Drox Operative: Invasion of the Ancients Preview

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Eschalon: Book II

Release Date:2013-10-30
Platforms: Buy this Game: Amazon ebay
Drox Operative was an interesting little game released last year by Soldak Entertainment, the developer behind Din's Curse and Depths of Peril, two games that put a spin on the Diablo-style action-RPG by taking the random generation elements to extremes. I previewed Drox Operative some time ago and came away with the general impression that the game was still a bit rough around the edges, but was also likely Soldak's best game yet.

Of course, Drox Operative has hit its official release since then, and Soldak has been hard at work on Invasion of the Ancients, an expansion pack for Drox Operative that adds a healthy dose of freshness to the game. There are no new campaigns, storylines or even completely brand-new mechanics here - Invasion of the Ancients is an expansion in the most traditional sense, simply beefing up the original game with new content and features.

It's worth noting that like all of Soldak's titles, this expansion doesn't really adhere to a precise "release date". Invasion of the Ancients is available for purchase well before its "done", and this extended beta access allows the developer to get feedback on their games that can lead to radical changes. As such, while I don't think Invasion of the Ancients will change too much in the next few months, it's worth noting some of my concerns may also be rectified by the time that comes.

Invasion of the Ancients

The titular new element added in this expansion pack are the mysterious Ancients, old alien races long thought to be exterminated, now returned to the universe to take vengeance on the new rules of the stars. In theory, this should throw an interesting new element into the galactic relations - a faction that bypasses the diplomacy system and represents a threat to all races regardless of who they are could certainly spice things up.

As a rare random event, they will show up to stage invasions on the sector you're playing in, attacking in waves to wipe out entire solar systems. This introduces an interesting "monkey wrench" into the existing relations between races, as one particular faction you're courting might suddenly get half its empire wiped off the map if you weren't there to help protect it, forcing you to reconsider your plans for victory.

Unfortunately, if I'm to be honest, I found that this event was very uncommon and often hard to pay attention to. I didn't even see it until after I had got my ship leveled up significantly, after about a dozen separate games, and once it happened I had trouble following it. I missed the intiial announcement about the invasion, so while the game was constantly giving me news about new waves of attacks coming, I had no information on where to go to even see it. The second time I witnessed this event, things went a lot more smoothly and there were some interesting ramifications, like brand-new quests added as a result of the invasions, but I still feel the entire thing could be presented a little more coherently.

New Technology

There are also a sizable number of additions to gameplay that you may not notice at first.  One of my favorites are brand-new space stations, which take considerable time and resources to defeat and can have some interesting economic effects on the sector - don't be surprised if you can't defeat one immediately out of the gate, without first upgrading your ship. A particular race that builds an orbital defense station will suddenly become far more difficult to wage war on, while one that has a hydroponics station will receive big bonuses to its growth. Overall, the impact is relatively subtle, but still appreciated stuff that adds just a bit more variety to gameplay.

Likewise, there are a decent number of new monsters/enemies added to the game in Invasion of the Ancients, but those who have played Drox Operative also probably know that the differences between enemies tend to be minor. Ultimately these additions feel cosmetic at best, and while some of these enemies do have some unique capabilities, the tactics for fighting them remain the same as ever - fly around as quickly as you can to dodge missiles, while firing all weapons as fast as you can and chugging consumables over and over.