The Completist

The Completist Presents: Star Control 2

Hello everyone. This week, I have decided to switch things up a bit. I have invited my brother Dana to write about one of our favourite games of all time. Why am I not doing it myself? Simple, I am not qualified. My brother on the other hand probably knows more about this game than anyone else on earth. The game I am talking about is of course: Star Control 2. Which by the way, was covered very nicely by Paul Potvin in a previous column here at 1 More Castle. The main difference between these articles will be the length and detail. While Paul’s article was a nice “summary” of the game, this article is going to be more of a full length feature. One thing I will be contributing to this piece though is the captioning of the photos and the editing. So if you find some funny slang underneath a picture of some Ur-Quan scum, you’ll know who wrote it.

That being said, let’s put my loitering to an end and bring you my brothers “Completist” take on one of the greatest games ever made:

Star Control 2 Box

Epic looking cover art. Kind of 2001 meets Enders Game.

When Zack invited me to write for “The Completist,” I had a hard time finding a game that I could write about in great detail, from beginning to end.  Hard, because I would probably end up writing a novel since I tend to enjoy really long games.  So instead, I approached the spirit of Zack’s column in a different way.  I decided to write about those special breed of games that drive players to return to them again and again, year after year, to complete them for the nth time.

It’s rare now a days for me to start up a game and be unaware of what to expect.  In an industry that hates taking chances, game developers infrequently stray from the risk averse strategy of ripping off someone else’s great idea, then tacking on a clever gimmick.  More often than not, when I install a new game, I feel like I’ve played through 90 percent of it already.  If it’s a first person shooter, I already know I’ll be stepping onto the treadmill of blasting harder and harder baddies with bigger and bigger weapons.  If it’s a real time strategy, I already know there will be resource management, unit spamming, and paper-rocks-scissors style “strategy.”  If its an MMO, I already know I’ll be grinding.  It’s this kind of predictability that prevents most games from having a soul of their own.  It’s like seeing big name actors in a movie: their notoriety and starpower can easily cast a shadow on the character they are meant to portray, thereby obscuring that character’s richness.

However, each decade, I’ll pick up a few genre busting games and have no idea what’s in store for me.  And of those incredible few, Start Control 2 has always been my favourite.  The game that I’ve returned to, over and over again.  And each time I play it to completion.

My very first encounter with Star Control 2 occurred in a very fitting way.  I was about 10 years old and I walked upstairs to find Zack installing some new game.  He hadn’t brought the box with him, or the instruction manual, or anything other than the disks, for that matter.  All I saw was the installation screen.  I had no idea what to expect.

When the introduction began, I was confronted with a lonely portrait of space.  There was the faint whistling of wind, and then the words, fading in and out on the screen: “There were many great battles…  Earth and her partners in the Alliance of Free Stars…  Against the evil Ur-Quan and its Hierarchy of Battle Thralls…  And the Ur-Quan were winning…”  Immediately, I was hooked.  The introduction goes on to describe a human research mission on a distant frontier world, Unzervalt, and a tremendous discovery that could turn the tide of the war: a massive underground city, filled with the advanced technological secrets of a long vanished species known as The Precursors.  But before these secrets can be plunged, the “evil” Ur-Quan launch a vicious offensive against humankind and her allies, and all communication is lost with Earth.

Twenty years pass, and in that time, the scientists of the research mission had made the planet their own.  What’s more, they went on to discover the purpose of the underground complex.  It was a giant factory for building starships!  The scientists heave every ounce of their resources toward constructing a vessel and succeed… within a point.  With their humble means, the scientists are only able to construct the skeleton of one, spectacularly large vessel.  The Precursors were creatures twice the size of elephants, so while the ship was merely a freighter to the Precursors, it is a ghastly behemoth by the standards of mankind and its enemies.  The humans crawl through the bridge of their new ship like ants across the steering wheel of a car.

With their starship complete, the survivors of the research mission return to Earth twenty years after contact was lost, ready to bring their colossal new vessel to bear in the fight against the Ur-Quan.

And its here that you, the player, begin the game.

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Your home system of Sol. And look, Pluto is there! Up yours IAU!

