Sword of the Stars: Born of Blood Review (PC)

An epic expansion in terms of shear challenge, it could easily have even the most hardened empires tremble and sobbing like a girl scout.

Galaxies can be enormous, and in funny shapes

Some rather bestial new avatars on the prowl

Sword of the Stars is unique from other turn-based space empire titles out there, the enormous sizes of the galaxies and their shapes set it apart. Players of the original will already be familiar with this but for those still in the dark, space is all 3D here and not just in terms of pretty graphics. The planets span all through the x,y and z axis making for a very realistic and challenging mechanic to work with.

It can be very daunting to new players and not just because of the amount of rotating and squinting you’ll be doing, but because the game carries some brutal events. While the original had its moments they pale in comparison to the spontaneous terror your empire can suddenly find itself in. Expanding is always key to securing new resources and to intimidate your opponents lesser galactic kingdoms. Usually you need only really worry about other empires but now more vicious events can come stomping through.

The Zuul are the meanest race in town now, they are slavers and make no apologies for being so. They look down upon all other species and seem them merely as additional resources to be exploited. They’re on a quest and don’t intend to let any fledgling sentient get in their way for long. The intro movie to this expansion is fantastic and it really does set the mood for how badass they are, plus their voices are just perfect.

The Zuul have very disembowelling designs
New and far more deadly encounters

Unlike the other empires, the Zuul have a ‘strip-mine’ mentality to their worlds so they have to keep expanding as they leave planets behind entirely devoid of resources. This means it would be better to play as another race if you’re new to the game, getting to grips with more ‘normal’ empires is hard enough without having the added pressure of always needing be on the move.

There’s some new tech to be researched, the array of weaponry has stepped up and are a great compliment to the new and snazzier battle graphics. When a ship goes critical now you get treated to a more befitting lightshow. The new Zuul can actually reverse engineer other empires technology and slap them onto their own ships. Slavers and thieves too, they really mix up strategies. What with facing off against this new threat and more dangers of randomised events, comfortable and proven strategies have become an endangered species.

Piracy! Born of Blood now adds trade routes and all the rewards and curses that come with them. You get make some cash from these but space-faring pirates can bleed profits dry, luckily you can assign escorts. Of course this also distracts resources away from any potential war efforts, unless you’re striving for the olive branch approach.

You can bark and whisper new diplomatic options at opponents or allies now, these can range from a handy “get your mitts off my future planet” to “you see that twinkling world over there? Yeah? Let’s raid the joint!” Of course the precise alien translation may differ (slightly) but you get the idea, more diplomacy means more ways to tangle your enemies up in bureaucracy – or you could just go in guns blazin'.

Battles have been given an X-Factor makeover
New diplomacy options, so chill out man/fish/reptile

These included features add a lot of new and much tougher challenges; this is not a very friendly expansion to new players. If you haven’t played Sword of the Stars before then really you’d be better getting to grips with the original before attempting to graduate through Born of Blood. One thing I always love about this game is the clean and lean UI, while notably still; navigating the 3D galaxy is far from a walk in the park.

Top Game Moment:
The Zuul’s voice-overs have got to be the coolest in existence.

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