So recently I decided to pick up a game called Star Traders: Frontiers on Steam from a company called Trese Brothers whom I had never heard of before. I can tell you that since I played this game I had since not only become a fan of the game, but of Trese Brothers themselves and so much of a fan that I gave them my patronage on the Trese Brothers Patreon page. What these guys do is create highly complex strategy RPG games and they may be hit or miss for what you like to play but you can’t deny every game was made with passion and they put in far more complexity and detail into each of their games than many developers do.
Considering how small the team is, they are constantly engaging and responding to fans on the Discord channels or Steam communities and are adding new patches and enhancements to Star Traders: Frontiers weekly. Star Traders is a Sci-Fi RPG Universe and Star Traders: Frontiers is the latest game in that universe. The premise of the game is that it is a sandbox strategy RPG game where you are the captain of a Space Ship and you choose what type of captain you want to be from the variety of job types including Pirate, Merchant, Bounty Hunter, Explorer and so much more. You have 3 types of crew on the ship including your Captain, Officers and Crew Members. Your Captain is your main playing character and both the Captain and Officers can have up to 3 jobs where each time you level up you can focus on a single job or add a level in another job. Think jobs like “classes” in Dungeons and Dragons here. Crew level up and get talents and skills automatically increased in the job that they are but they can’t have multiple jobs.
Some jobs are for managing your ship and performing trading, missions, exploration…etc. Then there is the “fighter” role in the game in which only a few jobs are considered “fighters” including Assassin, Soldier, Bounty Hunter, Swordsman, Pistoleer, Sniper and some others. There are only 3 classes of weapons for crew combat which are pistols, swords and rifles (even though rifles themselves are split into sniper guns, machine guns and shotguns) the same rifle skill grants accuracy to either weapon type.
The game is a rogue like sandbox game where you can choose the default map or create a procedurally generated map with all the systems and worlds randomized. The factions themselves where you choose one at the start of the game each grant certain bonuses for their regions as well. The game is turn based, so even when you travelling between worlds it may seem like you are moving in real time but turns and days are moving behind the scenes.
The game does have story arc’s and events that happen through game play including a main story line that follows the Faen family. I won’t spoil it but there are many paths you can take in the story and certain choices block you from following other paths and helping other family members so there is a lot of replayability to discover all the various events and story arcs you could partake in. The game randomly will throw events and era’s you as well spanning dozens of years, you gain contacts by discovering them or unlocking them performing story missions or with talents and you have a large realm to explore.
Trading has complex markets with where goods buy lower and sell higher in certain markets, the game helps you by always giving you information on which markets sell certain goods and which markets are the best for making a profit. You can gain resources from capturing enemy ships, pirating, exploring planets or orbital salvaging. While playing the game you will find you spend most of your time trying to optimize your ship where you can upgrade modules, components, increase cargo, get better weapons and keep your crew and skills optimized trying to keep as close to or at 200% for each ship skill.
If you play on normal mode or harder the game can be brutally difficult, especially on hard mode where there is permadeath and you can lose captains from an unlucky encounter.
Doctors are key to keeping crew members alive as they have the ability to heal crew while in ship combat, or in crew combat plus have talents that can help a crew or officer escape an untimely death. Orbital Salvages are the most risky and most deaths can’t be prevented if they occur while doing an orbital salvage however so be careful.
While humans from the various factions are the most common encounter, consider yourself unlucky if you run into the Xeno the most hated and featured creatures in the galaxy. These creatures only know slaughter and always fight to the death. Even in the later game no matter how powerful a ship you have, Xeno can be the thing that make or break your game. Their ships are stronger, they are more powerful in crew combat but the rewards you get from Xeno Artifacts can change the game in your favor in regards to upgrades and new ship purchases if you are lucky. There are some jobs that give you advantages on Xeno like Explorer and Exo-Scout and there are talents to help you avoid combat, but sometimes it is unavoidable and sometimes you get unlucky.
Each encounter ends in events where you have talents that can apply actions, such as scavenging enemy ships for loot and repairs, heal your crew, manage and improve your crew morale…etc. If you don’t pay your crew or keep them happy you could face mutinies where you have to bribe or fight and kill off your own crew that turn against you as well.You have a reputation you have to manage with each faction and with each contact you have, faction rep determines how hostile ships are toward you in the region and even affect non-faction ships in a region that can be more hostile toward you because you have a bad rep in that sector. In hard mode if you run a -50 or worse rep, often you have to fight or escape in combat or you will always be executed if you surrender. If you do missions and especially the story mission you will lose rep with the faction opposing the Faen family which can make things very dangerous for you the deeper you get into negative reputation.
