E3 2011: Sword of the Stars II: Lords of Winter preview

The original Sword of the Stars was a strategy game so exhaustingly in-depth that there are gamers who still play it and haven’t seen all of the possible unit types. When asked if newcomers would have needed to play the original game to understand the sequel, the Kerberos Productions developer responded that the upcoming Sword of the Stars II: Lords of Winter will include an encyclopedia to catch players up. We honestly couldn’t think of a better way to start off this preview article than with that statement. The water’s great, but this is one astoundingly deep pool.

The game is a real-time strategy that focuses on both intergalactic warfare and establishing colonies on remote worlds throughout the number of expansive galaxies available to players. As the game is still in an alpha build, we weren’t able to glimpse very much gameplay in all aspects. The developer spent more time explaining concepts that would be introduced later down the development cycle.

This time around, players have the option of choosing between six different alien races (each sporting their own unique technology, advantages, disadvantages, etc.). Just like its predecessor, the sequel employs a randomization mechanic in racial tech trees, which ensures that players will never find an optimal build for a particular race.

We didn’t get to see much in terms of the colony building; however, the exhibitor detailed how the game would throw a constant volley of tough decisions the player’s way. Add to that, how you react to each of these scenarios will determine what type of government your faction is. The game dynamically traces your methods of leadership as opposed to you simply deciding what type of government you want from a menu screen. For instance, if you behave like ruthless dictator, the game will label you as a fascist jerk; if you approach most of these instances with a modicum of restraint and compromise, you may end up being recognized as a paragon of democracy.

A newer focus in this sequel is the building of ships. Instead of steadily progressing through the development of smaller fighters and escort ships up to a massive fleet, players are immediately thrust into developing large battle cruisers and dreadnoughts. Likewise, Sword of the Stars II has added a slew of improvements to the prototyping and ship development cycles from the first game so that players can enjoy creating their own unique carriers.

Another improvement found in the sequel is the graphics engine, which allows for a star map that’s twice the size of the original game’s and more detailed starships. The combat instances, in particular, have received quite an overhaul. Engaging other factions in combat transports players into an instance where they get to micromanage the battle in real-time for a much more visceral experience. While the number of ships found in a fleet has been decreased, there is a higher level of detail on each of the spacecraft and textures are much sharper.

A larger universe with an increased focus on combat? We’re not sure about you guys, but that sounds like a winning formula to us. Look for the release of Sword of the Stars II: Lords of Winter Q3 2011.

Jun 14, 2011

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