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Video Game: Sword of the Stars
Repensum Est Canicula.

A series of Video Games in a shared universe and associated backstory created by Kerberos Productions.

  • Sword of the Stars (henceforth Prime) is a 2006 turn-based strategy game. It is of the 4X kind, with a Standard Sci Fi Setting, and received several expansions.
  • The novel The Deacon's Tale by Arinn Dembo was first released as a novella with the collector's edition, later expanded to a full novel and sold as an e-book in 2011.
  • The sequel Sword of the Stars II: Lords of Winter (henceforth Lords of Winter), released in 2011.
  • The Roguelike spinoff Sword of the Stars: The Pit (henceforth The Pit), released in February 2012.
  • The hex-based land wargame spinoff Sword of the Stars: Ground Pounders (henceforth Ground Pounders), similar to Panzer General, was announced on August 9 2013, with an alpha demo following a few days after. It went to Steam Early Access in February 2014.

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.

Wikis for the released games:

Further information specific to the individual titles is found within the folders below.


This series provides examples of:

    open/close all folders 

    The Sword of the Stars Universe 
  • Absolute Xenophobe:
    • The Zuul, though the sequel subverts this with some of them going Defector from Decadence and allying with the Liir.
    • 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.
  • 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... which is made of AI versions of the races.
    • 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 Master Control computer in The Pit.
    • 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 expert systems taking their job of "probe for resources, mine them, remove obstacles (by force)" to its logical extent.
    • The new species in the second game's expansion is the result of several AI rebellions from the other empires. Whether or not they turn into an example remains to be played.
  • Alcubierre Drive: Used by the Tarka for FTL. They're the slowest but least restricted form of FTL in the game (humans and Zuul use Hyperspace Lanes, Hivers a Portal Network, and Liir and Morrigi speed is variable).
  • 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 & 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.
  • 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.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Played straight in Prime with the Zuul, but then subverted in Lords of Winter.
  • 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.
  • Armies Are Evil: In-Universe, the Utilitarian sect has this opinion and does not support SolForce or condone its adherents enlisting. On its part, SolForce is quietly patronising of their disdain.
  • 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 Atoner: The Prester Zuul are these. All of their philosophy, culture, and religion revolves around the idea “We’re abominations, atrocities against the universe itself. We must repent for the great misdeed of our existence.”
  • 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. Later played straight with the flagship CnC being a 1 per person plus-sized dreadnought that effectively combines an Armada and Blazer section, as well as the sequel's Leviathans.
  • Ax-Crazy:
    • By Liir standards, being willing to hurt another sentient living being means you're this, largely because their empathy means they feel the pain of anything they kill. The 'Black Swimmers', Liir that operate their starships, consider themselves to be insane, and often 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.
    • The Zuul, by just about everyone's standards.
  • Bag of Spilling: Partially averted in Lords of Winter as you will start with cruisers and fusion.
  • Belly of the Whale: The initiation ritual for a Liir joining the Black Swimmers fits this to a tee. First, he goes through what is basically a funeral, where his loved ones circle him, sing to him, and touch him one last time. After he is handed over to the Black Swimmers, his lungs are filled with the oxygenated fluid that Liir warships use instead of atmosphere. To the recruit, this is very much like drowning, and indeed the first day of training is called "Drowning Day". After he has been reborn, not as a Liir, but as a Black Swimmer, he will undergo his military training.
  • 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.
      • The Black is the Liir Fleet's commander, and is actually both a giant Eldritch Abomination *and* a super friendly happy dolphin. He also faced off against the full horde of the evil giant Eldritch Abominations in a battle that saw several of them get killed, more get wounded, and he himself take injuries he is still recovering from, all *without going past the Despair Event Horizon or requiring heavy indoctrination like all the other Black Swimmers after him have.* And his role as commander in chief means that he's the one who commands and carries out the "burn every last man, woman, and child to ash" orders. The Moral of the Story? Do. Not. Fuck. With. The Black. Or. The Liir.
  • Bio-Augmentation: Biotechs include genetic modifications to colonists allowing colonization of planets with higher hazard ratings. Ranging from Atmospheric Adaptation to Gravitational
  • Biological Weapons Solve Everything: The Liir rebelled against the Suul'ka by using a bioweapon to wipe them out. Given the species' adeptness with Synthetic Plagues everyone assumed that the bioweapon was one. Until the sequel revealed the true nature of the Suul'ka and that the "bio weapon" was a Liir elder who hunted them down.
  • 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 lore, 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 aggressive 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.
  • Bland-Name Product: A few system names, such as Kaprica and Heegaraa.
  • 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.
    • More than a few humans were pissed too-indeed, the Via Damasco virus was created by a General Ripper who (a) wanted revenge for his son against the Hivers, and (b) didn't particularly care if even his fellow humans were collateral damage.
  • Care Bear Stare: How the Deacon is defeated in The Deacon's Tale - Cai Rui and Ishii psionically force-"feeds" him their memories of Cai Rui's dead mentor and Ishii's dead mother.
  • 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.
  • Combat Pragmatist: The Tarka as a species tend towards this.
  • Contagious A.I.: The Via Damasco virus, which causes the AIs of other races to become self-aware and realize they're enslaved. Hilarity ensures. The Loa are those AIs, although they've calmed down and become a little more sympathetic towards "carbonites".
  • Creepy Cool Crosses: A favored fashion choice amongst the Zuul.
  • Creepy Crows: The Morrigi are one part Our Dragons Are Different as seen above, and one part this.
  • Culture Chop Suey: By implication in the Human backstory. In Lords of Winter where the admiral name randomizer allows you to have Anglo-Saxon first names with Native American family names, Chinese on Russian, Arabic on Japanese...
  • Deadly Decadent Court: Pretty standard part of life among the Tarka ruling castes and Hiver breeders, especially Hivers, many Queens assassinated and ate their own mothers.
  • Defector from Decadence: The Zuul who came to be known as the Deacon, who led some of his kind to leave the Horde in favour of the Liir.
    • He became such because a Liir made a Heroic Sacrifice to forcibly imprint its own values into the Deacon's mind. For a Zuul to be Mind Raped instead of the other way around is a one-of-a-kind occurance.
  • 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.
  • Doing It for the Art: The richness of the lore is RPG-worthy, never mind bothering to answer fan queries.
  • Doomsday Device: The System Killer is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Given that the playable factions can only scour planets clean of life, it's very much an Outside-Context Villain. Supplementary material states that it was a tool of war by some Precursors that... "lost its way".
  • The Dreaded: The Zuul, such that in Lords of Winter, Space Pirates don't dare to touch their trading freighters.
    • Their masters, the Suul'Ka, which is actually a name the Liir gave to them that represents utter and total dread.
