Space Strangers: Drox Operative Demo

By Adam Smith on November 12th, 2012 at 4:00 pm.

Din’s Curse and Depths of Peril are my favourite ARPGs. When John wrote about the absolutely lovely Torchlight 2, among all the praise he had this to say: “It really makes no efforts to take the genre anywhere new.” It’s easy to come to the conclusion that there is nowhere new for the genre to go, but Soldak are pioneers, exploring the possibilities of loot, clickity-clicking and character-building. The previous games have added emergent experiences, living worlds and consequences that have far more meaning and impact than steadily rising numbers. The studio’s latest is Drox Operative, currently in beta, and it involves spaceships and lasers. Think Space Rangers 2 as an ARPG. Then try the demo, and Din’s Curse while you’re at it.

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20 Comments »

  1. NathanH says:

    It’s weird that some bigger team with more ability to make a diablolike with slick gameplay hasn’t stolen some ideas from Soldak. These games really are the only diablolikes I’m aware of that try significant new and exciting ideas. It’s a shame that the action isn’t as fun as the Torchlights and Diablos, because the larger ideas are so much fun.

    • trjp says:

      I think the only things missing from Soldaks games are

      ‘Cute’ graphics – none of your WoW/Torchlight soft-edged fantasy stuff – none of your Diablo ‘blood and skulls’ either

      ‘Personality’ – the people you meet arent’ really rounded personalities – they’re just voices to animate the events going on around you. That said, the sheer amount of that would mean a staggering amount of work to ‘personalise’ it all and Soldak is a 1-man-band AFAIK!?

      • NathanH says:

        Well, I think the “local” gameplay (the killing-stuff bit) isn’t quite at the same level as the big-budget diablolikes. If I think “I just want to play a diablolike today” I will probably start Diablo 2 or Torchlight 2 or Titan Quest or maybe even Borderlands, but not a Soldak game. Soldak games are reserved for “I want to play a Soldak game” mood, because their biggest draw is the dynamic world, and that’s a pretty unique thing.

        Although the Soldak combat is getting better, I don’t ever expect it to compete with the bigger budget games in that respect, it’s always going to be more about cutting-edge innovative ideas than the balance-test-polish appeal of the slicker diablolikes. But I definitely think it’s about time for some of the innovations to be recognized by the bigger developers and incorporated into their games too. In a just universe, Depths of Peril would have spawned at least a whole sub-genre, or indeed reshaped the entire genre. Sadly it seems not to be happening.

        • Veracity says:

          Same here, apart from the ever having actually bought a Soldak game bit. I feel sort of guilty, because I don’t really like ARPGs ‘cos of the stupid, and in principle they’re just what I wish Runic or Crate would try, but if the clickfest that’s still centre-stage doesn’t feel right I won’t be on board. Maybe this will address that – if so, Din’s Curse In Space might finally sell me one.

  2. trjp says:

    Been playing the beta for a few weeks now – I really love it because there’s just so much going on, but it’s pretty overwhelming at the start…

    It’s one of those games best played as you go – don’t try to control everything/master everything from the off – don’t waste your time min-maxing either, there’s a strategy to beating each game and you need to be adaptable depending on what the game throws at you (which can at times seem unfair)

    I’m amazed no-one else makes games as detailed and ‘living and breathing’ as Soldak do – Depths of Peril showed how amazing this could be EONS ago and yet all our ‘Diablo-a-likes’ stick to the same, staid formula of ‘minmax and slaughter’ in a world which just exists to cocoon you instead of one you have to strive to conquer…

    Everyone should play a Soldak game – Dins Curse is the least intimidating place to start but I’m loving this one…

  3. Vinraith says:

    Preordered this way back when and played the beta for a bit in early summer. I thought it was neat, and had a lot of potential, but wasn’t quite there yet. Then I completely forgot about it. Thanks for reminding me, it looks like it’s turned into something really special (as Soldak games often do).

    • trjp says:

      Reading the forums, it’s clear that there was a LOT more work required than they expected when they released the beta originally…

      As a programmer, looking at what they’re trying to do I get a headache – the sheer number of ways things can evolve means there are loads of gotchas and problems and dead-ends you can make for yourself.

      That said tho, I think it’s important to realise that your typical game of this isn’t intended to be a long slog. You can certainly create a game which will take days to beat, but I suspect the game was designed for 3-6 hours bursts of play which are resolved and you then move on (having learned and gained equipment and levels etc. for the next game).

  4. MadTinkerer says:

    ” It’s easy to come to the conclusion that there is nowhere new for the genre to go”

    “Ahahahaha!” My unfinished project laughs at you! And then I tell it to shut up we can’t publish yet so it doesn’t count. (yet.)

    • Baines says:

      Yes, I can imagine several places for the genre to go. Some may be new. Other are more old things that were left by the wayside as the Diablo-like structure continued to formalize and popularize, cutting off some forms of exploration. (Of course the Diablo-like structure is so established that some of those abandoned paths arguably cross into other genres.)

  5. Lucretious says:

    I am always surprised that Escape Velocity rarely gets mentioned when talking about this type of game; it seems like EV should be the premiere standard to which they are held to. Maybe that’s just wishful thinking :/

  6. Lev Astov says:

    Interesting. The first I saw or heard of something like this was with Ring Runner, a slightly less campy feeling project ending in a few hours on Kickstarter: http://kck.st/PwROAM

    I’m definitely intrigued by the idea, so I’ll be giving this one a try as well.

