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The mid-week question got me thinking about this short series of 4X games again. I really loved this series so I think I'll go on about it. It has been a bit since I played either game but hopefully I can get this mostly right...

The SotS games have turn based strategy and real time battles (with the ability to speed up, slow down or stop time). Ships can be built very quickly so that, in the late game, a single planet can churn out multiple smaller ships in one turn. The star map is FULLY 3D.

Travel depends on species. Tarka travel at a constant speed directly from star to star. Liir also move directly from star to star but they go faster when far from the start or end stars. Morrigi move faster when in large groups. Humans travel very quickly but they need to travel along node lines that are generated as part of the map when the game starts. Zuul also use node lines but they create their own. Hivers travel directly from star to star very slowly. However, once they get to a star, they can build a gate. Hiver ships can go from one gate to any other gate instantly so, if you attack a Hiver system, you better destroy that gate fast or you're likely to have their entire space force show up on the next turn!

The research tree is also a big thing for each species. The tree is pretty huge but the interesting thing about it is that some techs are going to be blocked so your scientists won't be able to figure them out. You might still get to research it after researching another relevant technology or you might be able to salvage it from destroyed enemy ships but it's pretty common for various weapons and defenses to be blocked for the whole game. Various races have different % chances to get each technology advancement (e.g. Liir are great with shields, humans are great with photon torpedoes) but you never know what surprises the RNG will have waiting for you. The point of this system was to make sure you didn't get stuck in a rut of what the "best" path through the tree was - you're really going to have to learn the strengths and weaknesses of the techs you get.

Both games also have superb ship customization - easily the best I've seen in any 4X game. When you create a ship, you typically pick a type of front section, a type of middle section, and a type of engine section (similar to Stellaris only with way more options). Once you get your sections picked out, you also need to place all your weapons on the various hard points. Those turrets come in different sizes and have different fields of fire. Targets do need to be in that field of fire, whether in front, behind, above, or below in order to be shot at. (And yes, you can spin your ship so your guns can point straight "up" to fire, or try to attack an enemy from below where few weapons can fire.)

On the minus side, while the battles are extremely detailed, the planet development is extremely basic. You get a few sliders to play with and that's it. Forget about picking different buildings for different planets. Also, because of how specific each race is, there's no custom race options. I'm sure it was enough of a nightmare to try and keep such different races balanced as is without letting players put heaven-only-knows-what out there.

The first Sword of the Stars obviously has weaker graphics but it's the most solid of the two. It's also cheapest. There's a bit of silliness to it with the way a simple tanker (oh, did I mention your ships actually need fuel to fly?) can do a better job scouting than a dedicated scout ship but it's all fleshed out and complete.

The second game, not so much. Not only did it show up in a totally unplayable state - it stayed that way, despite many patches, for at least a year. They did finally get on top of things and got the game to a playable state but, before the game could get really solid, Paradox pulled the plug on it. The game added some interesting concepts. My favorite, though many hated it, was that fleets were sent on missions. You had to send them out to attack a specific target and then RETURN HOME. You could change their home to different places or send the ships out on patrols but the game put an end to the practice of placing fleets out at the edges of claimed space and just letting them sit there for decades on end - your warriors and scouts would very much like to see their families now and again!
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My topic got lost in the cogs. In celebration of its release, a few quick videos to explain some things better.

By 3D maps, I mean 3D maps. Here's the map selection screen:
View: https://youtu.be/zHtpWlaL8fQ

Here's the starting tech tree. MUCH more gets added as the game goes on. Some things will be missing from the tree on every game start, to keep you from getting into a rut of picking the same techs every time you play. As you can see, you aren't going to be wanting for choice, even with some missing technologies.
View: https://youtu.be/FkBFX5gC3Dc

Here's the starting ship design. You select sections of the ship at the top. This is the very start of the game, so there's only one choice for the fore and aft sections, but more are added over time. Many more center sections are added, too. Weapon mounts are shown below and can be changed to various different options when research is done. I also took a quick trip to the battle testing area, which lets you see how many weapons shoot in the various directions. (None at all can fire up, in this case.) You can also have missile waves come in to test your point defenses - which this ship doesn't have. Ouch.
View: https://youtu.be/WCldfFFS_VU

All of these are from Sword of the Stars 2. SotS1 uses the same ideas, though.

