Star Dynasties Review: Play Out Your Dune Fantasies



Star Dynasties is a welcome complement to the Crusader Kings formula, adding enough twists to shine. Love, war, and intrigue wait amidst the stars!

Star Dynasties, from developer Pawley Games and publisher Iceberg Interactive, has a deceptively simple premise: What if Crusader Kings III, Paradox Studio’s game of court intrigue in the middle ages, was set in a distant technologically declined star system? But, rather than seek to simply imitate, Star Dynasties takes its own spin on the formula through unique combat, a critical honor system, and the fascinating interplay between technological limitation and star-faring civilizations.

Mechanically, Star Dynasties will be familiar to players of Crusader Kings III. Players take the role of the head of a household, here at least a Dukedom, and rule over their family, a planet, and vassals, occasionally serving under an Empire controlling Archon. Gameplay is turn based and revolves around taking actions specifically with the player’s main character, as well as their council of advisers. While they educate their young child and future heir, a player’s sister, who was appointed Admiral, might be planning sector wide defenses while their mother, a skilled diplomat, opens channels with the nearby Duchess, wronged by a fine levied by their mutual Archon.

Related: Crusader Kings 3 Mod Adds Fishing Minigame To Reduce Character’s Stress

The web of intrigue is the one of the main draws of Star Dynasties and games like it. The ability of the game to make players lose themselves in the struggles, triumphs, and failures of their family is a rare thing, but Star Dynasties does it excellently and consistently. As with Crusader Kings, players will have stories to tell, involving the expected political and personal messes that have popularized this storytelling medium in the genre.

Star Dynasties Event

The fact that Star Dynasties manages to pull off Crusader Kings in space is success enough, but there are some key innovations that make this a different, and arguably superior, experience. Combat in Star Dynasties has none of the whack-a-mole tendencies found in Crusader Kings. Instead, upon starting an attack, players must reach out to their vassals to gain their ships in combat. Each time this occurs, the enemy grows more likely to discover the mustering of an army. When the jig is up and both sides ready for battle, it is decided in a turn based minigame where the admiral’s skills can be used to supplement or offset the actual makeup of the fleet, which feels like a compelling card game. It is quick, it is interesting, and it is far easier to understand and manage than chasing war parties around medieval France.

The legal system in Star Dynasties also helps it stand out. Every character has an honor rating, and how they act will influence how each other character sees them based on this honor rating. Breaking the law or doing dishonorable things will lower the score, but may often be beneficial. Accepting an enemy’s rebellious vassal as your own might grant you their territory and warships, but, by law that vassal rightfully serves your enemy, and the wider diplomatic world will definitely have thoughts about your acceptance of them. This is a wonderful way to improve storytelling as well as open new gameplay options. Forcing characters into dishonorable acts based on your scheming is an amazing feeling and really evokes Dune’s political intrigue.

Visually, Star Dynasties is clean, easy to understand, and can be quite pretty at times. Events and character portraits are well-illustrated, and the small glimpses of the ancient, half-understood technology that powers each world is evocative. Musically the tracks in Star Dynasties do a great job of setting the scene, though nothing really stands out. The best part of the visual package of Star Dynasties is its helpful UI and tooltip system. Very rarely will players get lost or not know what their options are thanks to detailed events, well-laid out menus, and easy character comparison charts.

While Star Dynasties has a lot to live up to, its unique gameplay features, interesting setting, and wonderful UI make it an excellent addition to the world of Grand Strategy games. There is really no better way to fight a shadow war between a player’s own Atreides and a rival Harkonnen than in Star Dynasties.

Next: Disciples: Liberation Review – A Clever Story & Gameplay To Match

Star Dynasties is available on PCs now. Screen Rant was provided with a Steam key for the purposes of this review.

Our Rating:

4 out of 5 (Excellent)

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