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Preview: 'Lords of the Black Sun' has a long way to go but shows some flare

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With a new studio, an established genre, and a young development team you would expect a first project to be somewhat prudent. However, Arkavi Studios based out of Portugal is seeking to rejuvenate the 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate) genre with their newborn Lords of the Black Sun.

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As per the norm, you control a single race fighting for supremacy of the galaxy, exploring new stars, colonizing unfamiliar worlds, and resisting those who would oppose you. Specifically promoting the diplomacy, spying, and conspiracy aspects of 4X, Lords is available on Steam Early Access for $24.99 ($5.00 cheaper than the launch price).

What strikes us as rather unique is that despite the turn-based nature of the title you're playing on a grid-less plane. Each solar system has a sphere of influence which counts as its territory. Until a ship breaks into that zone it resides in a cloud of war, preventing you from perceiving what lies inside. Each is either empty, inhabited by an enemy, controlled by pirates, or guarded by an independent race. What perplexes us is exactly what you're supposed to do when a foe lies inside. Countless times our initial scouting ship would become trapped in enemy territory, unable to leave the influence of the opposition's world.

Although this could be accredited to us failing to understand a basic interaction mechanic, we found that Lords of the Black Sun doesn't exactly teach you as you play. Instead it offers large chunks of text to read through at a time and expects you learn through experimentation and experience.

The hex grid returns when it comes to combat however. Ships duke it out on a plane filled with asteroids and other debris which function as cover. This seems to be just one of the differentiating features of Lords.

Everything we saw looked promising, but for a 4X game Lords of the Black Sun just isn't deep enough. With initial ships getting trapped or destroyed, the game quickly devolves to a next turn simulator where all you do is wait for buildings to be made, research to be completed, and enemies to decide they're tired of your existence.

Arkavi Studios could certainly have a promising title on their hands, and it's a rather large project considering it's the studio's first game, but right now we don't know if it's entirely worth the $25 Early Access, even for hardcore fans of the genre.

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