Fully Operational: Drox Operative Is Out Now

By Adam Smith on November 30th, 2012 at 4:00 pm.

Drox Operative, which comes from the same pedigree as Din’s Curse and Depths of Peril, is out of beta and available for purchase. Failing to find a few days to spend with the beta is probably my biggest regret of the year so I plan to remedy that by having a Droxy December. From what little I have played, I feel comfortable with the ‘Space Rangers 2 AARPG’ description I used when bringing news of the game’s demo. That demo is still available and you must play it. You must play it now. Drox Operative is $19.99 direct from Soldak. One payment provides Mac and PC versions.

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21 Comments »

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  1. Veritaas says:

    Wow, that’s kinda unexpected. I love Soldak games. Has anyone played Drox yet? How does it compare to other space sims?

    • mckertis says:

      It doesnt, really. Its pretty much a Din’s Curse reskin.

      • Baines says:

        You can compare it to a game like SPAZ.

        From only experience with the demo, I think I prefer the combat in Drox to that in SPAZ. Both have autotargeting weapons, but you concentrate on controlling only a single ship in Drox. With SPAZ, I too often saw my ships as disposable, and would just pound away on a target, which you cannot do in Drox. I also felt that there was more to do inside a battle than just hold down a mouse button, even if it was just timing EMP bursts to take out as many incoming missiles as possible.

        My first run of the Drox demo nearly killed the game for me, though. I complained about it in the article about the demo here, where I ended up in a setting where pretty much everything that could go wrong went wrong from the very start. My second run went much better, with a much more controlled pace and time to actually do stuff.

        But, since I’ve only played the demo, I can’t really comment on the long game or replayability. SPAZ’s quests wore thing (and the endgame suffered greatly for its lack of variety.) Drox looks pretty good so far, but I don’t know how much I’ve already seen. I’ve a feeling I’ve already seen all the basic quest structures (kill things, kill thing to collect items, pick up thing here and deliver here, etc. There are only so many basic themes you can use.) Maybe it will wear thin as well. As may the enemies and races encountered.

        SPAZ had all the ship design stuff, but I found myself sticking to certain builds, or themes of builds, and the AI never really made maximum advantage of its own stuff. But Drox has a bit less ship design while at the same time having more. In SPAZ, you had a decent variety of weapons and each ship could carry different things. Drox is more uniform (you can’t really make a ship with 8 short range turrets of death), but it uses Roguelike random drops (so the same item might have slightly different stats or even bonuses) and you’ve got more things to stick in your ship with more numbers (crew for stat boosts, etc).

        SPAZ had a storyline, while Drox really doesn’t. Yes, Drox has a basic story, that you are trying to ultimately be allied with the controlling force(s) of the galaxy, but nothing more than that. A game like SPAZ, you might stick with longer just to see the end. But then you might have trouble bringing yourself to replay it, because the second play is going to be pretty much exactly the same. With Drox, an individual play is much shorter, but you might see yourself playing it several times. At the very least, Drox has multiple victory conditions that you can aim for. (I’ve yet to figure out how you can even really managed to get a galaxy at peace. My demo success was an accidental economic victory while I was in the process of making my chosen ally be the only race left. I was slightly annoyed, as I was only a few planetary attacks from the military victory.)

        Drox has a galaxy where forces actually shift. SPAZ has opposing forces, but you can’t really wipe anyone out. You can beat down or build up a force in a system, but it mostly just affects your relationship with others. In Drox, races will colonize planets, attack each others planets, and planets can be lost. (The planet itself isn’t destroyed, but the race loses it.) But I’m not really sure how much this really matters in Drox. Yes, wiping out a race matters. But I can’t help but feel that there is something missing, something that would make the whole control of planets element matter more.

        Anyway, I ramble. It is easy enough to download the demo and die, I mean try. Well, I mean die too, as Drox does throw a relative lot at you to digest at the start.

        • Professor Paul1290 says:

          The quests types are going to be rather basic, but what the quests indicate in Drox Operative is often more important than the quests themselves.

