I’ve been away, gallivanting over vales and hills, and living the life of a rugged outdoorsman. Every day, I punched trees to collect firewood and caught fresh fish by sitting beside a babbling brook and engaging in a QTE-based minigame. A sequence of fifteen or higher bagged a sizeable trout, while a score of four or less meant I’d be chewing on a sticklebacks stickles and wondering whether it had been wise to leave all of the pot-based snacks at home.
During my break, I maintained radio silence, telephone silence and internet silence. I expected to return to a changed world, in which new genres had replaced old, and the Oculus Rift had been reduced to the size and weight of a pair of pince-nez spectacles. Instead, the first thing that greets me is a 4X strategy game set in space. Previously known as Star Lords, Lords of the Black Sun is of familiar stock, but it is still capable of capturing my interest.
The big claims from developers Arkavi relate to AI and randomisation. As regards the former, computer-controlled civilisations will follow the same rules of play as humans. No cheating, no shortcuts, no special treatment. I tend to feel that having a system of rules that supports intelligent artificial intelligence speaks well of those rule systems as well as the intent of the designers. Cutting out unusual AI behaviour in a strategy game isn’t the same as eliminating rubber-banding in a racing sim – it’s as much a stress test of the strategic simulation, ruleset and world creation as it is a means of balancing what is ‘fair’ and what is exciting.
There are plenty of systems to test in Lords of the Black Sun. Not only is the universe generated at the beginning of each game, tech trees and units are randomised as well. Diplomacy – so often as malnourished as an honest ambassador – is receiving plenty of attention as well, and should be robust enough to support secret plots and the unique traits of the eight major races.
Should you tire of the AI’s devious ways, multiplayer is supported “via LAN or IP/internet”. The game is out now and if I didn’t have a million other things to do (first on the list – file patent for pince-nez VR machine), I’d probably be playing it right now.