As stated in my First Opinion on Drox Operative: Invasion of the Ancients, space games are my thing. However, I am also picky about my space games. If it’s no more than a space skin over a generic latticework of mediocre gameplay, I’m going to pan it. I want something more than that. The question is, does Drox Operative offer that or is it more of a space cadet?
The first thing I noticed in DO was the clean, unique look of the ship designs, which I kept coming back to over the course of my time with the game. It finally dawned on me that why it struck me so much was because the view was closed in so tight on my ship. I really would have preferred to be able to zoom out further then the game allows because too often I would stumble into enemy formations (or worse, minefields) simply because I couldn’t see them in time to maneuver around them.
The gameplay itself is great. It does remind me a whole lot of Space Rangers, which is a good thing. Unlike Space Rangers, the action here is in real time and the world exists outside– or in spite – of you and your actions. Regardless of if you choose to engage the other races in the game they’re constantly going about their machinations and these can affect you in multiple ways. War between other races often end with one being completely wiped out and the remaining empire more powerful than ever.
Speaking of war I found that engaging in combat is fun and easy (war: so easy a spaceman can do it). There are a myriad of weapons that you can choose from ranging from auto targeting lasers and missiles to mines and manual aim cannons. You have to equip your ship with a balance of weapons, protection (shields and/or armor), thrusters, and auxiliary gear, all while staying within your ship’s power limit. Said power limit can be raised with the addition of new, more powerful reactors but in my experience significant upgrades there are few and far between.
Pirates are great for farming experience and are everywhere, and each type has a different field of abilities. Personally I hate anything with multiple missiles. Look at this picture.
Do you see that? What you’re looking at is me being chased by over a half dozen missiles. If I tried to outrun them until I could shoot them down, I would usually run afoul of more missile toting baddies, resulting in an even longer train of missiles. If there’s a solution to this problem, I didn’t find it.
The various races are supposed to have varying traits that make them unique, but in my experience there was no discernable difference when interacting with them. This made each game somewhat repetitive. The quests you undertake during the game range from Fed-Ex fetch quests and pirate hunting to scouting and defending. I loved getting a quest that a named pirate had shown up, because both the fight and the reward for victory were always good. I was once tagged with a quest to eliminate a race, which became a tedious cat-and-mouse game where I would wipe out their planets only to find that they’d snuck a colony ship out while I wasn’t looking and had a new plane for me to hunt down. This happened during one such quest five times before I finally cut off the serpent’s head. As for playing as the different races, it amounted largely to stat differences that I didn’t really feel the effect of while playing.
The sound effects were solid if unspectacular, and the music is really good. It’s a rare game these days where I can even remember the music after I stop playing (I couldn’t hum you one song in Bioshock Infinite or Batman: Arkham Origins for example) but I have the main space theme going through my head as I write this.
Drox Operative: Invasion of the Ancients is a very flexible game. You can customize your experience a lot before you start, with various hard mode challenge settings, adjusted enemy starting levels, and a number of options for galaxy generation, including loading an old one. Its throwback appearance and retro experience are allot of fun for someone like me, but I wonder if younger audiences would appreciate it as much. Those brought up on PlayStation 2s and 3s, HD graphics and the simpler, more console-centric options of many modern PC titles may be a put aback by DO. For those of us who are a little older, though, there’s a lot of fun to be had. The various stat screens, the ability to export your ship’s data to html or vBulletin to share, and the overall experience harken back to PC game’s glory days. For someone who’s as big a PC fan as I am a space game fan, that sits very well with me. It has its flaws but Drox Operative: Invasion of the Ancients is good fun and a good reminder of how making a game that takes advantage of the PC’s unique nature isn’t just about using the latest graphic technology. Drox Operative is a good example of what makes PC gaming special.