          Some examples:
          -If you get for a quest to gather or deliver something to cure a virus, outbreak of zombies (yes that’s a thing in this game), or a computer worm, then these hamper production, cause civil unrest, and generally weaken the race they affect. They also eventually spread from planet to planet and get worse if left alone. For example, computer worms sometimes evolve into sentient AIs, sentient AIs can sometimes lead to rebellions, which can sometimes eventually lead to faction splitting if nothing is done. Either that or maybe it’ll just infect random ships and cause them to kill everything around them.
          -If you get a quest to deliver a diplomat or a gift from one race to another then that gives you an opportunity to strengthen relations between two races, which is especially important when going for diplomatic victories. Of course, there’s also the chance of other outcomes as well. I once delivered a gift that turned out to actually be weapons for an uprising that I later had to fix!
          -Doing quests to advance a race’s research gives them better weapons and makes their ships more powerful, which can help if you want them to expand and control more space. That means more planets and bigger fleets and such.

          That’s just a few examples. Basically a lot of quests are tend to have a “cause” and possible “effect” if resolved or left alone and they do form chain reactions as they lead into each other (widespread disease can aggravate civil unrest and so on).

          It does seem that some planets can be more beneficial for a race to take than others.
          Some planets always seem healthy and others appear to scream “help we have disease/power failure/rebellion/bad stuff in general” quests almost constantly.
          I haven’t looked into how exactly this works though, not yet anyway. So far I’ve just noticed that there are planets that “suck” and there are other that “don’t suck”.

          As far as victory conditions go, Economic Victory is one of the slower victory conditions that generally only kicks in if you’ve been doing quests and selling junk a lot without having much of a plan.
          Unless you are aiming for it specifically, getting it accidentally usually means you might need to pay attention more to what affects what, choose quests more wisely, and plan ahead a bit more.

          • Baines says:

            It’s my nature to sell junk. I spend too much time in STALKER looting everyone and selling their guns, for example.

            With Drox, I’d checked victory conditions earlier, and it looked like I was well away from an economic victory. I was aiming for a degree of diplomatic victory, getting a core group of allied races while wiping out the rest. But every time a race was wiped out, one of my “allies” became the new target. After that happened twice, I decided to take matters into my own hands and eradicate the edge cases. On my way to take out the final cluster of planets I needed for a win, I rescued one of the wandering merchant ships. I decided to sell off my junk to make room for more loot, and got the economic win.

            So ultimately I got it because the races wouldn’t stay cooperative enough with each other long enough for me to get a diplomatic win. That dragged out my time table, and I’d kept making money in the meantime. I’d certainly not been aiming for it, and had honestly forgotten about it by the time it happened.

          • jessicasherwood3 says:

            up to I looked at the paycheck of $9572, I have faith that…my… brothers friend woz actually taking home money in their spare time from there pretty old laptop.. there neighbor haz done this 4 only twenty three months and just cleared the debts on their mini mansion and bought themselves a Smart ForTwo. we looked here..www.Google.mel7.com

      • jikavak says:

        I’d say it’s more Depths of Peril than Din’s curse.

      • b0rsuk says:

        …and a reskin is the #1 thing that Din’s Curse sorely needed ! Great !

        The game doesn’t need an explicit story, because – if it’s anything like Din’s Curse – the story is made as you play. It has a very interesting quest system, where quests really affect the world. Small troubles left unattended become big troubles. Outlaws become more powerful, start attacking new areas etc.

        Not so great: it’s their first game which doesn’t have a Linux version.

        • b0rsuk says:

          Small correction: neither of old Soldar games had Linux versions. They just worked fine in Wine. I’ll try the demo to see if this also does.

    • CogDissident7 says:

      It isn’t a space sim. It is basically just din’s curse where all the skills “autocast nearest”. Kind of sad, actually. The company did some innovative things with din’s curse, a shame none of them are there in Drox.

    • Coriolis says:

      Eh, I think that’s a bit too negative, although I’ve only played the demo. The game does some interesting things, simply because it has different factions and different ways to “win”. Which makes it feel alot more like a real world then previous games of this developer. The place where I feel they dropped the ball is in not making ship choices more interesting. Or you know, having ship choices at all, instead of auto-upgrading through a stat.

