Particle Systems has successfully created the type of game that fans of the space sim genre have been waiting for years to play.
In fact, the interface is much more polished than it was in the original game. There are still some strange quirks, such as the fact that the default control bindings allocate three key joystick buttons to energy and missile weapons and yet you still can't fire them concurrently, but the new control system is generally both effective and unique. While combat in most space sims frequently devolves into turning battles with combatants frantically circling to focus guns on similarly thrashing opponents, battles in Independence War 2 play out differently. The controls borrow elements more commonly found in first-person shooters. Adept players will commonly use side strafing, since one of the best ways to maneuver to avoid missiles is to use side thrusters, and disable inertial-dampening thrusters so that they can attack in one direction while they are traveling on a different course. Battles can also occur at tremendous speeds, since you can constantly accelerate your velocity, although exceeding the limits imposed by nearby stations invites additional grief from nearby patrols. Fleeing to a less vulnerable position is also a constant tactical maneuver.
Independence War 2 is perhaps the only space sim that effectively conveys the immense distances involved in intra- and interstellar travel. The only manageable way to travel sizeable distances is through engaging an LDS (or, linear-displacement drive system), which lets you travel exponentially faster. At high LDS speeds, your craft will speed by beautifully rendered planets and suns. If you effectively use your LDS drive, you'll be almost unbeatable, since you can rapidly, completely repair even hull damage--but enemies frequently use missiles that will prevent you from engaging your LDS drive, and all installations will also generate their own anti-LDS fields. You can also travel even faster to certain destinations using jump gates called Lagrange points, provided that your ship is equipped with a capsule engine drive. Stealth is also often important in certain situations--there are a number of ways you can adjust your power settings or otherwise configure your ship to minimize the ability of other vessels to detect you.
While the heads-up display in the original game was relatively clunky, it's been significantly streamlined and improved in Independence War 2. Whenever your ship is moving, grid lines will appear on the screen to ensure that you can easily determine your ship's course. Your HUD also causes nearby ships to produce contrails, allowing you to instantly establish where the vessels are traveling. The grid lines and contrails displayed on the HUD work efficiently and don't obscure your view as much as they did in the original game. Other than the predominately useless radar orb, the HUD displays a great deal of information well and lets you focus on making tactical decisions.
While music was largely omitted in the original game, Independence War 2 makes extensive use of its high-quality soundtrack. The graphics are crisp and colorful, and capable of being rendered in very high resolutions--although the HUD doesn't also scale, so it's less readable at sharper resolutions. You'll get ample opportunity to enjoy the graphics as well, since you'll constantly travel by different interstellar phenomena, and external views are useful in a number of situations. The game also automatically changes to a third-person perspective "director mode" whenever your ship docks, or otherwise interacts, with another object. The individual ships aren't quite as large as some of the capital ships in other recent space sims such as FreeSpace 2, or at least they seem less imposing because your ship is frequently traveling at tremendous speeds. But the ships are rendered in great detail, so much so that you can actually zoom in to get a clear view of your pilot. There are lots of other excellent graphical touches, such as the game's detailed explosions and the stone chips that splinter off from asteroids just before they're blasted to rubble.
The trading aspects of the game are simplistic, and you can only acquire a small fleet of wingmen, but it's still addictive to raid transports for items that let you improve your ships. Each item you acquire can be recycled, used to better equip your own small fleet of vessels, or traded for more useful items. There are dozens of different weapons, pieces of equipment, and other cargo items that you can acquire or manufacture, and the more effective you are as a privateer, the easier you'll find the scripted missions. It's worthwhile spending a significant amount of time acquiring better equipment, since some of the scripted missions are very difficult.