It is normally at this point in any new game that my willingness to suspend my disbelief would be shattered.  I’d begin to notice tried and true genre features: platforms that must be jumped across, units that must be built, headshots that must be dealt, hand holding tutorials that show me which direction to hold my gun… but at this nascent moment of my Star Control 2 experience,  there were no cues or “usual mechanics” to lead the way, just a starship pointed toward Earth.  And a mission.

So I didn’t let years of gaming instinct tell me what to do, as I did with other games.  I just did what a starship captain would.  I set course for Earth to re-enlist in the fight against the Ur-Quan.

I passed by Pluto, Neptune, Uranus, Saturn and Jupiter, all familiar faces.  But clearly, something wasn’t right.  Shouldn’t our solar system, the center of the alliance against the Ur-Quan, be buzzing with human starships?  As the Earth grew near, my suspicions were vindicated.  Gone were the azure blue waters, white clouds, and green forests of Earth.  In its place was a sick, crimson orb, pulsing like a heart.  And something was coming my way.  Fast.

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Your first of what seems like infinite alien encounters.

A small red probe intercepted my ship, followed by this transmission spoken in a deep, insidious voice and couched in the soundtrack of sinister music:

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The mighty Ur-Quan, with translator Krang at their side.

“Attention interloper, heed this recorded message,” a creature speaks.  “This drone vessel speaks with the voice and authority of the Ur-Quan.  You are trespassing in Ur-Quan space.  This world, Earth, may not be approached for any reason.  Nor will hostilities against our orbital platform be tolerated.  In addition, your ship does not respond to standard Hierarchy identification transmissions and is therefore deemed to be… independent.  This is not permissible.  Only subservience will be tolerated.  This drone now leaves to inform the Ur-Quan of your transgressions.  You are commanded to remain here and await the arrival of the Ur-Quan.  Disobedience will be punished.”

I remember this being one of the most shocking experiences I’ve had in a game.  With the game mechanics before me still largely hidden, part of me had forgotten that I was even playing a game at all.  I’d forgotten myself, like one does when reading a good novel.  In my mind, I was still a starship captain and I’d gone into the narrative expecting to be part of a gallant fight against evil… yet upon my arrival back at Earth, I’d discovered that the war was already long over.  And evil had won.

After the probe left, I hesitated for a moment, wondering to myself, “What the hell do I do now?”

So again, I thought as a captain would.  In the upper right hand corner of the screen was my ship, vast in size, but anemic and spindly.  I examined what I had to work with aboard my ship.  Fifty Crewmen.  That didn’t sound like much for a vessel of this scale.  I then checked my fuel.  Ten units.  That doesn’t sound like much, either.  How far could I get on “10 fuel?”  Certainly not enough to turn around and go home to Unzervalt.  I remember I had an odd feeling then.  I was floating astride Earth, the cradle of humanity, but felt completely alone.  However, I then noticed a smaller ship orbiting my vessel.  A small “earthling cruiser” that had accompanied me on my journey, armed and probably left over from the original research mission.

It was heartening to see, and at that, I headed to the station orbiting Earth, hoping that there wouldn’t be Ur-Quan or any of their “battle thralls” aboard.  When I arrived, I was surprised to find… humans.  Humans in the service of the Ur-Quan Hierarchy.  But why?

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Get used to this guy. You’ll be coming back to see him a lot.

Despite my demand for answers, little can be explained.  The situation is dire.  The station is losing power, and their sensors were unable to recognize my ship or any of the crew aboard.  The leader of the station, “Commander Hayes,” assumes that my vessel is an Ur-Quan resupply ship.  The Earth, trapped behind an impenetrable “slave” shield, is unable to assist them.  So without delay, I offer to help and head off to find radioactive elements on the surface of Mercury before the station loses power.

The planet nearest the sun is a short jaunt from Earth.  When I arrive, I send a small vessel down to the surface.  But Mercury is perilously hot, and while I retrieve the needed materials, I lose some of my precious crew in the process.

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Mercury is one of the thousands of planets to explore in this amazing game. Just be careful not to get hit by lightning or earthquakes or fireballs or alien creatures. Get the ore and get the hell out.

