So my disappointment with SotS2 led me down a path of 4x-fixation, and I’ve been dipping in and out of Aurora the past few weeks.
So what is it?
Yup. One of those games. I suppose it’s much like Football Manager, for people who prefer the trappings of sci-fi over the trappings of football for their favourite fun-spreadsheet. And of course, it’s ludicrously complicated (for example, if you want to put a component onto a spaceship design, you must research the requisite technology to design it, design the component, then research the design). Every minute detail is simulated, and I’m loving it even though I’ve not managed to survive more than 100 years (and that was due to that particular game being one where I hadn’t worked out many game mechanics and thus progressed incredibly slowly. More commonly, I’ve discovered evil aliens who’ve destroyed me within one or two decades of game-start.
Yikes, right? Also, it didn’t help that I didn’t understand that there was a separate combat window for my first five or so games, and despairing that my lovingly-designed combat ships wouldn’t do a damn thing when getting pummelled by alien attackers. Oh, and I keep forgetting that I can increase armour ratings in the ship design window, thus making an awful lot of extremely fragile combat vessels. Stupid old me.
So why is it so compulsive for me? Partially, it’s got to be the sci-fi trappings. For a start, there’s nothing I love more than an excellent sci-fi setting, and Aurora gives you that the same way that Dwarf Fortress gives you an excellent fantasy setting (i.e. giving you the building blocks, and being abstract enough for your mind to fill in the blanks). Secondly, just the mechanic of being turn-based (even if the turns are anywhere between 5 seconds to 30 days) makes a game more compulsive because they allow you to progress to some extent by just clicking a button, and the temptation to do that is almost omnipresent. Thirdly? Good progression. A game with researching and upgrading is always going to look favourable to me. I loves me some incremental progress. Lastly, the scenario you find yourself in is an interesting one that I don’t mind coming back to – Earth (assuming you start with the Sol system) has pretty scant resources, so you can’t just sit back there forever if you want to expand – you’ve got to find sources of all the minerals needed (especially Sorium for fuel. Pray to the the randomly-generated gods that there is a body in the Sol system that happens to have a decent amount of Sorium when you play) and exploit them.
So yeah – if you want a game with a vertical learning-curve, lots of potential, lots of content, and a terrible interface, give Dwarf Fortress a go. And Aurora. It’s good.