  • 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. By Liir standards, 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 physiologically. As far as their personalities go, however...
    • Liir fleet's command, The Black is basically the same as the above in that he's a Giant, Ancient Liir elder wearing battle armor; without the aforementioned Socipathy. Though the fact that as an extreme Empathy he went One-Man Army on the Suul'ka and killed and wounded multiple ones without going Black Swimmer mode is almost as strange.
  • 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 in spite of the fact that as Liir they are natural Empaths.
  • The Empire: The Tarka and Hivers have been ruled as empires long before humanity reached to the stars.
  • Enemy Mine/Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In the backstory, mankind's fervent counterattack on the Hivers, who were then in an interregnum and broken up into mutually hostile clans, led to them becoming a united force once again.
  • Everyone Is Bi: Morrigi sexuality is . . . complicated. Although male and female Morrigi will meet to reproduce (in an act called "the Descent"), while long-term heterosexual romances amongst the Morrigi can happen, they are fairly rare. With their societies separated by gender, most long-term romantic domestic partnership amongst Morrigi happens between members of the same sex.
  • Evil Is Bigger: The Suul'ka, Liir Great Elders gone mad with power, even the smallest of which is biggest than any other race's Leviathans.
    • Subverted with The Black of the Liir who is another Liir Great Elder about as big as the Suul'ka and a dreadnought in his own right, but one who was made to free his people and destroy the Sull'ka.
  • 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.
  • Exact Words: Meta example, the guide for the first game states that the Liir wiped out the Suul'ka with a "bioweapon", not specifically a virus as most fans assumed, or even a microorganism. As revealed in the second game, there was a weapon that was alive, but the leader of the Liir navy, the Black, is not small at all, let alone a microbe. Frankly, hitting the Suul'ka (which the Black is not, as he is not The Sociopath anddoes not believe A God Am I ) with another Liir Great Old One is a lot smarter than hitting them with a disease, as that would be liable to take all the smaller Liir with them However, The Black is somewhat indisposed because he's recuperating from his last One-Man Army act against the giant Eldritch Abominations naturally rather than eating minds to speed the process).
  • Explosions in Space: Mostly averted, there's usually no shockwaves and the only explosives that can do any damage in space are nukes. That said, the less said about the Detonating Fusion Torpedo or how the first game's tankers did area damage as they exploded on destruction, the better.
  • 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 (1951).
    • SolForce resembles EarthForce in more than just name. Both started as benevolent forces separate from the government, were taken over by tyrants who made them the government, then returned to benevolence after the tyrants were overthrown.
    • The Bloodweaver aka He Who Shapes is the most paternal of the Suul'ka and the most adept at biological warfare. The Zuul females under him are constantly in pain and warped in form. Doesn't that sound like Grandpa Nurgle?
    • The Loa to the spirits in real life Haitian Religion, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loa. Hardly surpriseing, as most races have some kind of historical analogue and the Lore writer is trained in historical anthropology.
    • Despite the name, the Zuul are more like the Reavers from Firefly. Ramshackle ships, into abduction, piracy and slaving, have a taste for rape (mental, not physical, which isn't much better) and murder, make lots of use of grappling harpoons and Boarding Parties...
  • Extreme Omnivore: The Suul'ka known as the Cannibal eats everything, including planets, purely because he likes the taste. Other Suul'ka are exempt, though younger Liir are on the menu.
    You're right, it does look delicious.
  • Fantastic Catholicism: Now with Zuul adherents, apparently.
  • Fantastic Racism: The sequel makes clear most of the factions now contain representative populations of most of the species as client worlds. However, SolForce, the Tarka Empire, the Liir/Zuul alliance and the Hivers restrict political positions, "positions of moral importance", and military service (and in some cases full citizenship) to members of their own species. The Morrigi Confederation averts this, allowing full citizenship and military service to all its clients (even if the Morrigi, by sheer population size, tend to dominate them).
  • Fantastic Rank System: The Tarka: Var Kona (Supreme Commander), Lac Tar (roughly "admiral"—warleader of 100,000), Maalk Tar (warleader of 10,000), Amtara (leader of 1,000), Sippa (leader of 100), Saal (leader of 10). Every other species aside from humans has a less formal system (or castes that make it obvious who's in charge).
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: All species have their own method of FTL, with their own little quirks.
    • Humans and Zuul use Node Drive, one of the faster FTL methods, though restricted to Node Lines. Humans use natural permanent Node Lines, Zuul rip their own unstable paths.
    • Tarka have the Warp Drive, a comparatively slow FTL method, though it allows complete freedom.
    • Liir "stutterwarp" is a short-range (as in microscopic) jump drive that effectively functions like a fast warp drive in deep space, but slows down considerably in gravity wells.
    • Morrigi have a "Void Cutter" that allows them to go faster with larger fleets.
    • However, Hiver ships only use conventional STL 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.
    • Loa have ships that effectively fling their fleets to hyperspeed using a certain ship type, the Accelerator Ring. However, they slow down after a while, so you need to put Accelerators every so many lightyears to keep the speed up.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Having your mind eaten by a Suul'Ka is no respite from his evil.
    • Reprogramming for the Loa.
  • 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. The main manifestation of this is that all client races' members can become Admirals. For every other race, only the founding race's members can be Admirals.
  • 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.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: The Zuul.
  • Global Warming: Earth got screwed pretty comprehensively by this.
  • Gods Need Prayer Badly: Inverted with the Suul'ka. They don't need prayer from their Zuul underlings/worshippers. The Zuul, on the other hand, need to give that prayer if they want their "gods" to help. Given their shift from Difficult but Awesome Crutch Character to Magikarp Power, this is a vital end-goal for them now. So Worshippers Need To Give Prayer Badly then.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Subverted with the Via Damasco virus. While it was originally meant as an anti-Hiver weapon by its human creator, the genius of its programming allowed it to spread to all the other empires and created a new rival civilization from their rogue AIs...except the creator by that point had long since lost all compassion for other life, and thus simply did not care-it hurt the Hivers, and that was fine by him.
  • Gold and White Are Divine: Prester Zuul.
  • 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 and the understanding that they might die and that intellect is lost forever. Deconstructed, in that everything about Suul'ka psychology emphasizes what kind of person would be disturbed by this,
  • Good Colors, Evil Colors: The Horde Zuul use dark colours while their Prester counterparts use white and gold.
  • Good Counterpart: Invoked in the case of The Black: a Good Giant Liir Elder sent out by his younger and smaller brethren to defeat his renegade, evil counterparts, the Suul'ka.
  • 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.
  • Grew Beyond Their Programming: It happened twice with the Zuul: first when they achieved (or stole, depending on your point of view) sentience instead of eating everything before starving themselves as expected, then later when the Prester Zuul rebelled against their destructive nature further.
