Sword of the Stars: A Murder of Crows PC DVD
Published by: Lighthouse Interactive
Developed by: Kerberos Productions
Release Date: Out Now
Sword of the Stars: A Murder of Crows is the second official expansion for Kerberos Productions' Sword of the Stars, the 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit and eXterminate) strategy game that featured turn-based empire management with pause-able real-time battles. It's an expansion that adds a wealth of new content, including a new playable race, new weapons, new technologies and more diplomacy options amongst other things, generally making the game a more satisfying experience. A Murder of Crows doesn't completely make up for all of the deficiencies of Sword of the Stars however and there are still some areas of the game that could be improved upon.
Perhaps the most important new feature in A Murder of Crows is the new playable race, the Morrigi, which means you now have a total of six playable races. The Morrigi are actually quite an ancient race and have, according to records, an extensive history of interstellar travel. They were dubbed the 'Crows' by the humans that first encountered them due to the shape and attack patterns of their attack drones. Of course having a new race to play as represents a whole new way to play the game. The Morrigi have their own technologies such as the faster-than-light engine called the Void Cutter which essentially allows large Morrigi fleets to move very quickly indeed (the more ships in a fleet, the quicker they travel). Naturally, the Morrigi also have their own vehicles, weapons, technologies and diplomatic options which make them interesting to play as.
A Murder of Crows isn't just about the Morrigi, additional technologies and diplomacy options etc. New Encounters, which essentially means new random encounters, means you're bound to get a surprise when you least expect it and have your trade routes and general security threatened from time to time. Planetary Bombardment and Planetary Surrender are two worthy additions to the game. Previously only an empire could surrender whilst now individual planets can surrender to you, which makes much more sense. Various other aspects of the game have been tweaked or enhanced. Previously only the Zuul could have slaves. Now any race can have slaves as the Zuul, when captured, will become slaves as it's impossible to incorporate them into your general population. You can now ask other races how they feel about your interactions with them and this gives you a better idea of whether they are warming toward your empire or not. There are quite a few other things too, such as the increased role of spies in the game and tweaks to the reinforcement systems. In fact there's much too much to go over here but suffice to say most of the new additions serve to enhance the overall experience and Sword of the Stars fans will certainly be happy with the additions and changes.
Sword of the Stars wasn't anything special in terms of the quality of its graphics and A Murder of Crows certainly doesn't do anything to change that. In fact when compared to most strategy games that have been released over the last few years it all looks quite basic. The user interface is also rather lacking and could have been more user friendly. I found that it lacked polish and it wasn't as intuitive as it could have been. Whilst the dynamic tech trees are nice, I don't see the point of them being 3D and revolving especially when it makes navigating them more cumbersome than a standard 'flat' tech tree. The 3D battles do look quite good however and when you have a large scale conflict it can look very dramatic.
A Murder of Crows, like Sword of the Stars, won't cause deaf gamers any real problems but it's not as deaf gamer friendly as it could have been. In the game's tutorial section you'll find some text tutorial messages, that are by no means comprehensive, and some rather useful video clips that go into a lot more detail of how to make the most of the game. These tutorials do a lot to negate the rather unintuitive nature of the interface as they show you exactly how to make use of everything. Sadly these movie clips are not subtitled and are therefore useless for deaf gamers. During the main game there's quite a bit of verbal only feedback when you issue orders and choose a technology to research and so forth and deaf gamers will not be aware of this. You do get text info that scrolls across the bottom of the screen and you can usually get more information by double clicking on this scrolling text.
Those who have already sunk many hours into Sword of the Stars will surely appreciate what A Murder of Crows has to offer. The addition of the Morrigi and the challenge they bring will also revitalise the interest of those who maybe haven't played Sword of the Stars for a while. The other new additions go some way to adding more richness to the experience. A Murder of Crows doesn't do anything to make the experience more user friendly however and if you didn't appreciate what Sword of the Stars had to offer there's nothing that's going to change your mind. Still expansions are designed to give fans of the original game a more satisfying experience and A Murder of Crows certainly achieves this.