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Star Traders: Frontiers

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Star Traders: Frontiers

Post by Sepiche » Mon Aug 06, 2018 4:09 pm

This just came out of early access last week, and I've been having enough fun with it I thought it deserves it's own thread.

Frontiers is an open world RPG where you start as an independent starship captain in a galaxy full of political conflict and upheaval. It looks at first like a shallow indie tablet game, but there are a lot of hidden depths to the game both in terms of mechanics and storylines that make it a lot of fun to play.

You start by selecting or customizing a starting template which gives you control over the starting experience level of your captain, their attributes, skills, starting ship, starting contacts, and starting archetype. Archetypes include: Military Officer, Explorer, Bounty Hunter, Pirate, Spy, Merchant, and Zealot. Each of those archetypes define your starting skills, as well as the list of bonus feats you can select from as you level up. Contacts are various actors in the Star Traders world ranging from retired spies, to political leaders, to military officers, to smugglers, to fixers, to weapons dealers, etc. You'll be able to buy and otherwise acquire new contacts as the game goes on, but your starting contacts are important as it's hard to be a bounty hunter unless you have a contact that can give you bounty hunter missions.

So for instance you could start as a Military Officer with a large cruiser, and focus on fighting other starships in the overt wars that develop between the different factions, or you could start out as a spy in a small, stealthy ship and instead focus on stealing intelligence to pay the bills and helping factions during Assassin and Spy Wars. All that allows for a lot of customization, but it's also good to note you're not locked into anything with Frontiers, so even if you start your captain as a explorer, they can re-imagine themselves at almost any point.

Once you've picked all your starting details the game starts you in a randomly generated universe with an initial mission/tutorial that functions to get you moving in the game, and gives you a hook into the immense, branching storylines that are one of the more fascinating parts of the game. You can choose to ignore that initial mission without penalty and the storylines will continue without you, but the payout for the initial missions is good, and even if you want to forge your own path, they give you a nice starting boost in terms of money.

The storylines in this are fascinating as they tell a larger narrative of the political upheaval effecting the setting and allow you to effect events. The stories have failure states... if you ignore them long enough events will unfold without you, and in fact you can skip entire parts of the storylines, let AI captains do the hard work for you, and pick up on the storyline farther along, although the game will generally reward you for pushing a storyline ahead yourself by making certain things easier down the line.

So for instance, one character you meet early on is an advocate for uniting many of the games factions into a single government, and you get an option early on to do missions for her to speed the creation of this government along. If you help her, it gives you much higher reputation with the movement that arises, and can start the move for uniting to happen a lot sooner, but if you don't help her the events leading to the vote to unite will still happen, but it will be slower, weaker, and you won't have the influence with them that you would have if you backed them early on. I haven't played all the way through this storyline, but from what I've read the factions can unite or not unite based on your actions or inaction and this can have major ramifications later in the storyline.

I mentioned above that you create your captain, but as soon as the game starts you also have a ships company in the form of officers and crewman, and for most game purposes your officers, crew, and ship are extensions of your character. You will start with a basic, balanced crew and officers, but as you understand the game mechanics better and level your crew members up you'll be able to customize the makeup of your crew more and more.

The interesting thing with crew, is the soft, skill based system in place that punishes you if you ship isn't properly crewed. So as you are sailing the cosmos, skill checks for your ship will pop up very regularly and they require successful skill checks from your crew or else bad things happen. For instance you might need to make a ship operations check in order to not have an accidental airlock rupture which would hurt some of your crew, or maybe you need to make an intimidation check to keep a poker game among the crew from turning into a brawl, or maybe you'll need to make a navigation check to jump through a gate. For failing a check you are generally only lightly punished in the form of ship and crew damage, but collectively all the checks you have to make add up, so that if your ship isn't properly crewed, you'll be constantly shelling out money for repairs and hospital bills for your crew. To better pass those checks you'll need to make sure you meet minimum crew skill levels in a number of different categories based on the size of your ship. A small, spy ship would only need a handful of crew compared to a cruiser that would require 3 or 4 times the crew of a smaller ship. Crew skill plays a big factor in this, so an entire level 15 crew will need noticeably less people to meet the minimum requirements than a ship crewed by nothing but level 1 crew.