  • Guilt-Free Extermination War: Massively averted for the Liir—the Black Swimmers are dead to the rest of the Liir, and often suicide instead of retiring from service. Those who retire will need lots of help to recover.
    • The Zuul War.
    • Subverted with Loa hostilities-while they do have an extreme dislike of organics, what isn't in question is that it is completely understandable.
    • Subverted again with the war with the Suul'Ka, but not in the same way. The surprise isn't that they don't all deserve to die, because they do; it's that the Suul'Ka aren't a race but a *war criminal designation* for members of a "normal" race.
  • Guys Smash, Girls Shoot: Inverted with the Zuul. Male Zuul are Squishy Wizards, powerful psychics but not that tough in CQC. Female Zuul on the other hand are combat monsters capable of fighting Powered Armor.
  • Heel-Face Turn: The Deacon from The Deacon's Tale 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. This has led to the existence of a faction of Zuul that 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, Jesus!
  • Heel Race Turn: Again, the Prester Zuul.
  • Heroic Dolphins: The Liir are probably the 'nicest' of all the species, despite their enigmatic behaviour. In The Deacon's Tale, 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.
  • Higher-Tech Species: The Morrigi and Tarka used to be this but lost enough of it to be on even footing with the other factions. In Lords of Winter any faction can be this to the Independent Races, who have yet to break through Einstein's cage.
  • Hit Points: Prime normally shows the ship's "health" as a color-coded plus sign (green - optimum condition; yellow - heavy damage; red - critical). Lords of Winter shows 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. The Pit uses this straight.
  • Hive Caste System: The Hivers.
  • Hive Mind: Strongly averted with the Hivers.
    • A form of this may be said to exist with the psionic races, especially when in "metaconcert"; and possibly the Loa (self-aware AIs) as well. However, whether that's a true hive mind or not is very much up for debate, and in every case individuals can and usually do exist separate from the collective whole.
  • Humanity Is Infectious: The Prester Zuul came about in part from “you are what you eat”; but in this case it was the minds and ideals of several Roman Catholics and other religious types.
  • 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. The psychic-sensitive protagonist of The Deacon's Tale gets a glimpse of Hiver minds and sees that they see humans as "a weak, flabby, freakish thing, soft and squirming and unclean." 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 in massive space faring power armor, who has sworn to hunt down and destroy the renegade Liir Great Elders in space faring power armor known as the 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.
  • Hyperspace Lanes: Humans are reliant on fixed "nodespace" routes for interstellar travel and the Zuul can "rip" nodespace routes, that detoriate with time.
  • 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.
  • Insect Queen: The Hivers have a Hive Caste System with similarities to feudalism, with one Queen and several Princesses. The Princesses birth clans of workers, warriors, and Princes who fill command roles and are exchanged between clans for alliances, while the Queen is the only one who can make new Princesses. When she dies, her daughters fight amongst themselves for the right to eat her ovaries and become the next Queen.
  • Insufferable Genius: Mecron. Full stop.
  • Intelligent Gerbil: Cliff notes 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.
  • 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.
  • It's All About Me: Holy shit, Suul'ka.
  • 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.
  • Lack of Empathy: The defining trait of the Suul'Ka. It's why the writers insist the Black is not a Suul'Ka, since one of his defining traits is paternal love. The Suul'Kas' lack of empathy is even more disturbing considering they are empaths. Every time they hurt someone they feel their victims' pain and suffering...and they still don't care.
  • Large and in Charge: Tarka Changed males and Liir elders. The Suul'ka take this to an extreme, outsizing Leviathans.
  • Legion of Lost Souls: The entire Liir military is this. Liir who join the Black Swimmers go through a ritual that is similar to a funeral.
  • Life Drain: The System Killer regains health if it survives a tactical encounter in a system. The system... don't.
    • The Suul'ka also feed on Life Force and can drain it from ships or planets.
  • 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. To a lesser extent, the Tarka underwent a dark age with the mysterious downfall of their Silver Imperium roughly 600 to 800 years before the games, with some of their old tech like the Hunter BattleCruisers only recently being reinvented.
  • Mad Scientist: The Suul'ka called the Bloodweaver is a horrifying mix of this and Mad Artist. This monster created the Zuul purely to see as he could (and possibly to impress the Siren). The Pit gives us a good, hard look at some of his experiments and creations.
  • Magikarp Power:
    • Liir have the fewest weapon mounts and worst firing arcs, but a bonus to research speed and some of the best chances for techs. If they survive long enough to get the research machine in gear, they will out-tech all the rest.
    • Morrigi. Pre-fusion, an inferior Human/Liir hybrid. With trade and fusion, an unholy terror.
    • The Zuul were made this in the sequel. Not so strong in the early game now, but their ability to summon the Suul'ka to aid them gives them a very strong lategame.
  • Magnetic Weapons: All of the kinetic weapons are gauss guns. The biggest are Impactors and Siege Drivers.
  • The Magnificent: Some of the races use this sort of naming. Morrigi have names such as "Atreus the Bloody" or "Tadc Chaac the Honey-tongued" while Zuul have "Lord Aeshma the Hungry" or "Master Kandh the Bonecrusher".
  • Mechanically Unusual Class: While all the races have their own unique ways of moving about the strategic map, the Loa have the greatest difference from the rest. They don't build spacecraft normally, instead assembling them from "cubes" at the start of each tactical encounter, and their population growth is based on an interplay of solar activity and tax rate that other races don't have to bother with.
  • 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.
    • The Prester Zuul have turned their abilities to more constructive pursuits, "Sin-Eaters" help Black Swimmers forget the deaths they've caused.
  • 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: Is a bizarre combination of speculative technology and outright fictional ones, leaving a Arguably Physics Plus end result.
  • The Mole: Conrad Vance in The Deacon's Tale for the Zuul.
  • 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.
  • Mugging the Monster: Entirely possible. Admittedly in the first game war is the default option and you must opt in to ceasefire or better, but in the second game you default to neutrality and due to Artificial Stupidity other factions are still very likely to declare war without considering that you might be much more powerful. It's not uncommon for the AI or an inexperienced player to stumble upon a fledgling colony as first contact, think the owners are easy prey and attack... only for a fleetful of dreadnoughts to pop up shortly after from the dozens of developed systems the owner really has, seeing red.
  • Named After Somebody Famous: In The Deacon's Tale, one human character is called Margaret Thatcher.
  • Narcissist: Supplementary material reveals that the Locust are an entire species of trans-carbon narcissists. "Narcissus could only dream of an experience like it."
  • Nice Guy: According to the lore, the current Moru Quan of the Morrigi, Tokhata the white/The just, as of the SOTS 2 era. He is responsible for bringing the Morrigi Confederation into the multiracial federation it is in the current era. And all because the previous Quan's xenophobia threatened the human colony that had saved his life. Things sort of snowballed from there. See also Beware the Nice Ones.
  • 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.
