Sword of the Stars

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Repensum Est Canicula.

Sword of the Stars is a 2006 turn-based strategy game published by Kerberos Productions. It is of the 4X kind, with a Standard Sci Fi Setting.

In a far-distant future, after ecological disasters caused the deaths of millions, humanity has united and reached into the stars. An accident with a deep scanner ring aimed at the sun has given access to a dimension known as Nodespace, making FTL travel a reality. The military/space organization known as SolForce heads humanity's defense and space exploration and readies a colonization project.

However, mere moments after the first node-drive equipped colony ship is launched, Earth is attacked by a fleet belonging to a race known as Hivers, and only survive utter destruction by firing the species' entire stockpile of ballistic missiles at the invasion, forcing their retreat. After the dust settles, the remnants of humanity gather under SolForce's banner, which is intent on seeing humanity take its place amongst the powers of the galaxy at any cost. SolForce's official motto is "Per Ardua Ad Astra" (Latin meaning "through hardship, the stars"), but it's an open secret that its true motto is "Repensum Est Canicula" (literally, "Payback is a Bitch"). As the Node Drive allows humanity to expand, they not only discover that the Hiver 'invasion fleet' was only an explorer fleet belonging to one of countless Hiver clans, but they also discover the Proud Warrior Race Tarka, who consider the object of war to be to kill the other guy first however effectively you can and gleefully pounce on anything weaker than them. Eventually, they also encounter the mysterious Liir, a race of intelligent, telepathic, telekinetic, (mostly) pacifistic dolphins who were former slaves of a unknown species, the Suul'ka, now supposedly extinct due to the Liir rising up against them.

This story, naturally, is only backstory; the game allows you to play as any of the four races and the gameplay is standard 4X gameplay; you start with one planet in an unexplored map, explore, build your empire, encounter other players, and stop when everyone else is reduced to a small, scorched smear in the ruins of its last colony. Sword of the Stars was intentionally scaled back on most parts to streamline the game and put focus on the battles, which are fought in real-time with player input, much like in the Total War series. The battles are in 3D with Newtonian physics and real-time calculations. Unusually, the tech tree is randomized and thus no two games are entirely the same technology-wise.

The first expansion, Born of Blood, added a host of new gameplay additions and a new species called the Zuul (No relation), a race of Super Soldier marsupials designed by the Suul'ka, out on a holy crusade to find their masters and brutally enslave and kill off anything else in their path. A second expansion called A Murder of Crows was recently released, adding even more complexity and a new species called the Morrigi, a race of ancient bird-people who once ruled most of known space, and have come back from the brink of extinction (again, at the supposed hands of Suul'ka) to reclaim their old colonies and burial grounds from the new upstarts -- by force, if necessary. A final expansion pack called Argos Naval Yard, basically a big hunk 'o ship parts and technologies, was released in June 2009.

A sequel called Sword of the Stars II: The Lords of Winter was released in Oct 2011, well before it was ready. Backlash ensued, and Kerberos promised to inform the playerbase when the game was actually done. Six months later, in March of 2012, Kerberos has not said the game is done yet. The game is still not fully stable and its features are still not all functional. Physical copies have been spotted in bargin bins for $8.99 US.

The wiki can be found here.

Tropes used in Sword of the Stars include:
  • 2-D Space: Tactical combat is 'Two and a half-D', at least as far as the player can control, though ships will automatically move "up" and "down". The strategy map is aggressively three-dimensional. The sequel will introduce limited player-controllable 3D maneuver.
    • Specifically, ships will be able to move between 3 planes, making it pseudo-3D. Also, ships will be able to rotate in order to bring certain weapons to bear or put stronger armor in the line of fire.
  • A-Team Firing: Early kinetic weapons generally have bad accuracy. This can be improved in a variety of ways; with the right additions (e.g. Fire Control, AI command, armor piercing shells) kinetics can have extremely good accuracy.
  • Absolute Xenophobe: The Zuul. The sequel seems to subvert this due to indications that one of the factions is a Liir/Zuul alliance.
    • Also, the Suul'Ka are said to be totally on-board with helping their genetically engineered pets (the Zuul) wage war on anything they hate, fear, or consider beneath them. All life forms in the galaxy are in one or more categories, though especially their rebellious children the Liir.
  • Abusive Precursors: The "Suul'Ka" (which is Liir for "Wintermind/Iceheart/Stonesoul"); Story elements point towards this species as the one that enslaved the Liir likely also created the Zuul and waged the war that destroyed the old Morrigi civilization. It was thought that the Liir had wiped them out, but the Suul'Ka are in fact still out there, and will appear in the sequel. Whatever civilisation that created the System Killer also counts.
    • It's been revealed that the Suul'ka are actually the oldest Liir in existence. Liir are biologically immortal, and they only ever grow bigger and more psionically potent as they age. Usually they die of being unable to support their own mass, even underwater. Suul'ka are those eldest of Liir who said "Screw this!", and used their Psychic Powers to enslave the whole Liir species. They then forced an industrial revolution on the species, in order to take themselves out of the ocean and into space, where they can survive indefinitely.
  • The Aesthetics of Technology: The look of a faction's ships does not necessarily reflect its power.
  • A God Am I: Coming to believe this is the first step a Liir takes towards becoming Suul'ka.
  • AI Breaker: The AI doesn't really know how to handle mines.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: AI rebellions are infrequent but devastating when they happen. There's also a scenario where six players gang up on the AI.
    • When a rebellion does occur, it also possible to research a Computer Virus that takes out the AI planets and ships, and an improved upgrade makes them unconditional loyal pets. However, it's also possible not to get either of those techs in your game...
    • The Planet Eater and The Swarm are other examples of AI going nuts and trying to kill all organic life. The Swarm are said to have had an off button at least...once upon a time. Word of God has been emphatic on the fact that Von Neumann, on the other hand, are not sentient AI but merely taking their job of "probe for resources, mine them, remove obstacles by force" to its logical extent.
  • All There in the Manual: When you get a sci-fi writer -- Arinn Dembo, who also did the stories to Homeworld and Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura -- to make background for your game, this is what you get. There's several pages worth of info on every species, a supplementary novel, and the writer frequently visits the game's forum to answer setting-based questions from the fans.
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: The teaser for the sequel shows humanity's main base, the Argos Naval Shipyard, and their first Leviathan class ship getting wiped out by a Suul'ka,
  • Altum Videtur: Latin (or more specifically, a modernised dialect of the language known as Nova Latina)has become one of the main lauguages of humanity thanks to the European Consortum making it it's offical tongue, and most humans are expected to know it.
  • Ancient Astronauts: The Morrigi visited many of the races of the game when they were still playing with swords and arrows. Their unique appearance inspired a lot of the dragon myths on Earth, for instance.
  • Ape Shall Never Kill Ape: Averted. The Hivers and Tarka are even more prone to inter-species warfare than humanity, and the Zuul instinctively pounce on signs of weakness to improve their place on the species' pecking order, often with lethal results. The Liir are Actual Pacifists (though they'll make an exception for you if they declare you Suul'Ka), while the Morrigi are internally peaceful but don't moralize about what other species do to each other.
    • With the reveal that the Suul'ka and the Liir are simply different factions of the same species, this is averted damn hard.
