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Neptune's Pride (PC) artwork

Neptune's Pride (PC) review


"Perhaps I betrayed they who trusted me the most. Maybe I delighted in the slaughter of those who stood in my way and maybe, when my strategies hit a speed bump, I manipulated the field to my liking. Maybe I broke more hearts than defensive walls, but I crossed that finish line first."



My early dealings with Neptune’s Pride weren’t particularly disastrous, but could be labelled ego bruising.  I guess I figured years of being a smug arrogant prick that was pretty damn good at a few select strategy games gave me automatic victory over the rest of the plebs who swarmed into my first foray at ruling a star system, but perhaps they didn’t get that memo.  I was the first person to be invaded after my space neighbours decided a spot of double teaming was in order, meaning my flanks were ruthlessly smashed and my outlaying colonies were razed effortlessly.  After this, winning was never an option, and my master plan quickly switched to being as big a pain in the arse as I could for as long as I could. So I shot a message over to the guy with the most stars, told him my days were numbered, but pointed out that keeping me alive meant two of his would-be rivals would be attacking me and ignoring him.  Thanks to him, my weapons statistics doubled and tripled overnight; guerrilla runs into enemy strongholds with moderate forces frequently took weaker stars they would need to waste time reclaiming and what was left of my empire was reinforced.  I lost; don’t get me wrong, my total destruction was always on the cards, but I’d switched focus by then to pure, vengeful spite.  By the time I was no more than a memory, four of their craft had been destroyed for every one of mine.  They were weak and out of position, and they died very shortly after me.
 
Sometimes, often in fact, victory in Neptune’s Pride doesn’t depend on who’s the smartest, or who has the best game plan, but on who the most sadistic, unlovable, untrustworthy bastard of the group is.  Who can promise and sell their opposition the world, and deliver them only a couple of carefully plotted daggers to the back.  The quicker you learn that lesson, the better you’ll fare.
 
I kept it in mind.  Directly bordering me on my next attempt was someone who broadcasted herself as being new to the game.  I gave her assurances and fed her advice specifically designed to ensure that she was strong enough to protect my flank, but not strong enough to pose me any threat. She turtled herself in, spending big money on strengthening her existing cluster of stars expensively instead of claiming new stars and using their raw potential to upgrade on the cheap.  I expanded hard; I didn’t put any money in science, and ploughed all my funds into economy and industry, giving me a steadily bigger stockpile of attack craft and money.
 
Read anything about Neptune’s Pride, and the first thing you’ll be told is that it’s a stripped down 4X game, scaled right back to the bare essentials and thrown up as an online multi-player all-out war.  To win, you have to own just over half of the stars in the galaxy, so any truce you make is only going to be temporary at best and choked full of self-serving, home-spun propaganda designed to get defences lowered so systems can be raped at worst.  Games will take about a month to see to the end but are always moving slowly in the background.  Most of the time, there’s little you can do but watch the ships you’ve carefully plotted crawl slowly across the star system, spend some of the money you’ve harvested, or talk to other players.  In this case, purple contacted me early on.  We were on other sides of the galaxy, and he proposed a tech trade alliance.  It made sense; where my cash had been spent on the economic and industrial welfare of my budding empire, he had sunk a lot into science.  He was no threat to me and my naďve ally, and wouldn’t be a threat until late in the game should we both still be standing.  But.  He typed his messages in that annoying text talk that replaces “you” with “u”, didn’t know where his shift key was, and had appalling grammar.  I knew it was my destiny to destroy him for this disrespect.  No alliance was formed.  It was beneath me.
 
Instead, I set about being atypical.  While the rest of the world partook in an arm’s race to be the biggest and the baddest, I ploughed time and effort into speed and range.  With this, I was able to take straggling planets on the fringes of other people’s space they could not reach in time or at all.  I put science on the backburner, and I topped the galaxy’s list for daily income and weight of craft.  Soon, I was overlapping three other player’s star systems; orange was my pre-established ally, toiling away at tech trades to try and keep up; red was the unlucky bugger stuck in the middle of the system hoping against the very real possibility that everyone would attack him all at once and yellow was… well, yellow was doomed.
 
I lay on the eastern most side of the map, but, in the west, purple and green had combined to start chewing out anyone in their path.  Pooling their attack-heavy research, the pair had already started a blitzkrieg war against yellow and light blue.  They were winning big.  Light blue had already given up, leaving the remainder of their forces to be run by indifferent AI control and yellow was isolated, broken and in desperate need of help.  I stood off for a while, letting red’s forces dwindle away as yellow dug in their heels.  Then, when yellow needed saving the most, I was there.  At his back, wielding a dagger.  Destroying him and taking his tastiest stars.
 
