Armada 2526 Review
Over the years, there have been numerous successful and fun 4X space strategy games (Sins of the Solar Empire and Sword of the Stars), and Armada 2526 wants to capitalize on these successes, and bring the genre to a wider audience with more accessible gameplay.
For the uninitiated, the term 4X stands for eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate, and the player will do just that in Armada 2526. There are four scenarios to pick from, each one being a differently sized map, offering as small as only two colonies, all the way to up 17.
The first step to colonizing is to explore, and you do this all on a 2D plane. The Ark Ship is your primary tool for exploration of uninhabited worlds and colonizing them as well. It then has to be populated which means shuttling citizens from your main colony to your newly found lands.
Expanding is done not only through colonizing worlds, but through building different structures, contacting alien colonies, making alliances, or doing it the old fashioned way and duking it out spaceship to spaceship. But before we get to the nitty gritty of combat, a bulk of the game is actually focused on building up your varied colonies. A technology tree gives the player access to more powerful ships and structures.
Becoming the ruler of the universe isn’t cheap, and money isn’t the only thing the player will be managing. Happiness, popularity, security, and population growth are among some of the things the player will have to constantly monitor and maintain, through the building of certain structures and setting taxes. Each alien species (or humans) have certain needs, likes and dislikes, and it is up to the player to exploit these (another X in the equation) to their fullest potential.
Not everything can be done diplomatically of course, and requires a strong hand. Armada has a large variety of ships at your disposal ranging from small fighters, to medium corvettes, all the way up to gigantic dreadnaughts. Like the overworld map though, the battles are also done on a 2D plane, but can be viewed from a 3D perspective. The ships lack the detail and polish that are standard in 4X games, and this is where the game falls apart. Not because of the bland presentation, but rather, because it becomes a “he who has more ships wins” scenario. Real time battles require you to move and attack accordingly, while a timer counts down, revealing the winner based on most ships destroyed, but the same outcome is achieved through auto battles, making the whole affair unnecessary.
Armada’s accessibility ensures that many people who maybe have been wary of jumping onto the 4X bandwagon, will be able to enjoy themselves. On the other hand, it’s just not up to today's standards graphically, especially when looking back at the fantastic Sins of the Solar Empire, the overall 2D graphical style seems to be a step back in the space strategy genre. Still though, varied alien races with different needs and requests means each play through will require different strategies, giving the game a great amount of replay value.