By – Brandon Dayton

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Every once in a while, I have daydreams of bribing a space-pirate to come assault my enemies. If I’m willing to unleash a maniac with a plasma-cannon on people who have slighted me personally, you can only imagine what that evolves into when taking over planets and attempting to control the galaxy. Lords of the Black Sun is a turn-based strategy set in the vastness of space. Instead of setting up a city anywhere you please, scout ships will survey existing planets for their potential resources and quality of life for the inhabitants, should you decide to create a settlement. Of course, you aren’t the only one attempting to have the universe as your playground, there are major factions as well as independents who will attempt to impede you in any way possible.

On top of these opponents, there are also inhabited planets with tribes incapable of space travel. How you deal with these underlings is completely up to you and while obliterating them seems like the easiest option, it is sometimes worth the effort to earn their trust and have them pay you tribute. Especially if the planet lacks resources or a proper place for your people to live. Initially you will only be able to colonize on rock planets, but you will need to delve deep into the research tree to gain the scientific technology necessary to inhabit gaseous planets.

The research trees are Military, Economy, and Science. They are completely separate trees that will never build into each other. Turns are referred to as months, which is a small change that greatly improves the feeling of how vast a space empire can really be. During my two playthroughs I built differently each time. While a round empire seems like the best option, I generally found myself pretty outgunned by the competition. While my planet of enlightened psychics called the Arkonoss was a major tourist attraction, it couldn’t match the military might of the Krifith. I bribed some pirates to cause some trouble, but we came up much too short.

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My glorious getaway was turned into a hive of chitinous bug-people. On the next playthrough I decided to use a more militaristic approach, picking the goblin-like war-mongering Atroxian race. Once the basics in economy were complete, the military tree became the priority. Finally, we had the technology and more than enough cash to fuel the war machine and keep it rolling. Oh, and roll it did. Right over the lizard-like Draakian empire. There are eight races in all, and the Draakians excel at trade. This made a bad situation worse, as we plundered their trade routes and used the profits to devastate them further.

Lords of the Black Sun isn’t totally about domination though, you can build a fleet of ships that bear your name to aid in said domination! You aren’t just renaming a prebuilt ship either. Pick from four different body types and attach all the weapons and shielding that your wallet can stand, as you create your own distinct force. I had a fleet of “Red Bulls” and “Spectral Tigers” because I love Red Bull and being generic. Unfortunately, there is little customization beyond the parts picked, and the vessels look like just about any other starship you’ve seen before. The combat is also not extremely in-depth. The closer you move, the higher your chance to hit. No flanking, no opportunity attacks, it’s very bare-bones.

You can also name your planets, but not the solar system. Though, this makes it hurt that much more when your beloved Daytonia is taken over by those disgusting mantis-men. The amount of customization is enjoyable, though not staggering. Personally I would really like to see the ability to color and reshape the ships, since the default models leave something to be desired. Another thing that left me wanting is the extreme emptiness.

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I understand that it is space, and they did leave bits of space debris that your scout ships will be rewarded for exploring, but overall it feels eerily empty. In combat you go into a closer view, and even there you’ll find it is left as bland as the overworld. This is more of a space simulator, so while it’s still a positive trait, it’s one I personally didn’t care for. The music is a redeeming quality, and really captures size and scope. However I find myself wishing that the overworld had something going on that was as gigantic as the music would imply. While the score does seem to suit most situations, I sometimes found brass horns inappropriate for a time when I’m picking through my settlements to ensure we’re maximizing production.

There is so much to enjoy about this game, and while it has all the makings of a fantastic game it makes a few slips that send it sliding back to average. The game has no controller support, which is to be expected, however, it also lacks keybinding options. I could probably live without, exceptI was unable to find a “Next Unit” button. In a 4x strategy, especially one as vast as this, I find this to be an almost game-breaking omission. Hunting and pecking for your units among your twenty colonies simply isn’t enjoyable.

The game will inform you when you need to pick new research, but if your colonies aren’t producing you need to manually find it and queue the next project. Ships will move automatically to an assigned point, but upon reaching it they sit idle and wait for you to remember that you sent them that way. This is exacerbated by the fact that the galaxy grows every few years, revealing undiscovered solar systems. While I think the expansion is a fantastic mechanic, it simply isn’t implemented well due to this game having a memorization aspect instead of a next unit button.

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Conclusion- Is it Worth Your Money?

The amount of fun in this game is not justified by the price point. I’ve picked up Iceberg Interactive titles that were far superior for almost a fraction of the current price. While the game has its charm for fans of turn-based space games, it is almost entirely lost due to lack of options and a bland aesthetic.

Lords of the Black Sun Technical Summary:

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  • Time Played – 16 Hours
  • Widescreen Support – Yes
  • Windowed Mode – Yes
  • Resolution Played – 1920×1080
  • Bugs/Crashes Encountered – None
  • DRM – Steamworks
  • Control Scheme – M/KB
  • Game Acquisition Method – Review Copy
  • Demo – No
  • System Specs – 3.7GHz AMD FX 4130, AMD Sapphire R9 280, 8GB RAM
  • Availability – Steam
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