Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Star Ruler 2 - 20/20 hours.

I don't have any official records or anything, but I think this may well be the fastest I've ever cleared a game. I've actually gotten about 23 hours into the game over the course of the last 48.

I think this qualifies as a success.

It's all been such a blur I'm not sure what to say about it. I tried out the different aliens species and really liked the robots. Ironically, the best part of playing them was the fact that I could cut out a significant portion of the planet development tree because they didn't need food or water. This allowed more of my planets to be directly useful to the empire. The only downside is that you have to spend production on their population growth. I love it when a faction in a 4X game tweaks the basic rules.

I also stayed up way too late yesterday trying out various mods. Some were subtle, and did nothing more than tweak the income/maintenance balance and they looked interesting to me because that would let me field more and larger ships (my favorite part of the original Star Ruler), but I never really got a chance to put them through their paces, so I can't be sure about how they effect the game balance.

What was more interesting was a massive overhaul mod that added a bunch of new technologies, new alien types, gameplay tweaks like sensors, and even new art assets for things like ships. It looked pretty cool (I love mods that make already complicated games even more complicated), but again, I didn't get too into it because my plan was to try out all the vanilla factions first (something I did not quite finish, by the way).

Finally, just a couple of hours ago, I got a chance to play in a multiplayer game. I got my ass thoroughly handed to me. I'm not going to try and do a defeat post-mortem, because that strikes me as bad sportsmanship, but I will say that playing against a human is very different than playing against the AI.

Overall, Star Ruler 2 has gone from a game I knew basically nothing about to one of my recent favorites. I'm not sure whether it has the staying power to compete with games like Alpha Centauri or Endless Legend, but I have absolutely no regrets about this purchase.

I understand that both Star Ruler games were made by a studio with just two employees, which means that if I were in the habit of grading with handicaps, this series would be probably my all-time #2 (Minecraft, I believe, is a better game with a smaller development team). However, even without any special considerations, it is a strong contender for the pantheon of the greats.

I've played a lot of strategy 4X games in my time, and I don't think I've ever played one that is so bursting with creativity. Some of its ideas, like the diplomacy, are extremely bold, but even the stuff that is more conventional still bears the marks of experimentation. Planet management is thoroughly unique. The fleet system is an elegant way to handle the logistics of hundreds of ships battling at once. The zoom function is incredible (something I forgot to mention about the first game as well - you can get right down to eye level with fighter-sized ships).

I really want to play Star Ruler 2 again. I don't know if I will, because I've got 88 other games on my list, and who knows what will catch my fancy before the end of the blog, but I'm holding out hope that when it's all said and done, this game will have made enough of an impression on me. It fills me with hope that a small team could do something quite so incredible. I almost feel like, if I put my mind to it, I could make a cool game on my own (I couldn't, of course, not without years of training and some elusive spark of natural talent).

I'm kind of sorry to have gotten through this game so fast. I could easily play it another 20-100 hours, exploring the nuances of the resources system, the difference between the alien species, and the changes made by modders, but I've said the same thing about a dozen different games in the past. Time to move on. 

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