  • Arbitrary Headcount Limit: Command Points. Without a CNC vessel, you can only have one dreadnought or a few smaller vessels in combat. Zuul have a higher limit than the other races to emphasize their We Have Reserves playstyle.
    • The sequel further emphasizes this by forcing your fleet to retreat if you lose all your command ships and admirals.
  • Armor-Piercing Attack : Better ballistic weapons have a reduced chance of being deflected by armour, which is further helped by Armor Piercing Rounds, albeit this at the cost of reduced direct damage. The Polarized Plasmatics sub-family will deal extra damage depending on the extra health granted by armour upgrades. Mesonic Torpedoes go through all shields other than Meson Shields. Shield Breaker Rounds can bring down all shields.
  • Artificial Brilliance: The AI will adapt to and counter your loadouts.
  • Assimilation Plot: The Assimilation Plague bio-weapon. A Liir specialty, although all other races have a (low) chance of acquiring it too.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: Zuul society, which leads to an average lifespan of 40 for your average male before his subordinates take him down. Mind Raping your superior and replacing him in the pecking order is referred to as a 'promotion'.
    • The final development in CnC technology -- the Flagship -- is basically a buffed Armada CnC merged with a blazer section.
  • Asteroid Thicket: In the tactical view, systems with asteroid belts have them orbiting the planet, and they are quite dense and require some fancy maneuvering (they can be shot out of the way too) to pass through.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: The Zuul playing style is designed in this manner. Going too long without finding something to kill cripples your research and economy and leads to your worlds going out of resources.
  • Attack Drone: Added in A Murder of Crows. The specialty of the Morrigi, to no one's surprise.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Averted initially. CnC vessels aren't meant for straight fights, and even the dreadnought-based Armada CnC is weaker than proper combat dreads. The sequel's Leviathans play this straight however.
  • Awesome but Impractical: Depending on how your tech tree ends up, quite a lot of the weapons may end up as this.
    • An early AI research. Yes, it is a big boost to all your future research, so it makes sense to get it early... except that early on it'll either take 200 turns to get, or a few dozen turns to get with the research cranked up reasonably, which virtually guarantees an AI rebellion halfway through.
  • Awesome Yet Practical: Impactors, with their great range and damage, put anyone without them or the appropriate Deflector Shields on the defensive very fast.
  • Ax Crazy: By Liir standards, being willing to hurt another sentient living being means you're this. The 'Black Swimmers', Liir that operate their starships, consider themselves to be incurably insane and refuse to be re-integrated into normal Liir society, lest they spread their madness to the civilians. It is customary to hold a funeral for any Liir who becomes a Black Swimmer.
  • Badass Boast: The intros of the expansion packs are basically the new species' time to show off their badassitude by denouncing the old-timers already in the games.
  • Bag of Spilling: Partially averted in Lords of Winter as you will start with cruisers and fusion.
  • The Battlestar: While conventional Space Fighters do not exist, various ships can carry externally-mounted riders, ranging from smaller-than-destroyers drones and assault shuttles to the cruiser-sized Tarka Hunters. Destroyer and cruiser carriers are a subversion because they have difficulty fulfilling the line combatant part of this trope.
    • All Leviathan-class ships in the sequel are supposed to be this by carrying short-range support craft into battle. Dreadnought riders, otherwise called battleships, have been promised. [dead link]
  • Beam Spam: Ships armed with phasers. Attack drones, all equipped with beamer weapons. Also, dreadnoughts armed with heavy lasers, namely the eponymous Sword of the Stars-class. The Blazer section added in Argos Naval Yard trades in everything for this trope.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: The Liir are normally pacifists. Pray they keep that attitude towards you. After the Suul'Ka enslaved them, they rebelled and, as far as anyone can tell as of the original game's timeline, wiped out the entire species with a biological weapon, though it is probably better classified a living weapon.)
    • The Liir really take this tropes to extremes. As long as you don't do anything to piss them off, they're perfectly polite and friendly and will happily share research or intelligence data or money with you, something most other races rarely ever do unless there's something in it for them. If you do piss them off, you're in for a world of hurt. They do not forgive. They do not forget. They do not ask for your surrender, nor will they accept it when offered. And they will not stop until every last man, woman and child in your territory has been burned to ash. To make it worse, a Liir that lives too long may go from super friendly happy dolphin to giant Eldritch Abomination.
  • Bizarre Sexual Dimorphism: All species except Humans and Liir have this -- in the Hivers' case their status as Bee People justify it. The Liir go to the other extreme, being hermaphroditic. There is also a lampshade in fluff, where it's noted that the Human's race's lack of dimorphism actually makes it difficult for most races tell the difference between men and women with the exception of, again, the Hivers, who can detect airborne estrogen. This gets nasty in boarding actions as the Hiver's structure of warfare makes them go for the females first.
    • Tarka males are highly agressive but submissive until "changed", when they grow to the size of a gorilla and become a stereotypical "alpha male".
    • Zuul females aren't even sapient.
    • Morrigi males are smaller and weaker than females due to living in space and project a telepathic glamour, while their females are large and planet-based and resistant to psionics. Think eastern versus western dragons.
  • BFG: Impactors, hoo boy.
    • Siege drivers are ballistic weapons that fire asteroids. You don't get much bigger than that.
    • KP has indicated that Leviathans will be able to turret-mount Impactors. One is afraid to think of what is so big that even a Leviathan has to use a Fixed Forward-Facing Weapon configuration for it.
      • Given who you'll have to fight, you'll probably need it.
  • Bigger Is Better: Throughout the game. Large guns are better than small guns. Large hulls have better colonisers, sensors, command & control, and tankers than small hulls. Large planets are easier to defend and more productive. Better engine systems are larger, too.
    • That said, there are a number of instances where this is averted and smaller is better; smaller ships cost less to keep in your navy, are more maneuverable, and tend to be less vulnerable to the really big guns (either via overkill wasteage, nimbleness, better point defense, or some combination of the above.) Certain ship sections/roles are only available or are better implemented on smaller ships.
  • Bland-Name Product: A few system names, such as Kaprica and Heegaraa.
  • Boarding Party: Boarding pods are available as a research tech for a certain ship section. The specialty of the Zuul, who get them for free and can carry them on more sections than the designated carrier, just as the Morrigi do with drones.
  • Body Armor as Hit Points: All armor techs add to the health of your ships. Polarized Plasmatics weapons are dangerous because they negate that bonus.
  • Bollywood Nerd: The Human head researcher in the first game has an Indian accent.
  • Boring but Practical: Laser point defense remains a valid -- even critical -- fit for small turret slots for most of the game. Especially for races who aren't big on the phaser variant, which is pretty much everyone except the Liir and Morrigi. Even they don't necessarily get it. Your most reliable anti-planet weapon for much of the game? Assault Shuttles, buildable from the first.
    • The Tarka as a race are built around this concept. Their basic ship sections, like the armour and hammerhead sections, are amongst the most armed and cheapest in the game, but their specialist ship sections, like the barrage, blazer and cloak sections, are comparatively expensive and much less armed than their Liir, Human and Morrigi equivalents.
  • Brain Uploading: In LOW, admirals can be preserved as expert systems, but won't gain any more experience.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: LOW reveals that the Screamers are actually Morrigi who were turned against their own by Suul'ka.
