StarDrive ReviewGuest_Jim_* - May 9, 2013
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Aggravations, Bugs, & Criticisms:
This is an odd section to have in this review, but a necessary one. StarDrive despite being released, is technically not a finished game, so it still has some issues. Many of the game-breaking ones have been fixed though. For example, during the beta the game's threading was screwy, so late game everything would slow to a crawl and only restarting the program could help. Even then, it would only be a matter of time before the bug struck again. Since release though, this issue appears to have been fixed.
I believe that well-designed games are ones you can sit down and just start playing. The experience should be intuitive so a manual should not be required. StarDrive achieves that for the most part, which is good because the only manual I have seen for it is outdated and incorrect. According to it there is supposed to be a way to create a quick fleet from a group of ships, but that feature either was removed or the manual represents what the developers want the game to become.
Once you have constructed a fleet though, you may run into a curious logic problem. As in many games, different units have different speeds, so typically groups will be made to travel as fast as the slowest unit, with some option to have every unit go at their maximum speed. StarDrive is no different in theory, but there does appear to be a way to break the group movement logic. If not all of the ships have assembled in one place yet, they will all move at their own best speed. If replacement ships are on their way to the fleet and suddenly you need to move it to another system to engage an enemy, the ships already assembled in the fleet will arrive at different times, which may result in losing ships, because there was not enough firepower or other targets to support them. The only way the player can work around this is to send the fleet to a position far enough removed from the combat to not immediately engage, and then wait for the slower ships to arrive before moving in.
Something I failed to mention in the earlier section concerning combat was the ground combat you are able to take control of. I did not mention it for two reasons; I have not found myself using it much and it is not well implemented, especially compared to space combat. When troops are in orbit around a planet, you are able to order individual troops to land or that they all land together. Once on the surface, you are able to control them or leave that to the AI. Once they are done on the surface though, recalling them is less than intuitive. The command for them to launch is given to each troop, individually, by clicking on the unit, whereas the button to land the units is located above and to the side of the screen. Admittedly, this is a minor issue, but it does stand to reason that the orders to land and recall a unit should be near each other, at least to me.
A rather useful feature in this and many 4X games is the ability to change the speed of game time. There is a limit to this, though, of four-times speed, but it can be disabled through the options menu. However, each time you load the game, this resets. On its own, this is just an annoyance but something about the graphics engine causes me a degree of aggravation. Ideally I would be playing this game at my monitor's native resolution and in a borderless window, which is supported by the game. The problem is that changing any setting in the options menu affects the window. The window shifts slightly and, in the case of the borderless window, elements of the desktop, such as the taskbar, are now being rendered on top of the game. The only solution I have found is to run the game at a lower resolution in a window. That way when the window shifts due to a setting change, I can simply move it back.
One final issue I have found is in a reference you may be able to read in some of the screenshots. The fleet editor window has a box indicating the existence of an 'Auto-replenish' option, to have the game automatically construct new ships as needed. This function, from what I can find in the game and online, does not actually exist. At least not yet, which leads into another issue that is understandable, but does not upset me.
Some of you may beleaguer this game and perhaps its developers for not including a multiplayer system. While I can understand this stance of the players, I also understand why this feature has been delayed. The developers needed to get the game out, and with many other issues to tackle (such as the threading issue mentioned earlier), multiplayer capability was pushed to the list of post-release features. It is coming, but the developers had other issues they felt needed to be addressed first. This is not an ideal situation, but this is the best solution to it, at least in my opinion.