Sword of the Stars II Review

I’ve been wondering where all of the strategy games have been this year, and in the same month we got Stronghold 3, Heroes of Might and Magic VI, and Sword of the Stars II: Lords of Winter. The first one had one of the worst releases ever and is still being fixed, ol’ HOMM VI has broken critical features two patches in with Ubisoft not caring, and thus, my hopes rested on going into space for the returning 4X strategy series. The developers are a small house called Kerberos, and they had a hell of a problem getting their first game into a playable state, but eventually after a few expansions and patches, it has found its way into the hearts of the strategy gamers that gave it a try.

I gave you guys the benefit of the doubt last time, Kerberos. You guys were the new kids on the block and you let your wide vision combined with lack of focus destroy your initial offering.

Unfortunately, I don’t even know if I can call this a sequel in its current state.


This game should be rated M for Mature. Only people that have incredible patience and understanding will have any clue how to even build a ship in this.

Gameplay - 23 / 100

At its core, SOTS 2 is deep space
strategy, and the designs
of greatness are all there.   Your
typical process for one of these games goes something like this

- Engage in diplomacy. 
Establish profitable trade

- Commence expansion and research

- Scout opponents, design fleet that
will win handily

- Take hands off keyboard and watch
the resulting light show
once the fleets engage!

- Repeat until all other races are
trampled underfoot.

Hell yeah! 
I’m going
to get my Star Wars on, and kick some ass like Sins
of a Solar Empire
!  No,
hold your horses.  This
game is purely
turn based for the strategy section, which means you’re not doing a
game in ten
minutes, or even 60 minutes.  A
game of
SOTS 2 will take you 6 hours, but to be blunt, it’s going to be more
like 60

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aspect of your ship is under your control during the design process,
from the turret types to
several chassis assortments.  I've always wanted to play
Battleship Barbie.

Most games have 60 hours of gameplay
maximum these days,
hell, console releases are more like six, so what’s not to like here? style="">  The
game hates you
.  That’s
about the
best way to describe every concept and aspect of SOTS 2. style="">  We’re going to start right
here and now and
get one thing clear about this game.

You are alone. 
have no help, no manual, and a tutorial overlay that might point you in
right direction if you get lucky. 
Everything you do in this game is learned first hand. style="">  Even veterans of the first
game will spend
their first hour or two looking around dumbfounded, and then you’ll
sink into
your first 20 turns and get stomped by a scouting party. style="">  Then you’ll do it again
and again and

Haha, who the hell am I kidding? style="">  The first time I fired
this game up, I went
straight to the encyclopedia in-game to brief myself on new concepts. style="">  The game crashed about 3
topics in.  I
fumbled around with the game for another
hour, pulled up the encyclopedia again, and no matter what topic I
clicked, I
was locked on a page.  Half
of the pages
seemed to come up with nothing to begin with. 
Look, if you’re going to create a deep strategy game, people
need to understand what the hell the
stuff they’re doing does.
fine, so the encyclopedia isn’t where the learning will be done. style="">  Time to field test my

Even designing a ship is a mess. style="">  You’ll feel like you need
a degree in quantum
physics just to comprehend the weapon stat sheets at first glance, and
this is
before you even researched anything! 
understand that the idea of this is to make designing of your
incredibly deep and full of decisions to make, but the real decision
players are going to pick is the one that looks best during the test
fire (a
cool feature!)

So after issuing your orders and
ending your turn,
eventually you have to decide to attack. 
You then get a little tactical game of sorts, where your
ships AI bugs
out, mass drivers miss 80% of their shots while stationary drawing a
bead, and
a whole slew of other fun things that are seemingly dedicated to making
battles suck, like having to play hide and seek in a star system with a
limit.  style=""> When the combat is done,
good luck figuring
out what other missions completed. 
basically have to micromanage every one of your constructors each turn,
you have no idea who finishes when unless you’re running a big line of
notes on your monitor.