  • Bug War: Subverted by the game's canon backstory. Humanity thought it was getting into one when they went into space and started hitting back at the Hivers. Then they learned the Hivers were all sentient and sociable, with an individual intelligence like a human, and furthermore that they weren't all united and that the Hivers that attacked Earth had been The Remnant of a princess-less clan who had been defeated and exiled by the others. Humanity has essentially murdered millions of innocent Hivers through guilt by association (belonging to the same species). Although humanity sued for peace after learning this, several Hiver clans still haven't forgiven them for it.
  • Can't Catch Up: Zuul have the worst research rate and poor chances at most high-end techs. A dragged-out game, especially if they can't salvage good tech by winning battles, is not in their favour.
  • Call Back: The intro for the sequel shows again a human Sword of the Stars-class dreadnaught firing a Beam Spam at the camera. Only here the Suu'ka declare they won't be stopped by sword, and a tentacle smashes the ship in half.
  • Chain Lightning: Emitters, increasing in the 'chain' the higher up you get in the tech.
  • Chekhov's Armoury: If you paid attention to the lore, there are actually lots of hints about the true nature of the Suul'ka.
  • China Takes Over the World: Background lore briefly mentions that SolForce traditions draw partially from Chinese ones, making the presumption obvious.
  • Christianity Is Catholic: Quite literally -- the background material describes the Catholic Church as being the only current major world religion to have survived the inter-human warfare prior to the ascent of SolForce, and has over eight billion adherents. Missionaries have started to spread the religion to the Tarka as well.
  • Colony Drop: Siege drivers. Ships with destroyed engines or that are disabled with Disruptor or EMP weapons can also crash into planets, and satellites equipped with tractor beams can drag ships into the planet.
  • Command and Conquer Economy: Averted. Colonies develop infrastructure by themselves. The player decides planets' military production and civilization-wide research goals. Starting in A Murder of Crows, Players also balance military production against trade.
    • The trade system has been much criticised for this. Every single freighter has to be built by explicit command. And when you get mega-freighters, you have to do it all over again, and decide on what to do with the old leftover ones.
    • In the sequel you can declare system 'open' and your civilian population may decide to colonize that planet on its own. It helps getting around the sometimes prohibitive costs of starting up a new colony, but don't expect them to listen to you quite as readily as your personal colonies.
  • Competitive Balance
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Mostly Averted. The AI is designed to be interchangeable with a human player for the purpose of multiplayer games; it is not omniscient and only knows what a human player could reasonably be expected to know about what's going on in the game. It does get advantages on hard difficulty, but that's to be expected. It is not immune to going overbudget, and if it seems to rarely suffer a research boost accident, that's because it rarely boosts research to begin with.
  • Cosmetically Different Sides: Massively averted; while weapons will deal the same damage regardless of species, the number of turrets, speed and health of the ships they're placed on will vary, and the randomized tech tree will lead to different specializations amongst the various species. Furthermore, each race has its own method of FTL, which results in massively different play styles for each race.
  • Combat Pragmatist: The Tarka as a species tend towards this.
  • Creepy Cool Crosses:A favored fashion choice amongst the Zuul.
  • Crippling Overspecialisation: Relying heavily on one class of weapon -- energy, mass driver or missiles/torpedoes -- can rapidly lead to this. All three classes have counters that are relatively easier to implement, although not all of them are core tech.
    • Same with ships that rely heavily on Attack Drones, especially the Morrigi, who get the technology for free, if even a single enemy ship has PD phasers, light emitters, or PD missiles. The latter usually results in the entire wave of drones getting massacred before they can do significant damage, leaving the carriers nearly defenseless (drones can only be restocked outside of battle).
    • For that matter, PD missiles themselves: Great against drones or guided torps, useless against other missiles.
  • Critical Existence Failure: Zigzagged. Mostly averted in that destroyers and cruisers can have individual sections and individual weapon mounts of the ship targeted and destroyed, and Destroyers and cruisers won't be totally destroyed until two sections are destroyed, but a section or weapon mount doesn't suffer at all from being one hit point above 0. Played almost completely straight with dreadnought sections, which can have their weapons mounts destroyed, but not individual ship sections (said to be because dreadnoughts have so much structural redundancy.)
    • Averted in the sequel: each section has an armor that is destroyed piece by piece, and once armor is gone the damage will go to the inside systems and cause problems.
  • Crutch Character: Zuul appear to be this at first as they have various early advantages. However, they turn out to be Difficult but Awesome.
    • In he sequel, the Zuul change into the Suul'ka Horde and instead are based around Magikarp Power: they start out weak but in the end-game can summon Suul'ka as special units.
  • Cultural Posturing: Part of the Morrigi's Badass Boast.
  • Cyber Cyclops: Human ships with the AI command section. It swoops back and forth, Cylon-style.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!: The differences in the interface and systems between the first game and LOW are so great that a veteran with his conceptions built from experience will have even more difficulty getting used to things than a novice.
  • David Versus Goliath: Generally averted. Failing to either outclass or outnumber the enemy usually is a recipe for failure, at least in a straight fight as opposed to repeatedly throwing ships at the enemy to wear them down. To reinforce the need to outnumber, you get extra command points for every so many ships of each class more than the enemy you have, up to a certain limit, allowing you to field more ships than the Arbitrary Headcount Limit would normally give you. Have enough and you can deploy extra dreadnoughts.
  • Death From Above: Until A Murder of Crows diplomacy was more or less non-existent and the only way to take a world from an enemy was through sterilization by orbital bombardment (or the above-mentioned Assimilation Plague). It's still pretty much mandatory to subject a planet to a few rounds of this even if you want them to give in peacefully. Until midgame, though, Assault Shuttles are often more damaging.
  • Death of a Thousand Cuts: Destroyers can take down dreads. It's just not practical given the losses likely.
  • Death or Glory Attack: Researching AI techs can be this. The bonuses are amazing, but hope you don't get an AI Rebellion...
  • Deflector Shields: Several varieties. One blocks only ballistic weapons, another blocks only energy weapons, and both of them cover only half the ship. A third blocks basically all damage that doesn't pierce shields, and covers the entire ship to boot, but is vulnerable to overload. Get a high enough tech level and you'll get shields that nullify either all kinetic (plus gravity-based) or energy weapons, cover the entire ship, and almost never go down.
    • While these normally require an entire third of the ship to be a shield generator with few or no weapons, it is possible at higher tech levels to research and use shield projectors, which, while require the use of a heavy weapon turret, create a decent-sized shield "umbrella", which can block any weapon short of a siege driver and turns to face the most dangerous threat. These also occasionally flicker and may allow a shot to pass through.
    • All shields, no matter how strong, pass the momentum of a kinetic shot to the ship. This may allow a ship equipped with rail cannons or Kinetic Kill missiles to destroy a heavily-shielded defender by pushing it toward the planet and letting gravity take over.
  • Design-It-Yourself Equipment: You need to design and name every single thing you want to build. Including stuff that have a fixed design (like trade and science stations, which lacks weapons).
  • Difficult but Awesome: The Morrigi are specially designed to take advantage of the new abilities introduced in their expansion pack, and esoteric weapons like mines, COL and cloaking/shields. Trying to run them without learning the trading system or the mechanics of the flock drive ends you up playing an inferior Liir faction; once you do learn them the Morrigi become terrors in the late fusion/AM era.