The last thing I'll mention is the combat. Not only is there turn based ship to ship combat that is very fun, but there is also 4v4 ground combat you will often engage in that is very obviously based on Darkest Dungeon. Among your crew you will also have various combat classes, and before each ground battle you can select the 4 crew members you want to do the fighting. You can chose crew, officers, or your captain to fight, but note it's possible that your captain and at least some of your officers will suck at combat. I find because of the way abilities work you are generally better off focusing officers as either combat officers or support officers. In my current game I have my ship's doctor cross trained as a combat medic, and my chief security officer is trained as both a spy and assassin, giving him some stealth related abilities in combat, but the rest of my away teams are made up of crewmen.

The underlying game is dense, and some of the inner workings aren't really well explained, but once you get the basics of how skills are used and interact there's a lot of amazing potential.



Main map:
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Space Combat:
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Ground Combat:
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Last edited by Sepiche on Mon Aug 06, 2018 4:35 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Star Traders: Frontiers

Post by LordMortis » Mon Aug 06, 2018 4:28 pm

Can you play a Dralasites and spend the entire time talking in Schmoo voice? That's all I remember about anything RPG related with words Star and Frontier in the title.

Maybe I'll look for some Let's Play on the game to see if it is my thing or most definitely not my thing. I find most star trading games to have been piloty based and Tie Fighter was the last piloty based game I could play with any level of competence that translated to any level of enjoyment. You say "tablet game" and "darkest dungeon" which suggests maybe this might present a different experience.

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Re: Star Traders: Frontiers

Post by Sepiche » Mon Aug 06, 2018 4:30 pm

LordMortis wrote:
Mon Aug 06, 2018 4:28 pm
Can you play a Dralasites and spend the entire time talking in Schmoo voice? That's all I remember about anything RPG related with words Star and Frontier in the title.

Maybe I'll look for some Let's Play on the game to see if it is my thing or most definitely not my thing. I find most star trading games to have been piloty based and Tie Fighter was the last piloty based game I could play with any level of competence that translated to any level of enjoyment. You say "tablet game" and "darkest dungeon" which suggests maybe this might present a different experience.
I post these looks at games, and then I re-read them and realize all the important things I left out. :lol:

One important thing about Star Traders is it's all done from a 2D top down perspective and is turn based in combat, and always pausible outside of combat. I'll add a link to Steam and some screenshots to the OP.

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Re: Star Traders: Frontiers

Post by Lorini » Mon Aug 06, 2018 5:50 pm

How much is story and how much is mechanics? I'm not much on story really.
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Re: Star Traders: Frontiers

Post by Sepiche » Mon Aug 06, 2018 5:58 pm

Lorini wrote:
Mon Aug 06, 2018 5:50 pm
How much is story and how much is mechanics? I'm not much on story really.
Storylines are 100% skippable. There are plenty of things to do without the storylines like conflicts and missions that will randomly happen as the game goes on or you can just wander the galaxy fighting, trading, and/or exploring. Obviously the storylines have a depth to them that the autogenerated stuff lacks, but the conflict mechanics are pretty elaborate in their own right.

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Re: Star Traders: Frontiers

Post by Lorini » Mon Aug 06, 2018 6:32 pm

I found it very very confusing. I got some cargo, no idea where to sell it for example.
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Re: Star Traders: Frontiers

Post by Sepiche » Mon Aug 06, 2018 6:53 pm

Lorini wrote:
Mon Aug 06, 2018 6:32 pm
I found it very very confusing. I got some cargo, no idea where to sell it for example.
Planets are divided up into basic types, and if you go to the buy menu on a planet and select a good, it will tell you in the upper right what types of planets demand that good. The grade letter ratings next to the price per unit value in the list on the left is a grading of how the local price compares to the galactic average, so an A+ rating would mean it's considerably cheaper than average.

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Re: Star Traders: Frontiers

Post by Lorini » Mon Aug 06, 2018 7:52 pm

How do you find a planet in the map view? The other view tells me where contacts are but I never see those planets.
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Re: Star Traders: Frontiers

Post by Sepiche » Mon Aug 06, 2018 9:36 pm

Lorini wrote:
Mon Aug 06, 2018 7:52 pm
How do you find a planet in the map view? The other view tells me where contacts are but I never see those planets.
If you're looking at the galactic map: select a quadrant and then select System Atlas. That gives you a look at all the planets in the quadrant and a more detailed look at everything on them. If you want to travel to one of those planets: select it, and then there's an action dropdown at the top of that screen where you can set a waypoint to it.

