December 14, 2012

Star Light, Star Bright

Lasting First Impressions of Sword of the Stars II Enhanced Edition

Developed by Kerberos Productions  |  Published by Paradox Interactive

SotSII Boxart» 2011 saw the release of Sword of the Stars 2, a turn-based 4x strategy game in the same family as Civilization and Endless Space. It is widely considered to be a fairly poor game with a quick glance at Metacritic showing an embarrassingly low score of 44. Ouch!  It makes sense then that the game’s developer, Kerberos Productions, would take a step back and take another shot at realizing their goals and ambitions.

One year later and they’ve released Sword of the Stars 2: Enhanced Edition – a free update to the game for owners and a new marketing opportunity for non-owners. In addition to the usual bug fixes and balance tweaks, there is also a new content pack entitled “End of Flesh”. Inside we’ll find a new race in the “Loa” and loads of new weapons, ships, technologies and upgrades; it’s a fairly substantial update to the game. The real question is: “does this new content do enough to offset the original problems with the game?”

Oh heck no, not even close.

I’m not going to argue, more content is always better. The problem with Sword of the Stars 2, however, has nothing to do with a lack of content. Far from it! What makes Sword of the Stars 2 frustrating, even agonizing, to play is the simple fact that this is a very complicated game with absolutely no guidance or feedback.SoTS2 screen 1

Do you remember Endless Space? I blasted that game for having one of the worst tutorials (if you can call it that, technically you can’t) I’ve ever seen and this is worse. A lot worse. This doesn’t have any tutorial at all. You’re simply thrown into the game without a second thought and left to your own devices to figuring everything out from complex tech trees to designing your own starships.

If you watch the trailer you’ll witness epic space battles and awesome cruisers traversing the stars. For the entire hour that I played I saw none of that. I simply sent scouts to planets and looked for places to make starbases. I tried to expand further and further outside my territory… I knew there were other players out there and I wanted to kill them, dammit! Unfortunately my hour came and went and no battles were to be had. Just scouting. Lots and lots of scouting.

SoTS2 screen 2

Now, it could be argued that 60 minutes isn’t enough time to judge a behemoth of a game like Sword of the Stars 2 Enhanced Edition. After all, it does have a handy continue feature for us busy gamers to pick up where we left off in an attempt to ease the burdens of those who’ll take a week or more to finish a game. There are other problems, however.

The biggest, just as large as the lack of tutorial, is the absence of feedback in the game. After an hour I didn’t know if I was playing right or wrong or what. I literally had no idea if I was playing the game correctly. Sure, I assumed that I was behind… but by how much? Did I just waste the last hour? Should I be focusing on something? Anything? Talk to me!!!

Kerberos, I can tell there’s some kind of epic game in here somewhere. It’s obvious that you’re committed to realizing it. Here’s my tip, if you want better review scores stop wasting effort on new races and focus on usability. It will do wonders for your game. Until then…

Kerberos Productions, I gave you an hour and I am NOT IMPRESSED.

About the Author

is a dedicated game enthusiast, artist, father of 2 + 2 halves and co-host of The OMG! Hour podcast. He has worked along side great companies like Xbox Canada and ArenaNet and will continue to find ways to make the world a better place for gamers. You can follow him on Twitter as @Sinnix.



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One Comment

  1. Simon

    You are absolutely right. I have also bought and played Sword of the Stars II (from before enhanced edition) – only to regret it. I ended up buying and playing ALOT of Endless Space, simply because there was a least SOME form of tutorial and hints as what to do… what use if loads and loads of beautiful content and space battles if you cant even figure out how to play the damn game??

    I wish they’d listen to the community and reviews and make so that the people who waste money on a great looking game, could actually play the damn thing!

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