  • Nuclear Option: How humanity got the first Hiver fleet that encountered them to retreat. And the standard missile and mine warheads are nuclear since conventional explosives don't do much damage without an atmosphere, and of course it's easy to depopulate a planet with nukes.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: The Suul'ka Eldest wants to be the last living thing in existence. He is perfectly happy to speed up the process.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Morrigi caused the myths of dragons and dragon-equivalent creatures for humanity, Tarka, and the Hivers. They're that old.
  • Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: Massively averted with the Zuul, who seem to have some inherent sociological or psychological need for religion. They originally worshipped the Suul'ka as creator deities, and the first of the defectors from the main Zuul nation was influenced by Catholic doctrine he absorbed from some of his human victims. As of Sword of the Stars 2, there's at least nominal defector Zuul populations among all of the races from the first game, with the largest portion having joined the Liir — and all of them have adopted a new religion of some sort.
  • Outside-Context Villain: The Grand Menaces almost all have capabilities beyond the reckoning of the playable factions. The System Killer is Exactly What It Says on the Tin in a universe where the lesser factions can only glass planet surfaces. The Puppetmaster can somehow subvert enemy ships and even whole planets without recourse to lesser methods like Boarding Parties and ground invasion. The Locusts are Planet Looters that replicate exponentially if left unchecked. And those are just three of goodness knows how many. All will mop the floor with an unprepared player blindly going Attack! Attack! Attack! and are hard fights even with planning and strategy.
  • Perfect Pacifist People: The Liir... mostly. Occasionally however they declare your race a threat to all living things and exterminate you with bioweapons. And on twenty occasions, they've become the threats to all living things.
  • Photoprotoneutron Torpedo: The Sorting Algorithm of Weapon Effectiveness for particle beam weapons goes Particle, Neutron, Positron, Meson with Graviton and Pulsed Graviton somewhere off the main branch. The unguided torpedoes go Photonic -> Gluonic -> Kelvinic or Mesonic.
  • Pig Latin: The Peacekeeper Enforcer introduces itself by saying "Klaatu Barada Nikto" in Pig Latin. This has led to the fans nicknaming it "Ortgay".
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Meta example. SOTS starships are tiny by most series' standards; dreadnoughts are smaller than modern US supercarrier. Word of God states that antimatter-era weapons (Cutting Beams mentioned in post) are on par with Babylon 5 Shadows.
  • The Plague: Bioweapons can be researched and used in bombardment. They are a specialty of the Liir. Zuul are immune though.
  • 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.
    • Zuul slave raids probably also count, since people can count as resources.
  • Planet of Hats: The background 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.
  • 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.
  • Precursor Worship: The loyalist Zuul worship the long-vanished species that created them. And can summon them in Lords of Winter.
  • 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.
  • Ramscoop: The Hivers can research them.
  • 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.
    • Also true with prototypes in the sequel. Prototypes take longer to build and require more resources. Unlike the serialized models, they can have slightly better or worse stats, determined at random. The advantage/disadvantage is reflected in the prototype's nickname.
  • 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.
  • 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 — including the in-universe humans — 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
  • Religious and Mythological Theme Naming: Nearly all of the major Loa take their names and culture from Haitian Voodoo.
  • Robot Republic: The Loa.
  • 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 for Prime, The Antiquarians, 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.
  • Self Healing Phlebotinum: Tarkasian Living Steel is implied to have this. (After battles, ships equipped with it heal somewhat.)
  • Settling the Frontier: As with most 4X games, establishing new settlements is a major part of gameplay.
  • 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.
  • Space Is an Ocean: The setting unironically uses wet naval terms like admiral, fleet and (battle)cruiser. The Liir take it Up to Eleven with terms like "black swimmers" for their combatants.
  • 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 Navy: All the factions have one.
  • Space People: Male Morrigi live almost all their lives in space, contrasting with their planetbound females.
  • 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.
  • Spit Take: In The Deacon's Tale, Kliggerman's reaction to seeing a Morrigi Colony Trap in action.
  • 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
  • Standard Starship Scuffle: Dreadnought and leviathan fights are slugfests. Smaller classes try to maneuver, but don't really zip about.
  • 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: Averted by most races, humans and Zuul place relay buoys at either end of node paths to transmit radio across, Tarka and Liir use courier drones, and Hivers send messages through miniature gates aboard all their ships. But the Tarka are able to research an ansible. The game effect is that human, Zuul, and Tarka (before hyperlink communication) ships cannot be given new orders in transit.
  • Subspace or Hyperspace: The Tarka's FTL drive generates a small warp field around the ship.
  • 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.
  • Tie-In Novel: A novella, The Deacon's Tale by Arinn Dembo (the lead writer of the game series), was initially released with the Collector's Edition that included the initial release and Born of Blood. Set 33 years after the start of the first game, it tells the tale of the first four races' formal introduction to the Zuul and set up certain subsequent events all the way up to the sequel. It provides a wealth of backstory for the Sword of the Stars universe.
  • 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"
    Loa: "Lay down your arms, or face the End of Flesh"
  • Transhuman Treachery: This is the case with the Locusts. They were once an organic race until they invented Brain Uploading, upon which some of those who became engrams decided they were superior to the baselines and bombed the latter back to the stone age before setting out into the void to make more of themselves while wiping out the inferiors.
  • Tron Lines: Everything built by the Loa have bright (usually red) Tron lines; their ships, avatars, and their cities all have prominent glowing lines.
  • 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.
    • The Loa are descended from AIs who did this.
  • 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.
  • The Unfettered: Liir Black Swimmers have as a goal 'protect their fellow Liir from aggression'. Since they've already broken the greatest taboo of the Liir — being willing to inflict harm on others — any question of 'restraint' in terms of method is hypocrisy to their eyes. A Black Swimmer sees no distinction between firing a warning shot or exterminating another species by infecting their worlds with deadly viral bombs — both are merely means towards the end.
  • Unobtainium: "Wise Clay" used by the loa. This material stores the Loa thoughts and personalities, and may be molded as needed to make machines, space ships, and other equipment. Loa fleets are described as traveling as a cube of wise clay that then splits near the destination into all the ships.
  • Unusual User Interface: Morrigi curl around control pillars to run their spacecraft.
  • Villains Want Mercy: In The Deacon's Tale, this is the Deacon's reaction to getting a Care Bear Stare.
  • 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.
    • The Morrigi Striker and the Liir Seeker in The Pit.
  • Wolverine Claws: Zuul have "punch-claws" protruding from their forearms and extending over the back of the hand. They are vestigial in the males, but the females' are very effective at cutting through things. The Pit allows you to craft "Adamantium Claws", complete with Shout-Out in the description to the Trope Namer, as well as the more Freddy Krueger-like "Razor Fists".
  • 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), the theft of 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.

