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Star Control II (DOS)

83
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100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
4.0
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5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Indra is here (19707)
Written on  :  Nov 02, 2008
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  3.5 Stars3.5 Stars3.5 Stars3.5 Stars3.5 Stars

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Summary

[v1.0] A diamond in the rough that could well use severe polishing.

The Good

Review Version: v1.0
Review Date: November, 2008
Review Length: 16 page(s).
Game Version: v1.0
Tech Specs Used: Emulator
Finished: Yes, October 25, 2008.
Last time played: October, 2008.

Ever had one of those games you’ve heard about all your life but never seem to have the chance to play? Well, this is one of those many games to me, even though it took me decades later to play, at least I finally experienced another gem from the days of old.

This is my first Star Control experience, as I have not played its predecessor. I really did not know what to expect from this game. The only information I did have about the game is that it was a strategy game. To my surprise, it was far from what I expected it to be. Some of those expectations are good, some are far from it. Both of course, will be elaborated with this review.

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I’ve always been a sucker for Sci-Fi games to a certain extent, simply because when it comes to futuristic technologies, you never seem to know what to expect, even if you are a casual Trekkie who has spent too many evenings gazing at the stars. Thus, unlike most medieval fantasy games that have become too stereotyped with the traditional LOTR theme or games with historical settings, may it come with a sword or AK-47s; for sci-fi games, you always expect (or presume at least) there’s something totally new from the imagination of a more scientific-minded gamer.

Despite my usual habits of jumping into game play first and gathering information later; this time, I read the manual first and was immensely intrigued. Intrigued as to my surprised delight, there was actually a preliminary fictional story (one quite well written to a certain extent), detailing a war going on between the newly space-exposed Humans and their allies against a new threat of hostile aliens.

The story in the manual sparks an intrigue of curiosity to the reader, as it appears 20 years have past since the war while the hero is stuck on a planet with superior alien technology, the Precursors (sounds vaguely familiar for some reason). The obvious goal of the plot is to re-establish contact with Earth and its allies, bringing along this new found technology in the form of a highly advanced ship…a ship that later in the game is indeed quite an interesting one, despite looking like a cargo ship than something meant for battle.

Space: the Very Big Final Frontier
Next thing you know, when you start the game, you’re in a massive map filled with stars. Seeing your position in the almost lower-left corner of this humongous map, one can only be thrilled with the expectation of endless exploration possibilities… and whatever additional features the developers plan to do with in between.

Scanning (which is manually hovering the mouse over bright objects) the first solar system closest to my ship, I discovered a familiar name “Sol” from past experiences with Master of Orion. No doubt smells “humanish,” might as well start there.

Moving into what appears to be hyperspace, I finally entered the intended galaxy, only to be approached by a reconnaissance probe of an apparently hostile Ur-Quan race. Oddly, the planet Earth was covered in red. Approaching it brought no fruit, so that star base seemed like the next obvious choice.

Space Tunes
Entering the star base, I was greeted by an amusing dance-like tune, even more impressing than the space-traveling music, which was quite delightful enough as it is. Despite on later several occasions, the space-travel music sounded like it was buggy and in addition to what seemed like someone was trying to play the keyboard for the first time, regardless, the music within this game is top-notch as far as games go…and even more surprisingly there are many compositions within the game (for every race you meet for example) that are unique to the event being portrayed.

I really did not expect an abundant of musical excellence coming from any game (especially one I suspected to be a strategy game) in my experience, as usually most musical compositions tend to be more in the background like the sound of leaves in the wind, or simply just noise that goes unnoticed. Music in Star Control 2 does not go unnoticed, and quite frankly without such excellent strings musical compositions, space would in this game would be quite a lonely place indeed.

The Desperate Alliance; the Adventure continues…
The story continues to unfold as the star base commander fills in the gaps of what happened the last 20 years or so (which should have made him look a lot older than he actually appears) after completing some missions from him. The staggering truth of is the old alliance got their asses kicked; which only meant more game play in my mind. Now I have a star base at my disposal, and completely new goal: re-unite the old alliance and do some major alien re-ass-kicking against the Ur-Quan and their battle-thrall slave-allies. After gathering all the information I could from the commander, I was mentally ready to take the universe by storm…one planet at a time.