    • Professor Paul1290 says:

      It has the interface and quest system from Din’s Curse, but other than that it’s not the same game.

      Drox Operative brings back “faction politics” element from Depths of Peril that was not present in Din’s Curse.
      The “macro-game” in Drox Operative that makes dynamic stuff happen is much more involved in Drox Operative than it is in Din’s Curse.
      It’s somewhat like a simplified 4X game that plays itself that you get to play around in and influence.

      If you have to compare it to previous games, I’d say it feels like “Din’s Curse interface” on top of “Depths of Peril done better” guts.

  2. Professor Paul1290 says:

    This game has races that compete with each other, colonize and invade worlds, and steal from each other.

    The races also have to fight each other to take over planets. Who wins depends on who currently has better technology, who has produced a bigger fleet, if they have many allies helping them, and so on.
    Things like how many ships they have and how powerful their ships are are affected by how well they can produce ships, how far along their research has gotten, whether their production is being affected by civil unrest, how much they’ve lost due to mob invasion, and so on.

    Factions can sometimes split due to civil war, diseases can spread from planet to planet and hamper production or cause rebellion, the factions sometimes try to negotiate with each other and can succeed or fail, and random mobs may attack some factions more than others.

    Essentially, the factions in this game behave a lot like what you would expect in a simplified/lightweight 4X game.
    A lot of the systems that would be in such a game are represented in the game well enough can be affected by the player.

    I’ve actually given races an advantage at times not by directly helping them fight or doing quests, but by giving/selling them technology. Giving them technologies speeds up or jumps their research ahead. More technology means a race has more firepower per ship. This reduces the amount of losses they take from random mobs and gives them more firepower to invade other planets.

    The game shares the same interface and “moment-to-moment” gameplay as Din’s Curse, but other than that it’s not the same game.

    The “macro-game” in Drox Operative works very differently and is in a lot of ways MUCH more complex than in Din’s Curse and allows for varied situations and more planning and strategy in general.

    • Brise Bonbons says:

      That all sounds wonderful – I just wish I’d been able to stick with the demo long enough to see any of it.

      To be frank, I found the generic ARPG layer perched on top of all that lovely number crunching to be a real turnoff. Everything just feels very nonspecific to me, like in an MMORPG where every action from forging a sword to picking a lock is accomplished by right clicking and watching a progress bar fill up.

      It’s unfortunate, because I think I’d really enjoy the faction stuff in Drox if I could come to grips with the other stuff. I just want my space games to have more mechanics which evoke that “space ship” feeling in the moment to moment gameplay: Active power assignment, crew wrangling, space-y physics, more robust space exploration, etc.

      “Right click on space anomaly to make loot pop out” is really not doing it for me.

      EDIT: I just wanted to say, don’t let my post stop you from trying the demo. If you like ARPGs (I’m ambivalent about them) you will probably enjoy the game just fine as-is.

  3. figvam says:

    The screenshot made me think of Starfarer (ex: http://fractalsoftworks.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/sf10.jpg ), but looks like it’s a different beast altogether? Does it actually have a space combat part?

  4. Archangel says:

    It’s like playing a top-down spaceship ARPG that takes place inside someone else’s 4X game. It’s very, very good.

  5. BlackAlpha says:

    For me, the thing that makes the game fail are the MMO-like mobs. I feel like the game focusses too much on the mobs and not enough on the interesting parts of the game. I think this ultimately makes the game quite boring.

    The mobs are spawned randomly, at random locations, and they just sit there, doing nothing. This is not including the quest specific mobs, who are scripted to attack certain type of targets. But the regular mobs, who you will be fighting 99% of the time are very boring to fight. Plus, it feels so pointless, because they will simply respawn after an X amount of time.

    The core of the game revolves around fighting these mobs. This wouldn’t have been a problem if the combat mechanics would’ve been more interesting, but the combat is rather dull.