I returned to the station, and once power and sensors are restored, Commander Hayes is aghast at the scale of my vessel on his viewscreen.  After a lengthy discussion, I tried to convince Hayes and the men and women aboard the station to take up the fight against the Ur-Quan once more, using my Precursor Vessel as a secret weapon to seek out allies, old and new.  He relents after requesting that I dispatch the garrison of Ur-Quan battle thralls on the moon, but upon arrival, they are missing, save for one savage Ilwrath warship.

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Oh man the Ilwrath are such bastards. But they are brimming with hilarious evil absurdity. I love the different fonts they used in this game. The font says everything here.

The Ilwrath are a vile, vicious species of arachnids that are driven by a sadistic need for violence.  I engage them in battle.  Each such hostile encounter throughout the game is resolved in arcade style, 1 on 1 combat.  The two foes maneuver around planets and asteroids, each trying to get the upper hand and superior firing positions.

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One of the truly awesome aspects of this game. Epic arcade style combat! The two player mode rocks as well.

Despite the hubris and wicked words of my foes, I defeat them using my superior weaponry.  The battle inspires Commander Hayes to pledge his aid and that of the 2000 star base residents.  At that, the Alliance of Free Stars is reborn.  Over the course of a few weeks, the station is transformed into a “dry dock” to service and improve the Precursor vessel as well as manufacture an armada of warships to protect it.

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Upgrading your ship is one of the most important aspects of this game.

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Support ships are also crucial. You will collect many different alien ships on your journey. Picking the right one in the right battle can mean easy victory. Pick the wrong one and you’ll be scratching your head.

However, improving the Precursor vessel and manufacturing new warships is costly, and doing so requires exploration of new worlds and exploitation of their resource.  Before venturing out of the solar system, I decide to retrieve as many resources from the surrounding planets as possible.  Who knew what perils might meet me once I left the Oort cloud, so I wanted to be prepared.

Before I leave the solar system, I ask Commander Hayes how Mankind and her allies were defeated, and where I might find the remnants of the member species.  Then, I consult my star map for the first time to get some orientation, and am baffled by the sheer scale of it.

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The awesome star map. There are HUNDREDS of systems to explore. The scope of this game is truly staggering.

There are hundreds of stars, each one with scores of planets and moons.  While each one can be explored, I eventually learn that its impossible to visit all of them in one game.  At that, I set out into the deep unknown, and its at this moment, once I venture out into the galaxy, where the game truly opens up.

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Hyperspace travel is the heart of Star Control 2. You will spend a lot of time in this screen. Luckily there is some great music to accompany it.

I entered the shimmering, crimson expanse of hyperspace, the means by which one traverses between stars.  From there I realize that the direction I wish to take is completely my own.  The game is a sandbox at this point, with no “script” forcing me in one direction or another and no limit imposed on how far I can travel, save for my fuel supplies (which can be readily replenished or capacity expanded by use of resources).

Do I travel to Procyon, where the loyal, crystalline Chenjesu once dwelled?  Do I search for the mysterious aliens in the Krugar constellation?  Do I remain close to home, gathering resources to build a powerful dreadnaught and fleet?  Do I return to Undervalt?  I quickly learn that in Star Control 2, there is no right or wrong path to tread, only a multifaceted mission to pursue in whatever way I see fit: find allies, weaken the Ur-Quan’s battle thralls, and free Earth from the Hierarchy.  How I meet these objectives is up to me, with only a few “quests” in the game being strictly mandatory.

As I strike out on deeper and deeper forays into space, I begin to meet the cast of exotic aliens that populate the Star Control universe (upwards of 26 species in all).  Some are friendly and quick to help, like one of my favorites, the Zoq Fot Pik.

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The Zoq-Fot-Pik are a hilarious and peaceful race. They also like to finish each others sentences.

The Zoq Fot Pik are a mutualistic combine of species that have a natural proclivity for cooperation.  I meet them early on in the game since they were actively pursuing membership in the old Alliance of Free Stars, unaware that the war had already been lost.  Trapped in the center of Ur-Quan territory (yet undiscovered by the Hierarchy), they remain my steadfast allies throughout the game, feeding the New Alliance of Free Stars information about Ur-Quan activity.

