Date: March 12, 2021
You might have already heard about that one game that’s like “Crusader Kings in space.” Yes, that’s Star Dynasties by Iceberg Interactive, and they recently announced their PC Early Access date, March 16th. We decided that this makes it an appropriate time to discuss the game and some of its unique features.
This procedural narrative sci-fi strategy game looks like it borrowed the map of Stellaris, with the interface and narrative events of Crusader Kings. Developers have openly admitted their similarities with the latter, but made an additional promise: “To the maximum extent possible (I [Glen Pawley] am a solo dev with some help), my intention is to build a game that has an even greater emphasis on, and mechanistic understanding of, stories of human drama.” Glen discusses this and other elements of the game’s narrative system in the post about dev team’s vision for Star Dynasties.
Let’s zoom in on this. If you have played Crusader Kings, you are familiar with the narrative aspect Glen is talking about. Every court on the map has its own marriage bonds, aspiring leaders, spies, intrigue, betrayal, and internal strife. Someone doesn’t like you because of something you did or just because, someone is unhappy because they didn’t get a council position, your heir seems incapable of holding an administrative position, and then you learn that your wife no longer likes you and is mysteriously pregnant. Screw it, why not start a war?
However, there seems to be an additional, more personal aspect to the drama happening in Star Dynasties. In Crusader Kings all of your vassals’ eyes are on what your leader is doing, but how come nobody is asking how your leader is doing? In addition to opinions and reputation, in Star Dynasties everyone also has a certain level of happiness. Even if you can’t immediately imagine how this system will fit into your diplomatic strategy, you probably can agree that it’s hard to keep the chaos of your office under control when you are constantly anxious.
So, it makes sense that happy characters will improve their skills quickly, and will be able to perform more actions per turn. Others will like them more, and they will make their house more capable overall. All of this might affect marriages you can forge, your military alliances, and your ability to expand and improve within the galaxy sector.
Events that happen to the character directly, their personal life circumstances, and even events that happen to characters they care about — all of that will influence their mental health. Sounds rather personal, doesn’t it? Of course, don’t expect everyone’s mood to swing widely up and down: the more happy or unhappy that character is, the harder it is to keep pushing them down that direction.
From this feature alone it’s easier to see how your leader’s mood will have a domino effect spreading across all of your actions, from internal stability, political alliances, and economic success. Happiness of your central character, as well as that of his family and his council members, can make a difference in what goals your leader will be able to achieve how much your house can contribute as a unit.
Of course, it stands to see how features like these will affect the overall experience of the game, and whether developers will be able to deliver on their promise of stories that involve more human drama. After all, we are talking about procedural generation when it comes to the narrative, and our experience will come down to chance and built-in balance. Playtesters have been pointing out moments when characters care too much about what’s going on in the lives of others and how difficult it is to remain popular: you can see how developers are approaching these issues here.
Still, it looks like we will get a Story Events Editor, aimed towards modders to allow for creation of new events and storylines. This will allow the community to experiment with and fine-tune the story, potentially allowing for even more dramatic or, on the other hand, less intense narratives and consequently a custom experience. It seems that there is a lot we can expect to go well with this system.
But, we have shared enough of our opinions and guesses.
What are your first impressions of Star Dynasties and their approach to human mood and drama?
Will you be interested in grabbing an Early Access copy, or do you plan on waiting until the game is finished and the first reviews are in before investing into the game?
Let us know in the comments below!