I'm an Expansion, Not a Release!! Or am I?
Oddly, though, Orion Pirates is in now way a typical expansion pack. SFCII: OP changes the rules a bit as far as what comes with the expansion is concerned. Typically, after you get the full game, you get an expansion pack that adds on to the existing game. Orion Pirates, however, is a stand-alone game. That is, you do not have to own Empires at War to play Orion Pirates. It is really a touchy area as far as what to call it. OP adds an entirely new campaign, though only for the pirate cartels, a new species (subdivided into eight sects of pirates), new weapons, and the ability to play the eight main species in a generic campaign. Because the game doesn't feel very different from the main game, and the things that are new feel like the little nuances that would be added in a normal expansion, I would be tempted to say, yes, the title is correct, it's an expansion. On the other hand, I'm more inclined to call it "an alternative SFCII" since it allows you to do everything the main game does. The only differences other than the new species and new campaign between Empires at War and Orion Pirates, is that the campaign is for the Pirate cartels in OP, versus the campaign being for the eight empires in EaW. This, of course, applies to the Dynaverse as well.
Moving onto the species, the Orion Pirates, there is quite a bit of a change in the tactics with the Pirates around. We all remember being annoyed out of our minds in SFC and SFCII:EaW by pirate raids on convoy escort missions, but now, it's our turn to become the annoying pirate raiders. Most of the models for the pirate ships have been seen before in the other games, though on the attacking side, though what we haven't seen is the new weapons. Basically the pirates take a mixture of weapons from the other species. The primary cartel, the Orions, borrow their technology mainly from the Federation (phasers and photons), but mix it with some plasma torpedoes from the Gorn. Other cartels blend mixtures of the other eight major empires, hence, the need for the eight different pirate cartels. One technology that all the cartels share is the Mauler weapon. The Mauler is essentially a doomsday weapon that takes a lifetime to charge, but when it's ready, it can dish out some massive damage, giving the empires a run for their money. The tough part is keeping alive long enough to use it. Another technology available to the cartels is engine doubling. By doubling the output of the ship's engines, those annoying low charge rates and falling shields are no longer a problem. Unfortunately, doubling your engines can begin damaging them, so use this feature wisely. Finally, X technology is available to all species. This is extremely late era technology that does more damage per blow than the standard weapons. This also can greatly change the tactics in gameply.
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