Another one of my favorite races that I encounter, and one that is just as freely helpful, is the Pkunk.

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One thing about this game I love is the witty dialog. A lot of it is almost Seussian in it’s delivery.

The Pkunk are a loveable, goofy, pitifully maladapted and gullible avian species that have lost the ability to fly.  However, they allege to have immense psychic abilities and enlightenment, though their apparent psychological prowess does not seem to exceed that of a bogus fortune teller or parlor psychic.  They never tell me anything I don’t already know and the profound claims that they do make are, conveniently, impossible to verify.  Still, they are friendly and sympathetic.  Even though they refuse to join directly in the war against the Ur-Quan (no space hippie would), they offer Precursor artifacts and some of their ships to help me on my way.  However, I find that most species, even old friends, are not so easy to sway.

The Yehat are one such example.

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Awww the poor Yehat. They REALLY want to help but are bound to honor.

The Yehat share a common ancestor with the Pkunk, but are nothing like their aloof, peace-loving kin.  Getting them “on your side” is no easy task.  Warlike, predatory, but honor bound, they once fought faithfully alongside Humankind against the Ur-Quan.  However, once Humankind was defeated by the Ur-Quan, the Yehat and their Shofixti friends were the last races standing of the old alliance.  While the Yehat warrior clans wished to fight the Ur-Quan to the last with the Shofixti at their side, their queen instead allied with the Ur-Quan so that the Yehat would never “know defeat.”  Thus the Yehat warrior clans watched helplessly from afar as the Shofixti fought honorably to their deaths, then induced their sun to go nova, obliterating themselves and half the Ur-Quan armada in a blaze of glory.

When I first encounter the Yehat, the warrior clans are technically obligated to attack me, but are torn by their old loyalty to humanity.  While it is not a mandatory “quest line,” I find a way to resurrect the once extinct Shofixti species which drive the Yehat to civil war.  While it takes years to overthrow their queen, they eventually rejoin the Alliance of Free Stars.

Unfortunately, some races are simply impossible to move to my cause, regardless of my efforts.

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Ugh, the Vux are vile, treacherous assholes. I guess it doesn’t help that they want to projectile vomit every time they see you.

The Vux, long since battle thralls of the Ur-Quan Hierarchy, have a deep and irreparable distaste for Humankind.  They always attack me on site, but it’s possible to converse with them briefly before they open fire.  They will continually make excuses for why they despise humans so thoroughly, but the true reason is simplistic and inane: they find humans unconscionably, repulsively ugly.  And they hate us for it.

I am surprised to meet at least one high ranking Vux who does not despise humans like his comrades.  However, I am just as surprised when I find the true reason for his differing opinion.  Rather than simply being a member of his species capable of overcoming bigotry, I learn instead that he has a perverse fetish toward creatures of immense ugliness… like myself.  In the end, the Vux are a lost cause.

But while some of the Ur-Quan’s battle thralls are hopeless cases, there are a few I can weaken and in some rare cases, sway to my side.

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Total Ballers. I mean, Brawlers.

The Thraddash are one such example.  Brutish, thick skinned, and itching for a brawl, the Thraddash are utterly incompetent at organized warfare due to their uncontrollable impulse to fight fruitlessly amongst themselves.  Their one major virtue is that they are exceptional at learning from their mistakes… unfortunately, that seems to be the only way they can learn.  After blasting themselves into the stone age six separate times in their history,  they still insist that these nuclear holocausts were necessary for their cultural growth.  While they are technically Ur-Quan battle thralls, the Ur-Quan relegated them to “guard the rear” decades ago so that they wouldn’t cause trouble.  By the time I arrive in their space, they are spoiling for a fight.

Despite their wanton aggression, however, the Thraddash have a tremendous admiration for those that can fight and win.  After I kill their ships by the dozens without suffering any loses myself, they quickly shed their allegiance to the Ur-Quan and enthusiastically join with the New Alliance of Free Stars.

While many aliens I meet along the way are reliably hostile or friendly, others have more ambiguous intentions.

The Orz are an apparently jovial, playful, aquatic species with secrets that are as deep and as dark as their inky black home.