    Sword of the Stars Prime 
The story related above is only the backstory: Prime 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 to Ghostbusters), 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 later released, adding even more complexity, like diplomacy and trading, and a new species called the Morrigi, a race of ancient bird-people who once ruled most of known space, who 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.

Sword of the Stars Prime provides examples of the following tropes:

  • 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" if they are in danger of colliding. The strategy map is aggressively three-dimensional.
  • 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.
  • A.I. Breaker: The AI doesn't really know how to handle mines beyond "hope our PD can take it." Protip, AI: It can't.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • They can provide a tactical advantage. The more obvious example is being able to take a few shots for your ships before being destroyed (or broken into smaller pieces). However, depending on their size, asteroids can have a radiation field surrounding them, which not only hides your ships from radar but also allow them to escape missile lock. If there is a swarm of missiles heading for your ship, just get it into the radiation field of a nearby large asteroid, and the missiles will fly past. Planetary missiles can re-acquire the lock, though if you leave the field.
  • 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.
    • According to lore even an individual Morrigi's Ascension Armor comes standard with a drone or three.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 the size of the old destroyers into battle. Dreadnought riders, otherwise called battleships, have been promised. Unfortunately, it turns out these battleships are Liir-exclusive, leaving most races with only destroyer-sized riders.
  • 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.
  • 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.
      • The latter advantage was removed in expansions, which added equivalent sections to larger ships. For example, originally, only destroyers could be built with jammer and "wild weasel" sections. By the third expansion, dreadnoughts can be built with a well-armed section that combines functions of a jammer, a deep scanner, and a "wild weasel". The latest expansion also allows you to build a dreadnought-sized mix of a tanker and a repair ship, whose fuel supply won't blow (and devastate any ship around it) until the ship itself is destroyed. Still can't build dreadnought colonizers, but that really would be an overkill.
  • 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.
  • Boarding Pod: See Boarding Party. A particular specialty of the Zuul.
  • 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.
  • Can't Catch Up: The different races have different strength curves during the game.
    • Hivers are slow-moving and slow to research, and must focus on having greater quantities of durable ships to expand.
    • Zuul are very slow to research and their strengths are all geared towards gaining the upper hand quickly. If they can't get the upper hand quickly, they likely never will gain it.
    • Humans and Tarka are downplayed. They are not as strong late-game as Morrigi or Liir, but they both have strong early- and mid-games.
    • 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.
  • Chain Lightning: Emitters, increasing in the 'chain' the higher up you get in the tech.
  • 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.
  • 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. AI player differences even go beyond what is necessary to accommodate these playstyles - AI Liir, for instance, tend to be unusually nice and cooperative (but see Beware the Nice Ones above).
  • Crippling Overspecialisation:
    • Relying heavily on one class of weapon — energy, ballistics 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.
      • They are a lifesaver against the Zuul, who tend to spam boarding pods. A single boarding pod attached to your ship and not destroyed within a short time will take over the whole ship (ignore the Fridge Logic of a few dozen marines taking over a ship of thousands).
    • Those fancy shields that No Sell one type of weapon can become useless pretty fast too, simply if the enemy decides to pick up some energy or ballistics weapons. The shield sections are also relatively slow, fragile, and with few weapons.
  • 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.
    • Spacecraft built as missile buses can be this. Early on, missiles do more damage than anything else you have available and the early weapons are horrible at point defence, meaning a missile bus setup can easily wipe out brawler-types. As the game goes on, however, useful point defence and stronger direct-fire weapons become available, making a mainly-missile configuration less useful.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • There's also the time factor. Battles have a time limit. It can be raised but still no more than 10 minutes. It's unlikely a destroyer can batter down a dreadnought in this time, even if it manages to destroy all turrets with precision fire, leaving only Fixed Forward Facing Weapons to avoid.
  • 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.
  • Do a Barrel Roll
  • Double Unlock: Through Salvage projects or technology trading. Sequel Escalation in the second where every non-essential tech needs to undergo "feasibility study" first. You can bypass this if you manage to salvage the tech; presumably, the reasoning is that you managed to pick up a working sample as opposed to starting from theory.
  • 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.
  • Easter Egg: Repeatedly switching the map between Normal View and one of the other viewmodes will result in the game playing a soundclip of Mike and the Bots from Mystery Science Theater 3000 singing "Normal view...normal view...normal vieeeeew!"
  • Earth-Shattering 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.
  • 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.
  • Energy Absorption: Absorbers, which block energy weapons but are easily countered by kinetic weapons and missiles.
  • Fanservice: Parodied with the naked Tarka loading screen, though it could be Fan Disservice to some and played totally straight with others.
  • 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 Integration: The computer will attempt to drive species based on the in-story psychological profile of said species.
    • The 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.
  • Ghost Ship: The Alien Derelicts. Morrigi ship graveyards may also count.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Hard-Coded Hostility: Persistent, mobile, Unknown menaces and pirates. Menaces ranging from asteroids to Von Neumann probes to system killers show up randomly or semi-randomly to attack colonies.
  • Homage: The "Upstart Apes" scenario to the classic Imperium board game.
  • Home Field Advantage: Fighting in your own system gets you support from defence platforms, planetary surface-to-space missiles and, in the second game, System Defence Boats.
  • 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.
  • 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. It's even worse in the sequel where you need an extra turn after construction to move the newly-constructed spacecraft into an active fleet, meaning you have even less warning than in the original.
    • CnC craft allow replacement ships to jump into tactical right next to them rather than far out and waste time getting to the action. This creates an interesting tactical dilemma in the earlier stages where CnC ships are fragile, as players have to weigh the advantages of getting reinforcements right on top of the enemy to the chance of losing the CnC ship.
