Game Info:

Drox Operative: Invasion of the Ancients
Developed By: Soldak Entertainment
Released: November, 2013
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: $9.99 download from the developer's Web site (requires the original Drox Operative game as well)

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

So my Scavenger character, piloting the Rusty Chum, has managed to get the Lithosold – a type of rock-alien – and the dryads – plant women – to come to agreements, set their differences aside and make peace. Everyone loves each other, and everyone loves me, too… except for these odd, obsolete robots that everyone thought had been exterminated centuries ago. They had appeared a few days earlier, and refused to make peace with anyone. I load my ship up with weapons, sell some mutating agents to the Lithosold people on one of many tiny dirtballs, and head out to wipe the galaxy clean of the Overlord toasters, only to be stopped by a message from Drox command. 

Somehow, by selling the mutating agent, I’ve made enough money to make my bosses happy. The sector is won, the galaxy is saved, and I can move on.

Yes, the first time I played the new race introduced in the Invasion of the Ancients expansion to the game Drox Operative, by Soldak Entertainment, I won by accident. That was one of my first clues that things have really changed with this expansion.


Strong Points: Great graphics, exciting combat, and interesting quests, combined with a new sense of urgency.
Weak Points: No storyline, bland music, gameplay can grow repetitive before too long.
Moral Warnings: Ship-to-ship violence.

My review for Drox Operative can be found at this link, and at first, there seems to be very little that this expansion has changed. Yes, there’s a new race to play – the Scavengers, opportunistic aliens who are generally looked down on by the other alien races, much the same way we humans may look down on buzzards or rats. But as they have a bonus to finding equipment and other loot dropped from destroyed ships, they have the ability to generate a lot of money quickly. Garbage collection is a quite profitable enterprise in this universe. They kind of reminded me of the Ferengi from the Star Trek universe.

In addition to the new race, the other aliens can now build starbases and orbital stations, allowing a place to stop and shop without having to wrestle with gravity wells created by planets, or possibly serving as another line of defense from whatever is attacking them (including your own ship, if you’re trying to destroy them). Another change would be that some of the equipment that can be found or purchased has additional slots where microchips can be installed, making the device even more useful. This is a mechanic that we’ve seen before in various role-playing games – think socketed items like what you might find in Diablo or Torchlight. 

However, one of the main differences quickly becomes apparent while the game is being played. Previously, it seemed that the easiest way to beat the game would be to make friends with one or two powerful alien races, then complete quests and get experience while they attack the weaker races and each other until only one side remains. Or get the stronger sides to make friends with each other (again, through completing quests which can make them both happy) and call it a night once all the weaker opponents have been eliminated. But the expansion modifies this significantly by allowing new races – especially the ancient races that were once thought destroyed (hence the game title) to suddenly appear in a galaxy to make trouble. These ancient races seem to have a particular hatred for the Drox corporation, as their first act when they emerge is to declare war on you. Also, some of the races have specifically declared that it is impossible to accept a peace treaty with anyone from the Drox operatives. Thus, the only way to deal with these new challengers is by destroying them before they grow too powerful to pose a threat to the friendlier, much more rational aliens of the galaxy.

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

Game Score - 80%
Gameplay - 15/20
Graphics - 10/10
Sound - 6/10
Stability - 4/5
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

With this new mechanic, the player needs to either hurry when trying to go for a diplomatic or military win (which can be difficult if there is a chance of a new alien popping up when you least expect it) or the player needs to seek out one of the other three ways to win a galaxy – through building up enough money for the Drox, or by gaining a set amount of Legend or Fear points. There always has been a sense of urgency to the game in the first place – after all, if the player doesn’t complete the quest to kill so-and-so, the alien races will do it, instead. If the player doesn’t bring medicine to a small, backwater planet before a certain amount of time passes, the place will become lifeless and inhospitable. For the cold-hearted alien that lives inside every player, it’s simply the cost of living in such a dangerous galaxy. But those seemed like side-quest, time killers in the base game. With the possibility of new, tougher aliens to beat showing up unannounced, trying to win by completing as many of these “filler” quests is much more feasible.

There are other, minor additions that really help with the game, such as a progress bar to show how your reputation stands with the various races. There are also new challenges, called Drox Guild Quests, that you can take when generating a new sector.

The rest of the game plays out much like many other action role-playing games. The player flies their ship around the different star systems, completing quests and killing enemies to earn experience and money. Earn enough experience and you gain a level, and some skill points. These points can be allocated to your various stats to make your ship stronger. There are items that also can drop when an enemy is defeated, which can be equipped or sold. It's standard, familiar, tried-and-true role-playing game fare. What makes the game different from other RPGs is the setting, of course, so the familiar elements ease the transition into the different layout of a series of solar systems, rather than dungeons.

Despite the improvements, there are still a few flaws with the game. Even though there is an extensive backstory with each of the races – including the new ones – there still is no central narrative to tie the events of the game together. With a little imagination, a clever player could develop their own stories of their space operatives, but when the quests and assignments begin to grow repetitive, it may become a bit dry. And the quests are still repetitive. Although it is amusing to have quest chains involving giant rats, giant ants (mutated to chase away all the giant rats) and giant spiders (who begin attacking civilians because you just supplied the insecticide to kill the giant ants), the entertainment fades when you have to complete the same chain four or five times in a row. 

Inventory management – already a bit of a chore in the basic game – becomes even more of a burden. With the option of socketed items, the variety of items in the game increases to dizzying levels. Equipment slots are limited enough as it is on your small spaceship – having more items to choose from doesn’t help much. The game does suffer from periodic lag, especially if there is a multitude of ships, missiles and weapons flashing on the screen. In some ways, this can be expected, and doesn’t really hinder the gameplay too much… but can still be annoying when it happens (if anything, it could be a sign that you may have too many enemies to handle right now).

As with last time, I was unable to find anyone to play with on-line in order to test the multiplayer functions of the game. Perhaps it’s just my luck, the time I play, or just not enough players of the game. 

All in all, the expansion does provide a bit of a freshener to the basic Drox Operative game. If you enjoyed the original, you will likely enjoy the new features and quests. The new Scavenger race is a joy to play. However, if you’re more of a story-driven roleplayer, or didn’t find Drox Operative to be that entertaining, then you’ll probably want to pass on the expansion.

- Sstavix

About the Author

J. Todd Cumming

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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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