At this point, the game suspiciously started to smell like an adventure game with an odd sci-fi strategy setting, which is probably the first hybrid kind of genre I’ve come across with.

Tactical Refitting of Alien Technology
Now this is indeed a new concept as far as sci-fi goes. A ship that equip and remove modules of different purposes. I was wondering why I had a ship that seemed to be butt naked, appearing to be a skeleton of what a full space ship should look like.

The Precursor ship that I control has the ability to add modules to its pre-existing skeleton. I can add a fuel module, a crew module, weapon modules, as so on. Re-arrange them as I see fit and remove them if I had something else in mind. Now this is what I call a flexible ship; I wonder if there’s a female version of such technologies in real-life. Hmm. :)

At the star base, besides equipping modules, refitting fuel and crew members; you can also build new ships to add to your “space fleet” accompanying your mother ship; up to a total of 8 ships as long as you have the designs to build them and alien captains to navigate them.

Resource Collecting Mini-Games
Several “restart-games” later, which is what any self-respecting veteran gamer does just to get a feel of the game, I fully equipped my ship full cargo bays, thrusters (and no weapons) to fully make use of planet resource gathering, as I had limited RU (resource units) to make my ship even more powerful.

The universe consists of what looks like hundreds of solar systems and even more planets in them. I was determined to strip every single one of those planets of their resources, as it seems the RU’s I needed to purchase modules for my ship were quite expensive.

Resource collecting occurs when you enter orbit of a planet, conduct a mineral scan on the planet, and if deposits do exist, send a “lander” to collect those minerals. At this point, I noticed that the graphical expertise of the lander moving to and from the planet. The developers created a way to make the lander appear to move with such graphical smoothness, something quite normal today for anyone acquainted with layers, but seemed to be quite a remarkable feat considering the time this game was made. I always enjoyed seeing the lander depart or land and never seemed to get bored of it.

When the lander lands on the planet, a mini game occurs where you control the lander and move it to areas your mineral scan beforehand detected while in orbit. The mini-game map however, is only barely around 7x7 cm long or as long as your thumb. The map indicating where the resources are located however, fit almost 1/3 of the whole screen. The rest is covered by an animated planet you’re orbiting and other info regarding your ship and cargo.

The mini game consists of moving your lander to the area where the mineral resources are located, indicated by a small object on either map. This little moon-buggy action continues until your lander is full of resources, where you simply have to send it up (automatic unload) and then back down again…with a small price of fuel for each attempt.

Depending on the planet, there are various hazards that may endanger the lander. Earthquakes, extreme weather (indicated by lighting), and what appears to be soaring fires for planets with extreme hot temperatures. Although what did not make sense is how my lander can be damaged by earthquakes when it’s technically…flying? Something obviously overlooked by the developers. Technologies may be later acquired to protect the lander from these hazards.

The lander is also equipped with weapons, which is only useful to stun biological life forms when found on a planet. This data may later be sold to a particular alien race, explained later.

To Meet New Life and New Civilizations… (especially inter-galactic fast food joints)
I was quite surprised to read in the manual that there is an abundant of races available in the game. I wasn’t really expecting anything more than 4 or 5 races, which is usually the standard number one expects to find in a sci-fi themed strategy game… although I did later realize it really isn’t a strategy game to begin with.

Most of the dialogs of each race were quite well written…there is one particular race/story I would emphasize separately; the Yehat race, for personal reasons that touched me. Officially, there are around 13 alien races in the manual, although in game play, there seem to be more than that…many you can actually meet, others only through dialog with other races, as they are now extinct. Meet the neighbors:
    [WARNING! SPOILER ALERT!]
    Ur-Quan

    The Ur-Quan represents the leader of the alliance that defeated the Humans and their allies. The red shield surrounding Earth is a product of their devices, and one of the menaces your forces will have to ultimately defeat. The musical background surrounding the caterpillar-like Ur-Quan as well as the graphical display and dialogs indicate the superiority and more obvious, predatorily and aggressive theme the race represents. The “talking pets” an odd frog-like race in the bottom right corner of their screen, act as telepathic interpreters as the Ur-Quan despise to communicate with other seemingly inferior races.

    The Ur-Quan Dreadnaught is an interesting foe to combat. They send out marine troops to come after you (I thought they were missiles), which if you kill greatly weakens the Ur-Quan vessel.