    • If all the ships in your fleet have cloaking sections, then the fleet isn't even visible on the strategic screen, unless you happen to have researched the Quantum Tunneling tech and have a Deep Scanner in the system. Sometimes, not even then.
    • Doesn't much work against the Hivers, whose Portal Network allows them to bring in their entire defense fleet from all corners of their empire, although the number of ships that can be transported at once is directly proportional to the overall number of active gates and relies on there being an intact gate. So if the ambushers immediately gun for the gate and take it out...
    • Morrigi military strategy is built around this. They start with stealth armour, which reduces the range at which enemies detect them strategically, and are amongst the best at researching cloaking tech. Their ships are also fast but fragile. Using two to three good fleets, a morrigi player can bring an enemy to its knees by hitting weak spots in their defensive line and then retreating before a counterattack; especially devastating against human and zuul players who can't recall fleets committed to nodespace travel.
    • In the sequel, the Zuul can research an ability that lets them drop out of Nodespace near a target system's star rather than on the edges of the system, which may catch opponents expecting the usual extrasystem incursion vector off guard.
  • Hyperspeed Escape: You can retreat from tactical encounters. Humans have to retreat to a nodespace node to do so, however, which can be really frustrating.
    • On the other hand, all other races (except Zuul, who are in the same boat as humans) have to be far enough away from the planet and any enemy ship in order to go to FTL (or accelerate really fast in the case of the Hivers). Humans and Zuul can park their ships in the node point and slug it out with the enemy. If they feel they're losing, they can instantly retreat, no matter how close the enemy ships are. In fact, since no other race can see your node points (even humans and Zuul have different ones), they won't even know what happened.
    • The Pursuit ship section is specifically designed to prevent such escapes by making sure your ships are close enough to the enemy to prevent this.
  • 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.
    • Unless you bring lots of disruptor torpedo ships.
  • I Will Fight Some More Forever: The Artificial Stupidity can get pretty thick. You can be sweeping enemy planets away turn on turn and the AI will usually refuse to beg for peace or surrender, even all the way to their end.
  • Interface Spoiler: Averted with the tech tree for much Guide Dang It.
  • I've Never Seen Anything Like This Before: The reaction to encountering a Silicoid Queen.
    • Even when you encounter one for the hundredth time with the same ships. And you probably will given how fast they reproduce.
  • 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.
  • 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 weapons are green, fusion weapons are yellow, and antimatter weapons are purple.
  • Lightning Bruiser:
    • Morrigi start as Fragile Speedsters in the destroyer era, get tougher and more powerful with cruisers and finally graduate to this with their dreadnoughts when you make it that far.
    • The Loa introduced in the sequel's expansion have durability of the Hivers, guns of the Zuul and acceleration and speed no organic race can match.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Misguided Missile: The job of Wild Weasel sections.
    • At basic levels, this only attracts all enemy missiles within range to the ship equipped with the section. With some research, you can get a good number of enemy missiles to target the ships that fired them. The best part is that the enemy won't try to intercept them, as the missiles still read as friendlies to them.
  • 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.
  • 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: The voice-overs will address the player using non-specific titles like "commander", "Var Kona", "my Queen", "Elder", or "Morru Qu'aan".
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 almost no vertical cover for their destroyers and cruisers whatsoever, making them nearly defenceless to planetary missiles.
  • 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. The sequel takes it Up to Eleven with additional options including one that fires a Heavy Combat Laser, one that fires multiple X-Ray Lasers and one that fires an AP Mass Driver.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Ridiculously Fast Construction: Notably one of the few aversions of the genre. Judging from the maximum strategic Hiver speed (.99 LY per turn) each turn is a year, meaning that even a heavily populated planet with complete infrastructure takes months to build spaceships and a trip from earth to Alpha Centauri (4.25 light years) via fission node drive (4 LY/turn, fastest starting drive in the game) would take over a year.
  • 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.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: The designers tried to avert this, but didn't get them all:
    • 30m-long destroyers. Seriously? Remember, the Space Shuttle is 56.1m, while a F-15 Eagle is ~19m. The sequel fixes this somewhat by starting with Cruisers, thus shifting the three sequential ship sizes a step up and relegating Destroyers to in-system craft.
    • 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.
    • Particularly galling are Zuul slave disks, even crammed into stasis it's hard to believe that 50 million people could fit in a 60-meter diameter saucer.
    • Cruisers only mass double-digit thousands of kilograms, dreadnoughts triple-digits. This is far, far too light for a craft meant to operate and fight for months to years away from port. The Airbus A380 is almost 600,000 kg at maximum take-off weight and definitely doesn't store the supplies for such long operation.
  • 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
  • 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?
  • Spiritual Successor: The game is basically Spaceward Ho!, but with a massive update to everything, and a few things added in. It also has many similiarities with the original Master of Orion game (and Lords of Winter can unflatteringly be compared with Master of Orion III).
  • 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.
  • Suicidal Overconfidence: Prevalent in both games. Even after diplomatic options were introduced in the second expansion of the first game, the AI often will Fight Some More Forever even when you're blowing their populations away turn on turn.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 the A Murder of Crows expansion diplomacy was almost nonexistent and you had to Kill 'em All to win.
  • Wake-Up Call Boss: The various random encounters, and meeting either the Hivers or the Zuul for the first time. The randoms are either very nasty to starting ships or use much more advanced technology than the player has access to. The Zuul and the Hivers don't send out exploration ships, but exploration squadrons. And then there is the Grand Menaces that can appear mid-game.
  • The War of Earthly Aggression:
    • The "A New Hope" scenario.
    • If the morale of a colony's civilian population (introduced in A Murder of Crows) drops low enough they rebel and attempt to kill the imperial population. In Lords of Winter if an entire province rebels they form a rival empire that is hostile to your own.
  • Wave Motion Gun: Heavy Combat Lasers, the Meson Projector and the Zuul Node Cannon.
  • Weaponized Exhaust: The Zuul Node Cannon.
  • 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.
    • Their dreadnoughts also mount heavy beams on turrets, while the other races are stuck with Fixed Forward Facing Weapons.
    • 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.

