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First things first: This isn't Space Pirates and Zombies 1. Sure, the original Clockwork Crew is still around, everyone is still chasing the Rez, there's piracy and zombies galore, and several of the old game's ships make a reappearance as deployable strike craft, but the core gameplay mechanics are vastly different. It's a sequel in name and lore only - if you come looking for more of the same, you'll likely be disappointed.

The sequel is a bit of an eccentric mixture. A bit of Mount & Blade, a dash of Captain Forever, a pinch of Pirates!, with a few Lego bricks thrown in for good measure, coated in lurid neon colours and garnished with a grandiose orchestral score.

The main campaign serves as introduction to the game's mechanics, with the highly customizable sandbox mode being the heart and soul of it.

At the basic level, you move your ship over a 2D map of the universe with 200 AI captains, scavenging resources, fighting bandits and each other for scrap (money), goons (disposable crew) and rez (fuel).
When combat occurs, the game switches to 3D (with an optional overhead cam mode) and up to 4 ships and their strike craft duke it out among themselves. While you control your mothership by default, you can switch between it and your strike craft at the touch of a button.
Ships are constructed out of blocks that form the frame and provide attachment points for various noses, engines and wings, which come in different sizes, manufacturers and weapon loadouts. Everything simply snaps together.
Parts also break loose under fire (Captain Forever says hello), so it's not too uncommon for half a ship to go missing under heavy fire. The flying parts can be reattached during combat (a bit tricky, depending on your layout and what went missing) or afterwards, should you survive the fight.
Parts can be looted from defeated foes, bought in stations, extorted from other captains or even made-to-order (for a massive increase in price). The game features a search function for the entire galactic market, and you can even have parts from faraway stations delivered to you for a modest price increase.
I'd say fiddling around with your spaceship's layout is about half the attraction.

In the campaign, you will first join one of the 5 main factions of the game, then later set off to form your own. The sandbox offers both options. Forming your own faction allows you to build a network of space stations, hire AI captains to defend and manage said stations, and offers vastly increased income, delivered straight to your capital. There's relationships to manage, you can encourage certain actions by placing bounties, such as the construction of new stations or the destruction of certain stations and people, and in case you develop a particularly nasty relationship to one of the AI captains, you can also execute or lobotomize them. The former respawns them as a clean slate after a while, while the latter resets the relationship and has the victim become a lot more passive. Both actions piss off people that witness them, though.
At some point, the Zombies will appear and start to assimilate whatever hasn't run away at the count of three. (The sandbox has quite a few settings for this, and you can even turn them off completely). Zombies this time around work pretty much like the regular ships, except they can't be negotiated with, and have a rather nasty weapon that infects ships if they are caught with the shields down.
Your mission, of course, is to stop them by claiming enough sectors (either by yourself, or through alliances) and then going off to destroy the Alpha Zombie. Please note that this doesn't end the game, it merely removes the zombies. You can still play on afterwards.
The sandbox allows for rebounding infections as well, meaning you'll never run out of zombies permanently, if that is more of your thing.
Fooling around in the sandbox, screwing around with the AI captains, stealing them from other factions or extorting them for fun and profit makes up the other half of the attraction. Just keep in mind that they can basically do the same as you, and don't be surprised when you get bounties on your head and your stations and end up being shaken down for money and parts while limping home from a battle.

TLDR: Combat is fun and colourful, the strategy/sandbox layer is rather interesting if you liked M&B, difficulty level is adjustable, voice acting and music are pretty good, and the german translation is excellent. It's not the space game to end all space games, but it's jolly good fun for twenty bucks.
Thanks for great and in-depth review! Appreciated!
I don't have the second version personally, because am not impressed of how new fleet works and prefer the "old" 2d view - but the game looks sure very interesting and has much more dialog now. The Skid Puff 9000 in one of the throughways on youtube was literally a jaw-dropper for me. Heh, poor skid..