reviews\ Nov 16, 2004 at 7:00 pm

Star Sonata - PC - Review

Star Sonata is a fun game set in a 2D universe.  In this day and age, where everything is going 3D and trying to dazzle the player with graphics, Star Sonata is a more casual game for the casual player.  With the easy-to-learn controls and involving character development it is definitely worth a look if you enjoy empire building and player versus player intrigue.  Combined with the free starter period (until you reach 20th level) Star Sonata is worth a look if you are between games or looking for something new.


Star Sonata uses a thrust interface that any fan of Asteroids will remember.  Your ship has three controls for movement:  left, right, and forward.  This can make maneuvering a bit awkward until you get the hang of it, but once it works you’re set.  The game also has a click-based interface for movement that simplifies the system for players.  (This comes in handy since the first thing your ship does is come to a complete halt.  If you’re drifting across the star-scape unable to move in the direction you want it’s a useful feature.)


Like many games Star Sonata allows a player to advance through combat.  Each level earns you skill credits that can be used to purchase new skills.  This leaves the avatar creation open to anything the players desire.  You can choose to create an ace fighter pilot, a canny trader, or a master station manager.  New weapons, ships, and other equipment are unlocked based on your skills.  For example as your piloting skill increases the size, speed, and maneuverability of the spacecraft you can fly increases.


Screen Shot for Star Sonata


Another interesting feature is the ability to have NPC units that follow your orders.  There are skill restrictions on deploying NPC’s, but players have the ability to create and deploy automated ships and space stations.  Ships can be anything from warships that patrol an area to trade vessels that constantly ferry goods from one end of the galaxy to the other.  Space stations can be deployed with orders to defend themselves when attacked or even to attack potentially hostile units on sight.


Like any online game players need to get cold, hard cash to afford their equipment.  In Star Sonata money is generated by running trade routes or by shooting down enemy vessels.  The system is similar to Earth and Beyond, but with a very important difference.  In E&B players had to sit by their keyboards and run those trade routes for hours to make the money they needed.  In Star Sonata all you need to do is work up to the point where you can start deploying your own AI fleet.  I found the idea of letting the game do all the work for me fairly attractive.  I’m sure anyone with a trader’s gleam in their eye will agree.


Screen Shot for Star Sonata


The player base was very talkative during my time with Star Sonata.  There was always someone around to answer questions new players might have.  Most of the players I interacted with were friendly.  Still, keep an eye out when you fly through the world of Star Sonata.  Outside of the protected systems other players can attack you at will.  As I found out, it pays to be polite when hunting in a new territory.  Players can be helpful letting you know what to expect, but they can also blast you if you try stealing their kills or their loot.  I watched one disagreement about hunting rights escalate into a firefight. 


Star Sonata is an interesting game that is worth a look if you are a fan of the space-ship genre.  It is an easy game to pick up, but mastering the intricacies can keep a player occupied for hours.  There is a wide variety of ways to customize your avatar, from skills your avatar has to the ship they pilot, complete with weapons, shields, and a host of accessories you can attach.  You can even create and deploy your own space stations and AI ships to defend your territory or run trade missions for you.  If you are looking for a game that lets you develop your own empire and take over the galaxy, Star Sonata might be right up your alley.


Review Scoring Details


Gameplay:  8.0

The controls for Star Sonata are easy to learn, character creation is completely customizable, and there are some interesting options for controlling your own AI fleets and space stations.  Added to that there is a system for joining forces with other players to form teams.  The gameplay for Star Sonata is definitely above average.


Graphics:  7.5

The graphics are very well done for a 2D game.  The only reason I’m not scoring this higher is because most of the competition is using 3D games.  Even so, I still enjoyed poking around and taking a look at everything the game has to offer.


No, I didn’t get shot down because I was too busy checking out the various ships people could get.  Why do you ask?


Sound:  7.0

The sounds for Star Sonata are about what I would expect from this type of game.  They are decent, but some of the weapons’ fire sounds can be a little “chirpy.”  The soundtrack also falls into the good, but not really outstanding category.


Difficulty:  Medium

Learning the game is fairly easy.  Running your first few trade runs is really easy.  Figuring out how to make AI ship and stations work for you?  That is a little tougher.  Also this game is winnable by becoming the Emperor which requires you to “win” against all the other human players online.  I’m thinking that might take a while..


Concept:  8.0

This kind of concept has been tried before.  Everyone will admit it.  Star Sonata seems to be rising above many of the pitfalls that have killed earlier games, and doing it well.  The skill system works well to let players develop the kind of characters they want and giving players the ability to deploy NPCs to take care of routine tasks like trade missions to raise money was a great addition.


Multiplayer:  8.0

The players I talked to were friendly and helpful.  Combined with the large number of options for NPC ships and stations there is always something to do.  Working with other players is a far better (and faster) way to reach your goals.  You do not have to group, but it is helps.


Overall:  7.7

Star Sonata is a 2D game trying to compete in a 3D genre.  It might look like it is at a disadvantage, but it's not.  The character development system has depth, there are dozens of ways to reach your goals, and having controllable NPC’s available to run trade routes for the players is a definite plus.  I’d recommend Star Sonata to anyone looking for a casual game to play, or anyone who enjoys trying to take over the galaxy.  With the free trial period, what have you got to lose?


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