Lords of the Black Sun PC First Impressions
by Zachary Bridge on June 21, 2014 at 09:00 AM EDT

Lords of the Black Sun

Developer: Arkavi Studios
Publisher: Iceberg Interactive
Platforms: PC

Lords of the Black Sun is a space-based 4X game that’s in early access on Steam right now.

Players can control one of eight races — humans or one of seven alien races — and attempt to win by either conquering the galaxy, mastering technology or helping allies win.

Like many 4X games, Lords of the Black Sun is very complex and involved. Complex and involved is what 4X fans usually want, so Lords of the Black Sun is worth a try for anyone who wants to play a decent space-based 4X game.

Lords of the Black Sun Gameplay

Explore

Exploration is one of the earliest goals in any 4X game. In Lords of the Black Sun, exploration reveals other players, systems with colonizable planets and resources.

The Lords of the Black Sun game board is divided into numerous circular solar systems.

The player starts with one populated planet. The rest of the game board is full of fogged systems. Exploration is required to unveil other systems, planets and civilizations.

The player starts with a scout ship that can move to other systems, revealing the planets and other objects in each system.

Systems can contain other races, which are divided into major civilizations, minor civilizations, and pirate clans.

Major civilizations are the other players in Lords of the Black Sun. Players can form alliances, trade and go to war with other major civilizations. They can expand to other systems and attack other players.

Minor civilizations are limited to a single planet. They can’t make any ships, but the player can send trade ships to minor civilizations. Major civilizations can also invade minor civilizations without angering other major civilizations.

Pirate clans exist to harass other players. The player can pay money to maintain good relationships with pirate clans. Choosing not to pay protection to the clans may result in the pirates attacking the player. Players can also pay pirates to harass other major civilizations by attacking them.

Scouting systems can also reveal unidentified objects. Interacting with unidentified objects can give players boosts like money or glory.

Finding an unidentified object while exploring in Lords of the Black Sun can provide a decent boost to the player's empire.

Finding an unidentified object while exploring in Lords of the Black Sun can provide a decent boost to the player’s empire.

Players can only unveil fogged systems within a certain radius from their settled planets. The key to revealing the entire galaxy lies in expanding the empire.

Expand

Expansion is key to a strong empire in Lords of the Black Sun. It allows the player to push production and research farther, pushing the player toward victory.

In Lords of the Black Sun, players can build colonizer ships, send them to suitable planets and establish a new colony. Planets have varying sizes, which allow varying maximum populations, and available resources, which determine how much industry a planet can produce.

Planets colonized by other races can be invaded and taken over. The existing colony can either be razed or occupied if the invasion is successful.

Settling new colonies has a few benefits in Lords of the Black Sun. Settling colonies in systems other than the player’s starting system will allow the player to explore systems farther away from the homeworld. It also gives players more building slots.

Exploit

One of the key elements of Lords of the Black Sun is building up resources. The main resources are currency, research and industry.

Currency can be obtained a few different ways. Players can create ships with trade modules that, when sent to another civilization, can establish a trade route between the two civilizations that gives each civilization more money. Players can also tax their population to obtain money.

Taxes can be set at varying degrees. High taxes will earn lots of money, but will make the citizens unhappy.

Happiness levels affect a few things in Lords of the Black Sun. If people are unhappy, they may migrate to another civilization. The population may also want certain social policies to be enacted or repealed. For example, an alien gang causing trouble during a random event may make the population want to close off alien immigration.

Lords of the Black Sun - First Impressions - Random Events

Random events in Lords of the Black Sun can change the course of the game. In this picture, a random event is influencing the population’s stance on a certain social policy.

Research affects the speed at which new technologies are learned. Players can build research buildings in their colonies that add to research levels. One way to win the game is to achieve a “technological divinity state,” which requires researching all of the available technologies.

The industry determines how quickly new ships and buildings are built. This is especially important for war-heavy games that require a lot of ships.

Interacting with other civilizations is a major part of building up the player’s own empire in Lords of the Black Sun. Players can trade buildings with each other, like trade consulates that increase the money earned from trade routes between civilizations.

Lords of the Black Sun also features espionage. Players can recruit spies that can infiltrate an enemy’s civilization and steal secrets or sabotage their progress.

Glory is another resource that players need to manage. Players earn glory by progressing through the game and winning battles. Glory can be used to give speeches that positively affect the player’s civilization in various ways. For example, one speech increases the civilization’s reputation with other civilizations. Another gives the player a gold boost.

Lords of the Black Sun - First Impressions - Speeches

Speeches provide a large boost to the player’s empire in Lords of the Black Sun.

Exterminate

Whether the player or the AI is the aggressor, players are likely to see some kind of combat in a Lords of the Black Sun game. One of the victory conditions in Lords of the Black Sun is conquering the galaxy through war, so combat is a necessary part of the game.

Players can design and build ships. There are four ship sizes. Larger ships cost more, but they can bear a heavier weight. Equipment for ships can be upgraded by unlocking more technologies. There are different weapons, armor, engines and modules. Modules change what ships to do. For example, equipping an army module lets ships invade planets. There are also trade modules that let players establish trade routes and colonizer modules that let a ship establish a new colony.

Ships can be clustered together to form a fleet. When the player’s fleet meets an enemy’s fleet, battle commences. The game cuts away to a grid with each fleet on a side. The players take turn attacking each others’ ships until one side wins.

Lords of the Black Sun - First Impressions - Combat

Combat in Lords of the Black Sun is turn-based. Ships can be designed and built based on technologies the player researches.

Ships can also be stationed to defend a planet. If there’s no ships to defend a planet, an enemy can easily send a ship over and invade with no resistance. If there are defenders when an invasion occurs, a battle takes place that factors in both players’ army strength and morale.

Should You Play Lords of the Black Sun?

Lords of the Black Sun, like many 4X games, has a lot going on.

The diplomacy system is very in-depth. I like how players can trade with each other. Since it’s possible to win if one of the player’s allies wins, alliances have the potential to last for an entire game, rather than fall apart before the game ends (like in Civilization V). The fact that alliances can last throughout the entire game makes the game more immersive than other games, whose ultimate objective is to simply win. The range of options for espionage is also impressive.

The combat system is fun, but the computer-controller player is always going to be at a major disadvantage against a human player. The AI targets ships seemingly at random, while the player has the potential to focus fire and take out enemy ships one at a time. On even ground, the player will always win.

The exploration aspect of the game is a bit shallow. There’s no challenge to scouting systems. Every system looks almost identical, so there’s no sense of accomplishment when revealing a new star system. There’s unidentified objects and other civilizations to find, but there’s not enough incentive to explore the game board fully or quickly.

Of course, Lords of the Black Sun is still in early access. If the rest of the game gets as much love as the diplomacy has already gotten, the game will be perfect for 4X fans who love complex, involved games.

 

Edited: Samuel J. Paul

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