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Happy Campers! And if you don’t know what I mean by that, play the game and find out.

I first meet them in a region of space that was supposed to belong to an off shot of Humankind: the Androsynth.  Upon arrival in Androsynth space, however, I discover that the Androsynth are utterly annihilated, replaced instead by the Orz.  My ship’s automated translator is incapable of effectively deciphering the Orz’s exotic language, thus communication with the Orz is haphazard and confusing.  The Orz will readily join the Alliance of Free Stars without much prompting, which is somewhat unexpected… and peculiar.   I grow to distrust the Orz over time, for later conversations with the Orz reveals that they are (quite literally) puppets or “tendrils” of extra-dimensional, malevolent beings.  If ever I touch on the subject of the Androsynth with them (who they inexplicably destroyed) they grow irate and hostile.  Regardless of my reservations, though, the Orz turn out to be critical allies.

I meet other alien species in my journeys too, that are neither friendly nor hostile.  For instance, the Melnorme are neutral traders; non-residents of our region of the galaxy that are just passing through to collect information.  It is implied that they may have long term, diabolical intentions, but for the purposes of my struggle against the Ur-Quan, they are critically important.

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YES! Whenever you meet this dude it means new tech time!

The Melnorme, ever the ruthless capitalists, are willing to purchase information in exchange for information.  They will accept the coordinates of special worlds that one might find in addition to biological data gathered during planet exploration.  Conversely, they are willing to sell knowledge of the galaxy as well as new technological secrets that can be used to improve my Precursor vessel.  I return to the Melnorme numerous times throughout the game.

There are many, many more species that I meet and each new encounter is always a thrill, not only because each alien species is distinct and strange (and the dialogue amusing!), but also because each new “first contact” harbors the opportunity to bring new allies and resources to bear against the Ur-Quan.  With each new alien species you enlist in the war, you acquire blue prints for their technology, allowing you to integrate their warships into your battle fleet.  While you begin Star Control 2 with one humble “Earth Cruiser” and a stripped down Precursor vessel, you can eventually build a formidable, cosmopolitan task force of a dozen unique ships.

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There is nothing quite like a full crew compliment and every bad ass alien ship you can carry at your disposal. The variety of ships in this game is immense and their diversity is incredible.

My choices are diverse, depending on what attributes and weaponry I prefer.  Some ships fire long ranged missiles while others fire close range, high damage “light sabres.”  Some have tremendous speed and frailty, while others are heavily defensible, but lumbering.  There are even ships that can deploy fighter craft and others that launch devastating boarding parties.

Also, as the game progresses, I gradually upgrade my Precursor vessel from a “workhorse” industrial ship into a terrifying, heavily-armed dreadnaught capable of obliterating entire fleets on its own.

And once I have an armada at my command, I feel it is ready to confront the Ur-Quan, face to face… and what a lovely face that is…

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The Ur-Quan are a complex villain as you will discover later on.

However, when I at last enter Ur-Quan space to bring the fight to them, I discover that they are not exactly the evil, pulp villains that I once thought them to be.  After repeated battles, I come to understand that the war they fight with me is not so simple… and neither is the war that they fight within.

The Ur-Quan reveal their tragic history, a history in which they themselves were once psychically enslaved and compelled to obliterate the wise alien race that had uplifted them from their once savagery.  Centuries before the start of the game, the Ur-Quan’s slavers split their kind into two genetically distinct slave castes: the Green and the Black.

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The Black Ur-Quan. Tangling with their saw spewing “industrial” looking ships is no joke.

However, after untold centuries of servitude, the Ur-Quan were able to rise up against their physically puny masters by inflicting terrible pain upon themselves.  This served to temporarily sever the psychic shackles which bound them.  But once the Ur-Quan had won their freedom, there was a schism in philosophy between the Green and the Black.  The Black wished to purge all intelligent life from the galaxy, save for the two Ur-Quan races, to insure that they would never face slavery again.  The Green, not wanting to face slavery again either, sought to bring peace to all sentient beings through forceful subjugation (for their own good, of course).  Upon each conquest, the Ur-Quan gave each defeated species a choice: join the Ur-Quan Hierarchy as battle slaves or be encased on your home world beneath an impenetrable shield to live out a fallow, primitive, and peaceful experience.

