Drox Operative review

Drox Operative is an intriguing action RPG from Soldak Entertainment, an indie developer with a handful of other ARPGs under their belt. This one takes you into space, where you act as the agent of the enigmatic Drox Guild, working with or against the other races of the galaxy as you seek supremacy for yourself, and for your organization.

The game has some pretty heavy influences from¬†Diablo and the Civilization series,¬†but it’s no cookie-cutter lookalike. By combining familiar elements from both, Soldak has something new on their hands that has the potential to keep you trying to save and/or destroy the galaxy for a very long time.

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In space, no one can hear you scream “BOOOOYAH! CRIT-MAS TIME, BABY!”

Drox Operative — The New Kid In Town

The first thing you have to learn in Drox Operative is how to control and improve your ship. After that you start to grapple with the different galactic races available to deal with, and learn how to navigate the handful of star systems in your sector.

Just like Diablo or Torchlight‘s randomly-generated levels, each sector randomly lays out several star systems with different races like Humans, Dryads, the Fringe, Drakks and others. There are also several “monster” factions of ships out there waiting to swarm you, or powerful solo ships that often have bounties on their heads from the various NPC factions. Each drops ship components or credits as loot, which can sold to the NPC factions you’re on decent terms with for power-ups and other ship upgrades.

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You heard me: I said all the space-tea in space-China.

As you navigate and interact with the different races you have several “win” or “lose” conditions to keep track of, such as a Diplomatic Win for being allies with every race that’s still alive, and convincing them to be allies with each other. Once you meet those you can either choose to continue exploring or move on to another randomly-generated sector, with new challenges and new items to be found. There are also bonus awards for completing certain challenges in each sector, though I sadly didn’t notice after my first win and clicked on the “Move On” button without picking my extra loot up. There’s no worse feeling for an RPGer than leaving free loot un-snagged.

The key thing to note here is that you’re really only looking out for one person: yourself. While some planets may ask you to buy resources such as colonization tools through simple courier missions, there’s no real in-depth planetary management to keep up with, no construction requirements like in Civilization. You can ally with the most powerful NPC faction, then wipe out the rest in a firestorm of nuclear missiles and laser beams for a Military Win, then in the next sector spend all the credits you earned convincing everyone to play nice and be friends.

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Some races start with higher bonuses to certain stats, and get better-than-average components to beef them up even more each level.

Deep Space

It’s been said PC gamers have a tendency to gravitate toward more crunchy, system-heavy games with a lot of moving parts to dissect. Drox Operative is definitely for those types of RPG gamers, with the ship stat customization and module configurations, and the very Civ-like NPC faction interactions. No matter which path you choose toward victory, whether military, diplomatic or one of the more esoteric win conditions (including becoming the most-feared being in the sector), you’ll find lots of tools to help you along that path.

It’s so deep, in fact, that it’s possible to handicap yourself pretty quickly if you’re not careful about stat allocation or other choices. For instance, the Command stat upgrades what type of ship you have every so many points, making it bigger, shinier and beefier. However, if you don’t also invest in skills like Helm, you won’t be able to afford the thrusters necessary to propelling that big, hulking behemoth around. I recommend creating a throwaway ship just to try things out for one sector, then go back and start over with a firm plan for space superiority.

You also don’t have to be the only Operative roaming around space. Soldak built in co-op multiplayer, letting you invite a few friends along to tackle harder challenges. There are 100 levels worth of sectors, and that’s not taking into account modifiers players can turn on or off for an even greater challenge, such as Poverty (finds less money and components overall), Hardcore (permadeath), and Unlucky (less rare components found).

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Sectors are also filled with anomalies, like this wormhole which will take you to an unexplored solar system.

The Bottom Line

It took me a little bit to “get” Drox Operative, but once I did, I was impressed with the amount of layers the game has. The NPC factions are constantly doing their own thing, sometimes getting in your way and sometimes helping you out, which kept me on my toes. The racial relations element also helps keep Drox Operative from being just another click-and-loot fest in space.

The only trouble is, each level is very similar to the one before: the only thing that’s really different are the numbers, which keep getting bigger. While the gameplay will still be enough to keep many ARPG fans clicking away through all 100 levels, I fear the visual “sameness” would wear on me after a while.

Soldak is selling Drox Operative its website, and offering a free demo as well, so there’s no excuse not to try this out and decide how you want to define victory in the great space race.

  • Release date: November 30, 2012
  • Genre: ARPG
  • Platform: PC/Mac (one purchase gives both versions – free demo also available)
  • Developer: Soldak Entertainment
  • Publisher: Soldak Entertainment
  • ESRB Rating: N/A
  • MSRP: $19.99

Our Score: 4.0 / 5

Review statement: A digital copy of the game was provided by the developer for the purposes of this review.

About Russell Jones

By day, Russell works in local TV news. By night, he plays and writes about video games for VGW and his personal blog, The Gentleman Gamer. An avid RPG fan, Russell can also be found plotting the demise of adventurers from behind a Dungeon Master's screen. He can be heard weekly on the "Geek In Review" podcast (GiRPodcast.podomatic.com).

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