Games of the Year

Star Dynasties

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About the GameHumanity had just taken its first tentative steps in space, when the catastrophic destruction of Mother Earth plunges the galaxy into a new Dark Age. Centuries later, those few surviving colonies have stabilised into a simple feudal society, unable to comprehend or advance the technological artefacts they use to survive. Internecine fights between an aristocratic elite decide the fate of the scattered fragments of human kind.

As the leader of a faction of star systems, you must seek to ensure the survival and prosperity of your dynasty. Expand your empire, herd your unruly vassals, build political alliances, and navigate a web of agendas, political intrigue and social obligations, to emerge as the dominant power of the galaxy.

Forge Your Dynasty - One Generation at a Time

Your campaign will span through generations of your bloodline. Customise a faction leader and launch your quest for galactic domination. Even if you set out as a benevolent upstart duke, your great-grandchild may be cruel and vindictive. You’ll have to be ready to adapt to the strengths and weaknesses of your descendants.

Star in Your Own Space Opera

A feudal society is built upon strict rules and values. It will be expected of you to defend your vassals, protect your family and respect your neighbours. Act honorably and you can seduce the court of public opinion. Ingratiate yourself with others by throwing lavish feasts and solidify your alliances through marriage. Then strike ruthlessly when you can get away with it. Depose your unruly barons, threaten and force concessions from other dukes, and blackmail other characters to get what you want. Unearth the secrets of your enemies to ruin their political standing in a galaxy where reputation is everything.

Experience a Rich Galaxy of Emergent Characters and Storylines

You’ll be kept on your toes by a procedurally generated cast of hundreds of characters, each one trying to achieve their own personal goals. As events transpire, the choices you make can have a major impact not just on you; but on your heir, your house, and the fate of your empire.

Reign Among the Ruins of a Forgotten World

The remnants of humanity live inside structures which they cannot build, and travel inside machines whose workings are unfathomable. Expedition Events can grant you a piece of pre-Collapse knowledge; from the relics of a previous age of exploration, to the mysteries of the here and now. Improve your colony by repairing the pre-collapse buildings and installations you encounter to provide your people safety, food and other necessities.

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Game Discussion

Review by Anonymous
Review from Steam

As they say every person has their ideal game, at least plays closely to their preferred method of play. This would be mine.
This is a long review.
TL DR; Its fun, its slow, amazing game for a methodical slow player. Terrible for anyone who just wants to get things done quick.
So start off with some simple things for the recommendation. Things that people might like and might not like.
Things to Like:
Space Opera, enough generic events to make the game feel "alive".
Super character driven.
Choices matter and even with RNG if you play it carefully you can recover from serious setbacks.
Well thought out character trait system. Well populated with events and outcomes.
Things to dislike:
Army control can be quite confusing. War in general requires a lot of planning.
Favourite characters will die in stupid ways at times.
So many choices that you need to pass on if you want to remain stable.
Very slow game.
For me personally none of the down sides really stop me from enjoying the game. I like a steep learning curve, I like random curve balls and I do enjoy events even if I have seen them before because they are generic enough that they could happen to multiple characters without it seeming odd. The war part of the game confused me to no end but after spending some time waging battles I finally got the hang of it. I finally finished a full play through with a hidden victory type which was extremely satisfying. And it was a hard slog to get through some of the unstable times.
How the game plays:
Its a turn based grand strategy game, kind of like crusader kings minus a lot of the control you normally have. Its set in a sci fi post disaster future where humanity is struggling to live in space and you are a duke trying to attain greater glory for your family house (and yourself in the process). Like CK you play through the heir as the current house head dies. And you have relationships with other dukes around you and you politic, espionage and war your way to dominance in the galaxy. That is where the similarities end.
The game is fully focused on your house and its members, family members and honorary members you allow in. You primarily juggle a balancing act of keeping your realm from ripping itself apart at the seams while trying to expand. Actions per turn limit how many things you can do. Characters and agents you can send out limit how many actions could be currently being completed at the same time. At times of great turmoil it can actually be better to do nothing at all and have a free house member for emergency events that can occur in between turns. So if you enjoy a more, RPGish, grand strategy game this could be for you.
As mentioned in the things to hate, the game on purpose limits actions per turn and has RNG that will cause your small realm of your vassals rip itself apart. This can happen so quickly that at times you will find yourself doing nothing, just so you can have some funds or agents prepared for the worst. This can be frustrating for the more carefree player. If you want things to happen, like, as soon as you decide to do them. Then it might not be the game for you. As that "snap decision making", that freedom, only really comes into play towards mid and end game. When you are swimming in cash, reputation and family members that you can actually make risky plays.
The reason why I loved this game so much was the focus on the characters, or the players in this space opera. Your leader will fall in love to people you don't want him to. Or her husband might be sucked out into the vacuum in a freak accident causing her to be depressed and reduce the action points you have. He might have vengeful thoughts about the people he hates. Or be insulted by her enemies just to have to handle a reputation hit. Having to handle bringing up the heir to follow in the next footsteps. Or having a heir who is too ready to rule who asks your current head of house to step down from power.
Half of the events are RNG the other half actually have very logical reasons for occurring. Once you look for the reasons behind why a play through fell over then it all starts to make a bit more sense. Definitely worth playing I am sure I will do multiple play throughs with various starts and focuses to see how my next Dynasty turns out. Even dying can be pretty entertaining as the realm starts to slide into complete ruin.
Highly recommend if you like a slow game that takes 20+ hours to finish a play through. That's like 162 turns. Even getting stable claims to planets takes like 70+ game turns to do. So I really mean you have to love a slow game with character driven plot and events to really enjoy the game.

