Sword of the Stars is a turn-based strategy game (with real-time tactical battles) that superbly implements the 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) concept.
Humanity has reached for the stars and found only tragedy … having convinced ourselves we were alone in the universe, our first colony ship was struck down by an alien fleet before it could even break orbit. The human race collectively recoiled in horror, before striking out to (and at!) the stars in order to claim a place in a now hostile universe.
Sword of the Stars features a well-balanced empire/colony management system, with plenty of detail for those who delight in micromanaged minutiae, yet supplying well chosen default colony values for those itching to hurl battlefleets at the enemy without worrying about any of the pesky management stuff.
Research is excellent done as well, featuring a 3D tech tree, and a vast array of technologies to support your empire's growth in your own territories, and “expansion” into your neighbours'! Everything from antimatter missiles to stealth mines, lightning guns to bio-weapons (and, thankfully, their antidotes!), space stations to spy-beams … a smorgasboard of high-tech, high-impact research choices are provided, necessitating strategic prioritisation of research targets.
The 3D tactical battles are well done, allowing the choice of personally fighting or allowing the AI to resolve the conflict, and beautiful showcase all the deadly weapons developed in the research tree. With an elegant ship designer and easy construction mechanics (including orbital defenses), tactical battles are dangerously beautiful ballets of (laser) light, (hyper-accelerated) metal, and missiles. Three classes of starship (destroyer, cruiser, and the enormous dreadnoughts) are free to be commanded in 2D, and will automatically utlises the third dimension for both collision avoidance and weapons aiming/manouevering.
This Ultimate Collection offers up _six_ different races to play, each with their own unique method of traveling between the stars, and each with differing areas of technological expertise. This can be played multiplayer via LAN or internet (including saving multiplayer games to continue later), with excellent adaptive AI players to provide a single player challenge. A deep set of diplomatic options – including trade, propaganda, and negotiation – round out this excellent strategy offering.
If you've ever wanted to have your very own personal Galactic Empire (or at least wanted to be able to have enough lasers, missiles, and antimatter projectors to “borrow” an empire from your galactic neighbours), Sword of the Stars: Ultimate Collection is an excellent choice, and includes the original game plus two expansions. The game's cost is worth every cent, and Sword of the Stars will give you hours (days/weeks/months/etc…) of re-playable, empire-building, enemy-blasting fun.