Critic Reviews add missing review
Average score: 81% (based on 26 ratings)
Average score: 4.0 out of 5 (based on 95 ratings with 11 reviews)
The elegant title "Starflight" is a fitting evocation of this perfect space exploration sim's scope. Discover unique and fabulous alien races? Explore massive planets for ruins, minerals and powerful artifacts? Train an expert crew and patch together the most powerful ship in the galaxy? Decode lost layers of history that combine to form an exciting and profoundly effective sci fi plot? It's all here! It's all great! And it's all addictive.
One very affecting and glorious element present in all of Starflight's aspects is its concept of freedom. Freedom to explore, freedom to interact, freedom to do things your way at your own pace. The game can be completed almost instantly given the appropriate knowledge. The exciting part of the game is acquiring that knowledge, and it is provided in such a way that it makes full use of the player's imagination.
The player first gathers a crew, and launches from Spaceport to explore the galaxy. Immediately the player is provided with a few subtle hints about nearby alien activity and mysterious ruins on a local planet. From there, the universe of this game is a sandbox. But it isn't a "sandbox" in the increasingly dull "sim" mold, and it cheerfully sidesteps the disappointing "you found a +2 item!" reward systems or soulless "signpost" characters of most open-ended RPGs. It is immersive without stunning graphics, it is freewheeling despite the plot's linear nature, and it is incredibly convincing and addictive due to smart design. By far the critical component to all this success is that the game is designed to make demands on the player's imagination. The return on those demands is absolutely extraordinary.
The density of history in the game is a major factor. Evocative ruins and ancient messages are strewn all over the galaxy, with many planets providing evidence of either the seemingly inscrutable ancient civilization, or the decayed might of the Old Earth empire. As in epic Greek or Renaissance drama, events of such tantalizing grandeur cannot be effectively shown in the medium, so they are hinted at. A fragment of a message here, some information about the last base of an extinct planet-destroying invader race there, tips from the insect Veloxi captains about past galactic wars or a grand artifact of the ancients--all these leave the full visualization or conceptualization of the events to the player's imagination, which does a far better job with a little direction than any team of artists or writers could hope to accomplish.
Gamers make this point often with regard to text-based games, or games like Rogue or NetHack--sometimes a crude red "D" can inspire more fear and wonder in a player than a 3d bump/normal-mapped skeletally-animated dragon with four layers of texture/UV mapping, 5.1 roars and particle effect fiery breath. But that's not all--even given the best graphics money can buy, the story or background in modern games is often just spat out at the player in full detail, with disappointing cutscenes to fill in all the gaps, leaving the imagination no room to work its individualized magic. To make a geeky example, think how much more evocative and fascinating the Clone Wars seemed when their realization in the viewer's head was solely based on a few hinting lines of dialogue from Star Wars. And then think how dull and lacking in spirit all that heretofore fascinating past history became when fully realized and explained in film. A tragedy, I say! Trust in imagination is in dangerously short supply when producers and directors think they can show -everything-, down to the minutest detail and up to the most epic scope. As in all the best art, the creator should suggest a path for the imagination to go, and from even the crudest hints at form or ideas are wonderfully and magically filled in. This allows a productive dialogue between the creator -and- the audience, as opposed to the whole experience being defined under the purposed domination of the former. Feh!
All of Starflight works towards this end. The major plot is great in and of itself. The history of the ancients and the final truth of their existence is absolutely bursting with imaginative possibilities for the player, with no need to spell them out didactically. Knowledge of the Old Earth empire leads to fascinating artifacts, excavations of old battlefields, and the anthropological adventure of charting out an ancient civil war led by a human rebel named Harrison. The deadly secret of the silent and vicious Uhlek provides a great sideplot and the setting for Starflight's marvelous sequel all in one masterstroke. All this historical knowledge is not merely window dressing--it allows the player to unlock new areas in the game, discover useful items, and feel as though they are experiencing a living, breathing galaxy.
On that note each alien race has a personality not so much created by the semi-random blocks of text they spit out mechanically, but by the gaps in those blocks of text that the player is carefully guided to fill in.