If you play SotS2, be sure to use the Save our Sots fan made patch: http://www.kerberos-productions.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=50&t=58002
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Nice work!

Maps: so are all the 'bubbles' starting locations for each faction, or…?

Tech: looks to be a collection of mini-trees hanging off independent nodes—or are there inter-dependencies and/or prereqs?

Ship: is there a way to save templates so you don't have to design from scratch with each new game, or extra similar ship—ie be able to just load template and make a few changes?

In celebration of its release
I'm confused re what game is releasing, can you enlighten please?


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The post's release! The games have been out for a long time.

The bubbles are all stars. Each is a potential starting point for each faction, though I expect there's something to keep empires from starting out too close together. (Edit: Oh wait, you mean the areas around the stars! Those are regions. If I remember right, they are just there for flavor.)

The "tree" gets pretty complicated. For instance, the shields go from 1 to 4. Each level has a % chance of being there for each race - the Liir, for instance, are pretty likely to get shields while Humans aren't. However, you can sneak in sideways, too. If the human player doesn't get shield 2, they can't learn shield 3 based on shield 2. However, when they learn how to do fusion, they have another % chance to be able to learn shield 3 based on that discovery. They could easily have shield 3 without knowing how to make version 2. You can see the full tree here if you're curious.

I don't think there's a way to save designs from game to game. I'm not so sure they would work out most of the time, really. The starting ships might be nice to save, but technology plays out pretty differently each time. Even if you stick with the same race, chances are that some tech won't be researched yet, or some other tech will be researched further than you had when you saved the template.
The post's release!
Ah, no wonder I got confused! :D
Bummer, I was looking for a recent remake or some such.

the full tree
FFS, I'm never going to complain about any other game's tree, ever again! That's insane.
Excluding the variable unavailable techs, how much of the tech tree would you get thru in a game—25%, 50%…?

save designs from game to game. I'm not so sure they would work out most of the time
Yes I see that now, too many variables for stuff to repeat regularly.

Looks like a game could go on for a really long time, easily dozens of hours, yeah?

Thanks for the info, appreciated :)


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Excluding the variable unavailable techs, how much of the tech tree would you get thru in a game—25%, 50%…?
Tricky question: if you defeat everyone, you might only research a third of it. There isn't any "research victory" in this game (the only 4X I can think of off hand without that option). I still haven't seen every tech in even the first game, never mind the second.
FFS, I'm never going to complain about any other game's tree, ever again! That's insane.
On the other hand, I'll be complaining about every tech tree for being too simplistic! ;)

The first Sword of the Stars game is only $2.50 on GOG right now: https://www.gog.com/game/sword_of_the_stars_complete_collection
Humble has it at that price, too: https://www.humblebundle.com/store/sword-of-the-stars-complete-collection

It goes on sale often for that price and that version is definitely the most solid. Plays great with no mods at all.

The second game is only $5 but isn't on GoG, really needs a mod to help out some of the races' AI, and also (IMHO) needs a tweak to the .ini file to undermine the preliminary research mechanic. I seem to be alone in that opinion, though - nobody else ever talks about it.

P.S. Ooops, that tech tree link in my previous post goes to the tech tree for the first Sword of the Stars game. Actually, I can't find any version of the second game's tech tree! Somebody put them all together at one time, but his image links no longer work.
you might only research a third of it
Nice. One of the things I like about Civ5 is you mostly can't research the whole tree—that enables a more custom game each time, if you choose to vary it. Civ4 is a bit samey due to always researching the whole tree, even with tech trading off.

I'll be complaining about every tech tree for being too simplistic!
LOL yeah, I can see that. The Civ level is about as deep as I want to go—strategic decisions about key techs to aim for, strategic choices about the route to get there, that'll do me.

GOG Galaxy tells me I have #1 on both GOG and Steam :oops:
I might actually play it now after your great write-up—thanks again :)
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