    Humans
    Your race of origin and second race you encounter in the game. What remains of your race seems to be quite pitiful, as they only exist on Earth surrounded by an impenetrable red-shield (after the defeat of the alliance) and roughly around 2,000 personnel in the star base. The star base commander is the only human you actually meet in the game, and with him you get to build Earthling Cruisers, that fire a single nuclear missile per attack. Meeting the star base commander is always a delight, due to the lively background music.

    Illwrath
    The Illwrath is the third race you encounter after re-acquainting with the star base commander. This race resembles oversized spiders and not particularly friendly ones either. The violent nature of the race is apparent, through one-track mind dialogs servitude to war gods (or something like that) and equally aggressive themed music. The font text however, is quite difficult to read, trying to achieve a gothic-type font but ended up gothic-like gibberish instead.

    Their Avenger ships are a total rip-off from the Star Trek Romulan Bird-of-Prey, similar in both its structural shape, as well as its special feature, the cloaking device.

    Spathi
    Depending on your actions, the Spathi may well be the 4th (or fifth, if you count the “talking pets”) alien race you meet. Though in evolution logic, such a species could have never existed, as such a “cowardly race” is more likely to be consumed by aggressive plants to even reach a space-age civilization, seems to be a more humorous approach by the developers rather than an actual scientific one.

    The background music surrounding the Spathi gives a way a curious tone, indicating their odd sense of humor, portrayed in their dialogs, but no gives no indication of cowardly, however. They will become on of the first allies you obtain, however when the story progresses, their cowardly nature will soon remove them from the political scene, to their favor. Spathi ships are quite unique, as they are fast and have the ability to shoot homing missiles from behind.

    Melnorme
    The Melnorme is the next race I encountered in a solar system near Earth. They are a merchant race and will trade valuable information and even more technological advances for your ship (upgrades and module) in exchange for biological data and rainbow planet locations. In a tight spot, they also sell fuel…acting as a mobile intergalactic gas station and information centre. :p When you acquire a hyperspace communicator, they can be summoned anywhere in the universe. I’ve never encountered their homeland, nor have I had the change to engage their ships in a hostile manner, as their services as merchants seem to be more worthwhile.

    Pkunk
    The Pkunk is one of the first alien races I met from exploration (in the wrong direction). A peaceful bird-like race, apparently broken off from their main species the warrior-like Yehat. They act like many weird New Age followers I’ve met in Western countries (talking in riddles without the use of drugs). They’re current political status is being butchered by the Illwrath (a situation that you can manual change if you wish to do so). They play a minor interesting role in the Yehat story.

    Kor-Ah
    The Kor-Ah is a product of gene-splitting from the Ur-Quan. Where Ur-Quan plays the role of the bureaucrat, the Kor-Ah play the role of the soldier. After the war was one, the Ur-Quan and the Kor-Ah are now in a state of civil war, as the Kor-Ah are intent of brining every other race to the state of extinction collides with the goals of the Ur-Quan who prefer an inter-galactic zoo.

    The Kor-Ah Marauder ships are quite to be feared like the Ur-Quan ships. They fire spinning blades that act like boomerangs, filling the combat screen to up to 9 of these spinning blades. Additionally, they can fire a plasma burst encircling the ship if you come too close.

    Zot-Vok-Pik
    One of the cutest and simple race in the game, consisting of three different races acting as an oligarchy. Although up to this point, I still don’t know which one are Zot, Vok and Pik. Not that it matters anyways. Depending on your choices, they may be one of the first additions you acquire in your alliance. The dialog of this race, is quite well written, I enjoyed reading two of the races fighting each other all the time…while the guy in the middle never says anything but always moves his over-sized eye to the alien currently talking.

    Arilou
    The Arilou are inter-dimensional beings (i.e. not from this dimension), which I purposely tried to discover first due to rumors that they possessed a device to help travel faster. Finding them was quite difficult at first, as gateway to their home world only opens a few days each month. They represent the UFOs often mentioned by quacks with no life in our present reality. Their ships look like the same flying saucers with great speed and maneuverability. Fun to play with but ultimately replaced by better bigger ships with firepower.

    It is still not clear of their role with the Human race. They claim to be protecting “us” from a bigger threat, a threat that has never been identified throughout the game (and no, it’s not the Kor-Ah either).

