Reviewed on PC

When I was asked to review Drox Operative, I had no idea what I was getting into. This was a game that received very little media attention and was developed by a small group of developers at Soldak Entertainment. I did not realize that I was about to play one of the best games to come out on the PC in the past 5 years.

Publisher: Soldak Entertainment
Developer: Soldak Entertainment
Platforms: PC
Genre: Indie,
Release Date: December 14, 2012 (November 2013 for Invasion of the Ancients)

Drox Operative is primarily a 4x game, with the galactic scale you would expect to find in Sins of a Solar Empire or Endless Space; however, it goes beyond that. Drox Operative features a very robust item looting system, like you would expect to find in Borderlands, combined with fast paced action, strategy, RPG elements.

A bit of backstory about the universe: The Drox are an ancient race that used to dominate the galaxy, their reign over the galaxy ended when the Drox civilization became fearful of their own operatives and therefore declared war on them. The operatives survived the war and decided that instead of being loyal to any one race, they would turn themselves into an élite group of mercenaries who are loyal to anyone who pays them.

In Drox Operative you play the role of lone Operative. After choosing which race you want your agent to be, each one comes with its own set of perks, you are warped to a section of the galaxy. As you explore your surrounding area, you will discover that the galaxy is populated by several different civilizations. These civilizations have their own unique traits, strengths, weaknesses, technology, and goals. Each faction starts out at their home planet, but as time goes on, they begin to expand, fortify, attack other civilizations, form alliances with other civilizations, and build their galactic empires. Operatives can either sit on the sidelines and watch as entire civilizations wage galactic war against each other, or they can take an active role in who dominates that section of the galaxy.

Drox Operative Relations Screen

A sample of the faction political relations screen

This is executed with such elegance that players will be convinced that they are caught in the middle of someone else’s RTS game. This is the beauty of Drox Operative; there is no set way to play and galactic events will happen without the player’s involvement. Entire species can be eliminated from the galaxy without the player ever meeting them and factions will continue to wage war, build alliances, and expand their borders without any advice from the Operatives.

Peaceful players can choose to help out the various factions by delivering supplies to their planets, protecting their planets from space monster attacks, trading with them, and more. Aggressive players can try to align themselves with a faction they think is the strongest, and together they can try and eliminate the other civilizations from that sector of the galaxy. Players can also play the role of galactic diplomat by brokering trade agreements, non-aggression pacts, and alliances with other civilizations. Or if you just want to explore the galaxy and not get involved with the affairs of the other civilizations, that option is available to you. However you decide to play, your actions throughout the game will affect how the factions view you and the amount of political weight and influence you carry with them.

Drox Operative Brunt Planet Defense

Choosing your allies is very important in Drox Operative. Allies will come to your aide if you need them. If you are being swarmed by space monsters, or by a jealous faction, allies can make the difference between life and death and being near allied planets will increase your energy regeneration rates. Being in an alliance with a race that is hated by the rest of the universe will lead to massive amounts of conflict for players. However, if that race is the strongest, it might be worth it for players to stick it out and help them take over the galaxy. It is a system of constant pros VS cons,  combined with the natural behaviors of that race, that make it a very complex, yet intriguing system.

Galaxies are persistent in Drox Operative. If you think that after you have won a sector of the galaxy and you move onto a new one, all is forgiven and nothing is remembered, think again. This is another feature of Drox Operative that makes it stand out from other games. As you win each sector of a galaxy, it is important to remember, those are just sections. Actions made for, or against, other races will stay with you. If you allied yourself with a race in one sector of the galaxy, after you have completed and won that sector, you will find yourself locked in that alliance in a new sector. While you can break the alliance if things go bad in the new sector, constantly making and breaking alliances will reflect poorly on you in the Galactic Community.

If the situation becomes too intense and hopeless, players can create new galaxies for their existing ships, or you can always try a new ship since they spawn in new galaxies.

Drox Operative’s RPG system takes the form of points. Complete enough requests from the game’s factions, or kill enough enemies, and you will level-up. Once you level-up you are awarded with crew points. These points can be applied to different areas of the ship that unlock bigger ships, more bonuses, better weapons, and etc. While it is a very traditional way of using an RPG system, it works and is executed flawlessly in Drox Operative.

Drox Operative RPG system

Standard RPG leveling system

The action in Drox Operative is interesting. Your ship is highly customizable to your play style. Instead of limiting you with certain classes, and class abilities, Drox Operative gives you an upgradable set of inventory slots. What you choose to put in those slots, whether it is lasers, missiles, shields, thrusters, stealth generators, etc is up to you. The ship’s abilities are mapped to the number keys and movement control is done either via the mouse of the WASD keys. Everything in the game happens in real-time, which will keep players on their toes.

Upgrading, and choosing which items to upgrade, is easy to do. Drox Operative will automatically detect which item looted items should replace, and will tell you if the new item’s key stat is superior to the older one. Certain items can also be upgraded with special chips that add unique stat boosts, which can be looted from destroyed enemies.

Drox Operative Inventory Screen

Inventory screen

All of these features working together are what make this game great. Players will be hooked as they explore their galaxies, create alliances, make enemies, wage war, help planets, fight off space monsters, upgrade their ships, and much more. This game is incredible and will keep players interested for a very long time.

I only have three minor critiques of this game. One is the huge learning curve it throws at you in the beginning. It does take some getting used to as you realize just how expansive this game is. While this is not necessarily a bad thing because it demonstrates just how in-depth the game is, it can be a bit overwhelming to new players. The second is sound design. The musical score for the individual races is good, however, the sound effects in the game sound like they came straight from a generic sci-fi soundboard. The final one is the game’s visual style is slightly outdated. However, none of these take away from the rich gameplay experience Soldak Entertainment has delivered, are easily overlooked when you realize that this game was put together by a small indie studio.

Drox Operative Starlane

This review does not do this game justice. The level of depth and richness in Drox Operative cannot be simply be described by words, it must experienced. It is an enjoyable masterpiece that delivers an experience that is unlike anything else on the market.

Drox Operative recently had an expansion released titled Invasion of the Ancients. This expansion works like the Brave New World and Gods and Kings expansions for Civilization V, in that it adds a bunch of features to the base game and is not a stand-alone game. The copy of Drox Operative I reviewed included the Invasion of the Ancients expansion.

You can pick up Drox Operative from Soldak Entertainment’s website, where they also have a demo of the game available for download. It’s also going through the Steam Greenlight process right now.

Drox Operative Review
Drox Operative is an incredible game that will keep players hooked with its engaging gameplay, freedom of play design, and unique game experience. Soldak Entertainment sets the bar for the 4x genre with this one.
  • Fantastic gameplay execution
  • Robust AI
  • Infinite replay ability
  • Steep learning curve
  • Generic sound design
  • Dated Graphics
4.5Overall Score
Reader Rating: (9 Votes)

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