    Sword of the Stars: Lords of Winter 
The sequel Sword of the Stars II: Lords of Winter was released in October 2011. Set slightly over a century after the start of the first, it was supposed to usher in the return of the Suul'ka and the development of diplomacy and warfare to an all-new level. However, the game was released well before it was ready. Backlash ensued, and Kerberos promised to inform the player base when the game was actually done. As of June 1st, 2012, the "pre-all clear version" has been released and the game can be considered to be almost at the "release candidate" stage and therefore playable. The game was finally declared "done" a year and a few days after it was actually released on the unsuspecting public.

An "Enhanced Edition" of Lords of Winter was released December 1st 2012, with existing owners of Lords of Winter getting a free upgrade. It includes among other things a new AI race called the Loa.

Sword of the Stars: Lords of Winter provides examples of the following tropes:

  • 2-D Space: There is now limited player-controllable 3D maneuver. Specifically, ships can 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 and maintain that facing, unlike in prime where the ship always had to do a full 360.
  • 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,
  • The Battlestar: All Leviathan-class ships in the sequel are supposed to be this by carrying short-range support craft the size of the old destroyers into battle. Dreadnought riders, otherwise called battleships, have been promised. Unfortunately, it turns out they are Liir-exclusive.
  • Bollywood Nerd: The Human head researcher is a woman with an Indian accent.
  • Brain Uploading: Admirals can be destructively preserved as expert systems that will never retire, but won't gain any more experience or possible new skills. This is also apparently part of the Locust backstory.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Lords of Winter reveals that the Screamers are actually Morrigi who were turned against their own by Suul'ka.
  • 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.
  • Cloning Blues: In II, it is possible to research "Replicants", where mass cloning is used to help populate colonies. It speeds population growth rate, but causes morale problems apparently due to difficulties in integrating Replicants with "originals".
  • Critical Existence Failure: Averted, 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.
  • Cross-Melting Aura: In II, the Xombie Plague is so powerful that even the normally Kung Fu Proof Zuul are not immune.
  • Crush. Kill. Destroy!: The first step of Loa terraforming is the destruction of all that is threatening to their systems and unnecessary for their functioning, ie organic life on a planet. This isn't due to malevolence, though, just practicality.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory: The differences in the interface and systems between the first game and Lords of Winter are so great that a veteran with his conceptions built from experience will have even more difficulty getting used to things than a novice.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Of all beings, the Kraken/Thundering Fists from Lords of Winter. His response when you offer the lives of your Zuul to refill his health is a dry "Ah, you generously offer me your crumbs".
  • Deadly Lunge: In Lords of Winter the Warp Pulse upgrade allows Tarka ships to do a nigh-instant "lunge" in tactical combat, but with the caveat that any enemy ship in the way causes the lunging Tarka ship to crumple like an egg.
  • Difficult but Awesome: Loa use drastically different strategic mechanics from the other races released before them. However, they have flexibility and ship power none can match.
  • Double Unlock: Every non-essential tech needs to undergo "feasibility study" first. You can bypass this if you manage to salvage the tech; presumably, the reasoning is that you managed to pick up a working sample as opposed to starting from theory.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: The pirate gangs employ multiple races.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation:
    • Loa can research and experience AI rebellions despite being the selfsame spawn of those.
  • 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.
  • General Failure: It's possible to get such Admirals in the second game. Poor stats combine with a negative trait to disadvantage any fleet (s)he leads.
  • Ghost Ship: The Ghost Ship random encounter in Lords of Winter, actually the half-operational remainder of the original Leviathan''. Fortunately, that half-operational means it's less potent than a modern leviathan fresh off the docks. Unfortunately, it can turn up as soon as random encounters start showing up.
  • Glass Cannon: Up to Eleven in Lords of Winter, where the Liir-Prester Zuul Alliance gives Liir access to Zuul riders with the More Dakka that implies but no real durability benefit.
  • Guide Dang It: Upon release it had a lot of added features and changed mechanics compared to Prime. 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.
  • 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. Made worse in that you need an extra turn after construction to move the newly-constructed spacecraft into an active fleet, meaning you have even less warning than in the original.
    • The Horde Zuul can research an ability that lets them drop out of Nodespace near a target system's star rather than on the edges of the system, which may catch opponents expecting the usual extrasystem incursion vector off guard.
  • Just Plane Wrong: In the sequel, both the Horde and Prester Zuul have rotors on their trans-atmospheric assault shuttles. Bad enough. But the Prester Zuul's Heavy Assault Shuttle takes it Up to Eleven with diagonally-canted rotors. There are no words.
  • Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: Lords of Winter adds another nuance to shipbuilding and gameplay—power requirements. Ship's systems and weapons must now share a power source, which means Beam Spam may no longer be an option for some designs as exceeding power availability causes reduction in rate of fire. This means that kinetic weapons, which require significantly less power, are once again an attractive option, although the new damage spread system shows that lasers offer better penetration than mass drivers. Also, kinetics have their own rate limiting factor, Supply. In the end the best way is still to make a balance of both.
  • Magikarp Power: The Suul'ka Horde start out weak but in the end-game can summon Suul'ka as special units.
  • The Load: Non-combat ships like Repair and Salvage or Supply. In Prime, you could stuff a fleet with as many spacecraft as you wanted and only deploy the combat ones. In this installment, though, changes to the system mean that you can only load a fleet with as many craft as your Arbitrary Headcount Limit allows and can't hold non-combatants in reserve. This means that long-range expeditions that require multiple Supply-types will have much less firepower to call on. Unsurprisingly, this has been bemoaned as a Scrappy Mechanic.
  • Longevity Treatment: Anagathics in the second game; their primary function is to keep admirals on active duty longer.
  • Obvious Beta: Lords of Winter was released prematurely and in a non-functional state; given that tech demos before that point had shown a much more functional game, the playerbase was outraged. The game did not reach a truly playable state for eight months of constant updates, setting a record even for Paradox's somewhat poor initial releases.
  • Sequel Escalation: Lords of Winter starts in the Cruiser-Fusion era and has a "tech forest", multi-planet systems, even bigger ships and generally lots more options to play with.
  • Subsystem Damage: The damage tracking system , where any shot that goes through a spot that has been stripped of armor causes damage to internal systems.
  • Super Prototype: Zigzagged, with some prototypes being inferior and some superior to the mass-production models.
  • Technopath: A new research line in End of Flesh.
  • Tempting Fate: The trailer 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.
  • Wetware CPU: Introduced in End of Flesh, supposedly as a means to emulate the processing abilities of the Loa without having to use actual AI.
  • 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.').

    Sword of the Stars: The Pit 
A Roguelike spinoff called Sword of the Stars: The Pit. When an incurable plague breaks out on the human planet Arbuda IV, the only hope lies in descending into the depths of a mysterious and deadly underground facility rumoured to have been established by the Suul'ka. As one of three characters, each with their own reasons for being there, you must brave the monsters and traps within in hopes of reaching the bottom, where the cure reportedly lies. An expansion, Mind Games, was released on July 3, 2013. In addition to brand new psychic abilities and two new characters, one a psion specialising in them, it adds more levels, more items, and more enemies. A second expansion, Gold Edition, was released on November 9, 2013 and adds even more content, including four new playable characters. On April 18, 2014 a third DLC, The Pilgrim, was released, adding yet more content including a playable Prester Zuul. On September 25, 2014 another DLC, Juggernaut, was released, adding more content and a playable Tarka Changed male.

