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RPG Codex Review: Drox Operative: Invasion of the Ancients

RPG Codex Review: Drox Operative: Invasion of the Ancients

Review - posted by JarlFrank on Fri 10 January 2014, 04:28:01

Tags: Drox Operative; Drox Operative: Invasion of the Ancients; Soldak Entertainment

Some of you might remember Drox Operative, Soldak Entertainment's Diablo clone in space that introduced elements of 4X strategy to create a dynamic game world. Recently, it received an expansion called Invasion of the Ancients that aims to expand the game's content and add a few new features to freshen it up. The Ancients mentioned in the expansion's title were races that ruled the galaxy before the Drox appeared, and were then destroyed and subjugated by the Drox with the help of their operatives. Now, with the powerful Drox gone and only the much weaker guild of their operatives left, the Ancients return to take their rightful place as rulers of the galaxy yet again.

Some minor additions

Thus far the plot of the expansion. But beside the big event of invading ancients, it adds a few other, more minor things to the game. The expansion adds a new playable race (that also appears as a computer-controlled space empire, of course) and several new monsters as well as new items to add some variety. I hadn't played Drox Operative between the original release and the expansion and, to be honest, I didn't really notice these new additions. While there are some monsters that behave differently, and some new weapons with different effects - such as swarm missiles that break into multiple missiles that chase down enemies - the basic tactics used to defeat the new enemies (and to apply the new weapons) remains the same: keep moving, dodge enemy projectiles and just keep firing whatever weapons you have equipped until your opposition is dead. There is one new enemy type, however, that I did notice: pirates who would approach your ship, steal some of your credits and then flee. Of course, you can chase them down and retrieve your lost credits, but you have to be quick.


Another addition in the same vein are microchips. These are similar to gems in Diablo II - you can install them on socketed items to add a certain bonus to that item. It's a welcome addition of a familiar concept used in many other Diablo-clones, but again, it's a very minor addition with little impact on the gameplay itself. There is one minor addition that does have more of an impact on gameplay, though - the new starbases, large space stations with a ton of armour and hitpoints that take a lot of effort to destroy. Starbases owned by the neutral "monster" faction can even start uprisings and become dangerous enough for one of the factions to give you a quest to destroy them.



Drox Guild Quests

One of the two major additions are the Drox Guild Quests. Previously, the Drox Guild was just a backdrop, with zero involvement in the actual game. Sure, you were its operative and had the goal to lead your guild to victory, but the guild itself didn't actually do anything. Now, it will occasionally offer you quests that have to be completed in order to win the game. The quests are often of a diplomatic nature - the guild once asked me to cause a war between two factions, for example. Which was easier said than done, as I hadn't even made contact with one of the two factions yet, and since the Drox Guild Quests are timed, they can make you feel pressured, especially when you don't even meet the basic requirements to start the quest yet. They do add some direction to the game's sandbox gameplay, though, and it's nice to see the guild you're supposed to conquer the galaxy for actually play an active gameplay role, rather than just existing in the background.

The Ancients Invade

The most interesting addition, however, are the invasions of the ancients that give the expansion its title. They don't tend to happen very often, especially as they are a late-game event, but they do manage to stir things up and bring some fresh air into the later stages of the game. They appear without warning, invade solar systems and destroy everything in their path, potentially changing the balance of power completely. Up to now, the Humans and the Dryads have been the most powerful empires in your game? Well, the ancients just destroyed two of their solar systems each, and it took them less than ten minutes. Their appearance can be a real game changer for the factions you're trying to manipulate, and they might very well screw up your plans on how to best deal with the factions due to the effect they can have on the balance of power between these factions.


And they are as dangerous to the player as they are to the AI factions. Their ships are fast and strong, and unless you have a high level and good equipment, you won't stand a chance against them. They are a great late-game challenge for experienced players, and they really manage to shake things up and make the game interesting again. In order to defeat them, you'll have to forge alliances and plan your attacks carefully. It's impossible to deal with them diplomatically, so fighting them is the only way - and they might very well be the strongest enemies in the entire game.


While Invasion of the Ancients adds some new features and quite a lot of new content to the game, most of it is really just "more of the same" and doesn't add anything new to the table. The two major additions, the Drox Guild Quests and especially the Invasions manage to give the game some much-needed variety, but the Invasions only fire later in the game and are basically high level content, so it takes a while to encounter them when you create a new character. So, is the expansion worth getting? That entirely depends on your experience with the base game. If you already got bored by the base game and need some really fresh additions to make you play it again, skip it. Essentially, the expansion just adds more content and even the new major features don't change the gameplay significantly. This expansion is only worth buying if you really enjoy the game and want a challenge for your high level characters and a more interesting and less predictable late game. This, it definitely manages to provide.

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