Purple and I started devouring what was left of yellow, getting ready for what would happen when we met in the middle.  Red made a hopeful foray into the fringes of my space, but retreated just as quick when I sent him a light-hearted message, jokingly informing him of the awful, awful things I would do unless he pulled his forces and gave back two worthless stars out of the three he had taken.  He agreed and retreated, losing what would be his only real chance at taking me down.  Purple was different; with the backing of green, the west had been taken and he was spoiling for a fight.  But I thought I had time.  He needed to rebuild what was left of his forces after doing the hard shift against yellow, and I had double his number.  Even though he had a bigger tech edge when it came to weapons, I was faster, better positioned and knew the difference between “your” and “you’re”.  I took yellow’s home world, and purple complained, telling me it was his spoils for a campaign he’d won, and that if I stayed there, it would be war.  I scoffed – SCOFFED -- at his threats, told him that he should feel free to attack me and see what happens.  I was then mildly surprised when he did.
 
When I logged into the game next, it was to find that purple had sent what was left of his attack force against yellow into my newest flock of captured stars.  They had not been safeguarded; I had used what craft they had stationed to attack the last few yellow planets now defended by AI control after the player had thrown in the towel.  Slightly irked, I shot off a new message, telling purple it had just made a huge mistake.  I told him I had large numbers incoming (bluffing) and what he saw was only a fraction of my forces (truth; most of these forces were being used on planets inside red’s scan range to impress upon him how oozing with defensive ships I was).  Purple counter-scoffed – COUNTER-SCOFFED! – and the war that would end the game was on.
 
To think that war is little more than throwing ships at planets would be folly.  Before the heavy blows were exchanged, there were messages to be sent, replied to and painstakingly decoded through a veil of paranoia. Thinking himself smarter than I, purple had already contacted red and orange.  Orange was asked to attack my flank while I was distracted, and told me immediately.  Between us, we worked out a ploy where she would take a few of my outlying stars to make it look like she was complying, and I would retake them in a show of fake force.  In reality, my numbers on that side of the map were becoming lower and lower where I was siphoning them away towards the new warfront.  Red was given a slightly different ultimatum from purple; he was to either attack me, or green and purple would combine to wipe him out.  He, too, contacted me, and we worked out a similar ploy to fool them.  Not only did this stop two forces from joining a war they didn’t feel they were ready for against a target I was quite keen to not see destroyed (me!), it made it look like I was winning three major fights at once without so much as a bloodied nose.  After a few days, I was able to take back the planets I’d lost, and I was throwing ships forward into purple space.  His defiant, but annoyingly misspelt, messages trickled and stopped.  Soon he was talking peace.  I told him I’d agree to a ceasefire to consider my options.   Then, I didn’t.
 
Soon, I had made headway into the outskirts of purple space, and was holding fast at a couple of his better stars.  In the meanwhile, orange had made an unsuccessful foray into green space and was beaten back firmly. Fearing that if she fell, purple’s only ally would have free scope at the weakest part of my empire, I gossiped with red over the purple and green alliance’s plans, sharing screenshots of the mails purple had sent me, asking me to join with him and green on taking red space between us.  To her credit, orange talked herself out of being wiped out by green, promising him some of her stars and help taking down me and red.  Then, as soon as his fleets moved in, she hit a counter-attack of ferocious proportions. 
 
It was altogether too clear that green was the weakest side of the alliance that had swallowed up the majority of the map.  While he floundered under the advances of two systems, purple held out.  By then, attrition was starting to take hold; with his stars slowly falling, he bribed orange to do a little recon on my backwater systems.  Under my advice, she took his money and fed him false numbers designed to make it look like I was swimming in attack crafts.  It was a bluff; everything I had was being thrown at an entrenched enemy. Believing themselves both beaten, the alliance crumbled spectacularly.  Purple promised to abandon green to red if he helped with the war against me.  Green made a ploy at being Space Italy, asking for some of his stars back in exchange for switching sides.  We talked among ourselves; red was indifferent, orange wanted to show some mercy towards our fallen foes.  I put my foot down.  We were to push them back into the corners of the map, then destroy them. If you can’t even be bothered to employ a possessive apostrophe right, you deserve nothing less than genocide.
 
Green went down with a whimper in record time.  Purple hung on longer, still begging for alliances that were never going to happen.  He pleaded for his life as I stamped out planet after planet.  Even orange made a path through the ruins of green space to nibble at his vanguard before it was all over. He pandered to egos, kowtowed to superior fleets and, in the end, spat bile and belittlement to the people who had undone all his glorious work at the start of the game.  Under my gaze, I had initiated a three-pronged war that had torn what looked to be a game-winning effort to shreds. We chased his last fleet down to his last star.  And then all that was left was the isolated dark red army that had tried very hard to remain invisible as it tried to play catch up with our combined tech.  We turned our eyes to the only viable target left, and they didn’t last long.
 
