In the far distant future, the known galaxy has been occupied by 13 distinct races, each one determined to outdo the others and become the masters of known space. In the midst of this Space Cold War is a shadowy organization known as the Drox, a coalition of mercenaries that is all that remains of a long dead empire that once spanned the entire cosmos.
You play as one of the many Drox Operatives, and your mission is to ensure that the Drox remains a key figure in the galaxy's history. You can do this in several ways: You can ally yourself with one of the races vying for control of the current sector and help them wipe out the competition, unite the warring nations under the Drox, take control of the sector's economy, intimidate the races with various shows of force and acts of sabotage, or perform great deeds that make the Drox the stuff of legends. Once you have ensured the Drox's hold on the sector, you move on to a new sector. Each sector is randomly generated, and thus a new adventure begins with each new sector.
Much like Din's Curse before it, Drox Operative provides a great deal of customization. There are hundreds of different ship components, including lasers, cannons, power generators, armor, various accessories, and even crew members. As the player moves through the game, they will form alliances, wage war on others, colonize worlds for one or more of the various races, and ultimately leave their mark on the galaxy in the name of the Drox.
An expansion pack, Invasion of the Ancients, was released in November 2013. This expansion added a new monster race, the titular Ancients, to the game. The Ancients were the bitter rivals of the long extinct Drox empire, and for eons the two factions waged war until the Drox seemingly destroyed the Ancients for good. However, pockets of Ancients managed to survive, and now that the Drox empire has been reduced to a "mere" mercenary company, the Ancients have begun their advance on the galaxy, determined to wipe out the Drox, conquer the known races, and become the tyrannical rulers of known space.
The game was released on Steam via Steam Greenlight on Feburary 15, 2014, and the Invasion of the Ancients DLC was released on March 4. A sequel, Drox Operative 2, was released in Early Access in June 1, 2020. The sequel adds several improvements compared to the first game, including racial skill trees and procedurally-generated young races that can cause additional havoc in their galaxies.
This game provides examples of:
- Abusive Precursors: The Ancients. So were their enemies, the Drox.
- Alliance Meter: A quite complex one, as you and all planet-owning factions have one for each race they have contact with.
- Always Chaotic Evil: The monster races. To wit:
- The Legion, A.I. Is a Crapshoot organic-haters who hate both life and all robots who dare to like life. They're a non-playable subrace of the Utopians.
- The Talon, feral Living Ships who see most organic life as food. They were made by the Dryad, but were exiled from their territories and turned feral.
- The Overlords, Puppeteer Parasites who want bodies. They're a subrace of the Hive.
- The Ancients, who are still incredibly bitter about losing to the Drox.
- This is curiously averted in the second game, as they can now be reasoned with and even befriended, as long as they have a colony in the sector. However, the monsters encountered in quests and in outer space will remain hostile to you.
- Artificial Brilliance: Much like Soldak's previous games, the game world is fully dynamic, and the races will make advancements, colonize worlds and war with each other with or without your help.
- Being Evil Sucks: War is not an easy path to big profits. Destroying the ships of the starfaring races is dangerous and not especially lucrative, a Fear Win takes a lot of grinding against difficult opponents, and You Lose at Zero Trust if you make enemies with everyone. It's also gonna hurt your bank account.
- Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: Unless you're playing Hardcore Mode, the Drox Guild's insurance will cover the loss of your ship and you'll be free to continue adventuring. That said, it does cut into the Guild's profit from the sector (not your personal account) and if you lose too many ships, the Guild will pull out of the sector unless you can turn the cashflow situation around.
- Doomsday Device: The second game has Doomsday Weapons, which are extremely rare, but extremely powerful. These weapons only work once, but they can destroy planets in one shot. Using them horrifies the other races, however.
- Endless Game: Much like Din's Curse and Din's Legacy, the game does not end once a sector has been cleared/a victory is achieved, and you are free to clear as many sectors as you wish.
- Exact Time to Failure: If you achieve a Loss condition, you have 20 minutes to turn things around before you lose the sector.
- Fake Difficulty: The randomly spawning minefields can be seen as this, a mod exists that prevents them from spawning randomly, Acanth-class Overlords and Humans can still use them though.
