by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
I was late to the party when I played my first turns of Armada 2526, quite late. Droves of Turn-Based Strategy fans had boldly ... whoops! Sorry, that’s a little embarrassing. So... As I was saying, other fans had been playing the game since August 2009 while my review copy did not find my door until July of 2010. My luck fares better this time around. Armada 2526: SuperNova dropped on my doormat last week. The game was released two days ago, a nice head start to get reacquainted.
SuperNova is not a standalone expansion so you will need to dig up your original disc of Armada 2526 to be able to play the game. Once started, the menu screen shows new buttons for the newly added LAN and PBEM multiplayer modes, but other than that it is difficult to see what has been changed.
I was eager to check out the two new races that have been added to the roster. Starting a sandbox game, the new races aren’t automatically selected so you will have to make some changes to the initial list before you get to see them. While I played both The Florian Diaspora (a plantlike civilization) and the Cancerian Potentate, neither of the two offers a compelling reason to choose them over the original twelve, but they do add to the variety of civilizations that you will encounter playing the game.
Many of the game’s changes take place on and around planets. Numerous planets have more or less unique features, some of which will attract tourists while others can be exported to other planets. New hazards add random events that can cause damage to or even destroy buildings on the planet and ships in orbit. On top of that, many new features such as traces of alien civilizations and psychic plants add bonuses that can really give your research in a particular area a major boost.
Trade and spy rings
The export and import of trade goods can be a lucrative business, even if it is sometimes a little odd to see how trade routes develop. They are set automatically but occasionally a route between two planets just ends without any explanation. An interesting aspect of the new trade mechanic is that it is tied into a newly introduced espionage system. Trade increases traffic between planets, thus allowing ample opportunity for spies to insert themselves into the trade network. Once infiltrated, spies are able to sabotage planet defenses or steal technology. It is entirely feasible to go without doing your own research in favor of maintaining a spy ring.
They will have plenty to do too. The already impressive list of researchable technologies has been extended by 50. Unfortunately, adding new technologies did not turn out to be a good excuse to clean up the confusing research tree and the new technologies are mostly variations on existing ones. The same can be said about the significance of research items. Among such a bewildering amount of technologies, it is easy to find a number that you will gladly use, but the vast majority will never see any practical application beyond selling it to another civilization.
The early realization that the new races aren’t that significant turned out to be something of a trend found in most of the new additions. Obviously an expansion isn’t meant to reinvent a game, but it would have been nice to see the developers spend some time fixing the generic cut-scenes that appear when colonies change hands or are destroyed. Some of the graphics could also have used a tune-up. Replacing the more generic graphics would have gone a long way to add to the uniqueness of the individual races.
Arguably, though, the new multiplayer component will be reason enough for many fans to warrant a purchase of Armada 2526: SuperNova. Being able to take the game online to play with a friend adds a level of depth to the game that an AI player simply cannot compete with. The gameplay lends itself fantastically for Play By E-Mail games, bringing back memories of the old PBEM classic VGA Planets.
With the multiplayer component being the definitive excuse to buy Armada 2526: SuperNova, there is only one concern left: stability. My review copy had a tendency to randomly display error messages which could be ignored and clicked away in most cases. In two cases, however, the ‘next turn’ button stopped working and forcing me to stop playing. Often, loading one of the recent autosaves would not solve the issue. These bugs may not be present in the final version, but if they are, the game will need patching before it is worth the $12 or $15 it sells for. I have to rate the game as I find it, but once patched, it’s well worth your dough.
The stability issues mentioned in the article are likely to be caused by using alt-tab to the desktop (or other applications). Refrain from doing so and you will avoid the issues.
More late-night strategizing lies ahead.
Unstable. If you're not planning to play this with friends, it's probably not worth the purchase.