: Wake of the Heralds

The Extra Ingredients

The last major addition is the two new races. They play significantly differently from the older races. One race has its colonisers warp in at a beacon which you have three spread across the map, these refugee ships then settle nearby words randomly. The beacons can also have resources transferred to allow special actions to be used.

The other race is a post-singularity species, which build structures on planets via orbital replicators. They don’t use population and directly collect the benefits of each corresponding resource. Resources that have no benefit for the faction can have their worlds convert it to base materials or ore, which you use to feed your special structures.

The new races, especially the second one described has a significantly different play style as it doesn’t need to create conventional supply chains to level up planets. It only supplies ore and base materials which it then uses to feed its unique structures to capitalise on the normal resource pressures and boost its planets with unique structures.

Star Ruler 2: Wake of the Heralds

The Overall Flavour

As I said earlier, for those that enjoyed the game or were just taking a hiatus from it will find the expansion well worth it. The added content is very welcomed and makes the game’s experience even more robust. This said the game’s main focus is the sandbox experience and there is very little intimacy with the individual worlds you control and the races have no distinct personalities between each other except for how they expand and exploit.

Therefore, the comments I said in my review about the immersion still stands and as such any players who did not fully enjoy this game because of those reasons will not have their minds changed by the expansion. Actually, I don’t see the expansion really changing anyone’s mind about the game if they didn’t already enjoy it.

Once I have acclimated myself to the new additions, it felt like I was still playing the same game, which can be a good thing if you enjoyed the core game a lot. Despite this, I do not want to downplay the improvements to the diplomacy with the new cards, along with the Senate Leader and Influence Victory. Nor do I want to downplay the uniqueness of the new races. However, it’s not enough to alter the core experience of the game.

Star Ruler 2: Wake of the Heralds

In the end it all depends what you thought about the core experience of the vanilla release. As I said in my review, I prefer games that have a more intimate immersion factor (some form of internal socio-economic management, bonus points for internal politics, and bilateral diplomacy with distinct personalities) which this game doesn’t have except for the colony supply network mechanic which also seems detached, but as I said not everyone has the same desires when it comes to immersion.

Those that like building their ships the way they want with very few restrictions, blow up stars, build ring-worlds and artificial planetoids, mine stars and planets dry to make planet-sized warships, and fling stellar objects across the map while not being bogged down with the need to babysit the citizens of your empire, then this game may appeal to you and this expansion adds to that experience.

Star Ruler 2: Wake of the Heralds can be purchased on the Steam Store for $9.99 USD. It seems to not be available at any other online digital vendor at the moment. This may change in the near future.

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  1. Mythox says:

    great review thax a lots !!

  2. Mark says:

    If there’s any recent space 4x that dares to deviate from the standard MOO/Civ formula its this one, although having successfully broken away from the formula I’m not sure the result is really anything to write home about.

    New mechanics dont just have to be *new*, they actually have to be good, immersive and play well too. As Edward points out so well, the game is pretty light on immersion and plays more like a big abstract puzzle with some more abstract mini-games (like diplomacy) tacked on.

    And tactical combat is *always* about your giant ameboid blob eating their giant blob (or vice versa) while you just sit there and watch, or if you’re busy doing something else just miss the entire battle while it happens in RT behind your back. Honestly, who thought that would be fun?

    Overall I found the game quite boring even though some of the game systems were admittedly interesting or clever from a purely aesthetic and abstract perspective, they did very little to make me feel like I was actually playing a space 4x game. Really not a good thing in a space 4x game.

    • SQW says:

      You’d think with the setting of space and unlimited imagination, the word ‘generic’ wouldn’t be so common in space 4X game reviews.

      Can’t wait to see what Stellaris brings to the table and maybe inspire a few copy cats that don’t try to ape MOO.

      I’ve noticed that indie titles rarely put emphasis on lore or immersions. Maybe they try to prioritize mechanics over soft features due to limited budget but we just end up with a flood of mechanically ‘okay’ grey blobs.

      SOTS stuck with me because Kerberos hired a competent writer for backstory and race lore which also tied into the gameplay. Maybe the way to stand out from the clutter is not to be the best MOO imitator on the market but a meh game with a bloody awesome lore? How much is an amateur scifi writer go for these days?

      • Mark says:

        Definitely looking forward to Stellaris. Even if it just ends up being Europa Universalis in space, that frankly sounds pretty awesome to me.

        I agree about SOTS too, the race lore in that game effortlessly leaves everything else in the dust. Pity they messed up the sequel so badly. It would indeed be nice to see such attention to lore in other 4x games.

      • Firgof says:

        There’s already backstory and race lore; I wrote a whole bible for it. You can see some of it in the race selection screen; each of those descriptions draw directly from that bible.

        We could just bundle it (the bible) with the game I suppose, and throw it onto the in-game Wiki, but that’s not really what you’re talking about here with ‘race lore which is also tied into the gameplay’. We’ve already tied the larger traits of these races into the game already, after all, and are already hinting at the unspoken history of the galaxy and what connects the various races, despite none of them having history of making contact with any other.

