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Game Info:

Drox Operative
Developed By: Soldak Entertainment
Released: December, 2012
Available On: Mac OS X (reviewed), Windows
Genre: Role-playing game, real-time strategy
ESRB Rating: Not available
Number of Players: 1 offline, unknown online 
Price: $19.99 download from the developer's Web site

Special thanks to Soldak Entertainment for providing a copy of the game to us!

I'm in orbit around a planet when my commlink chimes again. My employers sent my ship to this sector to protect a mechanical race, and things were not going well. Already, two of the other alien races that had spread to this sector – one which consisted of sentient energy and another insectoid race – had declared war on me simply for trying to defend the metal men. Now my own people have, for the third time, sent me a message imploring me to turn my back on the robots. Do I obey my employers, or do I follow my people? In the meantime, another wave of insectoid ships descends toward the planet I'm defending....

That's just one of the dilemmas I found while playing the game Drox Operative from Soldak Entertainment. This is the company's first foray into the realm of science fiction games, and overall it is a pretty solid entry. The player takes the role of an employee of an organization called the Drox, which essentially consists of members from all the galaxy's races, who serve as mercenaries, diplomats and entrepreneurs. Whichever role the player takes depends entirely on their approach.

The game plays out largely like your standard role-playing game. The player chooses from one of ten different alien races – including humans, dragon-people, plant-women and others that seem to be inspired by sci-fi novels and movies – each with their own special advantages and disadvantages. The ship (and its crew) has different stats, such as Tactical (which determines attack strength and reliability) or Structural (which determines the sturdiness of your ship). The ships have several slots that can be fitted with computers, armors, shields, and a variety of weapons. The player gains experience points by defeating enemies and solving quests. It's all familiar fare for experienced role-players, even right down to expanding inventory slots through the use of cargo bays. The player can make multiple characters and can even swap equipment between them.

Highlights:

Strong Points: Smooth gameplay, nice graphics, and a different, entertaining spin to traditional RPGs.
Weak Points: No storyline, bland music, AI is distinctly lacking.
Moral Warnings: Ship-to-ship violence.

The quests also feel quite familiar. There are the typical fetch quests, kill a certain number of enemies quests, transport said item from one place to another quests, even ones for killing certain named creatures – bosses – that are making trouble for the locals. 

One interesting twist is that the alien races won't wait around for you. If, for instance, you accept a quest to defeat a space pirate and never actually go looking for him, there is a good chance that the aliens will muster their forces and go take out the space pirate captain first, thus denying your reward. Similarly, if you are supposed to deliver supplies to a certain planet, but the aliens lose control of the planet before you arrive, then the quest also will be lost. Although many of the quests don't have a specific time limit, it is interesting to note that the quest givers aren't patiently waiting for you to return with success.

In addition to the alien races, each sector is inhabited by space pirates, smugglers, hostile alien races, and even bizarre organic creatures genetically bred to survive in space. These other enemies will attack you, other races, and even each other, often indiscriminately. Just like the player character, these monsters gain experience, and the more success they have, the tougher they get. To aid in telling the difference between the “elite” monsters and others, glowing orbs appear on the tops of the ship. The more powerful the monster, the more orbs appear, and bosses tend to have names, more orbs, and are significantly larger in size. The graphics are sharp, and it's easy to tell the differences between the different races and enemies by the ship design. The backgrounds consist of well-done starscapes, with nebulas and galaxies in the background as well. There even is an interesting lens-flair effect when you fly too close to a system's sun.

The quests also feel quite familiar. There are the typical fetch quests, kill a certain number of enemies quests, transport said item from one place to another quests, even ones for killing certain named creatures – bosses – that are making trouble for the locals. 

Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 82%
Gameplay - 15/20
Graphics - 10/10
Sound - 6/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 94%
Violence - 7/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

One interesting twist is that the alien races won't wait around for you. If, for instance, you accept a quest to defeat a space pirate and never actually go looking for him, there is a good chance that the aliens will muster their forces and go take out the space pirate captain first, thus denying your reward. Similarly, if you are supposed to deliver supplies to a certain planet, but the aliens lose control of the planet before you arrive, then the quest also will be lost. Although many of the quests don't have a specific time limit, it is interesting to note that the quest givers aren't patiently waiting for you to return with success.

In addition to the alien races, each sector is inhabited by space pirates, smugglers, hostile alien races, and even bizarre organic creatures genetically bred to survive in space. These other enemies will attack you, other races, and even each other, often indiscriminately. Just like the player character, these monsters gain experience, and the more success they have, the tougher they get. To aid in telling the difference between the “elite” monsters and others, glowing orbs appear on the tops of the ship. The more powerful the monster, the more orbs appear, and bosses tend to have names, more orbs, and are significantly larger in size. The graphics are sharp, and it's easy to tell the differences between the different races and enemies by the ship design. The backgrounds consist of well-done starscapes, with nebulas and galaxies in the background as well. There even is an interesting lens-flair effect when you fly too close to a system's sun.

The quest system also seems to be odd, and this could be due to the randomization factor. For example, one of the alien races gave me a quest to scout out a certain world for potential colonization. That world turned out to be the human homeworld, for some odd reason. A simple matter to fly over it and then report back to the aliens that gave me the quest... and I was able to turn it in twice because they gave me the same quest at two different times. Your status with the aliens also doesn't seem to play a factor. You can wipe out a planet's defenses, begin an orbital bombardment of their cities, pause briefly to turn in a quest of theirs – which they will gladly reward you for – then get right back to slaughtering their citizens.

Even though the aliens each have their own advantages, dialogues and personalities, these don't come through when the action actually starts. Aliens typically attack each other with full-frontal assaults – which is especially jarring with the supposed nature of some aliens such as the Shadow, who have a reputation as master spies and assassins. They may look different, but all the aliens act the same. And since all the races hate each other and are willing to fight for no reason at all, it makes it difficult, if not impossible, to gain the Diplomatic victory. The only time I was able to get all the other races to ally with each other was when they were all at war with me – which happens to be one of the losing conditions. The discussions, compliments and threats from the alien races gets repetitious before too long as well.

Some of the more hardcore science fiction fans may take affront to the liberties in how space functions in the game. For example, you fly by holding down a button, but once you let up, your ship slows down. Also, you don't have to worry about being pulled into a planet – or even the sun – by flying too close to it. The most you'll experience is a debuff for being too close to a strong source of gravity. Another point of the game that comes up lacking is the music – each race apparently has its own theme music, but none of the music really stands out, or even is noticed due to the rest of the action. 

I was unable to test out the multiplayer aspects of the game. I tried, but there never was a server available when I went looking for one. So I can't evaluate how the game plays out with multiple players.

From a moral standpoint, the game is squeaky clean. Violence consists solely of ship-to-ship action, with defeated enemies exploding into a shower of sparks, flames and ship components. There was no objectionable language that I found at all. No sexuality or nudity to be found – even the all-female Dryad race is only shown from the shoulders up. 

Despite its oddities, the game is entertaining. I felt that it could get repetitious before too long, but for those gamers who enjoy role-playing games and care more about the hack-n-slash than the storyline (and I've gamed with some of these players), they'll probably get a real kick out of Drox Operative. The science fiction theme is a nice break from the standard fantasy-themed RPGs, but it's not so different to feel completely alien. Soldak Entertainment provides a free demo of the game, so if you're a sci-fi fan and enjoy role-playing games, it's worth downloading just to give it a try.

- Sstavix

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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