    Sylandroo
    Early in the game, you meet strange probes claiming that they “come in peace” but end up attacking you no matter what you do. Turns out they belong to the Sylandroo who incorrectly programmed their functions. The probes have fantastic music and audio when in dialog mode. The Sylandroo themselves are a unique race of…gas bags. Now that’s something new that would flabbergast Darwin.

    Syreen
    If it weren’t for these sexy females, I’d probably die of boredom. As the name suggests from Greek mythology, these beautiful babes suffered the same fate from all of the old alliance, being locked up in a single planet. They later can be recruited after helping them deal with the Mycon. Though story-wise, an “interesting” relationship develops between you and the minimally clothed (but official uniform) star base commander. I never tried their ships, as it reminded me too much of a prehistoric rocket from Tintin.

    Mycon
    If fungus can evolve to have intelligence, then you can find Mycons are practically talking beings living in your socks. Not much about this race, except with a connecting story with the Mycons and main plot. Their ships are the only type that can regenerate crew members.

    Vux
    Probably the ugliest bunch of aliens you can possibly imagine, something between a squid and a teenager with severe acne problems in the most cancerous way. Too ugly to describe any further. Ugh.

    Druuge
    Probably the only race that based its civilization on multi-level marketing of extreme levels. They are a mercantile race similar to Melnorme, however with a more sinister way in trading, indicated by their pig-like facial features and background setting that looks oddly like a dungeon chamber. For goods they sell (artifacts, ships, fuel), they prefer crew members as an exchange rate…which is fine by me, but it does create problems with the star base commander later in the game, thus I did not really pursue what will happen if I continued this “slave trading”.

    Their ships act like snipers, quite useful in long range combat but useless in short range. Interesting to know the fiction of this race, where it is controlled by a single business organization where its employees have to pay even to “breath,” so you can image the life of “ex-employees.” If that isn’t a cut-throat business, I don’t know what is.

    Orz
    I still have no idea who or what this race is all about. I do think the developers where high when they designed this race, as the Orz talk like someone who’s been doped on some really bad stuff. Like the Arilau, they are inter-dimensional creatures…that look like fish or a mutant crab, which had to do with the disappearance of the Androsynth race.

    Not much story on this race, however their ships are quite unique in combat, as they are the only kind in your possession that has space marine capabilities.

    Chmmr
    The combination race of the old alliance founders: the Chenjesu and the Mmrnmhrm. After the defeat of the old alliance, they chose to be entrapped under the same shield to create a new ultimate race (part rock, part machine…which is as odd a race as you can get I suppose). The story revolving around them is minor; however they are part of the main plot, unlike some other races. Their ships are the most powerful ships you can obtain for the final battles ahead.

    Other races
    The Utwig, Supox and Thraddash, are races too minor to mention, due to lack of story or other interesting facts compared to other races, at least to my opinion.

    There are notes on extinct races, either from the manual or from the dialogs, but there really isn’t much information on them.
The Yehat Saga
From all the stories revolving around the alien races, the Yehat saga is the only one that I deem to be “complete” and not just merely a pile of dialogs. It is also a saga which I would personally like to point out.

The Pterodactyl-like Yehat warrior race is now battle-thralls of the Ur-Quan after the defeat of the old alliance. Their position towards you is awkward, as the ship captains feel like that they are betraying the old alliance, but are also obligated to obey their queen. Each conversation with them puts them in that dilemma; to either attack or let you go. However, each conversation is necessary to identify what really happened in the last moments of the Yehat “defeat.”

As the plot thickens, you eventually find out the Yehat, were well prepared to help defend the Shofixti homeland from the approaching Ur-Quan fleet, and were suddenly re-called to their appalling surprise by the Yehat Queen, who had accepted surrender to the Ur-Quan.

The sons of the Yehat, the tiger-like Shofixti, dismayed at the retreat of their allies and benefactors, knew they had little chance in defeating the Ur-Quan. Instead of surrendering, the Shofixti in kamikaze-style blew up their homeland sun in as a last attempt of defiance against the Ur-Quan, seriously destroying a large amount of the enemy fleet…while the Yehat shamelessly watched from a distance.

The honorable act self-sacrifice of the Shofixti, a minor race compared to the Yehat who helped them achieve space travel, have since then been an irrevocable taint to Yehat honor, especially the ship captains.

