StarDrive ReviewGuest_Jim_* - May 9, 2013
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Diplomacy and Espionage:
You are not alone in the galaxy and when you learn that, very likely your first response is going to be relatively diplomatic. At least until you have a few armadas.
Diplomacy in StarDrive is a little lacking, compared to other 4X games I play, but it is not bad. When communicating with another species your options are to declare war, discuss things with them, such as asking about their history or if they have any grievances with you, and starting negotiations. The negotiation options are fairly standard as you can create trade treaties, open-border treaties, non-aggression pacts, as well as trade technology and colonies. Helping you handle the negotiations are three bars on the left of the screen that measure trust, anger, and fear. Also you are able to control the tone of negotiations; pleading, respectful, and threatening. I am not entirely sure how effective the different tones are because I have not had much need of them. The one time I tried threatening my opponent into accepting a peace treaty, it refused, even though I had already destroyed its fleets and knocked out many of its planets. This is not altogether surprising though, given who the opponent was.
Somehow the random number generator kept rolling that I should play against the Opteris; a cybernetic species that is concerned only with probabilities. If they believe they can kill you, they will declare war, end of story. The Pollops are the complete opposite it seems as in the game I am playing against them, they are actually coming to me to request trade and open-border treaties. Basically, each species has its own personality and knowing the differences can greatly help with negotiations, or at least knowing what their next move is.
Overall the diplomacy system works, and I find it hard saying much more than that. It is not very innovative and lacks some features (trading money and ships) that you can find in other 4X games.
Of course sometimes diplomacy fails, so you have to be more devious in how you get what you want, without turning to all-out war. Now is the time to turn to espionage, which, conveniently, is controlled from the diplomacy window. (This is not the window you use to communicate with opponents but where you contact them.) Agents are acquired by pressing the 'Train New' button and paying some money. New spies will have a star across from their name, indicating they are level one. To increase their level you can either send them on a mission, where success will progress them, or pay the money to train them. Though training is very likely to succeed, there is the risk that the agent will not learn anything or even be killed in an accident. Still, it is the surest way to level up your agents.
With a suitably leveled agent, you can start sending it on a number of missions, each of which takes so long to complete and cost so much money. The most useful for me have been the 'Assassinate' missions that take out enemy agents and 'Steal Tech' missions, and they are definitely useful. I have played other 4X games with espionage in them but I cannot recall any being quite as satisfying as StarDrive. The missions complete somewhat quickly, do not cost all that much, and really can turn a war around. During peace time you may be researching technologies to improve your economy and colonies, so your navy may be weaker than your opponents. Steal some tech and catch up quickly. Only thing that could make it better is if an 'Incite Rebels' mission could get a planet to turn to your empire.