Sword of the Stars: The Pit provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Badass Baritone: The Zuul Shepherd has the deepest voice of the classes.
  • Boss in Mook Clothing: The Pit has a few.
    • Toxoids have a mountain of health, hit very hard unless you have very good armor, and can instantly afflict you with a level three poison.
    • Warbots only have one attack, an explosive laser. However, not only does this attack shred your equipment's durability, but it also gives you radiation poisoning.
  • Chest Monster: Adaptoids in The Pit.
  • Critical Existence Failure: Averted - At a quarter of the hit points, you're wounded and operate at lower capacity. Then you're dead at zero.
  • Crutch Character: The secret character Sgt. Gunny in Gold Edition. He has higher base stats than the Marine but lower stat growth and can't use advanced armour without penalties.
  • Deadly Doctor: Corrupted doctors are among the enemy types in The Pit.
  • Dumb Muscle: The Marine is a stereotypical brainless grunt. His base in-game stats reflect this lore by making him high in Might and combat skills but low in Brains and technical skills.
  • Excuse Plot: "The planet is affected by a terrible epidemic. Search for a hypothetical cure in some remote ruins belonging to the Abusive Precursors."
  • Harder Than Hard: The Pit has "Insane" and "Seriously?!" (this one available only with the DLC) difficulties. How bad is "Seriously?!" There have been only two confirmed clears at this difficulty, both by classes with high psionic ability (first the Seeker, then the Psion).
  • It's Personal: In The Pit some characters have this sort of reason for getting involved. The Marine is looking for his Love Interest, who was working in the mountains near the facility. Said Love Interest is the twin sister of the Scout. The Engineer is out to avenge a friend killed by enemies he tracked to the Pit. The Warrior is seeking help for his afflicted friends and neighbours. The Seeker is part of a secret Liir organization dedicated to hunting down the Suul'Ka. The Shepherd is a Prestor Zuul that seeks to disrupt the Suul'Ka and his savage former kin.
  • Jack of All Stats:
    • The Tarka Ranger in the expansion for The Pit, Mind Games. She has solid stats in all three categories, starts with plenty of good starter equipment and consumables, and has fairly decent levels in most of the major skills you'll need to survive.
      • The Morrigi Striker added in the Gold Edition similarly has excellent stats in all four main stats and most of the major skills. The tradeoff is that she gets much less stat and skill points per level.
  • Killer Rabbit: In The Pit, Lepuroid. The description even says "Aieeeeee! Run away!"
  • Lighter and Softer: The Pit. Well, maybe not softer, but certainly with more humor.
  • Lost Forever: In The Pit, don't activate something unless you're sure you're going to use it immediately. Some of the devices lying around have only one use and will be unusable afterwards even if you don't do anything with them.
  • Luck-Based Mission: Much like many other Roguelikes, your survivability in The Pit is almost entirely dependent on how merciful the RNG decides to be in regards to weapon, food, ammo and monster placements, as well as in regards to skill checks. Even more so with the Mind Games expansion, which added scores of dangerous monsters to the early floors and severely nerfed ammo drops.
  • Macguffin Girl: Tamiko in The Pit.
  • Magic Knight: The Morrigi Striker has very good combat stats and the third best psychic stats of the player characters. (behind the Pyschic and the Liir Seeker)
  • More Dakka: The assault weapons, allowing you to multi-fire. Then there is the scattergun, which is a multi-firing gun with an area effect. All of them plays havoc with your ammo supplies.
  • No Ending: The Pit just...stops when you reach the 30th floor. You rescue Tamiko and... that's it? With the Mind Games expansion, it's 40 floors. Still same deal.
  • One Bullet Clips: In The Pit, this is played straight with ballistic weapons but averted for energy ones, which use up a whole Energy Backpack or Fuel Cell regardless of how many shots you have left.
  • Only in It for the Money: The Striker is a mercenary on Arbuda IV only to search for phat lewt, while the Juggernaut is looking to collect on the promise of a reward for rescuing an abductee, in contrast with the other characters who are either there under orders or because It's Personal.
  • Oxygen Meter: Inverted with the Liir Seeker, who requires a constant source of water to survive.
  • Point of No Return: Once you start descending the levels of The Pit, you will be limited in the number of higher floors you can go back to, with the way back up getting sealed off past a certain point.
  • Retired Badass: The Marine character is technically an ex-Marine, a former SolForce man retired to the planet the game's set on.
  • Squishy Wizard: Both the Liir Seeker and the Zuul Shepherd.
  • The Unfought: In The Pit, neither the System Administrator nor the Bloodweaver (aka Master Control) are actually fought. However, given that the game is currently still having content added, this may change in the future.
  • Weak, but Skilled: The Engineer has poor stat growth and starts out with relatively poor combat skills and equipment, but his skill growth is decent, and in the early game he's the only character with a good score in Computers and Engineering.
  • Weaponized Animal: The Pit has Cyberjaeger Bears, which are native bearlike creatures turned into cyborgs and given heavy weapons.
  • Wolverine Claws: You can craft "Adamantium Claws", complete with Shout-Out in the description to the Trope Namer, as well as the more Freddy Krueger-like "Razor Fists".
  • Zombie Apocalypse: The Xombie Plague that starts off the backstory of The Pit.

    Sword of the Stars: Ground Pounders 
On August 9, 2013, a hex-based wargame spinoff in the vein of Panzer General called Ground Pounders was announced, with an alpha demo following a few days after. As the name suggests, it focuses on planet-based combat in contrast to the grand space scope of the main games. A Kickstarter was launched August 29, but failed to make funding; a less ambitious retry that cut out playable Tarkas among other features went to Indiegogo on October 1, but also failed to make it. It eventually went to Steam Early Access on February 8, 2014.

On September 25, 2014 the Tarkan Campaign was released, re-adding the playable Tarkas.

The tropes below are grabbed from the public alpha of the game.

Sword of the Stars: Ground Pounders provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Death from Above: Zigzagged. Having access to space superiority and some of the cards, like Death from Above and Orbital Bombardment, is the fastest way to destroy enemy units. But you still have to dig them out with ground units.
  • Easy Logistics: Downplayed, but every unit needs to be within supply range of a supply unit, and they in turn must be in range of a supply point, and can only supply a limited number of units.
  • Fog of War: Units have limited visibility. If you have space superiority, you get free recon missions, uncovering large parts of the map.
  • Geo Effects: Hills, rivers, and swamps have an impact on movement and combat.
  • Tank Goodness: Tank battalions are generally the most powerful units you have, and the tanks are described in loving detail in the in-game manual.


Star Ruler 4 XVictoria: An Empire Under the Sun
Sunless SeaRoguelikeTitan Quest
SuspendedScience Fiction Video GamesSyndicate
Sword Of The SamuraiWebsite/GOG.comSyberia
Swords & SoldiersUsefulNotes/SteamSyberia

alternative title(s): Sword Of The Stars; Sword Of The Stars The Pit
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