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The “strategy” game category tends towards vagary, covering such a diverse range of play from tower defense titles to micro-managing empire sims.  They can be turn based or real time and “real time” can be warped to mean quite a few things too – the only fundamental guarantee on a real time game is that it’s not turn based.  With other genres, such as first-person shooters, you generally know what you are getting into. There will be a weapon in your point of view and you will negotiate various maps and levels, shooting bad guys.  Even those who argue how good a first-person shooter usually base that argument off the comparisons to other FPS titles – since they all have close similarities.  When it comes to “strategy” games, though, you never know how much mental muscle you are going to have to strain to win or simply survive because even winning isn’t necessarily a guarantee in a strategy game.  With this in mind, I will try to tell you about StarDrive, a “4X space strategy” game and try to point out what kind of strategist will enjoy it.

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Official Description:

StarDrive is a 4X Action-Strategy game where the goal is to build a space empire.  Starting with a single planet and a small number of space-worthy vessels, you forge out into the galaxy, exploring new worlds, building new colonies, and discovering the StarDrive universe.  Colonize or conquer new planets to expand your interstellar empire.  Specialize your colonies and design trade routes to stimulate growth.  StarDrive follows a classic 4x model in that Food, Production, Research, and Money are the primary resources to gather.  Find special resources by exploring planets and anomalies to unlock bonuses, or to unleash terrors…

The heart of StarDrive is its ship design and combat engine.  StarDrive takes a module-based approach to ship design, allowing the player to create custom ship designs where the composition and placement of ship modules really matters to the performance of a ship in combat. In combat, if your portside armor is taking a beating, then rotate around and show them the starboard side! Hide behind a friendly capital ship’s shields, warp into and out of the fray, launch fighters, lay mines, and so much more.

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Official Features:

  • Customize your Race by selecting from a large list of physical traits, socioeconomic traits, and traits relating to your history and tradition
  • Lead your forces into battle with your own flagship that you control like an arcade shooter; command your fleets like you would in a real time strategy game with simple mouse commands
  • Tactical ground combat to take over enemy planets
  • A deep research tree with many dozens of technologies
  • Rich diplomacy options, allowing you to make and break treaties with alien races; trade technologies and artifacts, sell ships, declare wars, and design joint operations with your allies
  • StarDrive is easy to modify, and modding will be actively supported by the developers
  • Design every ship in your empire, or choose from stock configurations
  • Create platforms and space stations to deploy in deep space
  • Carefully plan your ship’s power grid, fuel capacity, ammunition storage, thrust, mass, and more
  • Organize your ships into fleets and give your ships custom fleet behaviors in an easy to use fleet editor
  • Set your weapon facings on turrets, or line up your fixed guns on spinal or broadside mounted

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Gameplay:

Those of you that play a lot of strategy titles know that managing to accomplish and implement all the details above is a massive undertaking and most-likely prone to breakdowns in one place or another. It sounds like they are simply trying to accomplish too much, but StarDrive actually manages to pull it off!  StarDrive is a hardcore strategy game, a major mental muscle twister that requires micromanagement skills performed in a real time on a galactic scale.  If nothing in that last sentence appealed to you, this is probably not a game you should buy.  At one point, I was trying to figure out why a power conduit wasn’t working properly between a reactor and some engines so that my colonists on Mars would stop starving and start biospheres or terraforming Jupiter while also trying to get enough money through industrialization and taxation to fund research without crushing the populace. Fun times!

Oh, then a race of cybernetic insectoids arrive and I had to decide whether or not to declare war with their fleet because our planetary defenses were very weak and they had already detected that the ships we were fielding did not have adequate shielding to take them on, even as I am building up new starships from the hull up – but, my power conduits aren’t set properly… and that was entirely on an easier difficulty setting, with certain management automated, using some pre-made ship designs and allowing the colonies to build by programmed models!

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I was just getting a feel for the controls and game systems – and my game which lasted about 5 or 6 hours was a complete “do over”. Simply, the precursor to a galactic, planetary empire that will be measured in weeks and months rather than hours.  That is, of course, if I don’t get into the modding aspects first.  Both building mods and playing other player mods already in the community. The StarDrive community is not very large but, instead, fiercely dedicated and motivated to see just what this game of details and limitless possibilities can do!

It is currently single player, but I could easily see it sometime in the future getting online play the game’s design seems to lend itself to a persistent world fairly easily. With future modding, there could be countless persistent galaxies – each one unique.

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Graphics And Sound:

Graphics are as you need them for a game like this: Simple when you want to see a whole, universal empire at a glance and beautifully detailed when it comes to up-close ship battles.  Most of the species you encounter are rendered in a stylized, yet pleasing fashion.  The sounds are crisp and follow the action well and the music is great and fits in well with the gameplay.

Last Call:

This game was obviously a labor of love where the developers wanted to see just how much they could do with it.  I have seen plenty of excellent, hardcore strategy games over the years but few with such amazing scope of micromanagement combined with real-time macromanagement.  Great strategists, this is your new challenge – your new standard to hold other strategy titles to.  So sally forth as your empire is depending on you and eventually so will the whole galaxy!

StarDrive Review Score
Overall Score (out of 5) www.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com

Trailer:

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