    • Zuul appear to be a Crutch Character, but the aggressive mindset needed to play them and the skill needed to put that into play are difficult to grasp. Succeed and you can crush enemies quick.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: What happens to anyone who ticks off a Peacekeeper vessel. Which appears to be anyone in the game.
    • Also the fate in store of whoever annoys the Liir sufficiently. While you're peaceful, they'll be the best neighbours you can imagine. If they get pissed enough to declare you Suul'ka, they will not stop coming until you are dead.
  • Do a Barrel Roll
  • Doing It for the Art: The richness of the lore is RPG-worthy, never mind bothering to answer fan queries.
  • Driven to Suicide: Liir Black Swimmers who have had to put enemy civilians to the torch usually pilot their spacecraft into nearby stars after hostilities conclude.
  • Earthshattering Kaboom: Although you can bombard planets, even with whole asteroids, you don't actually have any weapons that can destroy the whole planet and... hey, what's that white dot on the map with all the question marks that's slowly coming towards my plane-***KSSSSSHHHH***
    • To note, this also collapses any nodes to this system, destroying any ship en-route. This only affects human and Zuul ships traveling at FTL.
    • The Von Neumann Construct is a copy of the System Killer and is not subject to the "one Grand Menace per game" rule, so you can have it on the field at the same time. Its internal name "final solution" is... apt.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Subverted with the Suul'ka. Sure, they look pretty Lovecraftian, being giant, betentacled, aquatic-looking cyborgs quite capable of living in space...and then you realize that mechanical skin is Liir battle armor. They are, in fact, perfectly normal Liir elders who have decided to abuse their race's immortality.
    • There's nothing "normal" about them, having the power to enslave entire planets, and tear the spacetime continuum a new one by sheer psionic will.
      • By Liir standards, they are-the gradual increase in psionic power as one gets older and bigger is a natural quirk of their biology, and it's well-documented. The Suul'ka are simply very, very old Liir elders, nothing "aberrant" about them. As far as their personalities go, however...
  • The Empath: The Liir species at a whole. Mainly the reason why they're not big on violence. Zuul also have empathic abilities, but are utterly lacking in empathy. The Suul'Ka actively reject empathy as a weakness.
  • Emergency Weapon: Even if you have no starships or satellites, there are still surface-to-orbit missiles. Don't expect them to stop a serious fleet, though.
    • Despite crippling a Hiver invasion fleet in the backstory, though that was earth's entire stockpile of ICBMs from the Cold War.
      • Per hit, Planet Missiles are one of the strongest weapons in the game. The problem is fire rate, and a fully inhabited, size 10 world, ie Earth or any homeworld will tear any Destroyer-era fleet apart. Ingame, the attack on the invasion fleet would be able to kill anything, grand menaces included.
  • The Empire: The Tarka and Hivers have been ruled as empires long before humanity reached to the stars.
  • Energy Absorption: Absorbers, which block energy weapons but are easily countered by kinetic weapons and missiles.
  • Evil Is Deathly Cold: Big thematic for the Suul'Ka. The expansion they make their physical appearance in is entitled "Lords of Winter", their Liiran name actually means "Ice Heart" or "Cold Soul" in grammatical terms...
    • Also makes some literal sense, since every Suul'Ka is "born a second time" when they teleport out of the ocean and into space, taking a spherical volume of water with them, which flash-freezes as they emerge into orbit. Bursting out of this "ice egg" is what they do to prove their strength.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: The Zuul. And their Masters, the Suul'Ka.
  • Expy: Several Grand Menaces carry inspiration from earlier sources. The Puppet Master is based on the Beast from Homeworld: Cataclysm (which was made by the team that would become KP). The System Killer reminds one of the The Doomsday Machine from Star Trek:TOS. The Peacekeeper is based on the spaceship in The Day the Earth Stood Still. SolForce resembles EarthForce in more than just name.
  • Fan Service: Parodied with the naked Tarka loading screen, though it could be Fan Disservice to some and played totally straight with others.
  • Fantastic Catholicism: Now with Zuul adherents, apparently.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: All species have their own method of FTL, with their own little quirks. However, Hiver ships only use conventional thrust and rely on warp gates for fast travel.
    • Hivers can still end up being the fastest race in the galaxy due to the fact that travel through their Portal Network takes a single turn (though it takes a long time for their gates to be moved into place). The eventual Farcaster technology lets the Hivers teleport fleets up to 10 light years from one of their gates, with a 1-2 lightyear error ratio.
    • Suul'Ka teleport from wherever they station to a shrine when their slaves call for them. They usually bring a fleet.
  • The Federation: Morrigi are the heads of one by Lords of Winter, which will also expand the options for peaceful incorporation with NPC races to assimilate.
  • Fixed Forward-Facing Weapon: Heavy beams, spinal mounts on destroyers, torpedoes, and heavy mass drivers like impactors and siege drivers.
  • Flying Saucer: Zuul Slave Disks, the Ten Rings of the Von Neumann Berserkers and the Peacekeeper Enforcer.
  • Fragile Speedster: The Morrigi are this in the early game. Once you get to the dreadnought age, they jump into Lightning Bruiser territory. While Liir ships are slow, their maneuverability and lack of armour also qualify them slightly. Zuul combine this with Glass Cannon, as even their combat cruisers can be frighteningly fast in tactical.
  • Friendly Fireproof: Averted.
  • Frickin' Laser Beams: A common basic weapon, existing in red, green, ultraviolet, and X-ray (blue) varieties. Late game, you get pulse phasers, firing three yellow bolts per shot. There are also Beamers that fire a proper continuous beam.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: Averted with the way the computer will drive species after the in-story psychological profile of said species.
    • Sometimes played straight, as Humans and Hivers can ally against other players.
      • That part is not that strange since humanity only went to war against certain hiver clans (the hivers aren't necessarily united, and weren't at the time.) Where this starts to come into effect is when you are able to build alliances with Zuul...
        • Except for the Liir-Zuul alliance in the coming sequel.
        • Some of the stories by Arinn Dembo suggest that certain Zuul may be willing to deal.
    • Also played straight with Liir ships, which are supposedly standing still, and the illusion of motion is created by their teleporation engines shifting the ship a tiny amount millions of times per second. However, destroying the engines of the ship still results in it drifting in the same direction as if it was actually moving.
  • Gendercide: Morrigi males live their entire adult lives aboard the species' starfleets -- the war that brought them to the edge of extinction was so devastating in terms of ships lost that it killed over 90% of the male population.
  • Ghost Ship: The Alien Derelicts. Morrigi ship graveyards may also count. There is also a Ghost Ship random encounter.
  • Glamour: Male Morrigi give off a psychic glamour that make them look greater and more 'unearthly' to onlookers. Female Morrigi have resistance to psychic powers. Males find the females who can see through their glamours attractive, while females find males with strong enough glamour to affect them attractive. A few thousand years of this kind of directed evolution have led to male Morrigi being so good at it that most other species see angels, or their equivalent, when looking at one. Female Morrigi, meanwhile, have a glamour that makes them look more monstrous and terrifying when angry.
