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SummaryFun space game juggles diplomacy and starship battles
The GoodOne of the best things about the game is that it gives you flexibility to pick which faction(s) to ally with, or to go solo and take them all on. Each space station has different ship upgrades and commodities (elements) to trade, so there are some strategic reasons to want to ally with certain races. At the same time, some of them make you jump through a lot of hoops before they let you join their alliance, so there are decisions to make.
Space combat is also reasonably deep. You command your spaceship, but you have a few different weapons at your disposal. First you have your ship's front-mounted lasers that you'll probably use as your main weapon. You also have a defensive laser on your ship to try to shoot enemy missiles or fighters as they close in on you. You also have guided missiles at your disposal that you can fire, but they may get destroyed before they impact the target. You also have fighters you can launch-- once launched you are the pilot to take out tactical targets, like your foe's fighters or their shield generators. Lastly you have Kamikaze fighters-- just like regular fighters, but with no guns; their damage comes from ramming the opponent. The catch is you can only control ONE of the following at a time: your ship, the defensive turret, a fighter, or a Kamikaze. You can jump from one to the next, but they don't do anything if you're not commanding them. Note however, you do get to fire and forget your missiles. Missiles/Fighters/and Kamikazes all use the same chassis, and you only have a limited supply of these on the ship, so once they run out, you have to return to your home starport to resupply.
Your ship starts out fairly under-powered, but it does have a lot of expansion and upgrade capability. You'll need to barter for new gear with the alien races, especially when you start taking damage from combat. Fortunately, your race has some valuable floppy disks that are your main trade unit. There is a limit to the number of items you can trade at a time, so you'll have to trade for capacitors (say) and then trade those for a faster hyperdrive. Each station has it's own sell and buy values for goods it cares about, so the trading is a good challenge.
Another cool thing about the game is the diversity in the way races look, how their ships look, and how they negotiate.
The BadA couple of the races are pretty hard to fight. For example, Broodmaster space stations require you to fly around them in a fighter, destroy each of the 8 red shielding devices, then return to your main ship and use its weapons to take the station out. Trust me, it's tough while your main ship is getting attacked. One of the "good" races that has colonial style sailing ships (in space) is pretty tough too. So to defeat some enemies you have to power up your ship a lot.
Another minor annoyance is that although you can fly your ship, a fighter or kamikaze, or jump in the defensive turret, the rest don't do anything without you. If you spend long in your fighter, you might find your ship is suddenly way out of laser range. You get used to this though, and it helps ensure you don't take on difficult foes too soon, since they'll liquify your ship while you try to ram them with a kamikaze... until you get your shield generators running.
While I did replay this game a lot, the setup is the same every time and the races all interact the same way. So if you know that if you dialogue option sequence 3-2-1 gets a race to be friendly with you, then it'll be that way every game. The only replayability is in trying to join a different faction.
The Bottom LineThe premise of the game is that your civilization needs a new planet and a few basic elements to terraform that planet, or your race will perish. But it's not quite that easy. You're in a galaxy with several other races-- some will be willing to trade with you, others will despise you, and (if you play your cards right) another might tell you where to find a colonizable planet. Many of the races are allied in factions, and if you annoy 1 of those races, they all get mad... the factions generally don't like each other either, so if you want to be nice with one, you're going to have another mad at you.
So YOU are the starship captain that uses a faster than light drive to warp from galaxy to galaxy, planet to planet, searching for resources to claim for your race. If a valuable planet is not already claimed & protected by the neighbor races, you can claim it. Or if it is protected, you can use the forceful approach and try to wrest it from them by destroying their space station. Similarly, you'll encounter other ships in your travels that will try to stop you if you're an enemy.