A perfect example is the Spemin. The player at first may adopt an obsequious or friendly tone to these space blobs, but it quickly becomes apparent that they are fatuous bullies, and it's best to stand up to them. The wonderful shift in their attitude is fairly simple in terms of the programming, but to the player it is an intensely enjoyable (and very humorous) reward for figuring something out. It isn't a soulless item with increasingly higher arbitrary numbers that is your reward for most of the exploring you do in the game, it's a sense of accomplishment and more useful knowledge about the galaxy and its history, and the deadly threat that may exterminate almost all its denizens. The idea of the kind and wise Elowan or the cheerful but arrogant Veloxi going up in a puff of stardust means something to the player. Not because the player is told this should mean something, but because the player has decided it does.
There are so many unique planets to explore. So many colonizable worlds to recommend back to Starport for $$ and fame, so many cute asides from the developers (Rodium? Xenon and Borno? :-P), so much history and love in the game setting--it's just a wonder and a joy to play. Discovering Old Earth and its outposts, landing on a beautiful fractal world for the first time, fighting off humanoid hoppers and collecting valuable artifacts whilst finding old ruins and revealing last messages of lost civilizations. Greatness!
Modern game designers should take a close look at this game, and ask themselves what makes it so wonderful to so many different players. New players are discovering it and falling in love with it all the time, and it can truly be described as an ageless game.
All the negative aspects in the end don't detract too much from the overall experience. The battle sequences are often pretty mindless, the mineral-mining aspect is a little too boring (though it is easily bypassed by instead searching for colonizable worlds for much more $$), and the ending is too short. You sometimes wish for your interactions with the alien races to have more lasting effects, but in the end this is understandable given the limitations of the era and of course keeping possibilities open to the player.
The Bottom Line
It is an interstellar tapestry on two 5.25" disks. It is love and imagination in blocky CGA. It is a glimpse of epic galactic history in fractals. It is the ultimate player experience, filled to bursting by Binary Systems with wit, love, and the most rewarding forms of interactivity. It cannot and will -never- be surpassed. It is an epochal masterwork for all fans of adventure or open-ended gameplay. There are two kinds of gamers--those who pay eternal homage to Starflight and those who haven't played it.
DOS · by J. P. Gray (115) · 2007
The Sega Genesis port of the DOS game Starflight is most probably the best version of this stellar game. The graphics got a major boost, and all the content is here.
Scientists in your home colony have just discovered that your system's sun is going to go nova, and so you are given a barebones ship and the task of finding other colonizable worlds....But there's more to the story than that. It's quite good, I won't spoil it.
Essentially, this game plays a lot like Star Control 2. You explore a truly massive sector of the galaxy, entering over 270 solar systems, and exploring over 700 planets. You can land on these planets to mine for minerals, capture specimens, and occasionally find rare and useful alien artifacts, which can be used to endow your ship with extremely useful alien powers. As you make money, you can upgrade your ship, your landing craft, and hire and train better crew members. There are several alien races to contact and deal with, and you can make friends or enemies of them by your actions.
The sound and music are good but unremarkable. The ending isn't spectacular, but you don't really play this game just so you can get to the ending. The game can be difficult if you're not careful, but that's probably not a negative point for most people.
The Bottom Line
This game is truly staggering in size, enormously addictive, deep, and non-linear. Certainly one of the best Genesis games out there, not to mention one of the better PC-to-console ports I've seen.
Genesis · by phanboy_iv (84) · 2008
This game helped begin a long love for computer gaming, and why not? It had everything that makes a great game great, from the wonderful storytelling, the great aliens, the rpg-type elements and customization, and exploration, all helped to make this the classic it is.
This game had a whole universe on two, LOW density 5 1/4' floppies, and that universe was yours to explore. This is one game where you never felt pushed or pressured to go somewhere, as you could basically do what you wanted, and eventually you'd catch up with the main plot at some point.
This game kept me up for days straight, and it's a game I still play this very day. It, and its sequel, are my favorite computer games of all time, and will remain to be so until something comes along to replace it, which is highly unlikely.
Nothing worth mentioning.
The Bottom Line
This is an exploratory sci-fi rpg with great storytelling and humor. You begin by creating your own custom crew and ship, then taking your crew out into the universe, where wonderful delights and terrible dangers awaited you. It's a game that takes a lot of time and patience, but one that will reward you with some of the best fiction to grace a computer...ever. If you can find a copy of this game anywhere, which would be difficult, don't hesitate to pick it up immediately.
