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- Written by Steven Carter
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Page 1 of 2Introduction
Drox Operative is the latest "sandbox" action RPG from Soldak Entertainment. Unlike Soldak's other offerings, which haven't strayed too far from traditional fantasy settings, Drox Operative takes place in space with you controlling a space ship. Moreover, while you spend your time killing enemies, completing quests, and gathering loot -- the things you'd expect to see in an action RPG -- the factions populating the sector of space you're in try to gain dominance by exploring their surroundings, colonizing worlds, and defeating their opponents. That is, you're playing a space action RPG while the factions are playing a 4X game, and the combination makes Drox Operative unique.
As a game reviewer, I'm always happy when a game tries new things, and so "unique" is a quality adjective from me. But for those of you reading this review, you're probably more interested in "fun," and sadly that adjective is a little but tougher to gauge. Keep reading to find out why.
When you start a game of Drox Operative, you have to pick a race for your ship. There are ten choices for this, including Human, Dryad (peaceful plant-like creatures), and Drakk (aggressive dragon-men). Each race comes with a set of passive bonuses, and they also control some of the components (the Drox equivalent of equipment) that you can install on your ship. As an example, Humans give bonuses to damage and accuracy, and they add components for a mine weapon, a boost to computer systems, and a human crew member. Crew members are special components that gain experience along with your ship, and over time improve the bonuses they provide.
Each time your ship gains a level, you're given five "crew points" to assign to the attributes of your ship. These attributes include Command, Computers, Engineering, Helm, Structural, and Tactical, and they function roughly the same as the standard attributes (Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, and so forth) that you see in other RPGs. For example, Tactical controls how much damage you do, and so it's about the same as Strength, while Structural controls how much damage your ship can take, and so it's about the same as Constitution. Your rank in each attribute also controls the components you can install, and so all attributes are important for all ships.
The most unique attribute is Command. It controls the size of your ship. You start out with a light cruiser, but over time you can grow it into a dreadnaught -- and perhaps beyond. As your ship size increases, you gain more space for components, but you also take a penalty to your Defense and you increase your Weight, and so you have to be careful not to grow your ship too quickly, or else you might end up with a slow sitting duck.
There aren't any classes in Drox Operative. The only thing that really changes from one ship to the next is the weapon you choose to use. Options for this include lasers, missiles, ballistics, fighter bays, mines, viruses and more -- or some combination thereof. However, while there are plenty of choices, it only seems like three of the weapons -- lasers, missiles, and ballistics -- work for your core attacks, and the others play more of a secondary role (and since component space is so limited, you might not be able to use a secondary weapon at all). Worse, missiles are slow and can be shot down, and ballistics frequently miss, so lasers seem like a required part of every ship, which hurts the replay value of the game. Of course, you can spend hundreds of hours playing Drox Operative with a single ship, so replay value isn't as important here as it is with other games.
Drox Operative also doesn't have anything that's the equivalent of a skill or spell. All you do in combat is fly around and shoot your weapon(s). This can be entertaining for a while, but since the game is about 90% combat, the lack of options in this area eventually leads to Drox Operative becoming overly repetitive.
Drox Operative does not come with a campaign. Instead, you select some options and create a sector of space to play in, and then after winning (or losing) in that sector, you move on to a new sector and repeat the process. Unlike Din's Curse, which gave a whole lot of options for each game, Drox Operative is more minimalistic. You can control the number of planetary systems, the number of factions, and how established the factions are (which basically means how many planets they have under their control), but that's it, and so each game feels a lot like the others. There are also some "challenge" sectors, but they're identical to regular sectors except that the starting options are already picked for you.
Your goal in each sector is not to defeat the other factions. You don't control any worlds or gather any resources (other than money). You just have your lone ship. Instead, each sector has a fixed set of winning conditions. You can ally yourself with the last remaining faction (a military win), you can ally yourself with the last remaining alliance of factions (a diplomatic win), you can earn enough credits (an economic win), you can defeat enough faction ships and planets (a fear win), or you can defeat enough neutral ships and bosses (a fame win). There are also losing conditions -- including spending too much money and being at war with everybody -- but they're difficult to achieve.
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