The original Star Ruler, while somewhat short of Kerbal verisimilitude, was one of the more stubbornly "hard" themed SciFi games out there.
Unfortunately, as you can see from the interface, Star Ruler 2 is attempting to go pop. Bubble-gum pop to be exact. It attempts to remove all that troublesome information from the player's view. Planets still orbit and ships still make a show of gradually slowing, but distance and mass are nowhere to be seen. Small ships are automatically produced by your planets and automatically join up with your capital ships as they pass through a system. Planet management, instead of a balanced economy, revolves around building up each planet's one exportable resource. Bright and cheerful, streamlined and fast-paced, it's clear that the sequel is addressing a whole different audience with different priorities than its predecessor.
Both games are real-time. It shows. 4x games thrive on their expansiveness, and the usual turn-based system serves not only to define the player's interaction with the AI but to keep your RAM from melting under the weight of an entire imaginary galaxy. Those bright colored dots in the background of my ringworld in the first screenshot each represent planets and stars, over five hundred of them. This next one shows my processor screaming in agony.
Regardless of how old my computer is (not all that old) I can't help thinking a great deal of this processing power is being wasted, as Star Ruler 2 is actually less capable of running a large, expansive galaxy than its previous incarnation. While the first Star Ruler boasted galaxies of over ten thousand stars, its progeny warns you off with a pop-up message if you try to create one with more than 150.
And really there's no point to doing so, because the unlike the first game, the sequel's interstellar environment simply fails to feel in any way immersive. As does everything else about it. For instance, diplomacy's a card game.
That's the real crux of the matter: other players. Star Ruler was a single-player, dreamy, immersive science fiction adventure among the stars. #2 is intended to capture a competitive online game market, and as such everything about it feels very... gamey. Abstracted. Everything is a move on a board.
That ringworld above took hours' worth of asteroid mining to fund, after which I had to have a ship go around to all the planets where I'd stockpiled the ore and gather it up, after which followed a lengthy period of construction. Sure, sure, very epic and stuff... except... you see that star the ringworld's orbiting? That was instantly generated, using yet another card which randomly popped into existence. Just like that. I made a star. In fact, I made about half a dozen stars before building the ringworld.
Kinda takes the zing out of the whole thing. You maniacs! You fizzled it!
Everything else like the lack of control over smaller ships and the much smaller map size follows suit. It's all intended to make for quick, half-hour or hour-long multiplayer matches for hypercompetitive little snots with no attention span. If you start a game with the maximum number of AI players, you'll notice most of their randomized names are actually duplicates of each other. For all the processing power this game's eating up, why does it feel like I'm getting so much less?
It's not altogether a terrible game, but I can't help noticing yet another developer selling out its niche audience in hopes of stealing away a slice of Blizzard's mass-market tween hordes, and I doubt it'll work. Usually doesn't. Instead of simply creating separate product lines for such disparate games they've managed to poison the Star Ruler brand name, and from the utter lack of media buzz (or even a wikipedia article) around Star Ruler 2, I very much doubt it managed to capture its intended fast-fingers, slow-brain online l33t-d00d customer base.
And so, another developer will likely join the hordes of other would-be sellouts and copycats in well-deserved bankruptcy. Though I do apologize for the bubble-gum pop slam. If anything ties both products together and separates them from the competition, it's being among the few modern computer games to feature interesting music with some sort of personality.