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Re: Star Traders: Frontiers

Post by LordMortis » Wed Aug 08, 2018 9:46 am

Going to try and find a good let's play or such as at lunch but for $15, I think I'll be in, even though I have about 15 games on my desktop, I already want to play right now. Stupid shiny.

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Re: Star Traders: Frontiers

Post by Sepiche » Wed Aug 08, 2018 11:35 am

Sometimes the little bits of realism in this mess with me.

I had a mission last night to take an influential heir on board my ship and keep her protected from assassins during a blood feud with another house. Things were going great until I returned to her homeworld to turn in a mission. Turns out a bunch of assassins were hanging out at the starport on the off chance her protectors were stupid enough to return to the homeworld, and they promptly overwhelmed by security team and killed the VIP. :P

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Re: Star Traders: Frontiers

Post by Paingod » Wed Aug 08, 2018 11:37 am

Oh. This is done now? I've had it for some time and mowed through the content they published for Early Access, but put it back in the oven to wait. I didn't even realize this was a thing. :doh:

I'll have to get back to it at some point.
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Re: Star Traders: Frontiers

Post by LordMortis » Thu Aug 09, 2018 11:36 am

Boughteded. Dug in to it a little last night. Looking at a bit of Let's plays and seeing all the nice markers and filters you can take or leave, I was like "Now there's someone who understands how to advance a UI to the next level"... then I played, Ugh. To check the orientation of systems in a "quadrant" (not sector but quadrant) you have to take off. But you can feel free to check the galaxy map. When you have mission choice, there is no auditory feedback and there is a slight delay between you selection and its being accepted and sometime a selection goes away and flashes back, so it put you in panic mode. "Did I click this? Did I not click it? What were my results?" Needless to say I went from excited about the UI to frustrated with it pretty quickly. Also it's readily apparent what's clickable and what's not clickable. Hovering doesn't always give information about what you are hovering over, the help button just gives you help on a random topic. You can't click on sector from galaxy view to go sector view or a planet to go from sector to planet view, and again if you upwards in views from planet to sector, you launch. Nothing says that what you are going to do but that's what you do. Lots and lots and lots of mind boggling UI decision making for me.

I haven't scratched much of the game so I didn't get a a feel for ship combat, haven't explored "the wilds", and have done not ground fights, so it remains to be seen whether the horrible UI will be overcome by great game play/content. I really enjoyed my time with (and will enjoy again) Templar Battlleforce so they've pre-earned by $15 but so far my time is worth more than trying to figure out how I'm supposed to interact with the game. It feels very Beta, but it also looks like the game behind the PITA to interact with screens could still be a whole lot of both fun and interesting.

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Re: Star Traders: Frontiers

Post by Lorini » Fri Aug 10, 2018 1:23 pm

I would agree with you LM. I've got so much on my plate right now that I've put this aside for the time being.
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Re: Star Traders: Frontiers

Post by LordMortis » Fri Aug 10, 2018 3:40 pm

I'm going to give it some time this weekend, but likely not much patience. It it doesn't work for me it'll go on the back burner. I want to like the game but I'm old and my patience for things that should be easy but aren't is thin. I don't want to spend my leisure efforts adapting to things that don't readily make sense. That's for 9 to 25 year old me.

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Re: Star Traders: Frontiers

Post by Jeff V » Fri Aug 10, 2018 5:01 pm

Sounds like it could be my kind of game, I'll keep an eye and see if they bake it more to everyone's liking. It's a couple of months yet before gaming season arrives anyway.

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Re: Star Traders: Frontiers

Post by Sepiche » Fri Aug 10, 2018 5:22 pm

Yeah, I'll grant that mission choose screen can be a little convoluted, especially when there are a lot of modifiers, but I think you'll find as you keep playing that it presents a lot of useful information in a fairly concise way and is flexible enough to be reused a lot. In general, while the layout and function of some of the UIs can be odd, I find the game does a good job of putting the information you need to make a decision in front of you when you need it.

You might also post your thoughts to the game forum as they are pretty fast to make adjustments. You can partially thank me that the descriptions on the ship encounter screen are much clearer than they used to be about potential outcomes.

I find the Trese Brothers games frustrating in that they have a lot of great ideas, but the implementation always feels a bit amateurish. I chalk it up to them starting out in the mobile game world. That said, I think Frontiers is much improved over their older games in terms of design and UI.

