Space Pirates and Zombies 2

Welcome back everyone. Today we’re covering Space Pirates and Zombies 2, or just SPAZ2, released May of 2016 by MinMax Games LTD. It’s an Early Access 4x game set in space with an emphasis on customizable ships and faction wars. The first game left me feeling unimpressed; the grind became intolerably slow after mid-game and the ending was a big slap in the face. Still, I had some genuinely enjoyable moments that led me to give the sequel a try. The result feels like they combined Warship Gunner’s naval battles with Mount and Blade’s faction system.

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SPAZ2’s storyline is a continuation of the original: After the destruction of the Dark Entity, the former crew of the Clockwork are scraping by in a galaxy that has forgotten them, clinging to their mission of wiping out remaining zombies, even as new powers battle over what remains. Seeing as they haven’t dropped the word “Zombies” from the title, you can guess how that goes. If you don’t care for the story, you can run Sandbox mode with the same ultimate end goal of purging the infection from the universe; It sports impressive number of customization sliders.

As before, you’re trying to accumulate resources and experience to create a more capable fleet. Rez, Scrap, and Goons all return, as do the ships from the original game in the form of “Strike Craft” meant to give your mothership a leg up in combat. Yes, the mothership is now your main problem-solver. Using a modular building system, you design your mothership to suit your tastes in weapons, resilience, and maneuverability.  The fact that each nose, engine, and wing piece sports a weapon means you don’t have to sacrifice firepower in any design. As such, the current meta leans towards agile vessels that can dodge or outrun most incoming ordnance, and tanky bruiser types like the sort I’d like to use are just less effective in general, as it’s much easier to out-maneuver the enemy than shrug off their fire, even with heavily buffed stats.

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There’s a number of changes and refinements from the original system of “enter new system -> grind resources -> upgrade -> Repeat.” The universe is much smaller and more interconnected now, and that’s honestly an improvement. The universe in the first game was massive but thinly spread, and because things were easy on the edge of the universe but steadily got worse as you approached the core, there was no reason to look at, say, the far edge of the universe because you wouldn’t encounter anything new or challenging. Now, because of the different factions and ensuing complexity managing your reputation with them will add, there’s more reasons to check out those unexplored corners.

Whether through joining one of the already present factions in the universe or creating your own, the late-game revolves around picking a side and helping it become the top dog of the universe. As a faction grows in power, it gains more territory and has access to more powerful ship parts. However, thanks to the leveling system and the buffs granted by it your own ship is never rendered redundant, so you can always be a major player.

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The late-game battles are a terrifying mass of SFX, so hopefully you have a feel for combat by then.

In terms of presentation, the dialogue and overall style of the universe is as charming as ever. This was one thing I unequivocally liked about the first game, and it’s good to see it was not lost in the shuffle. Lasers are still unsatisfying to fire yet the other weapons that have been brought over are remain enjoyable, as are the new additions including gravity missiles and bomblet dispensing cloud torpedoes. The crew of the Clockwork returns too, an amusing bunch of dysfunctional, quibbling, best-hope-this-sorry-universe-has individuals. As before, they’re the only ones with any relevance to the story, but a number of other captains have been used to populate the universe, each with their own quirks and feelings towards you. The game is much improved by the ability to stumble across an old friend in a time of need, or make new ones by beating down on mutual enemies. These pilots are better brought to life by the odd snippet of audio. I still get a little smile on my face when I jump into a fight with an ally and hear them state “You’re the best! You really are!” or the enemy Captain declare “And now I must be going!” as he makes a run for the Fail Gate.

The first car on my habitual complaint train is that situations never seem to go quite as smoothly as they could. While I know it isn’t true, I always get the impression the stores you’re friendly with never have the parts you need, your allies are always conveniently out of reach when some nemesis with twice your threat rating comes calling, and zombie asteroids always start on your side of the field. The grind from the first game is as present as ever and the early game is still a frustrating mess of systems that were never fully explained to you (they’ve made gains here, but they’re not quite there yet).

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He knows me too well.

That was SPAZ2, available on Steam for $20. If you enjoyed the first game, definitely check it out, but understand that the devs themselves do not call it a direct sequel but rather “something new.” If the first game ultimately failed to impress you, like it did myself, you still should take a look. It is similar to its predecessor: a flawed game with some good ideas, but one I leave feeling satisfied rather than bitter.

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