After securing a sole male (and later very grateful) Shofixti survivor who single-handedly “replenishes” their species, you later meet the Yehat accompanied by Shofixti scout ships. Seeing the honorable Shofixti race in their midst, burns the dishonorable memories of the Yehat past as their sub-conscious warrior minds cry out for justice. The Yehat ship captains later engage in a revolution against their dishonorable Queen and her corrupt regime.

I was deeply touched by this particular story, as to my experience there is not one single game in existence that truly identifies to the term honor. Thus, I am aghast that RPG games that often revolve around the notion of honor and chivalry have never thoroughly explored the concept more than just the word itself. I was raised greatly on the idea on the honor system; due to idealistic military family and nationalistic values and clan duties (my family comes from a long line of freedom fighters). It is an overwhelming sensation that compels an individual indoctrinated by its concept to become more of a person that they really are and to act in accordance to its teachings without question.

Honor is word I can still personally identify with. A word which no longer exists nor has place in a modern and professional world of cowards and quacks acting tough behind a monitor screen. Thus, I would personally like to honor Star Control 2 with the recognition that, at least there is one game out there that does identify completely with the now extinct word called honor.

Game Ending
Many games out there really don’t have a good game ending. I probably would go as far as saying 99% of games qualify in that regard. But that of course, depends on one’s definition of a good game ending. Well, to me, a good game ending is one that gives you total satisfaction in completing the game. The most common unsatisfactory reaction of a gamer when completing a game is “what…that’s it?” and a minute later in come the game credits. Feel familiar? Makes you feel kinda empty, eh?

Well, Star Control 2 is not one of those games, and not even in a mediocre sense. After the ending story, the “ending” continues with additional fiction of each race saying something (funny, serious or stupid, but all equally hilarious) as if the game were a movie in the making. Accompanied by the already excellent musical compositions through-out the game, this game provides a complete satisfactory sensation I haven’t felt in a long-long time from a game. I believe Heroes Quest I was the last game I recall…and that was more than 15 years ago. Egad.

The Bad

I was going to say a lot of really, really nasty stuff about Star Control 2, particularly a feature that I found quite disastrous in game play. However, due to personal feelings I have from the game, I will withstand my usual stance in totally pulverizing a game when I find a design (or bug) of total moronic proportions. Considering I played this game quite recently, I am not biased by nostalgic memories all gamers (including myself) have a bad habit of doing in reviews, so this is as objective as I can get, I suppose. So I’ll start with minor issues first:

Across the Universe…
Captain: “Full-stop, Number One.”
Number One: “Captain, the ship does not have reverse thrusters.”
Captain: “What? Who’s stupid idea was that, how do we orbit that planet then?” Number One: “Er…Space Control Command, sir. Well, we just bump into the planet and hope the gravity isn’t strong enough to drag-us into crashing, and again, hopefully obtaining orbit.”
Captain: “That’s a lot of hope, considering we’re carrying 100 nuclear warheads.”


And there you have it. Traveling in galaxies (I do hope you know the difference between galaxies and universe) consists of either slow movement in hope you bump into a planet to obtain orbit, or using medium to fast speeds, accompanied with a sudden turn where the angle will either bring you faster to the planet or miss the mark by a mile.

It’s strange when traveling in galaxies; someone forgot to add “breaks” for you ship. Or at least the ship stops moving when you don’t engage thrusters. Feels like one of those old asteroid (?) games.

If you feel this is part of the developers design, and not part of their negligence, think again. In hyperspace, you can stop. This is quite hilarious to any self-respecting Trekkie fan, as one can’t really stop in hyperspace (due to traveling in the speed of light), one can only warp out from hyperspace to normal space. It may be science fiction, but fiction must be in accordance with the science, no?

It’s a cloaked vessel, captain!
And cloaked this game really is. It is actually an classic-style adventure game cloaked as a strategy game. It looks and smells like a strategy game (how many classic adventure games have combat features), but actual game play consists of the usual puzzle-solving, which brings me to my next point:

Lost in Space: the Adventure game
Classic-style adventure games have a same pattern in their game play, which is: Figuring out where to go and figuring out what to do when you get there; the puzzle-solving standard of adventure games. In most adventure games however, we get usually get stumped in the “what to do when you get there” part. In Star Control 2 you get stumped in the “where to go” part.