Review from Steam

This game is amazing. The tutorial was far better than most and the game play loop is nearly perfect. I've been looking for a game to get excited about and this is the first in a long time to just totally grip me. I've got 39 hours now, but I just bought it a few days ago.
The stories that you generate by playing the game are memorable. Growing your house and your family is just fun. The backstabbing, the diplomacy, the war, all of it is fairly intuitive and just makes sense.
I have very few complaints, none that I feel need to be noted here. If you want a game that makes you feel like you are Reinhard von Lohengramm, this is it.

Review from Steam

Developer gets A+ for design choices, really well done.
Delightful game. Familiar enough to CK2 fans. Some important differences?
There are more and more interesting restrictions--design choices. These both focus gameplay and are cause for interesting decisions. For example:
- Surely you've had a house in CK2 or CK3 that was hogwild huge and individuals felt like meat slabs and statistics. In this game, you're limited to a certain number of house members. This is justified by the fiction but it is a good mechanic. You could go past the limit, but it is illegal and will cause people to not like you. So instead you have a smaller house and you care much more about every individual in the house.
- You only have one province for your personal demesne. This is justified by the fiction but a good mechanic. You care a lot more about personal relationships with vassals, and you care a lot more bout your home planet. Expansion is harder in many ways and you really need your vassals to like you.
- There is no casus belli system per se, but there kind of is, in that if you take an aggressive action without justification, you're going to lose reputation. There are degrees here too--a weak claim will blunt but not negate the reputation hit. And reputation is basically forever. You have to do something good to balance off something bad. People remember shit here.
-The Expansion has nifty ck3-style bloodline mechanic--good steal by the developer.
-There is an interesting alternative to a tech tree here, where you get events periodically based on how much you investigate tech. The events can be long term and have long term consequences for your doman. I really like this.
An example? In my present game I have secretly unlocked cloaking technology. This is a secret, and exposure of the secret harms my reputation (for being sneaky and underhanded). Also it leads to events and internal competition over who in my government gets to exploit the technology (military or intelligence?). There are other one off story events involving the technology. So tech, in this game, is an opportunity for story to happen, less than just flat bonuses.
There are enough familiar things that make the game accessible, but there are good design choices here that will make this a worthy time investment for anyone who liked CK2.
Downside is that sometimes it can be really hard to figure out how to best maximize on a sticky situation. But this opacity can play well, as it forces you to be like, okay, need to wait or I can act now and take a big reputation hit. This is an interesting choice, and on balance, I like it more than a clear path to victory.