- Hegemonic Empire: The Drox Guild isn't interested in direct control of territory. What they are interested in is indirect control and profit, by whatever means; alliances with local powers, violent confrontation, protecting the spaceways from monsters and economic success are all options. What ultimately matters (unless the High Command decide to get pickier about what they want) is that whatever form of government finally emerges in the sector, it's in the Guild's pocket.
- Humans Are Warriors: The danger level of humans is "High." Human characters have great abilities in Tactics (increasing their damage multiplier) and Computers (increasing their chance to hit), making them a powerful Glass Cannon race.
- A Lighter Shade of Grey: While the Drox aren't exactly nice people, they're much better then the Ancients.
- Living Ship: The Talons are living ships created by the Dryads before they moved on to more conventional designs. They were exiled due to their temper issues and turned feral.
- My Species Doth Protest Too Much: Sometimes you can find Talon/Overlord/Legion colonies in other planets. Unlike the rest of their kin, they're capable of diplomacy with other races and can be befriended. It will be difficult however, as they're all Radical Xenophobes, Radical Militarists and Aggressive, which means they'll have few allies and several enemies. You can also have Talon/Overlord/Legion crew in your ship.
- Rebel variants of the races are peoples that got tired of the stereotypes they're usually associated with (The Humans being diplomatic and weak, the Fringe being fickle and chaotic, the Brunt being idiotic barbarians, etc...) and decided to become the complete opposite.
- No Campaign for the Wicked: You cannot play as the monster races (Talon, Overlord and Legion), even if you find a friendly monster race empire.
- One Riot, One Ranger: One sector, one Drox Operative to conquer it.
- Plant Person: The Dryads, their children the Talon and young Plant races.
- Precursors:The Ancient races. Six of them are known, and five of them are still active in the time of the games. The Drox, once the strongest of them all, who ruled an empire that lasted 100,000 years are now extinct due to the Guild's actions. The Drox's enemies, who are the other five races were nearly wiped out by the Guild, but small groups of them survived and strive to rebuild their empires. Those races are the Hezog, the Morath, the Nexium, the Rizak and the Zarlok.
- Precursor Killers: The Drox Guild and their Operatives destroyed the Drox Empire in a brutal civil war when the latter tried to eliminate them out of fear.
- Promoted to Playable: Rebel versions of the main races became playable in the second game.
- Since the second game's version 0.915, Young races are also playable.
- Proud Merchant Race: The Cortex.
- Proud Warrior Race: The Brunt and the Drakk. The Drakk are more focused on the honorable aspects, while the Brunt do so in the more destructive and barbaric side.
- Human Rebels are also this, being highly militaristic and xenophobic.
- Renegade Splinter Faction: Sometimes, planets can have riots, usually induced by you or another race spreading propaganda against the owner race. Those riots can degenerate into full blown civil wars, and if you help the rebels, a new faction of rebels that act as Foils to their original race will take over. They usually have differing views with their parent race. For example, Shadow Rebels are far friendlier and trustworthy than the main Shadow race, and the Brunt Rebels are Martial Pacifists.
- Skill Scores and Perks: All Operatives have access to three skill trees to enhance their ships. As of the second game, they also have two race-exclusive skill trees to enhance their strengths further.
- Token Good Teammate: Amongst the Ancients, the Zarlok are the nicest of them all. The other four are Radical Xenophobes and will beat other races into the dirt if encountered, especially the Hezog and the Morath, who're also Aggressive and Radical Militarists. The Zarlok are Xenophiles and Pacifists, which means they'll try to remain cordial and friendly with others.
- Villain Protagonist: The Drox Operatives are not particularly nice people. Crushing every faction in the game is not only a valid victory, but one of the better-paying ones overall, as High Command is thrilled to have a sector scared shitless of them, and thus a new base.
- Noble Demon: So is getting the factions to universally ally and generally being a nice enough person that they all decide to listen to you.
- War for Fun and Profit: As a Drox Operative, you can manipulate the races of the galaxy into fighting one another, while you rake in the profits from the quests that they offer.
- You Lose at Zero Trust: You can lose a sector by being at war with all remaining races there. While beating a sector into submission is possible (and Military Wins require it), you can't allow them to ally against the Drox in the process.