Why? It’s a big universe. See all those little bright lights? Those are solar systems. There are hundreds of them. Each solar system has several planets, so that makes an even more number of planets. Although there are hints along the way to send you in a particular cluster of planets, the game doesn’t come up with a “save information” feature or at least an option where you can repeat those coordinates. If you didn’t write those coordinates manually on a piece of paper, your basically lost…and being lost in a universe with a hundred or so places to get lost in is not very funny nor is it fun either.

To boldly go where no nerd has gone before… (e.g. a date)
The exploration factor in this game is a total disaster. Well, for one thing the idea of exploration is to go places that you’ve never visited before. Now the first problem in this area is that, the whole universe in already viewable. That doesn’t make it much fun, eh? If the European Pilgrims on the Mayflower knew where they where going before hand, they’d probably head straight to Miami and not freeze to death on the Northern East Coast. :p

The lack of a “fog of war” means that you don’t really have the need to go exploring. The only reason you visit solar systems is if you want to gather resources (a reason that quickly fades somewhere in the early middle of the game) or due to the main plot (if you remember where you were supposed to go to in the first place).

An additional lack of a feature in 4x strategy games like Master of Orion identifies a useful “unknown planet/solar system” feature. Thus, prompting you with an exploration “track-record” of places you’ve visited or never visited. There is no way of knowing beforehand, if you’ve visited a solar system before, and after a while, memory does really fail you due to the size of the universe. I’ve been in a situation where I was visiting a planet for a sudden urge to go resource collecting, only to find out that I have already depleted it of minerals.

Not a strategy game
After careful examination, it really doesn’t qualify as a strategy game. Sure, it has combat (but, we’ll get to that later) but isn’t enough to qualify as strategy game…an action game maybe. We already know, the exploration feature is non-existent, but what really fails in combination of the exploration and strategy concept is, that there is no “strategic need to explore,” or any strategic need to be strategic anyhow:
    No Need #1: Hundreds of Planets
    Hundreds of planets…and no single need to go to every single on of them. Why? Well, that’s all that they are: planets. Some with resources, some with biological entities, some with neither. You can’t develop the planets, can’t really do anything in the context of “strategy,” there isn’t even an “area of influence” you could strategically implement. I had this preliminary idea that due to the many planets, you had to control or occupy the planets or something like that. But winning the game is advancing in the “adventure plot.” Not much strategic plot exists in this game.

    No Need #2: Ships
    When you have allies, they give you blue prints of their alien space ship, which you can duplicate and build at your star base. Even if you do have 8 ships accompanying your mother ship, there really isn’t much use for them in actual game play. Why? Well, your mother ship is actually strong enough to tackle the entire universe. It has flexible weapon modules, it has bigger crew if you place more crew modules and faster and more maneuverable if you maximize thrust and turning modules, and more importantly, it has the strongest weapon system available. There really isn’t much need for any of those other alien craft, except in the final battle.

    By the way, 9 ships to finally conquer the entire universe? Not much of a conquering fleet…

    No Need #3: Space Combat
    There really isn’t any strategic purpose in engaging enemy ships. Why? It doesn’t make any difference. Based on numbers, I practically destroyed half of the Ur-Quan and Kor-Ah fleet, the Vox, the Mycon, and many other hostile races (well, I was bored), only to find out that there is no benefit to it other than obtaining resources. You can’t engage an enemy homeland, because there is an “unlimited number” of alien craft protecting it, so combat other required plot-driven ones, practically have no use whatsoever.

    No Need #4: Allies
    Unless there are involved with the plot or have items that make your life easier, you really don’t have much need to be allied with all the races, as their alliance only consists of providing you with ships…which you don’t need anyway.

    No Need #5: Gather Resources and Explore
    [Repeating a bit] The primary reason why you need to explore is usually to gather resources. The primary reason why you need to gather resources is to buy additional technologies from the Melnorme or better modules for your ship. Now what happens when you’ve bought everything that needs to be bought? Boredom. This happened when I reached around 50,000 RU and I haven’t even explored 10% of the available planets.
Space Combat. Disaster: Total War
If it weren’t for this feature, I’d probably give this game a 5 out of 5 star rating. This feature single handedly focused all of my frustration on the entire game. The concept of space combat in this game is disastrous of moronic proportions. But before I’ll tell you why, I’ll first explain the combat features:

Space combat occurs (sometimes if you chose so to engage hostility) when your ship “collides” with another in hyperspace, normal space, or due plot events. Combat occurs in a top-down setting, between a ship of your choice and an enemy ship. Besides the both ships, there are other objects present, such as a planet, which has a high gravity field – pulling you towards (beneficial for the gravity whip maneuver, or damages you if you collide with it) and asteroids, which do not damage but may change the course or speed of your ship.