DOS · by Brian Rubin (22) · 1999
Tremendous depth and space-opera quality. Wonderful story line, and wide-open choices for setting up your ship and crew. Absolutely non-linear. You could star-travel wherever you wanted to in their universe. How cool is that??? I cannot name another game before or since that lets you explore exciting (or boring!) star systems and planets... But pretty soon you started getting clues that you had to perform some tasks. Wonderful story there...
It was very easy to get killed if you weren't careful. The save game feature absolutely sucked. Replay value was poor.
The Bottom Line
Rich interstellar story-telling and adventure. Great gameplay!
DOS · by ex_navynuke! (42) · 2005
When we review and rate old games we commonly fall into a trap. We let ourselves be misled by nostalgia; we see a game through rose colored glasses which causes us to believe that a game is something that it is not.
The best example I can find of this phenomenon is Dune II. Dune II is highly praised by gamers for being what many believe to be the first true RTS. However, Dune 2000, an improved version of Dune II is loathed almost universally; What a Paradox! What hypocrisy!
Gamers will often rationalize this hypocrisy by claiming “this game was innovative,” or “this game was influential.” This line of reasoning does not hold water though. Not all good games become influential (ex. One Must Fall 2097), and even the most innovative games are not always good (ex. Star Crusader). Also sometimes downright bad games can become influential (ex. Super Mario 64 [before the flames start in, consider how you don’t see great games like Keen4, Jazz Jackrabbit, or Sonic 2 anymore]), and games that are devoid of innovation can be acclaimed as the best of in their genre (Ex. Freespace 1&2). It comes down to this: The true test of a game’s worth is the test of time.
Starflight is a game that I know for a fact stands the test of time as I first played the game a mere two years ago. Despite the fact Starlight was made in 1986 it quickly became my favorite game. Starflight gives the players a completely open ended and huge universe to explore and there are literally hundreds of hours of game play to be enjoyed. When I played Starflight I could not help but feeling as if I’m physically in a starship, exploring unknown worlds and unraveling the mysteries of the universe. Speaking of unraveling the mysteries of the universe, the story line in Starflight is as good as I’ve ever seen in a game… and there is a ton of interesting sub-plots to as well. Quite simply, graphics and sound aside, Starflight does everything right.
If you're a graphics whore it might be hard for you to get into this game.
The Bottom Line
If you consider yourself to be anything closely resembling a hardcore game, then drop everything you're doing and play this game!
DOS · by Jeffrey Graw (8) · 2010
This game opened many doors in the industry, including the epic space exploration game (see Star Control 2 for the latest and best iteration of this concept) and the "man-years" required to make such a game. The ending is also one of the most impressive and influential story devices in the genre.
The artifacts were too hard to figure out what the heck they did, and the timelimit to finish the game seems cruel (but justified in hindsight.) Also, the "yes/no" ending choice really bothers me from a design aspect, since there is only one real choice.
The Bottom Line
Anyone interested in game history must play this game.
DOS · by Tony Van (2804) · 2000
I liked everything. It was a stunning, open world where you never felt pushed in any way. I was sitting around christmas 86/87 (or 87/88?) in the university (where not much was to do since it was short after christmas) and played it for hours and kept playing right after i returned home after my "work" ... ;-)
Even though, in todays view, the graphics are primitive as they were in the 80's, this game tied me up completely and what fun was it to collect materials on various planets and then shiver while returning them to starport.
Its hard to describe and i wish i once after this game had gotten this feeling back, and besides that Daggerfall came a little close and X seemed to be, i never had this experience again.
Really, i hope those folks on starflight3.net (.com) will finish their starflight 3!
I liked everything! There is nothing to dislike in this game.
The Bottom Line
Simple graphics but a very good storyline, a complete world where you can go as you want.
It is as open as Daggerfall.
The next one, Starflight 2, was almost as good.
But 1 had the real feeling!
DOS · by markus miller (2) · 2001
This game had everything going for it. It had character development, ship building, exploring, resource gathering, and space combat. It had hundreds of hours of gameplay, which is so hard to find in a game today. It had the endearing quality of "just one more hour before I quit" addictiveness. And all of this gameplay fit on two 360K disks. Game companies of today should take a lesson from this. I still consider this game my all time favorite, and it is 14 years old now. Hard to believe it has been that long, (and don't include the sequel, because it wasn't even half as good) and EA has never produced an update of any kind. I remember reading some time ago back in '94 that they were going to be producing Starflight 3, but nothing ever came of it. Everytime I buy an EA game, I put on my warranty card's additional comments field to "make a quality Starflight update".