With neither the Green nor Black knowing which “doctrine” would ultimately lead to the greatest strength, they set off in opposite directions on the spiral Milky Way, resolving one day to meet back again on the other side.  There, they would fight a “Doctrinal War,” the winner proving once and for all which doctrine was strongest.

I learn, quickly, that the Doctrinal War has already begun.  And the Green Ur-Quan are losing.

I remember being very conflicted upon learning of the Ur-Quan’s true nature.  It was the Green Ur-Quan that had defeated and enslaved the old Alliance of Free Stars.  They were the ones that had built the slave shield around Earth.  Yet for each of their ships I had destroyed, I was only bringing closer the victory of the Black, whom had far worse things in store for Humankind and the rest of sentient life at large.  It’s at this point that the game develops a sense of urgency.  Dawdle too long amongst the stars and the Black Ur-Quan win the “Doctrinal War” and begin a death march around the galaxy.  If I fail to find a way to defeat the Ur-Quan before then, the game is lost.

It isn’t long, however, before I discover an important breakthrough on how I might defeat both the Green and Black Ur-Quan.

I travel to the Solar System of Procyon in search of the crystalline Chenjesu and mechanical Mmrnmhrm: the first two alien species in the old Alliance of Free Stars to be defeated by the Ur-Quan.  Upon arrival, I find that the Chenjesu and Mmrnmhrm, like mankind, chose not to fight for the Ur-Quan.  Both races are trapped beneath a slave shield on the Chenjesu home world.  With a special precursor device, however, I am able to communicate with them.  While the two non-biological species had always humbly suggested that mankind was the defacto leader of the Old Alliance of Free Stars, the Chenjesu were always the most formidable members of the Pathwork Alliance.  And it turns out that now, even behind a slave shield, the noble crystals and their mechanical friends are up to something big.

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Red Slave shields are a way of life in a galaxy with the Ur-Quan.

When I first reach out to communicate, neither the Chenjesu nor the Mmrnmhrm are very cordial (even though they are just and noble, they are frequently impolite and harshly critical).  They reprimand me for interrupting “the process.”  After a brief conversation, I learn quickly that “the process” they are endeavouring to complete is the complete fusion of their two species.  It is this fusion, they believe, which will allow them to crack their slave shield and sally forth with Mankind to ultimate victory over the Ur-Quan.  Unfortunately, there is bad news.  First, they disclose that the process will take over a hundred years (with the Doctrinal War soon to end, that doesn’t help me much.)  Second, they reveal the true reason why the Ur-Quan were able to defeat the Chenjesu and Mmrnmhrm with such ease.

As it turns out, I’m not the only one in the galaxy with a Precursor ship.  The Green Ur-Quan have one too— the Sa’Matra— and their’s is much, much bigger.  They only used it once during the war to turn the tides, and have not used it since, not even in the Doctrinal War (the victor of the Doctrinal War will be the one who claims the Sa’Matra).  The fight against the Ur-Quan cannot be won, the Chenjesu say, unless the Sa’Matra is destroyed.

At that, I set out again, I scour the galaxy for two things: an object with immense destructive power and an artifact that can give the Chenjesu and Mmrnmhrm the power they need to complete their fusion.

What ensues is a race against time.  I search frantically while the Green Ur-Quan slowly succumb to their wicked cousins.  In one distant corner of the galaxy, I find the Utwig, a wise but suicidal race that possess a bomb capable of decimating an entire planet.  Once I talk them off the ledge (and into the New Alliance of Free Stars!) they offer me the bomb.  Unfortunately, its useless without the Chenjesu’s aid.

I get a tip from the Melnorme that a special device exists in Mycon space.  A device capable of generating immense amounts of energy.

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The Mycon probably have the strangest looking ships in the game. Think angry asteroid that shoots blue plasma.

The Mycon, however, are not only Ur-Quan battle thralls, but also emotionless “planet breakers.”  In other words, not the type of beings that are open for friendly negotiation.  With the help of some old Alliance members, the Syreen, we’re able to deal a crippling blow to the Mycon and seize their “sun device.”

