by Sergio Brinkhuis
previewed on PC
Getting jiggy with it
I am a builder. Well judging the decrepit state of our garden at home, I am merely a virtual one but that is beside the point. Whether it is building cities in SimCity or empires in Total War, building something out of (preferably) nothing is always an intriguing proposition to me. As a 4X strategy title, StarDrive ticks all of the boxes, and then some. Having casually followed the game’s development for some time, I jumped on the chance to go hands-on for a preview.
Exploring my surroundings
After choosing a race, the game hooked me up with a single planet and a handful of ships, everything that I would need to conquer the galaxy. StarDrive plays out in real-time and is pausable at any given moment so my first order of business was to... ‘kill’ time and get acquainted with the game’s various screens. Most of it is standard fare and before long I was queuing research, handing out build orders and sending ships to nearby star systems.
A ‘welcoming committee’ of hostile drones waited for me in the third system that I visited. They made short work of my scout and taught me that the universe is a dangerous place. “I need a bigger gun,” I thought to myself. As the drones didn’t seem to be inclined to talk to me I figured they were some automated defense system rather than indicative of a sapient alien presence. But something worth defending is worth taking, right?
My first attempt of taking the system failed miserably. The default fighters that I had been building seemed unable to even put a dent in a carton of milk so I went on to design a new ship around a newly acquired weapon technology. I only had a fighter template with very limited space available, but the new laser weapon increased the Damage per Second dramatically. I queued fifteen new ships and sped up time to shorten my wait for the fleet to be assembled.
During this time, a race of owls called the Cordrazine contacted me to establish diplomatic relations between us. Looks are deceiving in StarDrive as upon closer inspection it turned out that the owls were merely a ruse. A large eye sprouting ominous tentacles sat in the back of the screen and appeared to be controlling the owls. Odd, but interesting! It would prove to be one of many odd meetings with the aliens inhabiting the universe that I was playing in. Some of the races are earnest, others are twisted or even cuddly, but all are imaginative and very well made. The diplomatic interface itself had me wondering where to click for a short while but once I figured out that the ‘send’ text doubled as the send button, it worked as one would expect. The system doesn’t stray far from that of its peers and allows for discussions and negotiations similar to those in recent Civilization games. The owl-puppeteer wasn’t ready to make any deals with me yet but did convey the location of some of its systems. It wasn’t an invitation, more of a ‘we own this area, keep out’ kind of thing.