  • Glass Cannon: The Zuul combine this with Fragile Speedster. Their ships are cheap, fast and have loads of guns, but very little armour. The Liir can also become this, seeing how they'll usually reach the more advanced weapons quicker. Various Unknown Menaces like the Swarm or the small Von Neumann aren't that hot defensively either but pack a real punch if allowed to.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: The Zuul.
  • Hollywood Global Warming: Earth got screwed pretty comprehensively by this.
  • Go Mad From the Isolation: What turns an Liir Elder into a Suul'ka is the fact that they end up surrounded by beings which are orders of magnitude beneath their intellect.
  • Gradual Grinder: The Hivers, strategically. It will take them decades to get anywhere due to the lack of FTL. But once they've gated and claimed a planet, they'll doggone it stay there.
  • Guide Dang It: The randomised Tech Tree means you're quite unlikely to make all the connections between techs without recourse to a guide, entirely unhelped by the lack of Interface Spoiler.
    • The sequel, upon release, had a lot of added features and changed mechanics compared to the first game. It also came with a lot of bugs and missing or incomplete features, tool-tips, and other documentation. The players have done their best with their own tutorials on the forum or wiki-pages, until such time as the developer can rectify these issues.
  • Guilt-Free Extermination War: See Death From Above.
    • The Zuul War.
  • Hannibal Lecture: The Herald is a random event in which a (presumably Suul'ka employed) evangelist comes up and rants ominous foreshadowing at you, causing the morale of the planet he visits to drop. As with most random events, shooting him down averts negative consequences, presumably because it's hard to take him seriously when he's fleeing in an escape pod/space debris.
  • Heel Face Turn: The Deacon from the novelization of the first game is responsible for the formation of a Liir-Zuul alliance in the second. Apparently the Care Bear Stare given to him in the book's climax gave him an unusual sense of individuality.
    • A faction of Zuul have converted to Christianity, taking Christian (human) names in the process. One of them is even a Catholic Bishop, of an entire planet. Way to go [dead link], Jesus!
  • Heroic Dolphins: The Liir are probably the 'nicest' of all the species, despite their enigmatic behaviour. In the novelization, a liir serves as the main character's mentor and is one of the most important members in the rag-tag coalition to entrap the Deacon.
  • Hit Points: The first game normally shows the ship's "health" as a color-coded plus sign (green - optimum condition; yellow - heavy damage; red - critical). The sequel will show four health bars for each ship section (12 total) with damage distributed to top, bottom, left, and right (or your favorite naval equivalents of these terms). Damage to the front and rear will be distributed among the other four sides.
  • Hive Caste System: The Hivers.
  • Hive Mind: The Zuul -- but not the Hivers.
    • Zuul males control their female coteries psionically, so in the small scale this is true. At the macro level, Zuul society as a whole does not behave as a Hive Mind, but more as a theocratic dictatorship.
  • Homage: "Upstart Apes" scenario to the Imperium board game.
  • Horde of Alien Locusts: Locusts. Originally a mamallian carbon race, who decided to become transcarbon. They consider themselves perfect, and only allow a "perfect" replication of individual units.
  • Humans Through Alien Eyes: A lot of this occur in the games' background material. Humans with their naked skin and delicate features appear childlike to the Tarka, which has a negative effect on morale for them when fighting face to face. Naturally, this isn't featured in the game mechanics on any level, as the background material goes on to point out that actual hand to hand combat tends to happen in power armor.
  • Hunter of His Own Kind: The Black, the leader of the Liir navy is a huge Liir Great Elder similar to the Suul'Ka, who has sworn to hunt down the other Suul'ka.
  • Hyperspace Is a Scary Place: The background material notes that humans do node jumps with all view windows closed; looking directly at nodespace can cause mental illness. The only time a human crew gave a Liir a lift it tore the ship apart as soon as it sensed the psychic emanations from nodespace and wanted to get at them. In addition, there's the Energy Beings living in nodespace called "Specters", who do not appreciate being intruded upon. Zuul, on the other hand, find node travel delicious and deeply comforting.
    • Though a close reading of that thread indicates that the Zuul would probably find human node-travel slightly less comforting than their own variant, as a consequence of human node-travel not metaphorically burrowing through an unspeakably huge living being (it reminds them of the safe days in their mother's pouches). It also indicates that the reason the Liir and humans find nodespace unsettling/dementing is not the same thing that makes the Zuul like it.
  • Hyperspeed Ambush: Lategame drive techs allow you to jump from outside an enemy's system sensor range to the system in one turn and deny him the chance to reinforce or build defences. CnC craft allow replacement ships to jump into tactical right next to them rather than far out.
  • Hyperspeed Escape: You can retreat from tactical encounters. Humans have to retreat to a nodespace node to do so, however, which can be really frustreating.
  • Hyperspace Lanes: Humans are reliant on fixed "nodespace" routes for interstellar travel and the Zuul can "rip" nodespace routes, that detoriate with time.
  • I Fought the Law and the Law Won: Do not piss off the Peacekeeper unless you're already in the dreadnought antimatter age when he shows up. It will not end well.
  • ISO Standard Human Spaceship: Apart from the ring-shaped engines, human ships are very blocky and utilitarian-looking. They also have poor turret coverage in the back.
  • Immortality Immorality: The Suul'ka. They psionically enslaved "their children", the younger Liir, forced them through a rapid industrial revolution and had them build the giant space-armor powersuits that the Suul'ka needed to survive in the vacuum. As immortals, they also have a very disdainful view of everyone who is not.
  • Insect Gender Bender: The Hivers subvert this; their social structure is very similar to ants, if ants were sentient.
  • Interface Spoiler: Averted with the tech tree for much Guide Dang It.
  • Intelligent Gerbil: Cliff note's version of some of the races: Liir - Space Cetaceans (whales and dolphins), Hivers - Space Ants, Tarka - space lizards, Morrigi - Space Archaeopteryxes, Zuul - space Tasmanian Devils.
  • I've Never Seen Anything Like This Before: The reaction to encountering a Silicoid Queen.
  • Jack of All Stats: Humans or Tarka, depending on your viewpoint.
  • Kaleidoscope Eyes (The Tarka have four different eye colours for their moods:
    • Green: Happy/smiling.
    • Red: Fury/lust.
    • Gold: Calm.
    • Violet/Magenta: Sadness.
  • Killer Space Monkey: The Tarka look like a cross between lizards and apes, and might qualify.
    • Technically, to the other races, Humans.
  • Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: Subverted. Kinetic weapons are usually easier to develop or field and can knock ships off course, and energy weapons start out quite weak. Mid-game energy weapons start to pull ahead, and late-game energy weapons are generally much superior. That said, cruisers with armor-piercing mass drivers can decide most games and lategame Rail Cannons are genuine beasts.
    • Impactors/Rail Cannons play this mostly straight. They are some of the most powerful and longest ranged weapons, beating out any torpedo layout in range and power. Their accuracy is their downfall, but fully kitted out an impactor ship can knock out any cruiser with one or two volleys before you can even see the ship you're targetting.
  • Kung Fu-Proof Mook: Zuul are immune to plagues without needing vaccine research, though they can't use them either. Spectres can only be hurt by energy weapons. High-end shield tech can outright nullify certain weapon types.
