Molded in the vein of Masters of Orion and Galactic Civilizations, Pax Nova carries on the spirit of what you would expect from a 4x strategy game. At its heart, it is a solid experience, one that will be instantly familiar to anyone who has played through similar games. Of course, Pax Nova does have a few bits that make it stand out from other strategy titles, but it’s hindered by some glaring technical flaws that make it difficult to get through.
Anyone who has played a 4x game before will recognize most of the mechanics of Pax Nova. Players will need to manage pollution, budget the costs of your research, and try to forge diplomatic ties with rival factions. All the while, you are growing your power through technology, military or diplomatic influence, and leverage that to obtain an advantage over your rivals. Much of the mechanical design is so bog-standard that it pretty much plays itself. Sure, the names of your resources have changed, but the dance is the same.
The Sky's the Limit
There are some notable differences that help Pax Nova stand out. Most are minor, such as the inclusion of a bare-bones questline for extra resources. A more appreciative addition is the ability to customize military units to your specifications, rather than a static research tree that simply upgrades them for you. This is tied to your technological progression, so researching new technology gives your units new weapons and armor over time. Of course, this all costs resources to create, so finding a good balance is part of the strategic play players participate in.
There are fifteen total factions in Pax Nova, with the ability to create your own custom faction. Each group has its own traits and drawbacks, mostly catering to specific play styles. They run the typical gamut you would expect; militaristic groups gain advantages in building outposts and conquering enemies, while eco-friendly factions gain bonuses to prevent pollution and have efficient city building. The factions are not necessarily that diverse, but they do provide options to different play-styles, making it easier to attain a win condition.
One major part is space exploration, arguably Pax Nova’s best yet worst feature. To truly succeed, players need to explore their solar system, colonize new planets, and create an intergalactic civilization against the other factions. Technology progression through different eras is the only way to obtain the knowledge to enter space. So the more tech the player can research, the more efficient space travel becomes.
This system showcases a sense of size and progression for your fledgling civilization in a very subdued way. Achieving spaceflight is a major achievement for your faction, one that marks progress and ability to expand into different maps to explore. Then, having the knowledge to create space stations marks another milestone. You feel accomplished with your mastery of the game’s mechanics through this, your gambles and strategies paying off with higher and higher returns.
A Battle Beyond the Stars
So, why did I say this is also one of the worst features? I suspect it is also one of the reasons for the game’s massive technical flaws. Pax Nova, even on low graphical settings, chugs along with an unnatural slowness that sometimes makes playing unbearable. It often takes a few seconds for the end turn button to function, or you must contend with lag as your units move across the hexagonal map. The worst, however, is the load times, sometimes reaching upwards of five minutes before you can even load a save file.
A lot of these flaws seem like inconvenient nitpicks, but they already turn the slow burn of 4x strategy into a tedious crawl. It frankly just gets in the way, making the achievements you obtain less impactful. Instead of fighting off other factions, you find yourself in a war of attrition with the game itself. It’s honestly a shame that these technical issues can get in the way of the game's overall fun. Pax Nova is expecting you to play 4-D chess - already a hard sell for folks looking for quick gratification - with a broken timer.
These are not the only technical issues. One feature in Pax Nova is a ‘reminder’ of sorts before you can even end your turn. Sometimes this works well; there are so many variables to keep track of the fact that the developers thought to assist in that is good. It becomes problematic when you are forced to do it when you do not wish to.
The best example of this is when you move military units. For whatever reason, most players will not be able to advance unless they move their military units. This requires the player to cycle through every unit they have on a planet, and either forcibly move them or press a skip turn button. Even though Pax Nova warps you to the unit, cycling through this turn by turn is another tedious chore that should just be automatic.
Another problem is how underdeveloped diplomacy feels in Pax Nova, especially when compared to the other mechanics. Most relations are all about the exchange of resources, influence, and more, but the statistics that track how likely a good trade can happen seem a little off, with the player compensating heavily in trades, even with those they have conquered in battle. It also is a tad random; one example has a faction I was at war with asking for resources to pay off debt, totally ignoring the fact that I was laying siege to their city.
Pax Nova Review | A Galaxy of Error
Ultimately, the issues of Pax Nova hold it back from being a truly great game. Still, those looking for a solid 4x strategy game will find some enjoyment out of Pax Nova. It does not really stand out in the grand scheme of things, but it offers enough of what you expect from the genre to offer a mildly enjoyable experience. If you can stomach long load times and technical issues, then Pax Nova might be a fair challenge for strategy players looking for something more familiar over groundbreaking to play.
TechRaptor reviewed Pax Nova on Steam with a code provided by the publisher.
- Solid 4x Gameplay...
- Building a Galactic Civilizaton...
- Additional Features like Unit Customization...
- ...Really Weak Diplomacy Mechanic.
- ...Massive Technical Issues Throughout.
- ...Threadbare Quests and Side Missions.
- Forgettable Graphics and Sound Design.