The original Star Sonata launched in late 2004, and has enjoyed continuously increasing popularity for seven years. Current players particularly enjoy the mixture of action and RPG elements along with the persistent sandbox nature of all the bases, colonies, and trading ships that players can control. It is like a hybrid of Asteroids, World of Warcraft, and Sim City. The small development team is very active with the community and has been developing Star Sonata 2 for 4 years.
Star Sonata 2 improves upon the original with 3D graphics, a greatly improved user interface, RTS-like controls for your ships, drones, and bases, inter-dimensional invasions that the players must cooperatively fight, expanded tech levels, and an amazing new musical score. It transforms the retro-style of Star Sonata 1 into a polished, modern MMORPG.
Star Sonata 2 – What We Think:
Star Sonata 2 (SS2) is Free-to-Play gaming as it should be – an open and inviting universe that you’re free to explore. A universe where you can climb to great heights without paying a dime. Are there a few extra places and things to do that you can only get by paying? Sure, but there’s so much to do without it that you probably won’t find it necessary. It feels more like that payment is a thank you to the developers, rather than a fee grudgingly handed over so that the game will stop being frustrating or annoying.
The initial sign-up process was a little less than intuitive, and upon launching the game, I had to wait for several screens that tested rendering and so on, and this happened every time I attempted to start up, connect etc. The game then preloaded all textures, and I was presented with a screen with nebulae, and tiny points for stars, some floating cloud layers and diminutive 3D models that reminded me of something from the era of Outpost.
Then a small icon of a sad-looking 2D robot pops up in the top left whose voice sounds like a 1-900 conversation with a stoned hippie girl and she is going to guide me through my tutorial phase (she literally drawls “Yeeeeeaaaah….we’re moving!” every time you leave a space port unless you switch her off in the options menu)…
In SS2 you take on the role of galactic pilot, either joining Earthforce as a cadet, or becoming a pirate. From such simple beginnings come boundless possibilities. Take on combat or trade related missions to earn enough cash and experience to train yourself up and build a modded out starship to kick some ass in. Build space stations and manage colonies that are all your own. Join groups in order to take on missions you couldn’t do on your own.
Sure, a lot of that sounds like typical MMO stuff, but there’s something to be said for the depth of design in SS2. Add to this the fact that the entire galaxy is reset every few months so that you can try to battle your way to dominance all over again and you’ve got a lot of potential. Unfortunately, I found all the depth seemed wasted on over-simplified gameplay.
Do you remember one of the first video games, Spacewar? Neither do I. Before my time. I do remember Asteroids, and later on Star Control 1 and 2. (Shut up! I’m not old!) Anyway,what these games all have in common with each other, as well as with SS2, is their basic control scheme: A top-down view of a spaceship that you “thruster” around a flat-screen playfield, attempting to shoot whatever stuff a quest has assigned to you, and trade things at the space station menus.
The flight controls can be maddening when trying to stay locked on targets. Basically, you have to keep correcting your heading and thrust to keep a bead on your objective. A well placed burst from a projectile can send your hurtling off in completely unintended direction, and by the time you’ve compensated, the enemy’s shields will likely have regenerated. You can right-click on a point on the map to engage auto-pilot, but this comes at the cost of any momentum you had built up. Is it true to space physics? Perhaps. Does it make for intuitive and enjoyable gameplay? It does not.
Ancient Space Dust
And that’s where SS2 finds itself: Stuck in the early 90’s. Even the graphics and sound evoke the era. I’m sure this is intentional, and I’m quite fond of a nostalgia trip, but I think it’s safe to say the throwback quality should begin and end with the atmosphere. I try to review a game on its merits, and there’s nothing functionally wrong with SS2, so I don’t want to slag on it just because I found it insanely dull. I can’t fathom why people like playing Farmville either, but I wouldn’t rate it poorly because I don’t ‘get it’.
The fact that the controls and basic gameplay mirror those old games had me struggling not to fall asleep while playing. Sure, there’s more for me to manage in SS2. Sure, I can buy more ships and sort of have a little RTS action going. In the end though, it’s me angling this tiny ship around going pew pew.
I know a review is supposed to give you a better idea as to whether or not a game is worth your time, and in this case I’m inclined to say it isn’t…though I would suggest you try it anyway. It’s going to cost you nothing and maybe the retro-themed control scheme will be more to your liking than it was to mine.