On my trip back to the Chenjesu home world, a small fleet of Green Ur-Quan apprehend me.  But to my surprise, gone are their menacing words and demands for subordination.  Instead, they tell me, in a sorrowful tone, that they release mankind from slavery.

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They tell me to gather as many of my species as I can amid my Precursor ship and take them all far away.  The Doctrinal War is over, they tell me, and the Black Ur-Quan have won.  They lament that they could not “protect” mankind from the horrors to come.  They allow me to leave peacefully, telling me simply: “Farewell human.  I hope your species survives.”

But there is still time as the Black Ur-Quan scour the sector, purging the Green Ur-Quan’s former battle thralls.  When I reach Procyon, I use the sun device in orbit around the Chenjesu home world.  The slave shield breaks, and before me is no longer the Chenjesu and the Mmrnmhrm, but a new race: the Chmmr.

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With a new super race born, we plan an attack on the Ur-Quan’s Precursor warship.  Once the Sa’Matra is destroyed, the Chmmr surmised, the New Alliance of Free Stars just might be powerful enough to defeat the Ur-Quan once and for all.  But there’s a catch.  The Utwig bomb that we plan to use against the Sa’Matra isn’t powerful enough on its own.  It must be optimized with new Chmmr technology and firmly fastened to my precious Precursor ship.  In other words, to destroy the Sa’Matra, my own ship must perish as well.

With this solemn fact weighing on my conscience, I set out with the strongest fleet I can muster and push one last time to the heart of Ur-Quan space.  With a few tricks I picked up throughout the game, I vanquish the fleet defending the Sa’Matra and prepare for the final battle.

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Menacing… Who needs a shield when you have an asteroid ring protecting your ship?

Unfortunately, the Sa’Matra is protected by a ring of asteroids and a formidable shield.  In order to get my Precursor bomb close enough, I must first send my fleet to disable the shield generators while the Sa’Matra fires volley after volley of hot plasma.  Scores of ships are lost in the attack.

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Pew Pew Pew.. Take em down Pkunk!

Once the shields are down, I descend on the Sa’Matra to deal the killing blow.

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A captain always goes down with his ship…. or does he?

The bomb is set, and I flee in an escape pod, witnessing a cataclysmic explosion moments later.  The energy from the explosion overtakes the escape pod, and everything goes dark.

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Epic explosion!

Weeks pass and I awake in a hospital bed overlooking Earth.  I learn that the Sa’Matra had been destroyed, and amidst the chaos, The New Alliance of Free Stars had assembled, assaulted the remains of the Ur-Quan armada, and defeated them.

Accompanied by allies and friends, I watch as the slave shield falls away from Earth, revealing green forests and azure blue seas.

Before the game ends, though, its revealed that eventually a new Precursor ship is discovered, and that new adventures await in the stars.

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How delightful.

At that, my adventure as “Captain Zelnick” ends.  But only for awhile.  It’ll be one more short year or two before I begin humming Star Control 2’s “hyper space theme song” and be back exploring the cosmos once again.

The secret to Star Control 2— the reason I return to complete it again and again— is that the game was designed around a unique philosophy.  Rather than starting with a genre and shoehorning a story and concept in, the developers of Star Control 2 came up with a concept and story arc first, then designed the game from the ground up around this concept.  It might have some cosmetic resemblance to modern, sandbox RPG’s here or 2D arcade shooters there, but in the end, Star Control 2 is a game in a galaxy of its own.  The result is a compelling illusion that makes the player forget who they really are and instead focus on the incredible world that was created for them in this game.  I’m sure I will return to complete it for many more years to come.

The End

Editor’s Note: If anyone is interested, check out the fantastic Star Control 2 HD Remake: Ur-Quan Masters HD

***Editor’s Note # 2: The guest author Dana Smith is a Marine Biologist and video game enthusiast. He is skilled in pretty much every genre of game. Although because of his high level of intelligence strategy games are his favorite. He lives in Stuart, Florida with his Wife as well as Lucky, Missy and the Devil cat herself, Chicken. Despite the fact that he is my younger brother, he is apparently too old to use Twitter so you can’t follow him.***