The Let's Play Archive

Sword of the Stars 1 & 2

by Veloxyll

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Original Thread: Let's Play Sword of the Stars 2: A Comedy of Runtime Errors

If you liked this LP, you might also like Pathways Into Darkness by HB, Necrovision by Niggurath and Fatal Frame 2 by Niggurath


Welcome to another Sword of the Stars 2: End of Flesh Let's Play on SA. This in itself is a bit surprising; the game's FUCKING AWFUL and the prequel was the subject of many (mostly unfinished) LPs. And didn't someone just finish an LP of this? Why are you tackling it again so soon?

Why? Because of this man:

And these people:

Above is Martin Cirulis, Director of Kerberos Interactive, Vancouver-based developers of the SOTS franchise and a range of straight-to-download minigames. After successfully publishing SOTS to critical and financial acclaim, Kerberos decided that success wasn't for them and therefore they'd rip up everything that worked well in SOTS 1 and rehash it into an entirely different style of game. They added multiple layers of complexity to SOTS 1's simple and refined Total War-style gameplay, a baffling fleet deployment system, an interface crafted in Hades, and various measures like colossally high costs for prototyping and maintenance with the express intention of making the game crawl along at a snail's pace. It's tantamount to marketing Hearts of Iron as the sequel to Civilisation 5, although this is unfair to Hearts of Iron.
Also there have been 7 Divide by Zero errors in released versions so far. Not in testing. In LIVE gameplay.

Likely because of this massive overhaul, Kerberos failed to get the game ready on time, and released a steaming pile of shit upon the world. After nearly apologising for releasing a game in a pre-alpha state, Cirulis claimed that the game would be fixed within a 'few weeks'. Just under a year later, he announces the 'all clear', although it's uncertain what change in the game's status led to that as it's still not finished another year on. The AI still self-combusts, people still get regular crashes to desktop, and every new patch seems to introduce a range of new bugs. On the bright side, some of the bugs are very funny indeed. My personal favourites are the meteors that captured admirals and the sheer number of times Kerberos's incompetence could cause practically every object in the game to spawn inside a sun. There's a full list in Keisari's excellent OP in the SOTS2 thread.

An astonishingly prescient SOTS 2 promotional poster

Throughout this period, Cirulis and his cultural attache Arinn Dembo have established themselves as some of the worst people in the industry, viciously attacking anyone who sets foot on their forums without being a True Believer and saying that people should just get over the debacle of the game's launch, seemingly with the intention of becoming this generation's Derek Smart. They've given up on proper full-scale games and are launching a range of 90s-style projects set in the SOTS universe, including The Pit and the forthcoming SOTS Panzer General, or whatever it ends up being called. In fairness, the former isn't bad, but paying for the blasted thing still means handing money over to Mecron, the nickname Cirulis goes by on his forums.

So why LP it (again)?

Because even though this game is objectively a pile of shit, I love it. I love the universe these twats have created, even though I hate that I do. I just want the game to be finished so I can explore it a bit more, and in order to do that I need to persuade other people to join me in my self-destructive addiction. This LP is intended to give you a flavour of where the game is now, and to persuade you to close your eyes and not think of Mecron when you're handing over your money.
Also I personally have a weakness for 4X games, especially in space. I have Legend of Pegasus and StarDrive, both of which are objectively awful and not even as pretty as SOTS2 to boot.

So why the Wintery Lords?

SOTS 2 isn't a 4x sequel in the Civilisation mould - i.e. a new vision for a given premise - but rather a continuation of the story that began in SOTS. But not exactly. You see, each game you play of SOTS represents an iteration of the universe based upon the current state of the plot in the version of the game that you're playing. So while if you played SOTS 1.0 from the fission to the antimatter age you're covering the same chronological period as SOTS 2, but the universe of SOTS 1 isn't as evolved and so you won't see the same things. This is all terribly confusing so I'm going to briefly encapsulate the plot so far.

