Together Retro Game Club: Star Control II

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Presented by BogusMeatFactory

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This month, we shoot off into space to battle alien oppressors and explore the cosmos in the sandbox space adventure, Star Control II. If you owned a PC in the early 1990’s, Star Control was definitely on your radar as a shining pinnacle of storytelling and revolutionarily expansive game-play. It gave further life and vigor to home computing and was continued proof that it was an amazing platform for gaming in a way that few could rival. It fulfilled that epic fantasy of shooting off to the unknown and facing insurmountable odds to save humanity. This wasn’t an ordinary game, it was interstellar!

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Story

In the distant future, mankind was embroiled in an intergalactic war against the Ur-Quan and their Hierarchy of Battle Thralls. In an attempt to gather weapons to defeat their opponents, humans stumbled upon a planet that belonged to an ancient race of long-dead spacefarers called the Precursors. This planet held advanced technological plans for powerful ships that could help gain an edge in the battle. Sadly, the explorers were stranded on the planet hid for many years, struggling to survive with no contact with Earth. Their only hope was to attempt to build a Precursor ship and return to their planet.
Many years had passed and when their work was finally built, they set off for Earth only to find it had lost the battle with the Ur-Quan and humanity was imprisoned. As the last hope for mankind, you must race against the clock to gather allies and destroy a deadly super weapon that would mean complete and utter destruction of the galaxy and put a stop to the Ur-Quan and their ilk.

Gameplay

Influenced by the likes of the Starflight series in the 1980’s, Star Control II was a huge improvement over the previous entry in the series. Its developer, Toys for Bob, led by Fred Ford and Paul Reich III had an innate vision to simulate space and realistic alien civilizations and behavior. Breaking away from the combat scenario style of the original, Star control II featured a fully fledged storyline, a more diverse and fleshed out combat system, a unique dialog system when interacting with alien species and free reign to explore the universe in any direction you desired.
Not only that, but you could explore planetary surfaces to gather raw materials, upgrade ships and build on to your ever expanding war fleet to take on your oppressors. The beauty of it was that every planet felt different as you traversed the natural hazards in an attempt to procure vital materials to trade and build new, more potent technology.
Combat itself was arena style as your ship zoomed around space on a top down field, dodging and maneuvering enemy fire in an attempt to gain the upper hand and defeat your opponents.
Even in dialog the game shined brightly. Alien races behaved unique to their culture and character, ranging from threatening and violent, to cowardly and even sometimes silly. These aliens had a life all their own that could be felt merely by the text on the screen.

Ports

Originally released for DOS in 1992, the game had some success with a fully voiced improved port for the 3DO. The port was highly praised for its adaptation to home consoles and its engaging well-voiced script. Even more importantly, the developers released the source code for the 3DO port to the public, allowing fans to distribute it free on a variety of platforms including modern PCs under the title, “The Ur-Quan Masters.” This version is the definitive version, mixing the voiceovers of the 3DO version while utilizing the modern conveniences of the mouse and keyboard. Most importantly, this version is 100% free and legal.

Legacy

Whether you knew of the title or not, Star Control II was an amazing influence for game developers all over the world. With its well developed sandbox style, rich alien races and fast frenetic combat system, you can clearly see the indelible mark it made on the gaming world. You see it in Mass Effect, FTL: Faster Than Light and No Man’s Sky. Even more odd is how the game has never truly had a spiritual successor. Even though it has been influential, its mechanics never mimicked… its style never mirrored. Even the third in the series never captured that sense of wonder. It stands alone on a pedestal worthy of its praise as unique.

Discussion

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