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Sword of the Stars is a space 4X game developed by Kerberos Productions. In the game the player chooses one of four unique races to form an interstellar empire and conquer the galaxy. In order to win, the player must expand territory by colonizing new star systems, exploit the resources available to his colonies, design and build starships, and improve their empire's technology through research and strategy.
Sword of the Stars consists of turn based strategic gameplay highlighted by real time battles. Each of the four races has a unique method of strategic movement among other differentiators. Also the game provides a high amount of randomness from technology availability, to map features, to large scale independent threats. Sword of the Stars is fully multiplayer capable allowing players to leave and enter the game at-will. Finally a detailed ship design system and the simulation of combat using a physics based engine instead of probability calculation, provides a large variety in combat engagements.
The game was developed by Kerberos Productions, which was formed by a group of former Barking Dog Studios employees who had earlier worked on the game Homeworld: Cataclysm, an expansion to Relic Entertainment's space real-time strategy game Homeworld.
A total of three expansions have been released in addition to numerous free patches and updates.
The first expansion, Born of Blood, was published on June 6, 2007, and introduced a new race, the Zuul, as well as new features, namely trading and commerce raiding and in the case of the Zuul, slave raiding. A bundle of the "gold" edition of the original game and this expansion pack, along with a bonus disc featuring, among other things, concept art, was released on May 28, 2008, under the title Sword of the Stars: Collectors Edition.
A second expansion, A Murder of Crows, was released on October 3, 2008. This expansion introduced a new, sixth race, the crow-like Morrigi, as well as some new technologies, the addition of civilians to planet populations, and new Dreadnought-sized orbital stations. Players were required to have either the first expansion or the bundle to install and play this expansion pack. Soon after Paradox Interactive took over publishing duties a new bundle was released on April 17, 2009 called Sword of the Stars: Ultimate Collection. This bundle featured the original game and the two expansions.
A third and final expansion pack was released on June 17, 2009, called Argos Naval Yard. This pack introduced new ship sections, technology, and weapons. In order to use this pack players were required to own both the original game and the previous two expansions. On May 6, 2010, the Sword of the Stars: Complete Collection was announced for digital download. This bundle features the original game (updated to version 1.8.0), all expansion packs, and some bonus material in the form of exclusive maps.
Upon release, reviews for Sword of the Stars were mixed, with an average rating on Metacritic of 68 points.
PCGamer gave the game a score of 89/100 summarizing it with "While Sword of the Stars doesn't possess the battlefield variety of the "Homeworld" games that inspired it, it remains an ambitious and engrossing strategy triumph."
Perhaps the most negative review was written by Tom Chick for 1UP.com, who gave the game a D+ grade and summarized it as " misguided attempt at a streamlined strategy game". His main criticisms focused on how little information the interface supplied to players and how difficult it was to navigate the game's main map screen and technology interface. Some controversy arose when the lead designer of Sword of the Stars, Martin Cirulis, discovered that Tom Chick had written the manual for Galactic Civilizations II and then accused Chick of having a vested interest in seeing Sword of the Stars fail. Tom Chick addressed this issue on his website, claiming that the "one-time" payment he had received for the manual did not represent a conflict of interest in reviewing a rival title in the same genre.
The game sold well enough to warrant the release of three expansion packs. Reviews of the first two of these expansions were generally more favorable than those of the original game, with reviewers pointing out that the development team did take some of the criticisms and suggestions on board to improve interface issues and various gameplay elements. The first expansion achieved a Metacritic rating of 79; the second expansion was rated 75. There are currently insufficient reviews available for the third expansion pack, Argos Naval Yard, to calculate a rating.
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