  7. derbefrier says:

    Ok how did I miss these games. They sound pretty awesome. Gonna have to try them out when I get off work.

  8. mollemannen says:

    if you ask me din’s curse didn’t add anything special beside the standard ARPG recipe. it was a fun game and all but not very balanced.

    I remember buying the game on stardock impulse (when it still was) with a couple of friends to play co-op but that didn’t work at all. my friend picked a mage and ended up spamming ice nova (can’t remember if that was the exact spell) killing everything with a single hit for several towns. in the end we all ended up with mages and run trough every dungeon without challenge until we got bored (changing difficulty didn’t help)

    also i don’t think the torchlight 2 developers set out to make something original. they just tried to perfect the concept.

    that said the space game looks awesome. games need more space.

  9. mckertis says:

    “It’s easy to come to the conclusion that there is nowhere new for the genre to go, but Soldak are pioneers”

    Are they ? From the demo its perfectly clear that its pretty much a reskin of Din’s Curse. Which is not BAD exactly, as much as…unnecessary ? There really is very little point to be playing this game instead of Din’s Curse, except if you really cant stomach fantasy settings or something. I expected something sufficiently more different from its predecessor, frankly.

    • trjp says:

      Which is your fault entirely…

      Why ‘expect’ something radically different – do you think all those sheep queueing for CodBlops2 tonight expect something ‘radically different’ – do you think they’re likely to get a match-3 game or an RTS? :)

      Expectations will kill you every single time – and the disappointment is 100% self-generated.

  10. Professor Paul1290 says:

    The moment to moment “micro-game” of Drox Operative is pretty much the same as Din’s Curse, but the “macro-game” that provides the dynamic elements of the game is structured very differently from Din’s Curse.
    Drox Operative is more about different factions that can interact with with each other just as much if not more than they interact with the player rather than a singular source of antagonism sending different flavors of threat at the player. It’s more like Depths of Peril than Din’s Curse in that regard.

    That matters quite a bit because Soldak games are mostly “macro-game” (is there a better word for this?).

    I think most of playing a Soldak game is figuring out how the “macro-game” behaves so that you can attempt to predict and manipulate it so things turn out the way you want them to, that way you can do things more efficiently and take on faster pace settings and higher difficulties.

    Sadly, I suspect a lot of players are content with blindly taking one quest after another so they miss most of the game.

  11. Berious says:

    I really like the modular upgrade system – you don’t have a shields or armor slot, you have medium, light, heavy, racial slots and can mix and match whatever systems fit where. So you could go all out on shields with no armor, or stack ECM, whatever. The metagame going on in the background looks very interesting too. Captures the Diablo upgrade-crack feeling too. Instant sale here!

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  13. Baines says:

    On the surface, the game seems like an instant sale…

    But the demo leaves me….

    I don’t know. The pacing just seems messed up. Stuff happens too fast, or you move between areas too slow, or maybe it is just that everywhere is fogged out until you travel there.

    I get a quest to defeat a major enemy, and the quest fails because the planet is destroyed before I ever even find the gate to the system where the enemy is. I get a mission to deliver a diplomat, and all-out war breaks out before I can move three planets over. I seem to spend half my time ferrying between discovered planets.

    One race is already wiped out, a second is on the verge of extinction, and only I’ve explored a combined map space of around 1.2 systems. (That started with aggressive races right next to each other.) I know at least two other systems exist, because I have a failed quest in one and a treasure map for another, but the whole universe is collapsing before I can do anything.

    Maybe if non-combat stuff evolved slower, so you could actually do stuff. Maybe if quests actually put their destinations on your map if you hadn’t already discovered it. (Sure, some quests should have you searching. But these guys should *know* where the planets are that they are sending me, and should be willing to tell me.) Maybe if you didn’t have fog at all for any visited system. Maybe if the camera were zoomed a bit further out, so I could see more.

    The combat can be fun when you get a good set-up, using emps to take out missile swarms or dropping mines in an enemy’s path. It can be more entertaining than SPAZ’s combat. But the game keeps bugging me whenever I try to just fight. X has declared war on Y. Z has been destroyed because I couldn’t find 15 of a specific enemy in time, with no clue where to look for them other than a system name. Etc.

    It feels like an RPG where every five minutes, one townsperson kills another, and you’ve got to complete the game before the problem solves itself through only having one townsperson left.

    • Professor Paul1290 says:

      It sounds like you’re not planning ahead or improvising well.
      It also sounds like the RNG decided to give you a bad day, but even if that’s the case you should be able to climb out of it.

      You will NOT be able to do or even take most of the quests being presented to you. This game does not work that way.
      In fact, if you find that you are able to “do everything” then turn up the pace setting and/or difficulty because it means your difficulty is too low.

      Events and quests in the game run on their own and generally will not conveniently wait for you. The universe moves on whether you do something or not. You have to decide what you can and can’t do and pick your battles to get what you want.

      You should plan ahead and have some idea of what victory conditions you want to achieve, who you want to ally with, who you want to destroy, and so on. If you don’t know enough about what is currently going on between the races to decide what to do, then you should work on exploring to figure out what’s going on so you do.

      In fact, it might be a good idea early on to first focus on exploring systems and making contact with all the races before doing anything else so you don’t just flail around blindly.