    • Not necessarily high-end. One of the first shield techs you can get is the Deflector, which blocks all kinetic weapons, missiles, and torpedoes, although the ship may still get pushed around a little. The slightly higher-level Disruptor blocks all energy weapons. Unlike the higher-end shields, these two only cover the front of the ship but can still give an enormous tactical advantage, especially against AI players, who almost never try to outflank you and keep stubbornly firing at invincible front. And, yes, that means that a cruiser with a Disruptor can take out a dreadnought armed with only energy weapons, given enough time.
  • Large and In Charge: Tarka Changed males and Liir elders. The Suul'ka take this to an extreme, outsizing Leviathans.
  • Law of Chromatic Superiority: Played with. Drives increase in power from fission (orange) to fusion (yellow) to antimatter (purple). Lasers go red, green, purple, blue, gold. Plasma is green, yellow, purple.
  • Life Drain: The System Killer regains health if it survives a tactical encounter in a system.
  • Lightning Gun: Emitter weapons, which are pretty good backup PD weapons too.
  • Like Cannot Cut Like: Mesonic Torpedoes cannot penetrate Meson Shields the way they go through other shielding.
  • Lost Technology: From the Morrigi point of view, this is very much so. It's stated that they don't so much research new and unknown tech so much as they are rediscovering the creation and implementation of technology they already knew about and had mastered during their golden age.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: Given the effectiveness of point defense weapons, and the number of weapon mounts slaved to a weapons position (especially once you get beyond destroyers), the Triple M is really the only realistic way to use missiles after the early game. Aided by the dumbfire missile rack and Multi-Warhead Missile.
  • Magikarp Power: Morrigi. Pre-fusion, an inferior Human/Liir hybrid. With trade and fusion, an unholy terror.
  • Magnetic Weapons: All of the kinetic weapons are gauss guns. The biggest are Impactors and Siege Drivers.
  • Mighty Glacier: Hivers.
  • Mind Rape: Zuul interrogation techniques involve crawling around someone's mind, sifting through their thoughts for interesting ideas and memories, and ripping them out of their brain. This leaves a man with gaps in his memory and severe neurological damage. Over time, this will lead to insanity and death. This is highly pleasurable for the Zuul; the brighter the mind, the more fun they have and the more they learn. It's not so fun for the unfortunate prisoner.
  • Misguided Missile: The job of Wild Weasel sections.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: Liir, actually. Aside from the obvious similarities to dolphins/whales they have seal-like fur, cephalapoid tentacles, hermaphrodism is common to many invertebrates, and like lobsters they grow continuously with negligible senescence.
  • Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness: Arguably Physics Plus.
  • Mook Promotion: Hiver brains stay alive after their bodies are dead, allowing their personality and memories to be 'recycled' into a new body by having their princess eat it. Workers or Warriors that particularly impress their princess may be 'recycled' this way into a fertile Prince, allowing them to take command and become the mate of a different princess. Really, really exceptional individuals may even be reincarnated into Princesses by the Queen.
  • More Dakka: All projector weapons fire a storm of energy bullets, save for the Meson projector. Also available in missile form via Dumbfire Racks, and in kinetic weapons form via Stormers.
  • Negative Space Wedgie: Some of the random menaces, such as the Spectres. Though most have some physical form that you can try to blow up.
  • No Biochemical Barriers: Played straight. Bioweapons will function equally well against all the species (except the Zuul, which are immune to them and doesn't use them), and in the extensive backstory, different species are able to eat each others' food, survive (to varying degrees of comfort) on each other's planets, and even use the same chemical hormones as one another to a large extent. Only slightly averted in that any remaining colonists of an alien species will flee a planet when it's conquered by a species who does not have the right tech to incorporate the old species' biochemistry to a suitable level on their own colony.
    • And before Murder of Crows whenever a faction surrendered to another species their colonies were destroyed.
  • "No Warping" Zone: Ships need to clear a seemingly arbitrary range from enemy ships before they can retreat from tacticals. This is an abstraction to represent it being harder to disengage from combat while actually being fired upon, as opposed to sneaking away when nobody is directly fighting you.
    • This is different for humans, as their FTL method requires them to use specific points in space to retreat. However, this also means they can retreat at any point, as long as they're in the right location.
  • Non-Entity General
  • Not Playing Fair with Resources: Hard computers get 50% more earnings and research speed and AI Rebels get even larger bonuses. On the flipside, Easy computers have only half that of a human player.
  • Nuclear Option: How humanity got the first Hiver fleet that encountered them to retreat.
  • Obvious Beta: The sequel was released prematurely with a lot of bugs and issues still needing to be dealt with, presumably for contractual reasons. This understandably upset many customers, but Kerberos was quick to promise support for the game. Given that both Paradox and Kerberos have a reputation for buggy releases but strong ongoing support to fix their games, many fans seem willing to be patient.
  • Older Is Better: Player-buildable Asteroid Monitors are inferior to the random encounter ones built by past Morrigi. Justified as modern Morrigi lost most of technology of their golden age.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Morrigi caused the myths of dragons and dragon-equivalent creatures for humanity, Tarka, and the Hivers. They're that old.
  • Perfect Pacifist People: The Liir... mostly. Occasionally however they declare your race a threat to all living things and exterminate you with bioweapons.
  • Pig Latin: The Peacekeeper Enforcer introduces itself by saying "Klaatu Barada Nikto" in Pig Latin. This has led to the fans nicknaming it "Ortgay".
  • Planet Looters: One possible playstyle - by default planets utilize resources at a sustainable level, but it's possible to overharvest for a production bonus at the cost of a permanent resource reduction. The Zuul, however, overharvest ALL THE TIME. And considering their offense oriented nature, it can be viable to crank up the overharvest on new planets and continually push forward, leaving barren unproductive planets in their wake. Mining ships can also harvest resources from a planet to transfer to another. Von Neumanns and Locusts also take resources to build more of themselves.
  • Planet of Hats: The game takes pains to explain how cultural tendencies do not make any of the species into this -- except the Zuul, but they were crafted to be that way. Even the Zuul's hat has a detailed explanation for why exactly it exists.
  • Player Preferred Pattern: The randomised Tech Tree is supposed to make it hard for this to come to pass. Given that most species have specialties with very high chances of occurring, it can still occur.
  • Point Defenceless: You want to avert this - planetary defence batteries will chew up anything without adequate flak cover. Unfortunately 'Point Defence Tracking' is a non-core technology (except for the Morrigi), so you might not get it. Ouch.
    • Certain races have trouble with getting proper 360 degree Point Defense coverage. Liir, for example, have weak ventral coverage, while Tarka and Humans often have weak dorsal cover. Morrigi have no vertical cover for their destroyers and cruisers whatsoever, making them defenceless to planetary missiles.
  • Portal Network: The linchpin of Hiver movement.
  • Power Armor: Just about all of the races, barring the Zuul, use some manner of power armour for their planetary assault troops and boarding crews. The human version allows their soldiers to remove the Puny Earthlings factor, while Hiver armour lets their Warriors become basically humanoid tanks and Tarka power armour boosts Tarka agility to extreme levels. Liir power armour allows the aquatic Liir to operate in non-aquatic environs, while Morrigi armour has Attack Drones and spaceflight capability that lets them deal Death From Above to planetary populations.
  • Precursors: The Morrigi filled this role until their introduction as a playable species in A Murder of Crows.
