Expanding Known Space Dual Review and Giveaway (closed)

Eat My Battleship


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It is surprising the release of Expanding Known Space hasn’t made a bigger splash. There aren’t many well thought out turn-based strategy audio games for us to play. The latest release from Valiant Galaxy attempts to fill this void in the audio game world. Smoke and Hannibal are teaming up in a dual review to see if this release is a good addition to the audio game genre. There is a giveaway with this review, and All the details will be at the bottom of the post.


Disclaimer:
A two week full version of this game was given to the contributors of BSG for this blog post. This will not effect the review and final rating of this game.


Game Details


Developer’s Summary of the game

It is the year 2850, friction between the in dependant minded Interstellar Union and authoritarian Solarian Federation has broken out into full scale war. Millions will suffer and die during this horrendous conflict, but huge advances in ship design, reactor modification, robotics, medicine, and engineering will cause the Pax Solaris that will follow to be looked back on as a golden age of humanity. Less than 50 years after the end of the First Interstellar Wars, first contact will be made, and humanity will get a boost that will catapult it into the position of being one of the major players in galactic politics. However, that is in the future, right now, you have a war to win…

Read the rest of the description on ValiantGalaxy.com


Lets give it a play

This recording and game-play was done by Smoke. The Review that follows is from Smoke and Hannibal together.


The game-play

This is a turn-based strategy game. There are primarily two types of strategy games, real time and turn-based. A good example of a real time is sound RTS, a good example of a turn-based game is something like the classic game Risk. Expanding Known Space is a great example of what a turn-based strategy audio game should be. The game is broken down into turns…obviously. In each turn you make credits, buy new ships, set routs for your ships and fleets, colonize planets, enter into battles, and expand your empire.
Each planet gives different amounts of credits per turn depending on if it is ice, ocean, volcanic, earth like, or a space station. To make money from a planet you first have to send a colony ship to it and claim it. Sounds easy right? At first it is, but once you and the AI start developing fleets things get much more difficult. You have to start sending colony ships as part of a protective fleet, if you don’t they are easy pickings for the enemy.
There are also 6 types of ships, with each one serving a different and unique purpose. You can choose to go for speed, attack power, de fence, or a balance of both. In most games there are parts which don’t really need to be there, parts which could be removed without effecting the game. There isn’t any fat in this game, everything is pretty-well thought out and balanced.
If you like strategy games, especially if you enjoy turn-based strategy. You will enjoy this game quite a bit. It is quite addictive. There are so many different variations and difficulties you could get a large amount of play time for the $20.00 the game costs. Like with all games, There are some issues which we’ll go into in the next section.


Smoke & Hannibal’s thoughts

This is a deceptive game. It doesn’t seem to be too big, or difficult, but you soon realize you have no idea what you are doing when you get wrecked for the third time in a row. Hannibal found this out the hard way, but luckily there is a very nice Help file to get you up and running. Smoke let Hannibal get wrecked, and used his experience to manage a sloppy win his first try. When starting this game you really need to check out the help file, once, twice, maybe three times. Once you get use to all the key commands and turns, then you can start to focus on trying out different strategies. The help file even gives you two options, quick overview, or a detailed starting guide. You choose how you want to jump in.

We haven’t both played hundreds of rounds, but between us we’ve played about 20 total rounds. This comes out to around 20 hours, and the game just keeps getting better. As you play more and get use to the game it just gets better and more fun. You always want to try out a different strategy and figure out different ways to win the game. We did a few different types of rounds while reviewing this. Hannibal tried beating the game through different ways, military, colonization, economic, and capital control. Smoke played a couple styles of normal, then a round of long standard, this is when you need to colonize 90% of the map. This had all sorts of challenges, and was a lot of fun even on just normal difficulty. The demo only allows for 1 lightning round, this doesn’t really give a feel for the game. You can’t use any real strategy in this round. You get a slight feel for the game, but that is about it. More on this later.

When playing you can tell the game is well thought out and well balanced. Balance is the plague of the audio game world. So many audio games are not balanced and it ruins them. Though this is not online, balance is just as important with a strategy game. Thankfully This checks all the boxes, and we can see it holding up for quite along time after release.
The first issue we have to talk about is the elephant in the room. The biggest issue we had, and others seem to have with the game is the voice over. This is not the best voicing in an audio game, it can be jarring at first, but the game honestly makes up for it with how good it is. It is understandable that people have had issues, but trust us that you’ll be okay with it if you enjoy strategy games.
The second, and really the only other issue We both had was how the Y axis is backwards. As you go south in the game your Y axis goes up in value. It should be the other way around. When in the far south you should be at 0 on the Y,not 19. This makes it much more difficult to make a mental image of your planets and ships on the map. You do get use to it, but it is just an unnecessary hurdle when playing the game.

The last thing to mention is about the demo version. It is always good there is a demo available, but the demo only allows you to play in lightning round. As said above, this doesn’t really let you get a good feel for the game. We both think a better demo version would be to only allow someone to play standard mode but with 1 random or set victory condition. This would allow people to get a really good feel for the game but still not give them all it can offer like different AI, difficulties, and different victory conditions.

There are really only two issues we both had with this game. Overall it is good, it is really more than good. Most people are giving up before they can get into it just because of the voiceover, and that is a bit unfair. We as audio gamers don’t have many strategy games to choose from, even less turn-based strategy games. This is a great example of what a medium size strategy-game should be.


Suggestions

First off there should probably be a setting to switch the Y axis to normal instead of inverted. This shouldn’t be difficult and it would make for one less thing to get use to when playing.

The developer has already stated they are working on a way for people to add their own voice packs to the game. The game won’t self voice or use screen reader, but at least people who have an issue with the voiceover will have extra options. Because the developer is so proactive this isn’t even a suggestion, but it would have been.

One thing that would be a really nice addition to the game is a third faction. With a third faction it is not just 1 v 1, but each faction against the other two factions. This would allow for more challenges, and different victory conditions. It would just allow for more replay value if the next suggestion is not a possibility.

We both feel this game would be taken to the next level if you could play online against someone else. With any offline game you run out of content, this is just a fact of an offline game. If you could play online against a friend, with the same exact format, just where the turns sync up. the price of $20 for this game would be a drop in the bucket compared to how much fun it would be. On top of that the game would never get old, the opponents would always have a different strategy you could never get use to. This game more than others would really benefit from the addition of online matches.

Even with the two small issues we had, we really enjoyed playing the game. We have already both decided we’ll be buying copies of the game once the review period runs out. This is also why there is a giveaway as part of this review, the game is just worth it.


Conclusion & Rating

This is a really good game, and it is well worth at least trying the demo. The price tag of $20 is worth all the content, and hours of playtime you will get with the game. Even as just an offline game it is well worth the price. If it ever does go online $20 would be a steal of a price.
This is just a good game, there isn’t much more to say. Go download the game and give it a try. Then come back and let us know what you thought of it.

Hannibal’s Rating: 8.5/10
Smoke’s Rating: 9/10

The Giveaway


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