Review from Steam

Crusader Kings in space. The comparison is worth mention. I heard some people say it's just a simpler CK2, but there are some differences worth noting.
First of all, it's a turn based game. This makes action limited, but usually meaningful (especially when it comes to war).
Also, diplomacy is weirdly more present than in Crusader Kings, with the ability to negotiate your involvement in someone else's war or annex others after making an offer they can't resist. That aspect alone was refreshing enough, as I enjoyed being able to squeeze cash or concessions from my vassals.
Fighting is a bit more strategic, as you can decide the tactic and need to consider which vassal will or will not show up, and if they can even show up, as far away system won't be able to join in. It's not just a number's game. Battles are usually a bigger deal than usual, and enemies might be willing to negotiate to avoid them.
Is it as in dept as Crusader Kings? Probably not, but it got enough to be enjoyable. If you like that kind of character focused game, then I recommend to play this!

Review from Steam

It's like playing the Succession Wars in Battletech, or if we want to get more technical, the Age of War- Various Noble Houses vying for supremacy after a cataclysm ruined our cradle. Backstabbing, betrayal, alliances, and all believing they're the rightful inheritors. I will not be surprised if the modding community don't create a conversion mod that let's you play out the Succession Wars.
Heck, My house is directly named from one of them (Free Worlds League) and It's CONSTANTLY building up and falling apart...which is insanely accurate. All and all- loving this game.

Review from Steam

Like the game, hate the fleet combat. They went with a dice roll system, which is fine (Crusader Kings uses dice rolls in combat as well), however, once you decide to declare war on another faction for some territory... it begins falling apart.
An example: You assigned your admiral with over 100 combat skill to lead your hundred warships to attack a system defended by half that fleet strength? And their fleet admiral has a skill of only 25?! Easy win- oh... You rolled a 10, they rolled a 40. Oh, you rolled a 12, they rolled 38. Oh, you rolled 21, they rolled 35. Oh... your fleet got destroyed by an admiral who was so bad he couldn't do anything except "Attack" whereas your admiral had 4 different tactics to choose from... and your admiral died too! Huh.
At first my solution to this was, "just copy CK." In that game, the skill level of generals impacts the dice rolls so a good general will tend to have higher dice rolls on average than a general with a low skill level. But that seems like such an obvious answer to this problem that I started to wonder whether it was in fact done like this on purpose to prevent the player from just making ridiculously high skilled admirals who simply cannot lose and whom the AI cannot ever match. Then we would go from one extreme to the other; having totally random outcomes in battles that would make Alexander the Great raise his eyebrows, to very predictable outcomes that you can see coming from 1000 light years away by just focusing nothing else on improving the combat skill of your admirals. Where is the middle ground?
The middle ground: Remove the dice (or hide it from the player). Make the tactics admirals choose the decisive factor in determining the outcome of a battle. Because that is how good admirals are "better" than bad ones in the current state; good admirals will have more tactics they can use in combat. The dice is only a frustration that breaks the game's immersion. What if two admirals who are rivals both choose the "Fight At The Front" tactic and because they are so determined to one-up each other, the losing admiral has a chance to ram his warship into his rival and kill them both? There is a lot you could do to convey the sense of a battle hard-won or a heroic last stand that would be more interesting than rolling dice and actually cater to the game's core strength which is gradually unfolding a story in front of you through a series of related events.
Alternatively, just fix the dice?
I know this sounds like a negative review but I am still giving this a thumbs up only because the other 99% of the game outside of how warfare proceeds is not bad and usually quite interesting. There are some quality of life things I wish for but those are minor gripes for the most part, and you learn to work around them (e.g. 5 mouse clicks to accomplish what should take only 1 or 2). Since it was the most annoying part of the game to me, I figured I would point that out for anyone one the fence.
From the foundation it is sitting on right now, the game has a lot of potential with future updates and DLC to become something I don't describe to people as "crusader kings lite, in spaaaace!" but rather "a unique experience from similar games, definitely worth your time."

Review from Steam

If Stellaris is EU IV (or maybe even EU V or EU IV point V) in space, Star Dynasties is turn based Crusader Kings II (not III, notably) in space. It's not a Paradox game, and has a distinct feel from a Paradox game. It's definitely lower budget and more streamlined, but what they do with that lower budget blows my mind. I feel like the dev team focused on exactly what they needed to, in exactly the right amounts, to make this game really soar. If you like turn based strategy, grand strategy, character-driven strategy, feudalism in space...you'll love this game. It's addictive, the One More Turn effect really kicks in hard when I'm playing.
I've played for 69 hours (nice) and I know I'm gonna clock a lot more. Lotta people will say "wait for a sale" in reviews, but this is well worth it at full price.

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