Humanity has managed to achieve faster-than-light travel by sticking enormous wheels on the back of space barges and hurtling them down invisible roads between gravity wells. Full of our own genius, we put together a big wheel colony ship to go and spread our seed amongst the stars. But COINCIDENTALLY right when the ship is launched an enormous dreadnought full of insects appears above Earth, blasts our colony ship out of the sky and starts shitting missiles onto Paris. Up till this point we'd all been getting on famously and had forgot about things like warfare or bad insects from space, and so we were royally fucked. Luckily, we remembered that we'd kept a whole bunch of nukes as mementos of our naughty days, pointed them at the Hiver ship (for it is they) and chase it off.

Suck it up, Paris.

We were extremely pissed about the whole near-extinction thing, so rapidly start building up new ships with more shooty bits on them to go and hunt down the insects. One of our scouting fleets happens upon a battle between ships piloted by Space Dolphin Wizards and ships flown by Space Gendered Lizards. The Lizards with Genders win, and proceed to kill our scout guys. We get more pissed off.

This is where SOTS 1 begins. So you can play a game against the insects (Hivers), the dolphins (Liir) and the lizards (Tarka), and have a good time doing so. There are a bunch of random events, including evil slaving ships that come and nick people from your worlds, and a particular fucker that causes half your empire to go HAL if an accident happens when you research AI.

BUT THEN! The expansion comes out, and we find out that the slavers were in fact a very new race called the Zuul, who were created as a biological weapon by a Mystery Evil a few decades ago and have spent the time eating the minds of the population they were used upon and have Risen Further Than Their Creators Expected. They're now on an intergalactic quest for their former masters, and are taking slaves in the millions from all sapient races in order to fuel their war machine as it spreads across the cosmos, devouring entire worlds in its path. Good work for Space Kangaroo Rats.

The Zuul hate you all.

AND THUS! The next expansion comes out and we find that the people the Space Kangaroo Rats were dropped on are back and they, too, are pissed. They are Space Glamour Dragons and they are very good at making little robot drones that will fuck you up. They're still recovering from the war they had with the Mystery Evil and so LUCKILY FOR GAMEPLAY PURPOSES they're at the same tech level as all the other races.

So who is this mystery evil? Well, like most things including the price of tuna these days, it turns out it was the dolphins' fault all along. You see, the Space Dolphin Wizards have a problem: whenever one gets really really old (and thus really really big because these guys just never learn to stop growing) they might get a bit scared of dying and instead of writing angsty books about it, they enslave their entire home world and force all their fellow dolphins to build them a really big space suit. They teleport into orbit and embark on a galactic mind-raping tour.

Eventually (after releasing about twenty genocidal psychic humpbacks upon the universe) the Space Dolphin Wizards got a bit introspective and decided this wasn't the best way of spending their time. Instead, they arranged for a nearly too big dolphin to be flung into space like a baleen Rambo and go on a rampage against all the bad dolphins. He killed nearly all of them and is now 'resting', the lazy arse. Apparently the mental touch of these evil dolphins was very cold blah blah Lords of Winter.

Look at this space whale motherfucker right here.

Now, the Zuul have figured that if you sacrifice just enough slaves in a big space station, you can attract one of the remaining evil dolphins (or Suul'ka) to your side and use it to embark on an orgy of destruction the likes of which the universe has never seen. This is where SOTS 2 opens.

Due to less than 20% of you being decent human beings, I'll be playing the Hiver Imperium.

Wait, isn't this OP pretty much the same as the other SOTS2 LP?
Yes. Yes it is. As was mentioned in that thread, if they'd stuck with the old game, thrown some new graphics on and called it a day, we'd have a pretty solid game. Instead we have, well; you'll see.

JThe game is nice enough to let you know EXACTLY how good its AI is on the start screen:

But before I start posting about the game I'll be doing, lets talk about setting one up.
A lot of this will be familiar to people who read Aethernet's LP Because a lot of my complaints are identical.

For the sake of completeness...

You'll note the selection of maps on the left. Unlike every 4x game ever, SOTS2 doesn't have random maps. The excuse given is that the AI requires the 'terrain' (star blobs) in those maps to work properly, but since the AI wasn't finished at game launch (and still isn't now) this seems a bit odd. This especially seems odd given that some clever modder created a random map generator that doesn't apparently screw the AI over (although of course it's difficult to tell), so the only conclusion is .