The object of the game is simple; to damage the ship until it is destroyed. What is different however is that you do not engage in structural damage (it does not exist); the strength of a ship is identified with how many crew members it has. A ship with zero crew will explode.

During combat, both ships, depending on their special armaments may fire energy weapons, missiles, use shields, send space marines, or other special abilities. Ships may turn and maneuver, if a ship moves across the edge of the screen, they emerge on the other side of the screen, with the enemy ship always at the opposite…so you basically cannot “run” away from a ship since there is a maximum distance, you can however “escape” by initiating a hyperspace sequence, which will leave you vulnerable to attack during its initiation.

Now the whys:
    Camera/Maneuver Chaos
    If the ship cannot stop or reverse in real-time combat, well that’s no big thing. I consider it just “added difficulty,” with minor irritation. The first major irritation however, is the combat camera and how it affects maneuverability features in the game.

    In combat, the camera always focuses on the middle distance between your ship and the enemy ship. So even if the enemy ship is cloaked, you’ll always know which area it is, although not quite the exact location. There is no “running away” from the enemy ship, it’s like you’re moving in a circular tunnel instead of third dimensional space, where-ever you move, it will ultimately be to the direction of the enemy ship.

    Now the problem with the camera display is that you have no where of knowing you ships “speed”, because when the enemy is moving, you appear to move as well. So maneuverability in this game is basically adapting to the enemy’s movement. When you come to close to the enemy, the camera zooms in to a closer shot of you and the enemy, which helps in calculating the firing range of your weapons.

    Why is this problem? Actually, it’s not. The problems with the camera, actually has devastating effects in relation to the next issue:

    The Uninvited Guest
    This is the first game I know, where I’m not “afraid” of the enemy. I’m afraid of background. What background? Planets.

    Planets have become the single and primary source of frustration within the game, you may find out that most damages inflicted to your ship is not because of the enemy ship’s combat expertise, but because of the planet colliding in to you. Please note that I said, the planet colliding, not you colliding with the planet.

    Because of the camera display, you will always appear to be moving, even when you’re not. Now the problem is, you really can’t see what objects are on the other side of the “screen”. So when you’re moving to the edge of the screen, there is a change that a planet will show up out of no where crashing into your ship…even when you think you’re not really moving (or moving real slow). This is really frustrating when you’re in close combat with and enemy ship (either in retreat or you retreating) and wham! a planet shows up bumping into you.

    The problem with planets is because of the sheer will of the developers to adapt the “planet whip” feature. The planet whip feature is an orbital stratagem where a ship uses the planet’s gravity to propel it around the planet. For this to work, the planet has a tremendously strong gravity field. So even a slow moving ship will be drawn in to the planet. So you can imagine what will happen to fast moving ship with a hidden planet at the edge of the next screen.

    What was even more frustrating, I tried to do a “work-around” that later confirmed my suspicions of the developer’s fetish for whips. I tried to engage enemy ships out in open space, in sectors with the closest planet billions of light years away. Surely that would save me from the irritating planet feature. But what do I get in space combat? Another planet! Egad, it’s following me! The darn planet is following me in space!
So that practically killed any form of excitement I had for space combat, as it’s an extremely stupid concept when you have to focus more on dodging planets than you have to dodging enemy ships.

The Bottom Line

It's the kind of game you'd like to play the first several hours. The next more several hours however, will be your lasting impression of the game. This game will suit well for gamers that live classic adventure and story, and seeing that this game is by far a far twist from traditional adventure settings, it is indeed a refreshing treat for the adventure genre lovers.

Gamers who were expecting a serious strategy game however, will be severely disappointed by the lack of strategic elements this game has to offer, so for strategy lovers, don't be fooled by the "strategy vibe" this game may resonate for the first several hours of gameplay.

Regardless, considering the time period of when it was released, may well be one of the games that define the course of what games are today. And if anyone's wondering, the game is very much playable by "today's" standards.