“But Stow, there’s an incredibly deep
game here and you just
don’t get it”

I wish. 
There’s a
difference between being unable to understand the product, and being
unable to
play the product.  So
many basic things
are broken and lacking in this game that it’s mindboggling. style="">  I’m going to throw you for
a loop here; the
die-hard fans of this game have put together a laundry list of what is
missing, not working, or just flat out wrong,
and it's enough to make anyone sick.

That’s right folks. 
No wonder the game is so deep. 
A third
of the damn research and respective weapons do nothing!

Graphics - 50 / 100

I’m not going to lie, zooming in on a
fleet as it is
unloading shots from turrets and cannons all over its surface is badass
will never get old.  But
the planetary
overviews and menus are ugly, and have terrible transitions. style="">  The art for the factions
and captains has
improved tenfold over the first game, but it’s still not going to win
awards.  For as much
time as you spend
managing your star systems, they could have done a better job at making
critical things more visible—normally this would be a gameplay concern,
when graphics hinder gameplay, well, that’s SOTS 2 for you.

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style="font-style: italic;">The best shot you'll ever see
from this game.  Half of those shots miss their mark, but
space battles aren't about winning or losing, but looking fabulous and
making for mediocre sci-fi shows.

I mean you launch the game, go into
gameplay options, and there’s
a resolution box.  Not
a drop down menu,
forget all of that, an input for the
resolution of your dreams,
as well as some checkboxes for
graphical flair
you probably won’t manage to see before your game crashes. style="">  The game is windowed by
default, although you
can make it full screen.  
It’s like they know you need a wiki out or their forums
simultaneously—whether it be to look
up information or troll them for refunds.

Sound - 40 / 100

Seemingly random voice clips will announce things throughout your empire, and you’ll get some badass weapon sounds firing off if your game stays stable long enough to make it into combat. Music is surprisingly ambient though, consisting of little more than what I’d call space elevator music. Games like these really need decent soundtracks to keep that 'one more turn' feeling going.

Multiplayer - 20 / 100

Considering the number of bugs, the tendency to crash, and the incredibly long games… don’t even bother unless you have a friend as masochistic as yourself.

Value - 0 / 100

There are so many cool things here. Incredibly deep management, large tech trees with research that has to be drawn up as feasible before It can be chased after, and every single strategy game should have customizable units. There is fun to be had here. I know it. But as is, half of the game is working, and the other half is either pointless, buggy, or crashing you out. If you could pay for that half, I’d say go for it, but 40 bucks is highway robbery for this product in the state that it’s in.

Lasting Appeal - 40 / 100

I lament time and time again about
lost potential in games
like this. The thing is, I can derive some entertainment from a buggy
game.  There is a
big difference between
hilariously dumb stuff happening in-game, and units refusing to
orders, interface lag, and crashes to desktop happening constantly. style=""> It’s hilarious to talk about
this game, but
you’re not actually talking about the game. 
You’re talking about the pathetic launch and the issues. style="">  SOTS 1 had almost as bad
of a launch, but it
somehow managed to become a pretty good game in the end. style="">  Will this do the same? style="">  Probably, but I sure as
hell can’t put in any
votes of confidence right now.

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can't change any options in
game?   Even days later, I still feel like this game is just a
joke I'm not getting.

Pros and Cons


  • Tons of data to interact with--a thinking man's dream
    environment for a 4X
  • It's no Homeworld, but you sometimes
    feel that itch being
    scratched during a good space firefight.


  • Interface has next to no
    tooltips, and the in-game
    encyclopedia is pathetic for as deep as this game supposedly is.
  • I say supposedly because a good
    portion of the game is not working at the moment, and that includes frequent crashes.
  • Because so many parts of the game
    are interconnected, one
    broken thing leads to another and the amount of fun you have with the
    game plummets rather than increases as you grow accustomed to it.


I want to like this game, but it’s simply impossible to. Sword of the Stars II is fundamentally broken, poorly programmed (null pointer errors? Divide by Zero crashes? Really!?) and a complete mess of a retail game. Come back in a year, and if Kerberos sticks with the game as long as they did the first one, we’ll eventually have a great game on our hands. There are simply too many great games in the holiday season to buy this one, which essentially amounts to investing $40 in an early beta test.

Overall 24/100 - Pitiful


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