Star Control II
Greetings readers! This week, Carl has fired up his desktop PC in order to save Earth from the sickly red glow of the slave shield. The Alliance of Free Stars is waiting to be recreated, with you as leader. The Ur-Quan tyranny must be stopped. Are you up to it?
Star Control II takes elements of shoot’em up arcade games, adventure games, and role playing games, combining them into an amazing sci-fi space based game. Similar to earlier games like Starflight and Starflight 2, It was initally released in 1992 for DOS based systems and was released for the 3DO one year later. A major plus of this game: is a free-to-play release that has been programmed and ported to several systems recently, combining the best elements of the 3DO and DOS games.
The plot of Star Control II is explained in the slide show at the beginning of the game (or for 3DO players, an amazing intro movie. Go watch, I’ll wait). A massive war took place pitting the forces of Earth and the Alliance of Free Stars against the evil Hierarchy of Battle Thralls. Towards the end of this war an earth ship was sent to investigate an ancient installation built by the long extinct Precursor race. The ship was attacked and made an emergency landing. The stranded crew formed a colony. Years later, a small boy born in the colony discovered that the ancient installation was a spaceship factory with enough materials to build one final ship. You end up commanding that ship, on a mission, 20 years later, to return to Earth, and find out… where were you guys? What happened?
You’ll end up on a journey all around the galaxy meeting friendly races eager to join the fight (Remember that slave shield I mentioned? That’s right.. Earth LOST the war), enemy races who are pretty pissed to see a human flying around, and still other races that don’t care who you are, they just want all life extinct. You’ll encounter a plot so vast and mind blowing that it transcends several million years and three (!) separate dimensions. This plot is not spoon fed to you, as the game could be considered a ‘sand-box’ game, exploring wherever you like, playing as you wish, as long as you have fuel to get there. All 18 alien races will meet with you, and you’ll exchange dialogue with them via a menu selection. Every alien has their own theme, with both music and font type (and in the case of the 3DO or free-to-play version, voice!) Aside from flying around and landing on planets (sometimes encountering planetary hazards, mind you), you may end up in combat, which is a real time ship versus ship combat played from a top-down perspective. No worries, as you can assemble a fleet consisting of your new (and old) allies, each with its own strengths, attacks, and weaknesses. You can also outfit your ‘mothership’ with various modules. Should you be a cargo ship, ferrying minerals around, or do you need to be a battleship, with a massive weapon spread?
Play control for Star Control II is excellent. This is a keyboard game, unfortunately, which means the arrow keys control movement. Several menus allow you to see your inventory, star map, ships status, and so on. The star map is great as it keeps track of your range of travel, as well as the spheres of influence of the various races you meet. The spheres change over time. The top down space combat plays smooth, with buttons for movement, main weapon and special ability (every ship is radically different). The quests for lack of a better term, are very open ended. They are not linear, more like a tree. It’s possible to complete the game and unknowingly, totally bypass some parts of the game.
Graphically, this game is beautiful. I seriously wish a fan-made movie was made with these alien characters. (There does exist some wonderful fan art). Every alien race looks amazing and unique, with various fonts even used for communication. Each ship has its own style. Space travel is a breeze. Hyperspace looks incredible. The exploratory planet sequences are quick moving and not obnoxious at all (some games, they drag on…) The style of this game is ‘realistic cartoon’. It works.
The music.. oh the music. I’m gushing. Sorry. Listen to it. No seriously, listen to it here. This game could be played with no sound effects, just the music. The voices! Gah! Perfect voice acting here. Some songs manage to elate you, while others send chills down your spine. These are CD worthy tunes. Actually, it’s been done, sort of, by the composers of the music, and various remixes have been created.
Make no mistake. This game is epic. The screenshots above do not do it justice. Take a look at the video above. This game is one of, if not my favorite PC game. It’s an amazing combination of great graphics, a very in depth storyline, music that today is unmatched, and a great arcade like shooting game, that is actually playable as a standalone game with one or two players! Plus I like the Ur-Quan music and voice. The Ur-Quan Kzer-Ka are probably one of the best sci fi alien races ever created. They aren’t necessarily bad. Play the game, you’ll see what I mean.If you aren’t comfortable with DOSBox (you should be by now if you’re a regular reader of 1More Castle) and if you don’t have a 3DO (you mean you don’t? I don’t either.) Star Control 2 has been ported to modern computers and some consoles (the Wii!) since the source code was released several years ago, and it’s free to download and play, here. There, now you have no reason to play one of the most amazing space adventure/arcade games ever created. Quite often The Fair Shake covers games that could be considered “the B-side” of gaming… Star Control 2 is not, but it is a game that seems to have escaped ‘the mainstream’ while other PC games like Wolfenstein still garner attention. Star Control 2 should, as well. Give it The Fair Shake. Humanity’s fate depends on it.