  • Press X to Die: Researching Artificial Intelligence.
    • Can easily be averted however, so long as you research the technology before you have colonized any planets or built any AI controlled ships. Then you can get all the benefits of the tech with none of the risk.
    • Save Scumming also works.
  • Pretentious Latin Motto: "Per Ardua Ad Astra", through hardship, the stars. "Repensum Est Canicula", not so much. Interesting to note that the 'official' motto is also the motto of the British RAF.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Tarka are both an example and a glorious subversion of this trope; 'honour' in battle is gained by winning with minimum casualties and thinking outside the box, not by acting 'honourably' (or, as the Tarka would say "stupid").
  • Psychic Powers: A research branch in the sequel. In-story, all the species are psionic to one degree or another but to different levels. Most likely, the Liir, Zuul and Morrigi will do best at it.
  • Puny Earthlings: Humans are only slightly physically inferior to your average Tarka and can probably take on a Hiver worker drone one-on-one -- don't ask about the rest of them. That's why the humans have the biggest power armors.
  • Random Encounters: The Unknown Menaces.
  • Random Number God: All over the place, most prominently and unusually with tech trees. Every player's tech tree is generated using this at the beginning of a game - some "core" techs will be available to research to all players, some techs are exclusive to some races, while most are random, although some races will have a higher probability of getting certain techs than others. Lovingly known among fans as the Sadorandomizer.
  • Ravens and Crows: The Morrigi are one part Our Dragons Are Different as seen above, and one part this.
  • Reactionless Drive: Used by the Liir who use many micro-teleports and Morrigi who manipulate gravity. The Tarka initially only have it for FTL, but their final drive upgrade Warpdrives gives it to them for STL movement too.
  • Recursive Ammo: The Multi-Warhead Missile. It splits off into six smaller ones. There is a planet-based version that ups the ante to ten or so.
  • Reflecting Laser: The "reflective coating" and "improved reflective coating" techs are a subversion that give ships passive defense against lasers by reflecting a percent of laser bolts and reducing damage from laser beamers. The surfaces do not need to be flat, and it is assumed that the entire ship's surface is coated.
  • The Reptilians: The Tarka.
  • The Reveal: Several:
    • Slavers: Zuul
    • Asteroid monitors, Crows, colony traps: Morrigi
    • The Alien Derelict: a Suul'ka helmet.
    • And the big one: the background info about the Liir didn't specify what kind of bioweapon they used against the Suul'ka, most people just assumed it was a virus since they're so good at them. But it couldn't have been a virus because Suul'ka and Liir are the same species, instead it was something bigger, a lot bigger
  • Rewarding Inactivity: In the majority of cases, not fighting a Von Neumann mothership is the smartest thing to do. As long as you keep a few laser-toting ships to swat down the drones as they come, the ship can't hurt you and leave you well enough alone after combat ends. Killing a VN ship provokes an attack by a Berserker, which is generally more trouble than it's worth.
  • Roboteching: All missile weapons are launched "to the side", before they lock onto their target and go after it. Planetary defense missiles are able to select a new target if their current one is destroyed.
  • Rule of Three: A lot: Three classes of FTL-capable starships, each thrice the length of the previous; three main classes of weapons (energy, mass driver and missile/torpedo); three weapon mount sizes, with smalls being put in larges becoming triple-mounted; three power techs, with three levels each of their corresponding torpedos, energy cannons, heavy cannons (which are a triple-shot version of energy cannons), projectors, and polarized plasmatics; and three ship sections.
  • Sapient Cetaceans: The Liir are a race of starfaring telepathic cetaceans. Young Liir look more like dolphins, while the Elders reach Space Whale proportions. The Liir keep growing as they age and have a, theoretically, unlimited lifespan. However, at a certain age, the Square-Cube Law goes into effect, and the Elder is crushed by its own weight. Unless, of course, they enslave the Liir race and force them to build a massive spacesuit that it can use to survive indefinitely.
  • Scary Dogmatic Aliens: The Zuul.
  • Science Is Bad: While, like many 4X games, researching new technologies is vital to your survivial to keep up in the Lensman Arms Race, some research has a dark side. Researching Bio-weapons has a chance to unleash said Bio-weapons on one of your own planets, and researching AI technology has a chance of causing an AI rebellion.
    • And then there's the last added scenario, where the objective is to gather the huge alien wreckages that served as random encounters from the beginning, to restore them to working order. Once you do, it turns out those huge things were just helmets of the Suul'ka. Oh, and they now send a signal to wake them up. Cue the sequel.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: Mostly averted, but there are 30m-long destroyers. Seriously? Remember, the Space Shuttle is 56.1m. The sequel fixes this somewhat by starting with Cruisers, thus shifting the three ship sequential ship sizes a step up.
    • And we needn't get into the relative scale of the destoyers vs the planets, which would suggest the planet has an atmosphere about a few meters high and a diameter of less than a kilometer. Of course, it's hardly practical to fight around a planet that is to scale.
  • See the Whites of Their Eyes: Ships can engage from long distances where the enemy can only be seen as a sensor blip, but they may also get into close-in fighting where maneuver is involved. According to Word of God, though, this is merely a convenient abstraction and all fights really are taking place BVR. The sequel will further avert this as weapon ranges will now exceed sensor ranges, requiring the use of battle riders as scouts/spotters.
  • Sensor Suspense
  • Sequel Escalation: Lords of Winter will start in the Cruiser-Fusion era and have a "tech forest", multi-planet systems, even bigger ships and generally lots more options to play with.
  • Shout-Out: Quite a lot, involving planet names, AI faction names and some of the Grand Menaces.
  • Silicon-Based Life: The Swarm. Though 'life' may be stretching it.
  • Son of an Ape: 'Monkey' is a common Tarka slur for humans, who responded with 'croc'. Most of the other species have equivalents.
  • Sorting Algorithm of Evil: The Von Neumanns demonstrate this, from probe motherships to Berserkers to Constructs.
  • Sorting Algorithm of Weapon Effectiveness: Played with. Going up a weapon sub-family usually results in a better weapon, but changing between weapon sub-families may not.
  • Space Fighter: Averted. According to Word of God, fighters would even at their smallest be half the size of destroyers - which are already pretty small by most other series' standards - and get easily swatted by point defence. "Node fighters" have been confirmed for the sequel as a Human special ship type, however, and "Battleriders", which are nearly equivalent to Destroyers that launch from a Carrier will also be included (along with, strangely, Cruiser and Dreadnaught equivalent launched ships.)
  • Space Friction: Averted, ships with destroyed engines will continue to move in the same direction. Even Liir ships, even though they use teleportation drives (it has been stated they do use vented plasma as secondary propulsion, but it is not visible in-game.)
    • Kinetic weapons meanwhile... Not so much. Once they reach their max range, the bullets stop instantly and fade away.
      • Though the fact that the bullets stop instantly is a concession to balance and processing power. Having to keep track of every single projectile from a kinetic weapon would get rather intense considering some of the weapons, such as the burster, produce a rather large number of bullets per shot. Dakka, anyone?
  • Space Is Cold: When a Suul'ka first teleports himself into space, he takes a sphere of water with him that 'freezes instantly in a vacuum'. Riiiight...
  • Space Mines
  • Space Pirates: There are commerce raiders, some sent by enemies but most being random encounters.
