The purest element of Space Pirates And Zombies 2 (hereafter lovingly referred to as SPAZ 2) is the building of your mothership. All the ships in this game are built using a modular component feature. You are given The Mother Core, then you can add sub-cores, pick nose parts, elbow joints and various left and right wing pieces, as well as thrust engine parts onto your assemblage.
Sure, you can buy the pieces and parts at a starbase. However, you can also scavenge battle wreckage in hopes of upgrading your vessel’s sections. Whether from your own battles or not, wreckage provides a variety of loot for your (or someone else’s!) efforts. Finally, and probably the most interesting and intriguing way to upgrade, you can obtain parts during real-time combat.
As you fight your various foes, parts sometimes come right off of their ships in the middle of battle (be careful, because yours might do the exact same thing), and since you are equipped with a tractor beam, you can deconstruct and reconstruct your ship mid-combat. If you see a part that is superior to one of your own, it is relatively easy to swap them out, literally on the fly. If you are lucky, while you are shoving missiles up your opponent’s aft (one of Commander Elsa’s favorite sayings), parts might just fly off for your perusal. Currently out of juice while your omni-lithium capacitor is being swapped out? Just ram your enemies. T-bone them. Stick your nose in their aft. Yeah, just run into them and see if you can get their pieces to pop off.
As you level up and become more powerful, you’ll get increasing amounts of sub-cores to add. Along with The Mother Core, these form the basis of all power to your ship and its functions. Additionally, more sub-cores give more ‘hard points’ to add the other components to as well (along with increasing the size of your ship and adding to various stats). It may seem logical to just build a simple tube-like spaceship to take advantage of all of the available places to add parts. However, there is an extremely important aspect of SPAZ 2 not to be overlooked: Synergy.
The more contact each made between each core, the more synergy is created. You may be giving up some weapon contact points, but if parts are located where there is more synergy being generated, they’ll perform better. In essence, fewer weapons with better synergy will most likely perform better than more parts with less synergy. It takes a little bit to start leveling up and getting more sub-cores, but by the time that happens, it will all make sense. The white, pulsating synergy on the ship assembly screen shows exactly what is being produced and where. Simply, put your best parts where there is the most synergy. Looking at larger AI-built ships’ layouts will help you a lot with construction ideas as well.
How do you buy all these components, other than selling or trading older ones? There are three main tradable items in SPAZ 2: Scrap, Rez and Goons. Scrap is, well, scrap — akin to scrap metal. Rez is the mysterious “transmutable element” which powers every ship (there’s also that tiny thing about it holding all of the secrets of the universe [no spoilers!]). The faster you push your ship the more Rez you burn through. Goons are people who are used to repair ships, but more so, they are a trade commodity — almost-worthless humans. You do need them to man your ship as well, though. If you have too many Goons on board, however, you once again burn through your Rez quicker. Final note: carrying extra weapons or parts burns up more Rez too. A lot of the fun comes from this delicate balancing act.
All three of these can be found at harvestable locations. Each place slowly builds up its single asset. If you catch one at the right time (Full Ripeness Meter), you can Harvest instead of Scavenge — and get twice the amount! You can also gain these three items from scavenging battle wreckage as well as in other, spoilery ways. Whatever you have to buy, sell, or trade is found at owned starbases. Until you get a lot bigger, and deeper into the game, each starbase is run by one of five factions. Staying on the good side of at least one of them will be more lucrative for your trading career. Each person and starbase also have their own markup percentage for trading.
SPAZ 2 has two hundred individual captains. At the start, some are already aligned with a faction, while a good portion is not. You have a ‘current standing’ with each captain. Unfortunately, you start with some of them already disliking you — whether they are in a faction or are simply free traders. All of your actions, throughout the entire game, are remembered by everyone. So, each action you take has a positive or negative effect on the universe, as well as each personality. You might want to be careful to not be too laser-emitter-heavy too soon. Relationship balancing is just as fun as your cargo maintenance.
Although SPAZ 2 is technically 2D, everything, especially during the skirmishes, is rendered in 3D. Let me just say that it is gorgeous. This adds an enormous amount of immersion to the surroundings and environment. I have played a lot of space games and, subsequently, have read an aft-load of comments about them. There is always this notion about tactical fighting in the space genre that there cannot be obstacles, unlike land-based battles, because it is outer space, after all. Well, nobody told MinMax Games about that. When you enter into a brawl, there are all kinds of debris floating about. Not only do you have the other ships’ lasers, missiles, torpedoes, etc. to watch out for, but there is a myriad of rocks, asteroid-looking fragments, junk pieces, (some spoilery things) and, eventually, ship parts. All of these obstacles have to be dodged, used, avoided… basically accounted for somehow, all while you’re trying to blow numerous surrounding ships up and/or into various little pieces.
My time with SPAZ 2 has been an absolute blast (pun intended). Its lore and all of its stories about how and why we are here are extremely in-depth and sometimes utterly hilarious (see Admiral Jamison). Even the people on your ship (Elsa and Admiral Jamison, to name just a couple) bicker and bellyache at each other like they’re in some kind of twisted, snarky sit-com. Bandits are the free-roaming enemies to all, so always watch your six for their presence. The Campaign is the tutorial so I would highly recommend you playing through that first. Then, the Sandbox mode just throws everything the game has at you, whether you are ready or not. The hardest thing about playing SPAZ 2? Stopping! There is always just one more thing to do…