Sword of the Stars
Space travelling, alien planets’ colonisation and more is a popular subject for many stories, movies and games. Sword of the Stars too takes place in space and brings us back to the old days of the genre: oldskool gameplay updated.
Behind this game there’s also a whole story about how humanity explored the universe and eventually encountered other species. Of course there’s only place for one race and so it’s fighting to survive. Super cliché, in other words, but the story won’t bother you that much, only in scenarios it is continued. In the custom battles it’s all about total domination. There is a tutorial, but it’s no more than a manual and actually useless.
The four races available are: Human, Hiver, Tarkas and Liir. As usual every species has its characteristics, advantages and disadvantages. The race also decides which planets are fit to live on and consequently being worth to colonize. The unique technologies for each race serve to travel between planets. Humans for instance have Node Lines, fixed lines that allow them to travel fast, but not all planets have such connections which sometimes requires Humans to travel slower than light.
The Hivers are large insects that use Teleport Gates while the Tarkas race look like monstrous reptiles with some human features and they use the so-called Warp Drives. The Liir, finally, look like android dolphins. They know the Stutter Warp, a system that resembles the one of the Tarkas race, with the difference that the Liir can use their system in battles to move quickly. The eventual differences between the races are quite big which is an advantage because that way there’s much to discover. On the other hand: the gameplay is rather complicated.
The world you’re thrown into is turn-based and consists of a 3D map of your universe. Depending on what you want to do, you switch between overviews. In fact the whole is built up very traditionally. During your turn there are various things to do: managing the money, researching technology, designing ships, building ships and sending ships away to colonise other planets. Chosing were you put the money is done by changing some sliders, a simple and handy system.
The technology tree at your disposal depends on the race and also differs with each game. In any case there’s lot to research. Normally this takes the number of turns that is announced by the prognosis, but it also happens that there is a breakthrough and consequently the research ends earlier. The opposite is possible too: the research then takes longer than planned and that way you lose more money.
The designing of ships really isn’t a big deal. You just have to pick what you want for each part. Researching allows you to have more elements available. Ships also have their specialisation, like tankers and colonisers. You can send the latter ones to other planets to colonise, but don’t forget to send an escort with them, because on the way your ships might encounter an enemy.
When that happens, you choose whether the A.I. or you fight the battle. These fights are real-time, but the pace is incredibly slow. You can not quit the game early and sometimes you just have to wait, ‘cause nothing really happens (for instance, the enemy is not close enough yet). Although the controls are fairly simple, it feels rather clumsy.
For those who are looking for a traditional space game and don’t mind the slow pace, Sword of the Stars is the right game. The others won’t like it.