    The combat mechanics consist of you flying close to an enemy and then you repeatedly hammer the number key on your keyboard that you’ve assigned to your main weapon. And basically, that’s all the game is.

    The game does try to do some interesting things, like having the factions fight each other in a 4X style fashion. But because you are mostly busy fighting off the neutral mobs, you only experience little of the faction wars. If you can manage to find the patience, you can level up high enough for the mobs not to form a threat, and then you can actively and without worry participate in the faction wars, which is great. But to get to that point, you have to go through hours of boring gameplay. By the time you get to that point, the faction war is almost over. Once it’s over, you start all over again.

    Another con. Loot is very stale. There’s little diversity. With diversity, I mean the difference in the type of items, they are mostly all the same with a reskin and with a different name. The diversity does somewhat become better from level 30 and onwards, but you have to play a LOT to get to that point. I only did it because I was really bored.

    Oh, and he graphics are kind of nice. Nothing amazing, but I thought it was appealing.

    For those of you who have played the previous games from this developer – this game is EXACTLY the same. Yes, it LOOKS different, but it PLAYS exactly the same.

    Long story short. The game tries some interesting things, but ultimately decides not to use those interesting things to their full potential, leaving a simple Action-RPG core that is quite boring.

    My recommendation for a similar type of game would be SPAZ. SPAZ doesn’t try to do the 4X thing like Drox does, but SPAZ has very good combat. The combat is fast paced, simple, and very fun. The strategic element doesn’t compare to Drox, but like I said before, in Drox you hardly get the chance to experience the strategic element anyway, which is a shame.

    • Coriolis says:

      Ok, the game has serious problems.. but this isn’t one of them. There’s plenty of things to do in the game other then fighting mobs. Infact I think fighting mobs is just about the least effective thing to do – just explore, find the races, trade/get quests from them, and do them. I’d say about 10-20% (or less) of quests actually ask you to just kill x number of enemies.

      The loot is stale though, and so are the character “builds” and all that. Basically the whole ARPG layer of it just isn’t very good. But you certainly aren’t stuck killing mobs waiting to get into the strategic layer – it’s there all along.

      • BlackAlpha says:

        What I meant is that there are so many mobs scattered everywhere (in most sectors you can’t fly anywhere without running into mobs every single second) that you have no choice but to fight them almost nonstop. It makes it very monotonous. Late in the game (relatively speaking), once you get your hands on cloak, then you can avoid all that grinding. But it takes a long while before you can create your first effective cloak build.

      • Brise Bonbons says:

        In trying the demo I definitely found that fighting mobs was my main activity while exploring. It doesn’t help that exploring never really gave me a sense of exploration, just uncovering the map and clicking objects to maybe get loot. Maybe I just got a bad game setup?

        I have to echo the idea that the mobs feel pointless in Drox, somehow. In Din’s Curse I was immediately sucked into the story of any new map: Dungeons are just filled with random monsters, that’s how they are, and the missions I was getting were linked back to those monsters in a clear way – quests like “kill this bad dude on level 3 because he is building a storm machine/anti magic engine/home theater system” linked everything together nicely. In Drox the mobs are just hanging out, and it throws the whole abstraction off – from the perspective of creating narrative through rules and gameplay, space simply shouldn’t be that full of random hostile ships.

        I feel that Drox Operative has incredible potential, but is hamstrung by its reliance on recycled generic systems – both functional (kill quests, mob-dropped loot everywhere) and technical (“right click anomaly to explore”) – from Soldak’s fantasy ARPGs. More than anything I just want it to have some bespoke functionality designed from the ground up to evoke space travel and super science.

        I really love Soldak and their games, so I hate to be so negative about Drox, but no matter how many times I try to get into the demo I just bounce off immediately, and feel like somehow the problem is with me not the game. My response to this experience is usually to type up giant rants in an attempt to identify where I’ve gone wrong.

        Sorry you all have to bear the burden of this.

  6. cptgone says:

    i really like this game’s name. it tickles my curiosity, making it easier to remember. it’s a beautiful, playful name. and… it doesn’t have a colon!