If you guys keep playing and think some tips would help, I'd be happy to put together a list.

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Re: Star Traders: Frontiers

Post by LordMortis » Sun Aug 12, 2018 3:41 pm

Played a bit more this weekend, butting my head against the wall trying to get the "First Blood" unlock "Defeat 10 ships in combat at hard in two years." I've been using that as my way of teaching my self the nuances of fighting and skill choices related to fighting. I've been trying with the blockade/pirate but I just can't beat the timer. I've tried varying ships and skill levels and choosing my battles, but nope. The game under the UI is pretty much up my alley. But I tell you, why should have I have to back and forth when trying to figure you what to buy to sell at the destination I am going? Little thing after little thing that annoys me. Why can't get I get better descriptions of the ships during the captain choice screen?

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Re: Star Traders: Frontiers

Post by map » Fri Aug 17, 2018 1:25 pm

Let me qualify the following by stating I was house bound for the last two weeks with bronchitis which is probably why the grinding didn't bother me that much.
there is a lot going on in this game. It has a learning curve because of that. But also because of that the grinding can take different shapes.
So I am enjoying it still even though I am no longer stuck at home.
The developers are very responsive.
Took my first build to level 14 before I realized I had screwed the pooch.
Took my current build to level 20 before I really started to understand everything that was going on.
However I still get some surprises.
Save anywhere and you can walk away for a couple of days and come back without feeling like you have to relearn the system.
For me it is worth the price.
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Re: Star Traders: Frontiers

Post by Lorini » Sat Aug 18, 2018 8:47 am

If only I could understand what I was supposed to do it would be worth it as well. It's just that right now I have other games that I'm enjoying but I'm sure I'll come back to Star Traders.
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Re: Star Traders: Frontiers

Post by dbemont » Sat Jan 12, 2019 12:43 pm

I totally missed this thread, and only found the game last week. Since then, I have been so addicted to it I didn't want to stop to post about it. :)

It is really great! You have incredible freedom as to the direction you go, although I suppose you almost have to start by raising some money through trade and getting your characters some experience by running some missions.

I can see why it would be frustrating at first. Character creation is very interesting, but if your choices don't match the direction you take your game, it all becomes much more difficult. And personally, I found the UI for missions confusing for some time, although once you figure it out, you realize that it is actually very well designed to minimize the demands on your memory.

My suggestion for learning the game would be to begin as Merchant in the Moklumnue faction at no more than normal difficulty. This will minimize early aggression from others, and maximize your trade income. And be cautious about getting too cozy with that Calagan prince right at the start. It's easy money, but whichever faction he butts heads with, you will very soon be considered an outlaw by them, making travel through their system fraught. But you have so many other ways to make money, and pretty soon you can upgrade at least your crew's weaponry and add some talents for space battles, and then you won't need to worry so much about being attacked. (Although one of the secrets of the game is to avoid unnecessary battles when they have no particular benefit for you. Repairs are expensive, and wounded crew quickly becomes unhappy crew, for some reason.)

I have not tried the game as a real warrior type, not sure that it would have legs if that were my main focus. But the contacts, the missions, the crew and ship upgrades, the complexity of assembling the right crew for difficult undertakings -- I've been loving all this. However, it is not a game to play fast, to just plow ahead. It is really not a game about just piling up the fights and the experience points.

Not sure if the wiki has already been linked, but just in case:
https://startraders.gamepedia.com/Star_Traders_Wiki
I cannot imagine playing the game without that open.
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Re: Star Traders: Frontiers

Post by Baroquen » Mon Jan 14, 2019 12:49 am

Wishlisted. Will revisit during a sale, but looks interesting enough for the price.

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Re: Star Traders: Frontiers

Post by Paingod » Mon Jan 14, 2019 8:08 am

I bought the game on Early Release and played as much content as they had made available twice. I found it interesting, but haven't gone back since release to see how it's worked out.
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Re: Star Traders: Frontiers

Post by wonderpug » Mon Jan 14, 2019 9:59 am

dbemont wrote:
Sat Jan 12, 2019 12:43 pm
I totally missed this thread, and only found the game last week. Since then, I have been so addicted to it I didn't want to stop to post about it. :)
Thanks for the thread bump, I missed this the first time. I'm such a sucker for space trading games, I don't know if I can resist this at $15.