You can see above I wound up garnering a -1128 reputation with this faction where at this point they attack and try to kill me on-site. All planetary services are always denied except paying my crew their wages and while you can buy a pardon and reset your reputation to 0 from some contacts, if your reputation is bad enough it could cost millions to reset your reputation and is almost unaffordable.Ship combat and crew combat are turn based where you use your talents to try and apply bonuses to your own ship or crew and penalties to your opponents. You can also use the boarding action to try and board enemy ships. You can have a goal of disabling the enemy ship either by destroying the Void Engine, disabling enough components or killing off enough enemy crew or the enemy captain. After disabling an enemy ship you have actions you can take like recruiting some of their crew to your ship though this causes reputation loss and they often have such low morale they abandon at the next starport if you don’t have talents that can help prevent that morale loss. You can also loot enemy cargo and this is how pirates make their money, you can get a talent that allows you to scare merchants to just unload their cargo without even having to go into combat as well which is fun to just scare some cargo out of them.
Now, there are card games inside the combat and trading and mission aspect of the game and these include Exploration, Blockade, Patrol, Spying and Orbital Salvage. You are given 5 cards and can try to use a talent to remove, redraw or upgrade a card to help skew the draw in your favor. Spying gets you things like Intel which you can sell to certain contacts and gain some credits but also boost reputation which unlocks other befits like buying rare cargo, hiring more experienced crew, or purchasing rare gear like level 6 and 7 weapons and armor.Rare Trade goods can be found from Merchant and Smuggler contacts but also from salvaging orbitals and a lucky roll or draw can get you a lot of credits. Pirates will try to steal your cargo though so always make sure you are prepared and stick to sectors with a lower danger rating until you are sure you can handle yourself in a fight.Again, the game is brutal and I have put dozens of hours into a single captain and campaign for it to just be game over and start all over again. Most often a Xeno will mean my end, as they are just overwhelmingly powerful and meant to be so. Each death gives you a full stats of your captain and what was accomplished during their career.Starting contacts help you determine what type of play you want and what your career goals are, you can choose to do the story campaign or ignore it all together and just open explore the sectors carving your own path. You will meet random encounters from time to time including some crew that want to join your ship, so it’s is good to have as crew slot open from time to time in case you pick up a new crew member from a patrol or a station stop.As mentioned managing your ships components can be tricky as not only do you have to just consider upgrading, but there is a mass and sometimes you need to use mass reducers to help make room for a larger and heavier component.Talents are everything in the game and every officer and crew member has a list of talents for their job. These talents give you significant advantages in various situation and can increase rewards, reduce risks, avoid combat, survive random space events and become better in combat. You can retrain crew members and choose new talents for a cost, so if you want to balance better you can do that. You also have to remember most talents have a cool down period of 3 to 9 weeks between uses, so it is a good idea to have more than 1 crew have the same talent when it comes to cooldown talents and because crew can abandon ship so quickly and easily it is good to have some talents backed up so you don’t lose the crew member who was the only one who had that 1 talent you wanted.Overall the combat system reminded me most of Darkest Dungeon and this game had a level of complexity and story arc that kept me engaged for hundreds of hours and replays. Seriously I unlocked 27/32 achievements and the last 5 are just so hard I died dozens of times and lost dozens of captains and haven’t unlocked them.
Also this game is not complete, the developers have a roadmap and there is new jobs, classes, combat roles, Xeno types and more coming. Every week they are adding 1-2 new updates, fixes or some balancing items and even more story arcs and era’s are coming. If you liked playing Darkest Dungeon, Star Control, turn based space games, then this game will be something of interest. Some people are put off by the random nature of the card drews and the incredibly high difficulty curve where just bad luck in the early game where your ship is so easily outclassed by other pirates and bounty hunters can end your career before you even got started. This game takes a commitment, but for me it was a commitment well worth it.
I spent $19.99 on this game which is currently on sale for $14.99 and for me was money well spent.