Disclaimer: Since this is our first indie game review on the site, I want to explain a little bit about our review system for indie games. Since indie games tend to have much smaller teams and budget, we at GamesFinity hold indie games on their own scale, not competing against the big AAA titles. Topics like graphics integrity, game systems depth and scope, and mass market appeal won’t heavily weigh in on final verdicts and score. We like to focus on what the game does try to accomplish, over what it lacks due to size and budget. Now that’s out of the way, onto the review!
Since most of you probably haven’t heard of Drox Operative before and know little about it, I think it would be beneficial to first explain the type of game we are dealing with here. Drox Operative is a space combat action RPG set in sectors of the universe afar. The closest game I can relate it to is the Space Ranger Series that came out about a decade ago, minus the RTS elements. Combat, item loot, and character development play very much like other action RPGs like Diablo and Torchlight. However, your character (space ship) plays in a series of instanced games or skirmishes that have the likes of a Civilization game. A game is won or lost by a series of conditions, either working in war or diplomacy.
The game world itself is a series of small solar systems interconnected by warp gates and wormholes. There are many of these solar systems that make up the sector. This sector is your playground, and where you will be playing in a single game. Sectors can run as small as just a handful of solar systems, or it can span several dozen. Within a single game, up to 6 different races (from a pool of 13 different races) of humanoids populate the sector, and it is your job to convince these races that using Drox operatives are the only way to win the space race.
To win a game, you have to achieve one of several victory conditions. There is a military win, where you and an allied race knock off every other race in the sector. You could go for the diplomatic win, to achieve this you have to ally with every race and have every race also ally. Then there are also the economic win (achieving enough quests), fear win (kill everyone till they submit), and legend win (become known enough by killing boss enemies). The player can lose by having the last race alive not allied with him, or by being at war with every remaining race at once, or by dying so often that the Drox Guild can’t afford to clone you anymore.
Now that you have the basics, let’s talk about actual gameplay. First, one of the main tasks set forth to you are quests given by the different races at play. These quests are not a break from industry standard questing as most quests fall in the lines of kill X number of Y baddies or fetch X item and bring it to Y location. It gets more interesting when you find yourself up against an assassination quest in which you seek out a boss ship and eliminate a much more difficult target. I found myself enjoying these quests, especially when it was a quest to take out a rogue fleet of bosses.
My favorite quests were those when a race wanted my help in expanding their empire. They would task me to bring a colonization package to a specific planet, often in a war contested system, and then defend it until they were able to bring reinforcements to the front lines. These quests often brought the most exciting combat situations and would really push your ship to its limits.
Combat is in a very common action RPG style, with a twist when it comes to the nature of space combat. Since most enemies are constantly on the move, lining up attacks to make sure projectiles hit the target is a constant combat task. Some projectile weapons can even be shot out of space before it hits its target, bringing a strategy depth that isn’t usually found in most action RPG games. This brings the choice of using instant laser based weapons, often slightly weaker, or use projectile weapons that really throw a punch. The use of space mines are also a key factor in combat, which can really turn the tide of a battle if used correctly. For the hours of game time I put into the game, combat never became stale and was always an enjoyable experience, so long as I put myself up against challenging opponents.
Ship design is also a very fun task of balancing attack power, shields/armor plating/hull integrity, and energy load. A ship consists of slots used to equip items, each categorized by heavy, medium, or light status. Heavy items are usually engine items that determine your ship’s speed, weapons, and power supply. Medium items are usually your ships shield and armor plating items, and light items are usually designated for crew members, and the ship’s computer systems. Item types can cross over categories, and the combination of equipment to use is vast and is heavily talked about on the games official forums.
Diplomacy in the game is both its strongest feature, and the one I felt needs the most work. Almost every action you take in the game will affect relations between the Drox Guild and other races. From trading, to quests, to help protecting race planets, you have the ability to shape your relations with other races, but only to a certain degree. Races often declare war on each other and often without warning or reason. An hour into the game you set your sights on allying with two races and worked hard to get their favor, when all of a sudden they declare war on each other. Then you are stuck with choosing a side as anything you do to help one side hurts your relations with the other. This kind of randomness became frustrating to me and I had no real way to combat this situation.
You are given a few tools to manipulate the different races. The different ploys you can attempt are to spread propaganda to insinuate riots on a race’s planet, or to sabotage a planet, leaving it in a panic from radiation leaks or poisoning. You can also attempt espionage to try and steal technology, or to spread rumors to increase or decrease standing between two races. These are all great tools, except I never really found them affective unless you spent serious currency in using these ploys consistently. Even then it wasn’t as affective as actually doing something in space (i.e. quests, trading, etc.).
A detriment to this game is its lack of a beginner’s tutorial. There is a help guide, but I was still feeling my way around the system aimlessly for the first 2 hours or so of playing so a tutorial would have been a great help. Also, there is multiplayer to this game, but I was unable to ever find a public game to join and even test out what multiplayer is like. This could be due to a lack of player base, or the system itself. I don’t know, but the potential for a fun multiplayer experience is there. If Soldak (the developer) can sort those issues out, and give the player either more information as to why diplomatic events occur, or more power to alter diplomacy in-game, then they will have a real indie gem on their hands.
Overall I was charmed by the addictive gameplay, the deep combat system, and the diplomatic balance between the different races. Watching your ship grow from a little tiny war fighter into a massive cruiser-sized warship is rewarding, and I would recommend this game to anyone that enjoys space combat games, or action RPGs. For the indie price, there is plenty of game to satisfy even the hardcore gamers among us.
- Addictive gameplay and combat.
- Unique game style combining diplomacy and action RPG elements.
- Deep character progression.
- Intense space battles.
- In need of a good tutorial.
- Lack of diplomatic control.
- Small multiplayer community.