That I just wanted more. I know this sounds greedy, but I couldn't believe the game was over when I blew up the grey planet. I kept looking for the next challenge, but that was it. You could keep playing, but by that point in time, your ship was fairly invincible, and you had more than enough money to keep you going. I felt that a part of my life was gone, and wished that there was more. I guess that this isn't a bad thing, but just thought the people should know.
The Bottom Line
Think of this game as the game that spawned Privateer, Privateer 2, the Star Control Series, Homeworld, Independence War, and many others. It encompasses resource gathering, space travel, space combat, crew development, and exploration. Everything you would find in a classic Star Trek episode. I even named my crew after the Enterprise crew members.
DOS · by mclazyj (28) · 2000
This game was like a dream to me when it came out. The sci-fi genre on TV wasn't there as it wasn't in gaming. But with Starflight, I could be the space explorer/adventurer. I had a crew (all of whom I named after TOS characters) and a spaceship. Now to mine local planets for money to train my crew and improve my ship. But this is only part of the charm of Starflight. The storyline was well done with the manual starting you off with a very interesting tale of his failed adventures (this also provides some clues on game play). I enjoyed learning about what happened to these humans on the planet Arth and their old empire as well as learning about the ancients.
Sometimes finding artifacts to help you could be tedious, especially if you didn't have a special artifact which would tell you where to land to find other unique artifacts. Also, once you solved the game, playing quickly became boring. Sure, you could bully all the races and destroy them at will. I actually managed to land on the Speimen (sp) home planet and destroy it. But once I'd done that, I had no more planet-killers and I never played again.
The Bottom Line
Bottom line, an entire quarter of college was wasted while I spent all my free time, class time, and even some work time playing this game. Ah, those were the days.
DOS · by AstroNerdBoy (35) · 2001
This game provides a freedom that other linear games do not. The story is there, and the items are placed. Should you stumble across them, they're yours. (I've actually done this). The story is ready for you to unfold as you figure it out.
Another thing I really enjoyed about this game is the way to acquire things. You mine planets for valuable minerals, and return them to Arth for money.
The bad parts of this game are, due to it's nature, it doesn't have much replay value. The ending is pretty unsatisfying, and there could have been more about the Uhlek to go into. The music is mostly non-existent, but what is there is good. The sound sucks, but I blame that on the Sega, not really the game.
The Bottom Line
It's a space adventure game where you can meet other races and get information via use of diplomacy. Sometimes you won't like what alien races have to say, and sometimes they won't like your response to what they have to say... unless you're a pushover. There's a lot of map to explore... It's a fun game. Recommended.
Genesis · by Paul Johnson (2) · 2002
I remember my best friend having this game, and I knew I wanted it. I eventually found it in Newfoundland for 50 Canadian Dollars. I bought it and waited 2 weeks (I was on vacation) to play.
Needless to say, I was awe-struck by the sheer HUGENESS of Starflight. 2 Disks, 800 Planets to explore! It set an standard for story-telling and non-linear gameplay. Game Publishers in this day and age should get copies of the game, and learn from it. You don't need a 90 fps frame rate and a 300+ MB install w/ 128 Meg of RAM to make a fantasic immersing game. Starflight has it all.
The Save Game Feature was a pain in the butt. If you crashed or ran out of fuel, and you didn't back up your game file in a long time, you could potentially have a HUGE amount of backtracking to do. Other that that it was excellent.
The Bottom Line
If you enjoy games that take more than 4 days to complete (and that's without cheat codes), and a storyline that will suck you in, and keep you there until the very end: Find Starflight, play it and enjoy it.
DOS · by Chris Martin (1169) · 2006
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Critic reviews added by S Olafsson, Patrick Floyd, Riemann80, SlyDante, Scaryfun, click here to win an iPhone9SSSS, Игги Друге, Alsy, Terok Nor, Jo ST, Patrick Bregger, Martin Smith, Tim Janssen, Big John WV, ZeTomes.