Star Lords: Alpha Impressions

Cautious optimism.

By Daavpuke, Posted 20 Sep 2012

You can watch several live streams here.

There have been quite a few space strategy games this year, at least in announcement. Some of those have been good and others have been, well, not so good. Most recently, Legends of Pegasus showed us a good idea and a dreadful game riddled with bugs. So far, Star Lords has the same concept of universal domination that gets impaired by development flaws and unfinished business. Luckily for the indie game though, the build is currently in its first Alpha stages and therefore it’s not needed as a fully functional game. It makes it tougher to get a grasp on, but let’s try and manage to explain this quirky space game.

Players choose one of 8 races and pick the playing field for their sandbox. Modifiers stretch from the size of the universe, how many planets there are to how many small races and pirates there are and what frequency random events occur. From there, the game drops right into playing mode. So far, there isn’t a tutorial, so prior knowledge of the 4X term derived from explore, expand, exploit and exterminate, is needed. A smart leader will need to keep people happy, raise production, build ships for defense and conquest and manage an economy while researching. All of this and more will need to occur while other nations do the same and prey on lower nations.

Micromanagement isn’t terrible. It’s not always certain if a right-click or hover will give more information and extra documentation is lacking so far, but at least the game tries to keep it tidy. Fitting info immediately relevant is neatly organized in columns and boxes and the game doesn’t try to cram too much in there at once. A planet is governed by how happy citizens are, divided in subcategories once more. Buildings receive extra flavor text to deduce their function, along with their cost and those finances get a simple overview page, which leaves an economy easy to track.

Star Lords - NoobFeed Preview

Maneuvers are a different tale though. Travelling the map feel jittery and trying to cycle through units feels rather confusing and gets worsened due to zooming issues. The game also doesn’t prompt if there are inactive units, gives no clear indication of travels and available groups, which leaves all movement to be a game of memory. This will need to be adjusted once development proceeds, since it would be impossible to mount a large campaign and remember every single unit. The universe design in itself is fine though. Galaxies get presented in circles that get signified differently depending in their accessibility. This could be noted in the mini map as well, perhaps with a slight fog of war, but it works on the big screen at a certain zoom rate. Planets get a few icons above them, which will perhaps explained later on, probably signifying special resources and such. Presentation is clear enough and doesn’t feel like there’s a lot of dead space, which is often troublesome in these games.

What stimulates gameplay so far is a solid set of different ideas. For instance, each race has a set of decrees they can instate that helps out certain universal elements, while bringing down others. This would show the government type players prefer. For example, a leader can really crack down on crime, but that would narrow freedom and ultimately make people a bit unhappier. Periodically, players can also appoint ministers to help them in their micromanagement proficiency and generals offer extra strength to armies.

Star Lords - NoobFeed Preview

Diplomacy also reaches a bit further by implementing simple interaction with pirate clans that can be bribed for protection or spurred into raiding others. Minor races will probably add more to this later on as well. Intelligence is also a big part of the game. Spies can be assigned to covertly mess with other races by stealing their funds or sabotaging their plans. However, right now this frequency is way off. This also counts for the artificial intelligence spawn rate. It will definitely need a balance, because now Star Lords just churns out ships and spies and effectively destroys everything around with just that way. There’s no need for research or improvement; merely pumping out offensive characters cripple other nations immediately and effectively. If that can be scaled down or if other important economy factors can be scaled up, this would immensely benefit the game as a whole.

In the Alpha build, combat is broken, but it does already look promising. A separate playing field is given for space battles, where a grid made up of hexagons symbolizes movement. Each ship has a different rating and can use allotted movement points to move a certain amount or use more point to launch an attack within range. There is enough subtlety within to make for interesting tactical battles, certainly as some units gain experience and level up. A hit percentage also doesn’t make it a certainty to hit from the furthest range, which enhances the risk and reward factor. Once large fleets can simultaneously take to arms, given movement is fixed, this could definitely create some interesting chess-like scenarios.

Star Lords - NoobFeed Preview

There is cautious optimism to be found in Star Lords. It’s shaky on all sides right now, but its ideas are sound. As long as it takes ample time in development to completely buff out all the bugs and balancing issues, this could land as a surprise for gamers.

Daav Valentaten
, NoobFeed. (@Daavpuke)

comments powered by Disqus


General Information

Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): Neogen2 Creations
Developer(s): Neogen2 Creations
Genres: Strategy
Themes: Sci-Fi
Release Date: 2013-08-01

View All

Popular Articles