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Re: Star Traders: Frontiers

Post by LordMortis » Mon Jan 14, 2019 10:53 am

Coincidentally I just picked this up two weeks after playing and setting it down a while ago. I'm impressed with how much better they have been making it. The game is essentially the same feature set but they have really been working on improving the flavor. The RPG aspect of it.

It got about two weeks of my exploring the game and then setting it back down. Something's still not quite there for me and what's worse is I can't my finger on it but damned is this game close to what it really should be. For the price, if you want RPG lite, a space trading sim, with a two forms of unique combat (ship and crew) and a unique take on minigames game theory on random selection of five cards.

All in all you have five different tactical aspects of the game and they are all interesting in their own right.

I think, though I'm not sure, my interest doesn't get held long enough because there is no real end goal. The RPG lite aspect is a story the coninues on with or without you so there is no end game per se. Your goals in the game are goals you would mentally set for yourself like achievement unlocking (which is grindy and sadly the grindy achievement unlocking if feature unlocking as well)

Still, there's a lot game and a lot different (read interesting) game for the buck.

The icon remains on my desktop and I will come back to it, especially knowing the devs are still putting their love in to the game and it will continue to get better.

Edit: from my own notes
But I tell you, why should have I have to back and forth when trying to figure you what to buy to sell at the destination I am going? Little thing after little thing that annoys me. Why can't get I get better descriptions of the ships during the captain choice screen?
Now on the UI can tell which planet types tend to have a demand of a good being sold simply by clicking on the good you are thinking about buying and navigating screens for "landing", planet, system is waaay better than it was just six months ago. Again, you can tell the love the devs have for this game and wanting to create a great experience. I also eventually learned that trading is really a sort macro level things. You essentially go from mining or farming to refining to industrializing or techinng to population and each world is one of these (or a few other) types. When you learn the process flow, trading becomes more of a planning what a planet should have thing.

The ships description is still crappy but I just put a wiki up in a separate window. Be careful with they wiki though. The advertisers on the wiki are consistently trying to load malware and browser hijackers. If you don't have good blockers and malware don't use it. And that's sad because it has some great reference material.

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Re: Star Traders: Frontiers

Post by dbemont » Mon Jan 14, 2019 8:15 pm

LordMortis wrote:
Mon Jan 14, 2019 10:53 am
I think, though I'm not sure, my interest doesn't get held long enough because there is no real end goal.
You make an important point. My guess is that people can predict very well whether they will like this game or not, based on whether they desire externally defined goals. As a person who does not care about victory screens and, IRL, has a very low drive to completion of anything, it does not bother me a wit. But I think of the people who really, really cared that Civ VI did not end with a scoreboard -- those people are going to be put off by this game. You finish particular missions, you complete objectives, you level up characters and buy new ships. But you do not win the game or achieve a score or anything remotely like that.
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Re: Star Traders: Frontiers

Post by Sepiche » Thu Jan 17, 2019 12:31 pm

dbemont wrote:
Sat Jan 12, 2019 12:43 pm
And be cautious about getting too cozy with that Calagan prince right at the start. It's easy money, but whichever faction he butts heads with, you will very soon be considered an outlaw by them, making travel through their system fraught. But you have so many other ways to make money, and pretty soon you can upgrade at least your crew's weaponry and add some talents for space battles, and then you won't need to worry so much about being attacked. (Although one of the secrets of the game is to avoid unnecessary battles when they have no particular benefit for you. Repairs are expensive, and wounded crew quickly becomes unhappy crew, for some reason.)
To underscore one of the things that I think makes this game fun and interesting: I've never played a friend to all trader type, but rather tend to play a bounty hunter or fanatic type where I pick a faction to beat up on and go to town. I don't always side with Calagan, although I have, and there are some really fun storylines you can get caught up in if you do side with him.

If you have a sufficiently strong ship and crew you can earn a lot of money it turns out by being a bully boy for some of the major factions (and trading a little on the side). Certainly a more risky path than being a friendly trader, but the fact that both paths are viable (and many others) is what makes this game especially cool.

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Re: Star Traders: Frontiers

Post by Paingod » Thu Jan 17, 2019 1:02 pm

That's actually good to hear. I typically shy away from being a pirate/privateer in games because I don't like kicking myself in the face.
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