Victory was sweet, but it’s silly to pretend it didn’t take a lot out of us.  What started as a game I would look in on maybe once or twice a day became an obsession.  A few days into my war with purple, I drove to Wales for the wedding of a guy I’ve known the majority of my life. At the reception, I was gracious enough to hang around and hear the best man’s speech, but, after that, I was logging on to his PC and shuffling my defence while people told the bride how pretty she looked.  Inconvenient stretches of space meant that my forces would run their plotted courses sometimes at 3am or so, and then sit there until new orders were given.  In the midst of war, this dead time could be the death of me, so alarm clocks were set and much coffee was drunk.  Differing time zones and early-early morning strikes were levelled as weapons far more devastating than a few laser barrages, and souls were slowly shrivelled into small black balls of cynical hatred.  When orange, sweet, innocent little orange, wasn’t driving to the local library in the dead of night, long after it closed, to sit in the rain and leech broadband from it when her connection at home failed, she was batting her eyelashes at invading forces and saying “But I’m just an ickkle girl in this scary new world!” until they took pity.  Then, when they backed off, she tore out their throat with her teeth.  Neptune’s Pride creates monsters.  It takes that quiet little voice in the back of your skull that whispers with a voice like nails on a chalkboard, the one that urges you to do hideous, unmentionable things, and it arms it with a megaphone.
 
It was perhaps affirming that we had found something rare; we had aligned ourselves with allies that had kept their word.  The map lay before us, a glorious rainbow of blue (me!) red and orange.  When the last outsider fell, I led the way by quite the margin.  Red congratulated me, while orange, who lay in third, set her sights on second.   We spoke about how the game might end, noting there is no happily ever after button.  I would either need to capture the ten stars I needed to skip past the finishing line, or someone else would do to me what we did to purple.  Orange assured me she would not let this happen: I had carried her, and she was grateful.  So, we plotted against red for an hour, exchanging information and swapping ideas.  Our star systems were so intertwined by now that we wouldn’t be able to disguise our intentions.  So we decided that we’d move things into place in a roundabout fashion, tricking red into thinking we were merely bolstering defences.  Orange’s fleets left her stars on my side, and started their long journey westwards.  Then she bade me goodbye; she would be offline until the next morning, when we would put our plan in motion.
 
I waited half an hour to make sure she wasn’t coming back, then the fleets I’d promised would aid her turned around at the first chance and drove towards the stars she’d left undefended.  It was a bloodbath.    It was all over before she even knew it was coming.
 
It was a bastard thing to do, but that’s what you have to be, and ultimately, that’s what Neptune’s Pride makes you.  Because the opposing forces aren’t simple AI, but other people who are just as capable of being a dirty, self-serving opportunist as you are.  Maybe you can be smarter or faster; maybe you’re more willing to sit up into the wee hours of every morning to try and get the drop on the weak players who insist sleep is more important than victory, but.  But.
 
Perhaps I betrayed they who trusted me the most.  Maybe I delighted in the slaughter of those who stood in my way and maybe, when my strategies hit a speed bump, I manipulated the field to my liking.  Maybe I broke more hearts than defensive walls, but I crossed that finish line first.
 
But, honestly, I’ve changed!  I’ll do right by my allies next time.  So open your worlds to me, share your tech and information.  When I tell you that your only chance is a pre-emptive strike, I do so for purely your benefit.  I’ve got your back, and I only want what’s best for you.  Follow my lead, and we’ll take the world on.  Together.  Just you and me, kid.
 
Trust me.

Rating: 10/10

EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (July 26, 2011)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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WilltheGreat posted July 26, 2011:

Brilliant.
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threetimes posted July 26, 2011:

"But. He typed his messages in that annoying text talk that replaces “you” with “u”, didn’t know where his shift key was, and had appalling grammar. I knew it was my destiny to destroy him for this disrespect. No alliance was formed. It was beneath me.

Instead, I set about being atypical. "

Wonderful stuff

Having spent countless hours playing RISK - Factions online this sounded so familiar. the alliances, the colours, the devious self serving. So vivid and funny, your review held my interest to the very end.
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honestgamer posted July 26, 2011:

You definitely skimped on the mechanics--I really have no idea how this game looks, if its menus are intuitive or much of anything that I like to know about games like this--but I liked what you wrote just the same because it does such a good job of capturing (assuming that I can trust your descriptions) what it is to play this game. I'm kind of interested in giving it a shot.
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EmP posted July 27, 2011:

Thanks, Will and Threetimes. Moreso for sticking with the review. I just kept coming up with words!

Which moves smoothly into Jason's comment. I didn;t want to harp on about the exact control devices because of the length somewhat, but, mainly, because it's as simple as it can be. I mentioned the fgame is scalled way, way back and, mechanically, it's as basic as basic can be. I don't think that's what makes the game, so it never felt like something that should get any more than a side note.

I'm thinking about getting a gaming diary together for my next game. We'll see what happens. Thanks, all, for reading!
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SamildanachEmrys posted August 01, 2011:

It was certainly an interesting reading experience. I'm not sure I'd call it a review exactly, though it has made me want to play. The potential for backstabbing and deviousness sounds very enticing, I must admit.
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SamildanachEmrys posted May 06, 2012:

I finished up my first game of Neptune's Pride a few days ago. I can see why you like it. I set out making alliances with people but all along intending to break certain ones once I'd achieved specific things. It went badly in the end, but I didn't come last despite being the only first-timer.

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