Red Thomas loves the 4X genre, so he takes a crack at reviewing Dawn of Andromeda. How does it stack up against other games in the genre, and what stands out about the game? How fast can he uninstall it after this review?
I am a big fan of 4X games. If you can name it, I’ve likely played it. I’ve enjoyed everything from the tedious minutia of Crusader Kings to the more simple slugfests of games like Sins of a Solar Empire. I’ve actually been on a kick over the last several months alternating between Civilizations VI and Stellaris, so my hand shot up when the call went out to review Dawn of Andromeda.
Graphically, Dawn of Andromeda is about middle of the road when compared to similar games. It’s certainly a prettier game when compared to Stellaris, but it didn’t strike me as visually appealing as other games like the new Masters of Orion or Endless Space 2. Like the latter two games, Dawn seems to have taken the more accessible mindset in terms of gameplay. Complex mechanics are replaced with enhanced graphics and a focus on good UI design.
The minimalistic UI was well done great once I got a rough idea of how the game worked, but the in-game tutorial didn’t give me quite enough information to really get up to speed. In fact, much of the tutorial had to be stumbled upon while exploring the UI. There was a good explanation of what things were when I got there, but that doesn’t do me much good when I’m trying to figure out how to build ships and can’t find the build button.
A solid UI, but limp tutorial has you frustrated by the time you figure it out.
The sound was also a mix of good and meh, in that there seem to be effects for the UI as I clicked around and notifications were accompanied by pretty decent alert tones to get your attention. The score didn’t strike me as particularly impressive, though. Effectively the soundtrack doubles as ambient noise, which felt a bit like a throw-away. There are a ton of alternatives that any decent sound engineer could have helped with, and any of them would have created a great deal more ambiance in the game.
Many of the previous issues can be chalked up to a game fresh from early access, and it was from the gameplay that I really expected something interesting. I found much of the game a little too simplistic to be really interesting, but there was one standout mechanic with promise.
The idea of appointing leaders to different parts of your government isn’t a new idea, but one innovation that I liked from Dawn of Andromeda was the interesting interplay between the members of your council. Each council member starts off with a number of positive and negative attributes. For instance, one council member may contribute a solid bonus to research if placed in charge of science, but that desirable trait is balanced by another that decreases the happiness of other council members.
The galaxy in the background view spins insanely fast even on normal speed, but the stars don’t move.
The happiness of council members is important, too. If members of your council become too unhappy, they quit and cause problems in your empire. The interplay of traits among council members and the need to keep individuals happy struck me as a really interesting idea. In fact, I’m really disappointed that Grey Wolf Entertainment didn’t run with that idea, and make political intrigue a bigger part of the game.
Dawn of Andromeda bills itself as a plausible 4X space game that introduces new ideas to the genre. I learned a long time ago that given a galaxy far enough away and at a distant enough point in time, plausibility becomes a rather broad term. Unfortunately, the game didn’t really hold up to the promoted attributes, because there just didn’t seem to be much to it that was particularly unique to the genre.
The one glimpse at true innovation through the interplay of attributes from council members could really elevate the game to something truly unique with a little development effort. The problem is that Dawn of Andromeda will have a hard time competing in a genre packed full of standout games like Stellaris, Masters of Orion, and Civilizations VI. All those games have a huge head start having been released for some time and are currently getting frequent updates.
I don’t really see Dawn of Andromeda having much in the way of longevity. They’re late to the market, don’t offer enough true innovation to stand out in any way, and happen to be releasing while several other really good options in the same genre are being actively updated. About the only people that I would expect to see picking it up would be those few like me that play pretty much every 4X, but I’d still have to advise my fellow strategists to give this one a pass.
Note: A review copy had been provided to MMORPG.com, but Red purchased his own for the purpose of this review.