We'll be playing on the Almach map, which includes five players. In any other game I'd try to show off all the races at once, but this game is very badly optimised (in fairness, it's getting better) and so larger maps will cause turns to take a minute and a half just to process, meaning this LP will only finish by the time that we develop FTL in real life. I'll leave which races we're going up against a mystery for now.
Given that the last LP was a race against the game imploding, I'm sure this will cause NO PROBLEMS AT ALL.

The other options are thus:

Strategic Turn Time is only really relevant in multiplayer and is obviously intended to prevent the sperglords of this world from taking half an hour over each turn while you sit there bored. This will be on infinite.

Combat Turn Time sets the length of the tactical combat round. The game is balanced, inasmuch as it is balanced, around a five minute turn, so we'll be sticking with that. This means that battles are likely to take multiple turns to conclude. Since they're the best bit of the game, this is no bad thing.

Economic and Research Efficiency determine how much money you'll make from various activities and how much it'll cost to research stuff. Lots of people like ramping up research efficiency because it can be painfully slow, but I'm going to show you the game as its creators intended.

Planet Size & Resources toggle how big the planets are and how packed full of exploitable goodies they are. 'Goodies' shouldn't be taken to imply any sort of exciting differentiation in resources a la Civ; each planet has a number associated with it telling you how many resources it has in it. More on this later. Get excited, numbers fans!

Number of Players duh.

Initial Systems is an odd one. As mentioned above, SOTS 2 is set further along the SOTS timeline than the first game, so we've already been in space for a while and have colonies other than our homeworld. To represent this, the minimum number of colonies you can start the game with is three. We'll be sticking with this.

Initial Technologies is like research efficiency - many people like to get a leg up the tech tree to avoid the early game grind. This is especially useful to the Zuul, who are terrible researchers. However, we're going in as Mecron intended again.

Initial Treasury is exactly what it says.

Random Encounters are a particular feature of Kerberos's approach to game design, which is that The RNG Will Fuck You Over, probably intended to represent Mecron's attitude to how the world can be unfair and you just get over it, and it's MY GAME NOT YOURS. Although some of these are obvious bullshit, we'll be keeping this at 100% to give you a good show of the bullshit too.

Grand Menaces are the bullshittiest of the bullshit: incredibly tough events that can ruin the game for absolutely everyone. They're also awesome and we'll have the default value of one (1) for this game. Opinions may vary, but going up against these can be some of the exciting aspects of both SOTS games. They can also ruin your day, just like the previous option.

Victory Condition - traditional map ownership/HW conquering/building big stuff options. I guess I could set it to something other than Last Man Standing. But I suspect I know how the Diplomacy in this is going to go.
Hint: Poorly.

Now we're done here, let's move onto the race selection screen:

This screen allows you to select your race and each of the races you're up against. The 'race selection' bit is cropped here so you don't get a sneak preview, but it's just a list of names in any case. This is annoying, because in the first example of poor UI design we're going to focus on, you can't change even the difficulty of an AI opponent without selecting them first and waiting for the UI to chunter into life. You then can't tell what difficulty you've selected when you've selected another race. This always leave you wondering whether you've actually changed the difficulty at all; it took ages for a bug that had AI players set as Hard actually be Normal to be caught, because people were confused about what difficulty they'd selected. Spoilers - I am still a little worried I forgot to set the AIs to hard. I wonder if we'll be able to tell?

Regardless, for the rest of this pan-galactic Facebook, you select your profile picture, your badge, and your theme colours. You have an empire colour and a ship highlight colour, which means you can get your ships looking incredibly ugly if you so choose. Because I pre-ordered, and the launch was such a trainwreck, I actually have the Immersion modelsets, so I'm going to use those. Then pick some pretty gharish colours anyhow, because this is a game mostly about suffering.

Table of Contents

Sword of the Stars 2: An Endless Sea of Bugs (spawning inside a star)

Sword of the Stars 1: Memories of a better time

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