        For instance, the Feyh worship the “Old Gods”, who in return for their sacrifice protect them from harm (shields on their ships via their special Altar subsystem) – but in exchange they must sacrifice resources on a large scale (permanently losing a planet’s resources), lest they become Godless and suffer penalties for their lack of piety. What the “Old Gods” might be is hinted at in that they treat the value of all sacrifices to them equally, gave the Feyh the means to protect their ships (Altars) but require at least as much attention devoted to them as there is Control on the ship, and never show up physically in the world – either having no physical form or being permanently cloaked. This sort of invisible but parasitic/symbiotic relationship with ties to higher technology can be found also in the Hoonan, hinting at their shared origin despite neither species having previously encountered the other – which is also a hint as to who the Creators of the Mono might be. The Expansion also adds further links to all of this, with the re-appearance of the First in the Galaxy when they uncloak their Homeworld and awaken from their virtual reality; technologies you can find some mention of in the Anomalies. If you look, the First’s Orbital Constructors are identical to the Hoonan’s Mainframe Orbital. The First have the Delinquent attitude to start with – suggesting a pre-existing antagonistic relationship with the Remnants despite having been enclosed in their own virtual reality for longer than the other races have been sentient; which means the First and the Remnant existed at least at the same time the First were more active in the galaxy. The First also have no means of FTL – a trait they share with the Hoonan’s Mainframe Orbital, the Remnants spread throughout the galaxy, and even the Mono who – despite having the knowledge to immediately build a Gate – start with no FTL method. The Mono’s ability to instantly teleport from planet to planet, that they start out in a pile of Remnant Artifacts, and that they know how to build Gates hints at who/what created them.

  3. athelas says:

    I wonder how many hours have you author and you Mark spent in the game. There is more tactical stuff to do with battles but you have to knoe you arent local commander in the game.

    As to flavor?? Im quite surprised. All the races play differently. Which game you played has so many different ftl drives? Such diplomacy? Such economic system?

    There were some noobies buying and playing game recently on steam fora. They were completely lost and not unlike you had a “different” opinion of the game.

    After some help they enjoy weapons of mass destruction, giant galactic acomplishments and many more things.

    There is a lot you missed. MP?

    • Mark says:

      I probably put about 8 or so hours into the game so I’m willing to admit that I might have missed some things. But I didn’t quit because I was lost, I quit because I became quite bored and that’s never a good sign.

  4. t1it says:

    Too close to Stellaris release but I was considering it as a stop gap of sorts couple of weeks ago but got reminded by some of the turnoffs of the game.
    Main thing is the colonize EVERYTHING in sight, ASAP, effortlessly. I hate that and can’t get past that :\.

    • Firgof says:

      I wouldn’t recommend colonizing worlds you don’t have an immediate or at least near-future plan for. A L0 world drains money from your budget rather than contributing to it – and all worlds that have no food/water exported to them are L0 worlds. Tier 0 Resources don’t require a planet to be leveled before their resource can be exported – but colonizing a Tier II Resource planet when you don’t have planets to bring it to at least Level 1 is just adding another drain on your economy in return for no benefit other than owning the world or possibly extending your trade border.

      You should try to maximize the amount of territory you can cover relative to your budget eventually, yes, but colonizing everything “ASAP” will lead quickly to a negative budget, a reduction of your military strength, and a large penalty to your ability to grow your population – and a long time to climb out of debt potentially while your population climbs at a glacial rate as leveling a planet requires more than just imports – it also requires population. There’s a bit more strategy to it than I think you’ve realized.

      Of course, if you simply dislike how most planets can be colonized at the get-go (even though that costs money and population) and still potentially provide a benefit, you’re welcome to simply increase the Resource Scarcity slider in your game’s map options (available before you start the game) and re-enable Terraformation (it’s off by default). This will make it so that more planets are Barren (have no native resource) and thus aren’t usually worth colonizing.

      If that’s still not enough, we encourage folks to mod the game – it wouldn’t be too hard to add further costs to colonizing worlds or making colonizing worlds more difficult ala MoO 3.

      • t1it says:

        Sounds more economically taxing colonizing a world than I remember…which was like, colonize that world, and then that one too and then…with nothing special in between each…you just had to make sure that tier X planet got the necessary X-1 resources to develop. I felt no real economic pressure doing it. But yes it wasn’t like colonizing 10 planets at once, you can do it mostly 2-3 at a time but as soon as your finished with one, you could immediately start another, no real reason not to. I didn’t feel population being a limiting factor at all.

        But yeah this was quite a while ago. Indeed I should look into modding if I’d ever to return.

    • athelas says:

      No, it def isnt colonize all.and 8 hours doesnt work to get even the surface. Your loss you got bored.

  5. hakkarin says:

    Meh, who cares about this game now that Stellaris is just a few days away?

    I found this game to be pretty lame honestly. Game feels completely soulless so I can’t get emerged into it. I also hate the microy planet management.

    • athelas says:

      To each his own. But it is obvious you didnt delve deeper. And, learning curve is always a bitch.

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