by Sergio Brinkhuis
previewed on PC
The Beasts Awaken
You would not think so today, but until 2012, much of the industry had been ignoring the 4X genre for close to a decade. Publishers had all sorts of excuses like “Old fashioned” or “Too slow, people want action”. One publisher knew better and championed the genre and its indie developers through their most difficult period since the 4X was first invented. Now, with a dozen or so 4X titles under their belt, the company knows how to pick out the good ones.
One of their more recent picks is Dawn of Andromeda, a real time 4X reminiscent of Sins of a Solar Empire, with the polish of Endless Space. But don’t let the name dropping distract you too much, Dawn of Andromeda brings enough to the table to set it apart from the bunch.
Starting with one of the game’s most exciting features, Grey Wolf Entertainment’s Mike Domingues pulled no punches showing me his game. Setting up the galaxy initially looked very familiar. Choose size, choose density, number of races... Been there, done that. Next up was selecting the races that would live in the galaxy. It was an eclectic bunch - which is good - consisting of races loosely based on humans, insects or aquatic creatures to name a few. So far, so good, but then my mind started to stray from what I had been expecting. Wait… ehm… why is he setting multiple objectives. No, that’s not right, he’s giving different objectives to each race! Mike, you have my attention now.
A 4k Goldmine
Thoughts of the implications ran rampant in my brain. Mike gave the militaristic Aethis Conglomerate the objective to destroy the peaceful Ulkar, the Ulkar were given the task to survive for 25 years and the Terrans were set up for total domination. With each race focused on their own task, their relationships with each other and the player will play out very differently right from the start. A leader who only has to worry about the survival of his race may be easier to befriend and potentially produces fewer military units. If you know that a race is hell-bent on destroying their arch enemy and close to achieving their goal, you will have to race to defend before they do, even if you are unprepared.
The diplomatic options are far from standard either. Mike pointed out the Casus Belli system which was clearly inspired from the Europa Universalis games. Your reputation in the galaxy takes a serious hit when you attack a race without an existing Casus Belli, but it’s possible to use your influence to fabricate one should you be in need of one. Another way to get the war you crave for, is by threatening your target. This immediately gives them a Casus Belli against you. Another factor that affects your reputation is your reliability. If you refuse to come to the aid of your ally, it will be harder to get new allies in the future. You can also use influence to insult a faction which affects how the entire galaxy looks at them for a period of time.
Of course Dawn of Andromeda is not just about victory conditions and diplomacy. For one thing, there are ships to design. The amount of customization per ship type is somewhat limited but still enough to design purpose-built ships. Ships with defense roles can be outfitted with additional plating shields, ships with offense roles can mix and match weapon types or focus on, for example, missiles only. During battle, you can tell your ships to target specific modules and if you’re worried about that being done to you, circuit protectors can be installed that can alleviate that threat somewhat.
Worth Keeping An Eye On
Some of the other eye-catching features of the game include Projects. These vary from finding a cure for a plague on one of your planets to hunting down a wanted villain. If you are in a bind, a little short on military but high on cash, you can hire mercenaries to make up the difference and still come out on top of a war. But at the same time, you cannot dismiss a race’s military power based on what ships they appear to possess - they too can hire mercenaries and turn the tables on you. Also worth mentioning are the traders which located throughout the galaxy. They occasionally sell artifacts that can trigger a quest or open up new research, or be a total dudd and a waste of money. Planetary happiness is a major element of your success. Fail to keep them happy and planets may decide to go their own way, or even together with other planets to form a completely new faction. And that is not the only way new factions can arise - minor races can be “leveled up” to be full-fledged factions with their own agenda which may or may not collide with yours.
As you can see, there’s a lot going on. I am eager to find out more about how deep some of the features we saw at Gamescom, but the unique ability to tune the victory conditions to your liking and the addition of Casus Belli to the diplomatic system are enough to get me excited. Dawn of Andromeda may well turn out to be one of the most, if not - the - most unpredictable 4X game to date.