By: Ted Chow
As a 4X space sim with some wonky space faring races, StarDrive 2 is an outlier to what is usually a serious genre. The humorous nature of the races and their interactions with the player, and each other, makes the long nature of these types of games more palatable and entertaining.
If you’re looking for a game where you can build a space empire and rule the universe as fluffy shogun bears, then StarDrive 2 will give you that playful absurdity.
The controls in StarDrive 2 are pretty standard and similar to most 4x titles with the exception of the battles, which are conducted on a separate battle map. The majority of the time spent will be on the main universe map to control and manage your empire.
Additional one-click shortcuts are available if you wish to oversee a more in-depth spectrum of your empire, such as researching technology or building your own ships. The camera and panning also felt pretty smooth and complements the overall experience.
StarDrive 2 follows a similar artistic style to the original, and at first glance, doesn’t seem to be any different. But in all honesty, the game doesn’t need to change its art style as it gave the game its unique and carefree personality.
Portrayal of the alien races are memorable and the painted animations work to help give more character to these aliens. The spaceship battles are flashy and also well presented in that border line of scrimmage. The soundtrack, while conservative, was also very complementary to the overall tone of building a space empire.
If you are accustomed to building an empire in games such as Galactic Civilization or Civilization, you’ll probably be pretty comfortable with the 4x genre. StarDrive 2 asks the player to expand, explore, exploit and exterminate your opposition with what is a very lengthy empire building game. Even a small scenario will have multiple star clusters that will provide you with tens of hours of gameplay.
As a single-player experience for most of the game, a heavy reliance on replayability is needed for players to stick with the game for the long run. And with a plethora of win conditions, techs, events, XCOM-like turn-based ship raids, epic space battles; there are plenty of things to keep your attention.
The alien races in StarDrive 2 are more preferential to the player rather than being crucial in opening up new strategies. This is mostly due to the fact that the player can pick their empire abilities as they see fit and build off their choices rather than following a default template. The templates are there if you’d prefer to follow the limited “lore” of the alien races, but it is entirely optional.
One of the main draws of StarDrive 2 is the ability to create your own spaceships with a number of templates and opinions for customization. From ion cannons to kinetic weapons, you have the freedom to choose how to equip your spaceships. While this doesn’t have too much of an effect on the overall game, it is a nice addition to tailor your race and play style to your liking.
It is even better with the real-time battles as you can put your spaceships into real combat situations and see how they fare against the enemy. There are also options to save your templates so that you can bring them up in subsequent campaigns if you opt to play some more StarDrive 2.
With only a single-player campaign available, your mileage will vary, as multiplayer could have elevated the StarDrive series to greater heights, perhaps on the level of Civilization. However, that doesn’t reduce the enjoyable memories that the game offers. The game also comes with a battle arena, which is essentially fixed battles that you can relive at your leisure, though there aren’t many challenges to take on.
One of the highlights of battle arena would be the ability to load up your custom spaceships and check out their viability outside of the campaign mode. Aside from the two available modes, we can only hope to see some multiplayer functionality in StarDrive 3, maybe?
StarDrive 2 is a solid 4x title for those that are looking for hours of gameplay out of an empire building game. While enjoyable in most instances, outer space does get to feel a bit lonely with only single-player mode available and a lack of AI competence. There are only so many games you can play against a computer before longing for a new challenge.