StarDrive ReviewGuest_Jim_* - May 9, 2013
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Economy & Research:
From beginning to end of any 4X game, you want to carefully monitor and manage your empire's economy and its research efforts. In the Colonization section I mentioned the trading component of the game and the ability to set a colony's focus on specific resources, which is already acceptably deep, but the StarDrive economy is still deeper.
This, like other 4X games, offers the player the ability to purchase buildings and units, instead of spending the time to produce them. StarDrive adds the twist that you need not only the money, but the production resources at the planet to purchase something. That means you cannot simply dip into your coffers to upgrade a fresh colony with the most advanced buildings. Instead you have to wait for the production resources to build up over time or have freighters bring it in, and then pay for the stored resources to be used. This may be an inconvenience if you like being able to deck out a colony in a matter of seconds, but I feel it adds a nice touch of realism and balance to the experience.
Another touch of realism is how taxes work in the game. Like any game with taxes, the amount collected depends on the amount of production going on, and different tax rates can affect your empire. Higher tax rates can lead to rebellion, but of course with too low of a tax rate, you go bankrupt, so you will want to balance things carefully. That is not the dash of realism I am referring to though. In StarDrive taxation affects research and production, with higher taxes reducing research and production points, and conversely lower taxes increasing these points. If you want to swell your money reserves, go ahead and do so, but remember that while you collect money, your opponents can be collecting technologies and amassing powerful, advanced fleets. You cannot buy technology and you cannot simply buy ships, so if your opponent is sufficiently advanced, they will destroy you.
The research experience in this game is both well-crafted and lacking. All but 'secret' technologies are immediately listed on the various tech trees and clicking on the icons will add them to the queue. That sounds like a fairly standard setup, but I am always surprised by how other games actually use less intuitive or less advanced approaches. Sadly though, StarDrive does not live up to its own potentially at this point.
When you queue up items to be built at colonies you have the ability to reorder them through arrows or click-and-dragging them. For some reason the latter method is missing from the research queue. This can be somewhat annoying as reordering longer queues will take longer because of how you have to keep finding and clicking the up and down arrows.
The other, possibly greater, example of how research is lacking in this game is the lack of any climax to it. There is no grand, final research project to complete, so when everything is researched, there is nothing left to do. At this point there is nothing to do but remove the focus on research from all of your colonies (not hard to do from the Empire window) and also remove every research building in your empire. These buildings cost money to keep, and since they are no longer being used, you might as well remove them. Another way to put it is that there is no real sense of satisfaction from researching every technology. Unless you rushed through the research, your opponents may not be far behind you, so you will likely not get the satisfaction of being like a god compared to them. (Doesn't everyone like that?) By the way, it is possible to rush through the research by collecting so much money that you may reduce taxation to zero, and give a nice boost to research, without going bankrupt.