I’ve (Devildog) recently had an opportunity to binge-play Star Ruler 2’s Early Access form. Having not played Star Ruler 1, but knowing about its general gameplay, I decided to jump in and learn as I go. It took a bit to figure out an issue with the in-game text (it was blurry, despite up-to-date drivers) and after forcing anti-aliasing with my card, I was able to jump in and learn what this game has to offer.
For starters, Star Ruler 2 has an in-game IRC chat that allows you to directly chat with the developers. I’ve played three or four separate times, twice at very strange times of the day, and there has always been at least one developer actively chatting. I wish more developers did this with their Early Access games. I chatted with a few of them after fixing my text issue and started a new game.
What jumps out immediately is how polished and clear the UI is. The UI is presented in a way that looks like web-brower tabs:
They’re color coded nicely and each screen is full of information. Almost of all it has helpful tool-tips to make navigating it clear and understandable. It’s still a lot to take in and I’m still not 100% sure what I’m doing, but the tool-tips and the insane amount of information provided is extremely helpful. It even has an in-game Wiki that is easily pulled up and read while in game. Developers, take note. THIS is how you provide your player with enough information without being overbearing.
Next, after having read the Wiki a bit, I take an inventory of my starting situation. I made the game with 100 stars and four AI players. The game’s universe size and AI numbers are only limited by your computer, from what I understand. You can effectively build a universe with thousands upon thousands of systems, if your computer can handle it.
I had one fleet and some starting cash. I began colonizing surrounding planets with food and water and filtered those resources back to my home planet. The majority of the eXploitation phase revolves around this very mechanic. You’re basically searching out planets with different resources that you export or import to/from other planets and in the process, meet requirements to ‘level up’ those planets based on their level requirements. Say you find a planet with an awesome special resource that reduces the maintenance of planetary buildings. It’s likely you’ll have to level that planet up a level or two by importing water, food and other resources that it requires to do so. Once you’ve located the proper resources to export to that planet and have created those trade-lines, the planet’s level increases and that special resource becomes available.
It’s an excellent system that sounds much more complicated than it really is. You’re basically chaining planets together in ways to maximize incoming cash flow, while spreading your control out over the surrounding systems. The more money you bring in, the more money you can use to buy planetary improvements, ships, or divert it in to your research, influence (used during diplomacy), FTL energy reserves, and Energy, which uses various artifacts you’ll find throughout the galaxy, each of which provide various bonuses or allow the player to complete special actions. Money comes in every three minutes and the money not used at the end of those three minutes is what gets diverted to those various investments, depending on where you choose to put it.
Pretty soon, I was using my money to build some fleets and take out the neutral fleets that were ‘guarding’ some of the surrounding systems. I was treated to some very pretty fleet-on-fleet combat that was very fun to watch, though my participation was nearly non-existent. I’m not sure if that changes at some point. I was able to build some capital ships and then build accompanying fighters, gunboats and others that would travel and fight along with them. It’s neat watching them all duke it out, but I would like to see more participation from the player in this regard. I don’t want too much fleet micromanagement, but some active skills would be welcome. Hopefully that stuff just comes later.
Outside of battles, the diplomacy system adds some peace-time excitement (and hell, adds to the excitement of war, too). Diplomatic actions each require that influence I mentioned earlier and provide an array of buffs, debuffs, and actions that are fun to use, even if I’m not entirely sure what I’m doing yet. Some of them include the ability to annex planets, initiate embargoes, proposition different ideas for galactic vote and many more. It’s a system that they’ve spend a lot of time on in light of some criticism they received from the first Star Ruler and I’m really enjoying what I’ve seen so far of it. I wish that there was a little more life and soul to the whole thing – I’m a sucker for the animated diplomats of games like Master of Orion, Civ, and even the recent Endless Legend – but the depth of diplomacy may be able to make up for that. It’s very much like a space Europa Universalis in that regard and has some serious potential.
After about nine hours and five or six starts later, I’m really digging what I’ve seen so far. It’s different and fresh and the presentation is above par. The depth is certainly there, too. The fact that I can easily get on the IRC channel to chat with the developers is huge and hopefully goes towards making the game better in the long run, as well. If you guys haven’t seen this one before, be sure to check out their official website HERE or go to Youtube and check out some of the Let’s Plays. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on it and investing more time in to the beta and of course, reporting on it when necessary.