I wanted to say at the forefront that I haven’t played Stellaris, and I won’t be comparing it to this game. I have some passing familiarity with the Crusader Kings series, and I think it’s the closest comparison mechanics wise. Star Dynasties is a Sci-Fi colony management simulator (I wanted to call it Grand Strategy but there really isn’t much in the way of economy, tech, or the other usual systems) that focuses more on character to character interactions and galactic empire politics rather than resource management or civilization micromanagement.
There is a sense of conquering a map, but you manage character stats and recruit other leaders rather than create infrastructure, policies, or new technologies. There is a turn based aspect with actions allocated to family members and other recruited leaders. There are a few other resources to manage, which can make for some more involved turns where you deploy characters to perform espionage, set up character relationships, or declare wars. Other than that, there are many randomized events that happened very frequently that seemed to be completely unintelligible and overwhelming. There is a tutorialized scenario along with a glossary of important game mechanics and terms, but I found most of the game actions uninteresting besides some of the individual character trait developments or combat. The idea of having a hand in behind closed doors negotiation, subterfuge, and other cloak and dagger affairs is intriguing, but very abstracted and confusing in this game.
You start each game with a section of the map marked by your color and a vassal character who owns a major political power of the galactic federation. You leverage the happiness of the denizens you rule over, else face the threat of mutiny, all while trying to get away with morally questionable actions without getting called out for them. There are some forms of manipulation that can make you feel like you’re taking over a political house from the inside. And yet, I still find this enticing vision to be a bit half-baked. I think it takes a bit too long to plan anything since turns and events happen so frequently that it can be difficult to set up plays.
There is an aspect of nepotism and setting up your royal name for multiple generations of your family to reign supreme. I was torn by this because I would grow attachment to my personalized characters only to soon see them usurped and completely lost to time. I would constantly feel like I’m starting from square one in this way, although managing your people is primarily what you’ll be doing in Star Dynasties. There is no multiplayer, so you have to rely on pouring through menus and menus of character descriptions, stat modifiers, and character motivations to get your bearings. On its own, that isn’t all bad, but I find that the fact that there’s little sense of exploration, and you are forced to take on a bulk of information from the get-go was a bit of a turn-off for me. Winning the game is a matter of maintaining dominance over a majority of the galaxy, which is achievable through anointing rulers to overthrow neighboring powers, declaring war, or expelling enemy leaders. For how much character to character interaction there is, there is little characterization actually done, and dialogue is pretty utilitarian. There is very little personality or flavor to any interactions you have in game, which kind of ruined the scope of the game for me.
The game is in Early Access, and while I think there’s some potential to streamlined the mechanics and rework some things could save it from obscurity, however, at the end of the day, I was disappointed with Star Dynasties. There’s a chance this game would have been a harder sell for me as is since I’m not a diehard fan of the genre, but nothing here appealed to me in a way that I can’t achieve in other experiences like Crusader Kings III and Stellaris. The presentation is very bland, and while the UX design does seem to present a lot of mechanical richness at play, I found it as a whole to be more confusing than engaging. I wish the devs the best of luck for this game as it progresses through Early Access, but as of now, I sadly cannot recommend this game.
Star Dynasties is being developed by Pawley Games.
Available on Steam for $24.99.
A preview copy was provided to the reviewer by the publishers Iceberg Interactive.
Hellfirebam doesn’t think this one is currently worth keeping your eye on as the price is high and it’s hard to recommend it over other games that currently exist.