All Features


  PlayStation 3
  PlayStation 4
  Wii U
  Xbox 360
  Xbox One


StarDrive 2: This Game Has Bugs.

Giant Space Bugs, that is.:

(...And they will kick your @$$.)

If you're a fan of 4X games (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit and eXterminate) and you can't find a game to challenge you, StarDrive 2 may be the game for you. Anything less... and I simply can't recommend it. If you're not a glutton for punishment, you should probably stick with easier games, such as anything from the Civilization series.

The music is nice, the alien races and their characterizations are fun and the tutorial is a bit snarky, but the main thing you'll notice is the difficulty. Yeah, I think I'd have to say that's the takeaway, here...

Try to Find the 'Easy' Setting. Go Ahead.:

(...It isn't easy.)

So, there are four difficulty levels to choose from: Easy, Normal, Hard and Brutal. However, if you don't adjust the settings, I find "Normal" to be quite brutal. In fact, even "Easy" isn't truly "easy".

Actually, that is a bit of an understatement. Let's see... Ah. In order to actually play the game long enough to try out some of the different aspects of the game, I had to set the game to Easy difficulty, max the opponent count at 8 (in the hopes of giving everyone other things to worry about), set the "Galactic Fertility" to Ultra-Fertile (so I could actually manage to make it to a planet that could grow food), set "Galactic Richness" to Ultra-Rich (so I could hope to turn a profit), set "Hostile Threats" to Minimal (again, in the hopes I could survive a little longer), set "System Distribution" to Clustered (so empires have things to keep them busy before exploring out into other empire's areas) and set "System Count" to the maximum (in the hopes of spacing everybody out a bit. That bought me enough time to encounter a derelict spaceship and discover how the infantry mini-game works (interestingly, similar to Space Hulk). Even with all of the above tweaks, I managed to get to a point where random space-roaches and strange crystalline entities were wholesale slaughtering my fleet. (Oh, mind you - neither of these are considered opponent races. Have fun.)

Travel to the Ends of the Universe:

(...to die.)

If you can avoid killer crystals and ravenous space-roaches long enough to get a bit of a foothold in some backwater system, you can start expanding your empire further outward, exploring nearby solar systems and colonizing them to increase your sphere of influence and the size of your empire. And, for no well-explained reason, you don't spend fuel to zip around within your territory, only when flying outside of it. For this reason, expanding your territory is imperative, increasing the range of all of your ships.

Here and there, you'll find a wormhole. These are your express ticket to somewhere a bit further away... but as for where you'll end up, well, that's a surprise. Sometimes you'll find yourself in a new solar system with abundant unclaimed resources, sometimes you'll find yourself smack dab in an opponent's territory and more than once I found angry space-faring crystals or roaches that simply destroyed my ship on sight. Be warned: you will have no recourse if your ship is not a military craft. Unarmed ships (including delegate freighters) are just gone when they are intercepted. Go directly to oblivion. Do not pass Go, do not get so much as an option to attempt to retreat.

So, you'll want military ships. And you can build them as they are specified, or you can design your own ships from several provided hulls in order to create a fleet that has what you really want to bring into battle. There are various modules that can be used to loadout your ships, including different types of armor, weapons, engines, sensor arrays, powerplants, capacitors and crew modules, among others. Basically, the shipyard in StarDrive 2 has a lot of the feel of the ship-building aspects of Gratuitous Space Battles, the difference being that in GSB, you basically design the ships, deploy them in battle and then watch to see what the outcome is... and that's the entire game. Although not nearly as pretty as GSB, this one aspect of StarDrive 2 approaches that game's complexity. And, the tutorial claims that designing your own ships is a vital part of the game. Based on the amazing speed with which my ships churned out with the default design can be utterly obliterated, I am guessing that's a true statement, but this amount of complexity and investment is a bit much, in my opinion.

There is a Space Battle mini-game, which can be selected as one way to resolve an encounter when you meet up with an enemy force (or, you know, space-roaches or something). This game is also accessible as a short stand-alone gameplay mode called "Battle Arena" on the Main Menu. This mode shows a smaller version of the galactic map, limited to the small area in which the conflict is occurring. You start with a region in which you can place your ships, then once placed, the battle starts and you can give limited direction to your ships, such as "go here," stay stationary/keep moving or short forward/broadside. There is also a Retreat option that I usually hit by accident, which starts a countdown timer until that ship can warp out. (The ship usually gets destroyed before the timer finishes, anyway, just FYI.)

The other way that encounters can be resolved is by simply selecting the "Auto" option. Other than the fact that "Auto" takes much less time than actually playing through the fight, I find that the other difference between these two options is that, on the rare occasion, when I choose "Auto," I might survive the fight. So, you know, there's that.

Meet New Friends:

(...And watch them kill you.)

The universe is a big place. And there are other empires out there anxious to meet you and steal trade for some of your hard-won resources and technologies. As you research new technologies, you'll be bypassing other technologies that you won't be able to get by researching. You can still get them by discovering them on derelict spacecraft (rare), or... through diplomacy. So, research up a lot of tech, then trade with opponents, where they'll want your amazing technology in exchange for...

um, let's see... spice? You like spices? Or... oh, look! Some sort of root. You can't beat roots, these days, am I right? You know, you could just give us the tech... we'd be eternally grateful.

...And by eternally grateful, I, of course, mean that we'll note that you're willing to give things away for nothing in return and we'll be less willing to give you anything near a reasonable deal in the future. Hey, I tell you what... just give us the technology and we won't declare war on you. If you pay us a tribute. Also - are you going to eat that root?

That's right, you can be diplomatic with those you really, really want to kill... and die on the edges of space when they declare war on you anyway. Which, now that I think about it, is probably preferable to being eaten by space-roaches, starving to death on one of your colonies that can't produce its own food while you wait for a freighter to be built to bring you food, or being blasted by space pirates. (Wait, had I mentioned the space pirates?)

Are You Up for the Challenge?:

If you're scared off by this public service announcement about the eXtremely eXcessive difficulty, you're welcome. If, however, this sounds like just the thing for you and you're up to the challenge, please use the links below to seek professional help.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

Related Links:

Windows Gratuitous Space Battles 2 Sony PlayStation Vita Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated