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Genre: Adventure & RPG
Min OS X: 10.5.8

Drox Operative
January 3, 2013 | Justin Ancheta

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Crowded House
The main problem with this system is that the diplomacy interface can be extremely bewildering and confusing, with the game throwing piles of seemingly random information at you in the form of multicolored lines and symbols. Even after several hours of play it still took me some time to properly establish who liked me, who loved me, and who wanted to mount my head as a trophy on their wall. Dig a little deeper and the game throws even more information at you, in the form of metrics measuring your relationships with the various factions. But how do they change? Why? How are they calculated? Why doesn't the number indicating how much they think I need to do for them not account for the fact that I just finished five missions for them? I later realized that missions carry with them a Relation statistic, and doing missions, establishing or breaking treaties, and killing enemies all goes towards that number, but I feel like something could have been done with the UI to organize and present that information better.
The same is true for the conditions that have to be fulfilled for the "win" or "loss" of a sector. Economic losses in particular are measured by metrics that are presented as positive or negative numbers out of a prospective total; I feel that perhaps expressing that information graphically, in the form of dynamically updating pie charts or progress bars would go a long way to making it faster and easier to track one's progress at a glance.

"As if it's from an old dream, but you can't exactly remember..."

Combat and flying controls may seem somewhat awkward at first, especially those expecting a piloting experience similar to EV, but then they may suddenly start to feel a little familiar once you realize that you can use the mouse cursor to fly your vessel. That's when you start to realize that the core gameplay is disturbingly reminiscent of Depths of Peril/Din's Curse/Kivi's Underworld. Moving around is done with the WASD keys (which you can of course rebind), and aiming is done with the mouse; enemy ships are targeted and attacked by clicking on them with the left mouse button. Secondary weapons or weapon countermeasures are triggered with the right mouse button (thankfully you can mix and match weapon types and their assignments to the primary/secondary slots). For people who cut their teeth playing Escape Velocity or other similar games with keyboard driven controls, this may seem somewhat disconcerting; you don't necessarily go into a space-based action game expecting it to control just like a Diablo-style RPG.
The similarities continue: You equip armor. You equip special items to grant you passive and active bonuses. You can activate "Instant Charges" to instantaneously repair your armour or boost your ststs like speed and regeneration rate. You can "investigate" planets, spatial anomalies, and pieces of space junk that either can give you loot and gold uh, er, I mean startship components and credits, or trigger traps. When you level up, you don't actually buy a new ship; you simply upgrade your existing one, in addition to unlocking ship components for you to use.
Yes, it seems like its all just Din's Curse or Depths of Peril all just reheated and served to us under a different menu...and this becomes truly apparent when you realize that you're just going through the same motions you did in Depths and Din, opening up treasure chests and praying that you won't get a nasty surprise lying in wait for you. Like Din's Curse, in way, it carefully treads the knife-edge between giving the player the freedom to pursue their own goals, and giving the player dungeon after dungeon through which they have to endure the endless grind.


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