Ntronium Games developed and Iceberg Interactive published Armada 2526 for the PC. With the expansion, Supernova having just been released, new life is being brought to this turn based strategy game. Armada 2526 is all about a bunch of races attempting to spread across the universe and accomplish their goals to win. While the Supernova expansion adds so many things to the game I will be splitting this review into two sections: Armada 2526 and Armada 2526: Supernova.
Armada 2526 without the Expansion:
Armada 2526 is a 4X space game reminiscent of games like Civilization. Everything is done in turns. You will meet other races and have the options of diplomacy as well as open war for dominance. This game has a fairly robust diplomatic set of options available to you, not to mention a large tech selection and a real-time battle system, on top of its turn based aspects. We’ll start with the tutorial because even for veterans of this genre you can always learn something new.
First off I have to say the Tutorial was very informative and helpful in a lot of ways. Like a lot of tutorials at first it forces you to follow certain steps. It pretty quickly moves you to the point where you’re doing more and more one your own. After you reach the end of the major lessons your on your own to finish the match. Which is you and two other races and your goal to win is to destroy one of those races. It still gives you helpful information as you find new systems and objects so you never get to lost even after it says now take out the enemy to finish the tutorial. This is a task I failed at miserably at, but I learned a lot about diplomacy, researching technologies, fighting battles, and even some strategies by watching how the enemy AI decided to stomp me into the ground. Now some people might wonder why a tutorial would be that difficult I thought it was great because it gave me a much better idea of what I would face in the other scenarios.
Selecting new game offers up 4 Scenarios; Kull 2 Players, The Rim 17 Players, Tutorial, 3 Players, and Twelve Races 12 Players. All are set to run for 500 turns. You can also start a custom game. The Custom game, allows you to set up 104 Players, The Difficulty, number of turns, The Map to use or to use a randomly made map. You control the star density as well as whether the stars are mostly centrally located or spread throughout the map. All the players you chose to have, You can pick their race and factions. Since there are some pre-made factions in the game and 12 races to chose from. You can also set which players are AI and which are players in the hotseat mode of play. Since the game is turn based all players can play from the same PC in with hotseat turned on. Without the expansion this is your only way to play with others.
All the races have different victory conditions. Some races even lose victory points for destroying other races. These differences force you to change tactics while playing these different races. It also effects how you will deal with them when you meet them amongst the stars. Armada supports a large selection of stars you can run into some of which you need special ships to create colonies on. With over 100 technologies to research you are pushed to focus on certain technologies to gain the upper hand against the computer AI’s. This is very important as that the AI’s are not push overs and really can be quite aggressive.
Building new colonies to expand your range of space you can view as well as colonize is how you progress across the star map. With a number of building types for your colonies to build some being dependent on the solar system your building them in. You are left with a number of options as well as reasons to transport people from one colony to another. To build the next building. It won’t let you build more buildings than your people can support So keeping a good population amongst your colonies is important.
When you go into battle you have two options. The first option is to just let the computer figure out who would win, for players looking to play a more speedy game this is nice and what I was used to in most games of this genre. The other option is more of a real-time tactile battle where you can select groups of ships and tell them what enemy ships to target as well as what formation to use. This is a fairly complex system to get used to, but can be very advantageous to get used to. The enemies battle tactics are usually pretty straight forward so getting good at this can definitely give you a better chance at beating the odds.
To top all this off the game has a map editor built into it, so you can build your own universes to play your custom games on. The map editor is pretty easy to use even with it’s many options available to select. If you’re looking to do more than just make a map, well the game supports modifications. With a majority of the game being in easy to read and edit XML documents you can add/remove a lot of things to this game and how it plays. Ntronium Games website’s forum helps you out with this and provides links to some mods already out there for the game.
Without the expansion this game is a 4 out of 5. I would have rated this a 5 out of 5 because it is just such a great game, but it is one that is not easy to play unless you are a fan of this genre. This difficulty curve and it’s lack of multiplayer support outside of sharing the same computer I think really hurts it and would detour many. Thankfully the expansion addresses the multiplayer issue.
Armada 2526 with the Supernova Expansion:
At first I looked at Supernova as something of a mod to the game, but it really is much more. It changes aspects of the planets, adds new races, more technologies, but above all it adds LAN and Play By Email support for those dying to play against other fans of the game.
So the two races it adds are a floral and a crab race. The crab race deals better with oceanic planets, but overall the races are more of a bonus than anything too special. I am sure a dedicated modder could add races to the game and have similar results. The expansion also adds a lot more technologies to pursue and changes up the tech tree a little, this allowed them to add a number of other features and tweaks to the game, like a new scenario the Triangle.
At this point the expansion doesn’t seem to be all that special, but it does a lot more. The planet changes are a huge change in my eyes. Now planets are oceanic, or a number of other types. These types of planets have more pluses in some areas and negatives in other areas. This isn’t all that has changed with the planets you colonize though. Now special events like solar flares in a system can stop ship movement, or a planet with old tech found on it could increase it’s ability to research certain techs on that planet. There are some planets that you people will believe are cursed and as a result buildings can be damaged for no reason, the rate of growth can slow down and other bad effects. You can also find planets that have features that speed up the population growth rate or attract tourists and can help increase you profits.
Visually some things have changed one of which is the colony window which shows you what type of planet it is from it’s background. This can be distracting when trying to read the number of units you have on a planet or what buildings you’ve already built. In a game with as many options as this one has it does help you see quickly what might be the best thing to build on that planet.
With the new planet system, and updates to the technologies and diplomatic aspects as well as the new races you are getting a lot out of this expansion. I can’t stress enough how much the new planet system improves the game though. Even with all this, when you install the expansion the original game is still remaining and available to play as well as the expansion is also moddable. So you can update any old mods to work with the expansion and get some of the best of both the old and the new.
Would I recommend getting this expansion, my answer is a simple, but emphatic yes. If you enjoyed Armada 2526 before the expansion, You will surely enjoy what the expansion brings to this game. Just don’t get it for the new races alone, they aren’t really game changing, it is all the other aspects that makes this expansion so worth getting. As far as an expansion goes I would say it is a must have for anyone who has the game or plans to pick it up.
With the expansion this game is a 4.5 out of 5. I love it, with the added functions this game only got better. The only reason I can’t give it a 5 is it is still a game that I feel some people couldn’t handle the sheer amount of things to keep track of or might get annoyed by the time the game takes.
I can’t wait to start working on my own mod to the game.