  • Space Police: The Peacekeeper Enforcer is a space cop. A very well-armed one who isn't above Police Brutality (read: glassing colonies).
  • Space Whale: The Liir are sort of like this, though they need spaceships or suits to survive in space.
    • The Suul'ka are essentially cyborg Liir elders who live entirely in space.
  • Spiritual Successor: The game is basically Spaceward Ho, but with a massive update to everything, and a few things added in.
  • Square-Cube Law: Liir Great Elders die from getting too big. The Suul'ka said "fuck that".
  • Standard Sci-Fi Fleet
  • Standard Sci Fi Setting
  • Stealth in Space: There are cloaking and jamming systems.
  • Stronger with Age: Liir don't die of old age and never stop growing, and get larger, heavier and better and more experienced at psionic power as they age. Eventually, they suffocate under their own weight. Liir cherish their elders, as they are vital to maintaining Liir society and teaching the next generations. The Suul'ka are what happen when Liir elders get too old, powerful and selfish and let go of their morality and responsibility for the sake of immortality.
  • Subspace Ansible
  • Subspace or Hyperspace: The Tarka's FTL drive generates a small warp field around the ship.
  • Subsystem Damage: You can blow individual turrets off, as well as sections for destroyers and cruisers.
    • The sequel's damage tracking system takes it a step further, with any shot that goes through a spot that has been stripped of armor causing damage to internal systems.
  • Super Prototype: Averted in the first game; the first Mark of any new combination of ship sections, assuming you design one as soon as it's available, will invariably be inferior to better-equipped later Marks. The sequel is supposed to zig-zag this, with some prototypes being inferior and some superior.
  • Teleporters and Transporters: The Hivers lack FTL, but have created a teleport gate system to compensate. It takes Hivers a long time to reach a new planet, but once a gate is deployed, movement between worlds takes just one turn. The Liir also use Stutter-Drives on their ships to simulate motion.
  • Tempting Fate: The trailer to the second game opens with the unveiling of the first SolForce 'Leviathan' class ship. The speech that accompanies this event mentions that the Leviathan will obsolete fleet massings and lead to 'peace in our time'. You get no points for guessing what happens scant moments later.
  • That's No Moon: Asteroid Monitors and the Von Neumann Homeworld's moon. They've taken the poles off to expose giant missile racks of death.
  • The Plague: A specialty of the Liir. Zuul are immune though.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Siege Drivers. Period.
  • Timed Mission: Battles have a fixed length (by default 4 minutes), if the clock runs out you need to continue the battle next turn, assuming your enemy doesn't run away or brings up a large number of reinforcments. In case you're fighting a Hiver fleet that includes a warpgate (which, when deployed, allows the entire Hiver fleet to warp in next turn), or trying to defend your planet against one of the Grand Menaces, it becomes Exact Time to Failure.
  • Title Drop: If the human player designs a dreadnought with certain modules, the game will automatically offer the game title as the name... since the game is named after that specific ship (the Sword of the Stars class SolForce dreadnought armed with lancer beams).
    • The intro movies also drop titles a lot.

Human: "We learned to wield the Sword of the Stars"
Zuul: "Born of fire, born of steel, born of science, Born of Blood"
Morrigi: "Now we will darken your skies, like a Murder of Crows"
Suul'Ka: "Now you will tremble before the Lords of Winter"

  • Translation Convention: When another race first contacts you, their words come out as gibberish. After researching at least one level of their language, the words turn into readable English. All factions have their native language tech researched to level three from the start and thus its words are in readable English except for certain culture-specific terms.
  • Turned Against Their Masters: The Zuul subvert this. Oh boy, do they ever subvert this.
    • Though by the sequel some of them have split off to join the Liir, it seems most of them continue subverting this happily.
  • Ultimate Evil: The true name of the "Suul'Ka" isn't known; the name is, roughly, the Liir concept of "abominable" translated into vocals. The Morrigi name for them is translated as "Screamers" for some reason while Zuul reference them as "Great Masters".
    • New information tells us that the Suul'Ka are not the "Screamers" but they use them. Screamers are Morrigi who have been enslaved and experimented on by the Suul'ka Horde.
      • Additional information means that Suul'Ka is their real name, since they are not a race as much as a philosophy.
  • Units Not to Scale: Units are to scale with one another. Planets are scaled rather differently. Whether weapons are to scale with the planets or the ships is a matter of debate.
  • Violence Is the Only Option: Until AMOC diplomacy was almost nonexistent and you had to Kill'Em All to win.
  • Voice of the Legion: The Liir, a benign example as it's supposed to emulate whale song.
    • In the sequel The Suul'Ka bring this trope back with chilling force.
  • "Wake-Up Call" Boss: In a way, Silicoid encounters. If you can't clear them with minimal casualties you don't have quite enough PD to start attacking enemy systems.
  • The War of Earthly Aggression: The "A New Hope" scenario.
  • Wave Motion Gun: Heavy Combat Lasers, the Meson Projector and the Zuul Node Cannon.
  • Weaponized Exhaust: The Zuul Node Cannon.
  • Wolverine Claws: Zuul females have "punch-claws".
  • The Worf Effect: Pulled on SolForce every so often - granted, everyone gets this whenever a new race is unveiled, but in SolForce's case the first appearance of the Suul'ka resulted in the destruction of their primary shipyard (the Argos Naval Yard), their shiny new Leviathan class warship (the original SFS-1 Leviathan), and in the SoTS2 intro, of course one of their eponymous Sword of the Stars class Dreadnoughts, in a Call Back to the first game, except now getting smashed by a tentacle.
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Some Human avatars have exotic colours like pink or orange.
  • You Have Failed Me...: If your scientists go overbudget with the research, you get a picture with the notification. While the human scientists are shown making excuses while hiding that they have been Stealing From the Till, the Hiver scientists are being fed to a big spider hiver as punishment, and a Tarka scientist commit Seppuku. Also, the image for the zuul shows a human captive being torn literally in half by a zuul female. the morrigi equivalent, on the other hand, shows a VERY nervous Morrigi male looking adorably sheepish, trying to explain why his team is behind schedule..
  • You Have Researched Breathing
  • Zerg Rush: The Zuul, especially in the early game. They have abysmal research but very cheap, weak, over-armed ships and higher than average command & control abilities to compensate. Their starting strategy is most usually finding exploitable worlds ASAP, strip mining them to produce humongous fleets of crapola and sending them at the nearest player en masse, hopefully before he gets enough weapon and armour techs to rip through them unscathed.
    • The Hivers can also turn into this: With the second-most abysmal research they will inevitably always be technologically inferior to their neighbors, and will often have to 'win' invasions of enemy planets by using their Portal Network to port in large numbers of lower-tech but hard-as-nails ships from all over their empire, turn by turn until the enemy's higher-tech ships are exhausted and reinforcements can't come in fast enough.
      • Though light emitters and bursters are fairly early techs that tear fleets of weak ships to pieces.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: The Xombie Plague bio-weapon from the sequel. It is the only bio-weapon to lack a vaccine, and will leave victim planets in a permanent state of anarchy as bands of vicious flesh-eating monsters prowl the streets and feast on the meat of the living (or, as the Zuul would call it, 'An unusually terrible Monday.').