StarDrive 2 (PC) Review

By Ian Soltes 02.05.2015

Review for StarDrive 2 on PC

When it comes to developing a game with an immense amount of detail, it is quite easy to fall into the trap of ending up directionless and meandering. Such is what happened with StarDrive 2. Developed by Zero Sum Games and published by Iceberg Interactive, StarDrive 2 is an attempt to take the classic 4X formula and merge it with customisable ships and real-time action, along with several other… interesting… choices that simply end up making the game feel mish-mashed and meandering. After an early hands-on with the title, Cubed3 now delivers the final verdict.

When it comes to creating any game of any quality, it is important to remember that, while adding detail can be a very good, adding too much detail can backfire, especially if there can be drastic variations in gameplay mechanics and the like. StarDrive 2 falls into this category. The gameplay is fairly simple and straightforward to those used to the 4X formula. At the start, the player is allowed to pick from a pool of several races, each with their own unique advantages and disadvantages, before embarking out into the wilds to try and conquer the land and build a civilisation to stand the test of time.

Firstly, the good: right from the start it is blatantly clear that StarDrive 2 is willing to be creative and attempt to engage gamers on a creative level, allowing the choice from an assortment of races. While exactly how they function is no surprise, being able to offer things like space samurai bears is a definite positive and shows that the creators are willing to think out of the box. In addition, there is the chance to create and customise races with their own bonuses.

Screenshot for StarDrive 2 on PC

From there the creativity expands as, upon starting the game, the player is allowed to create and customise their own starships, building up from scratch, deciding how many weapons and how much ammo there is, how powerful the engines are, how much armour is present, if there are any special modifications, and so on. To the game's credit, these things end up mattering a lot as the combat mechanics utilise these aspects in battle, since destroying the enemy ship is accomplished via destroying its core. While, for example, filling one flank of a ship with armour and only putting weapons on the front might lead to a ship that can take a battering from the sides, it does let enemies rip through the front with ease, disabling weapons, and probably destroying the craft fast - so design definitely matters.

Additionally, as progress is made, instead of the standard tech tree, 'tech levels' are offered, with three technologies each. Whenever wanting to advance a tech-level, only one of the three techs can be selected and the other technology must be acquired from other players, leading every civilisation to be fairly unique and distinct from each other. One may end up suited for heavy space combat but have trouble powering its ships, while another may have very weak ships but outright excels at working asteroid belts, thus allowing for a strong economy.

Screenshot for StarDrive 2 on PC

Now for the bad: first and foremost, StarDrive 2 simply tries to be too many things at once. As would be expected from a 4X game, the focus is on colonisation, exploration, exploiting resources and trade deals, and fighting enemies. The problem is that these end up so vastly varied from one another. For example, building colonies happens almost like a more traditional 4X game, except there is both a 'hard cap' on how many civilians can inhabit a location, as well as a distinct disharmony with the various other aspects found within. While this does lead to a unique degree of specialisation, with some planets ending up entirely dedicated to food production to feed planets and outposts with little to no production, as well as making civilians who can later be transported to smaller colonies, it also varies drastically from its attempts to be 'real-time,' with ships moving about without a defined turn-limit and actual 'turns' being more of a set period of time than an actual turn. In addition, space battles happen in real-time, yet battles between troopers are turn-based affairs. This means multiple styles of play must be mastered in order to truly be successful. The various styles do not mesh terribly well either, making them stick out like a sore thumb when compared side-by-side.

Screenshot for StarDrive 2 on PC

Battles are also very tedious affairs, mostly due to how poor the ammo count is for weapons. It would be one thing if, say, a single large ammo-box could last an entire battle, but every subsequent fight requires more and more to the point of most ships needing to restock or devote a lot of resources into simply carrying bullets. This applies to energy weapons as well, which are supposed to function without ammo as they draw directly from a ship's energy core. The result is that most skirmishes feel like a few opening salvos of missiles, heavy lasers, and machine-gun fire, followed by just a few pitiful salvos being exchanged to slowly destroy remaining ships even well after the battle has been decided. It's boring. Not to mention that the real-time aspect itself doesn't add too much to proceedings and not being able to target a specific side of the ship ruins the point of having flanks in the first place. This would have been much better off turn-based to make determining when to use machine-guns, lasers, heavy weapons, and missiles easier.

That's not to mention troop-based combat, which feels less like a legitimate part of the game and more like a dangling requirement. In order for troops to even fight, they need a dedicated freighter just to haul them around, and even then their use is limited to the point where keeping them around is near pointless. On top of this, even with super strong ships, 'bandit' ones and space-life often feel drastically overpowered compared to the player's fleets, or drastically underpowered and far too annoyingly frequent, either way.

Screenshot for StarDrive 2 on PC

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 6 out of 10


Honestly, the biggest problem with StarDrive 2 is simply how it tried to do too many things and, as a result, ended up sort of directionless. However, putting that aside, it does have quite a bit to offer in distinction and uniqueness and, at the end of the day, it is still quite a solid game that's decently well made and engaging - just not as well made and engaging as it should have been, often being outshone by other games in the same genre.


Zero Sum Games







C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   


Comments are currently disabled

Subscribe to this topic Subscribe to this topic

If you are a registered member and logged in, you can also subscribe to topics by email.
Sign up today for blogs, games collections, reader reviews and much more
Site Feed
Who's Online?
Flynnie, jesusraz, RudyC3

There are 3 members online at the moment.