Star Drive 2 is 4X turn-based strategy game, with elements of real-time gameplay set in space, from the developer Zero Sum Games. As a strategy game fan, I had high hopes for this title mixed with some doubt as the previous title ‘Star Drive’ was never finished and has been pretty much abandoned by the developer – not a good sign. Despite this, I went into this game with an open mind but all said and done Star Drive 2 is not worth your time. I shall do my best to explain why.
To say that there is a plot within this title would be clutching at straws but I’m willing to forgive Star Drive 2 for that as I don’t think a story is vital to a strategy game; although that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t have one. This appears to be a game where the developers want the player to create their own story for them to tell but that idea falls flat when gameplay falls flat due to an unintuitive and buggy UI. Speaking of the user-interface – it’s terrible. Everything starting from the incredibly thin options menu, with little to no chance to change the games video and audio settings, to what appears to be poor scaling when playing in 1080p as the size of the buttons in-game are ridiculously small.
The premise for Star Drive 2 is that the player participates in a deathmatch on a grand scale with up to 9 races altogether. You build an empire through colonising other planets, building up a fleet of ships and amassing a huge army. The game then stiff-arms you into war with one of the other races and I feel that this is a weak point. I’d like to have the option to form an alliance with a race, to pool our resources together to create a force much bigger than our rivals. Civilisation V had that option and that’s what added an extra dimension to the game. The way that Star Drive 2 was made ensures that other races must be purged until you are the last race alive, everything from the rather annoying Robot that presents a terrible newsflash show and talks about the quest for supremacy in this galaxy as a sport almost (this can thankfully be turned off in the options menu) to the clearly xenophobic attitude of the races towards each other. This hampers any diplomacy between the different races as my people will only tolerate certain deals and trades and makes the game almost one-dimensional.
Gameplay is Star Drive 2 is rather mixed, on one hand it has a strong space battle system which is easy to use and could be used by anyone. You simply click on your fleet and can either send to somewhere on the battlefield through another click or send your fighters straight into the battle by clicking on the enemy ships allowing the player to watch the firefight develop. I must recommend playing all these space battles yourself as leaving the computer to do it for you will almost certainly result in a defeat. Where the gameplay falls flat on its face is through the incredibly basic ground combat which lacks on so many levels. The playing ground is divided into squares and your troops can only be moved a certain amount of squares per turn and these fighters get within a specific distance they will start firing on the enemy; who wins from this point is anyone’s guess. This is such a shame because there is potential to have a more complex ground combat system involving tactics to make the player think about their actions but instead we are left with something half-arsed that I’d expect from a game in Alpha.
As in most strategy games on this scale there is a steep learning curve but thankfully we are given a tutorial that I would describe as ‘good enough’. I say it’s only good enough because, while thankfully its fully voice acted as there is a large amount of text that I’m frankly too lazy to read, it isn’t quite detailed enough. It does enough to show you the basics but upon completing the tutorial I still had no idea what I was doing. To my further annoyance, the game recommends completing more ‘advanced’ tutorials to improve my basic skills but these are just the same tutorials I has already done. It’s the equivalent of having 3 driving lessons and then being set loose on the motorway during rush hour; I really felt out of my depth.
Strategy games certainly don’t exist for the graphics and fancy visuals so I wasn’t expecting much from Star Drive 2 in terms of looks. The game is relatively acceptable from a graphical standpoint but it is obvious that the developer doesn’t want the player looking at planets and ships up close up. This leads me on to discussing how well the game runs and for a game that isn’t impressive visually, it doesn’t run at all well. PC gamers have come to expect games to run at 60 frames per second minimum and this game fails to even breach 30 frames per second at certain points. This is highlighted especially well when adding items to ships, I’ve noticed the frame rate dip to 15 frames per second; something that’s unacceptable considering Star Drive 2 isn’t demanding and my PC is fairly powerful too.
One strength of Star Drive 2 is the strong re-playability on show here. I did after completing a long game, and believe me the games can last for hours, I wanted to go back and do it all over again as another race to see how the experience differs. It’s a shame that playing it again reminded me of all the flaws in this title which is a great shame.
In conclusion, I cannot recommend Star Drive 2. It offers nothing to differentiate itself from other space 4X strategy games and the game is just smack bang average which is why I’m giving it a score of 5/10. I really wanted this title to be good but if you want a better game in this genre I recommend ‘Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion’ as it offers a more compete experience and I had genuine fun playing it; something that can’t be said for Star Drive 2.
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