Star Control

aka: starcon
DOS Specs [ all ]
See Also
Buy on Amiga
Buy on Commodore 64
Buy on DOS
Buy on Genesis

Description official descriptions

Star Control is a science-fiction wargame which pits the forces of the Alliance of Free Stars against those of the predatory Ur-Quan Hierarchy. The games are designed so that you can ease into play, familiarizing yourself with menus, options and player controls. The Alliance and Hierarchy each possess different types of warships. Each vessel has its own maneuvering and firing characteristics, plus a unique special power that you can employ when circumstances dictate.

The game has two modules: the Melee, in which you can simply blast the computer or another player to smithereens using one of 16 different ships, in either Hierarchy or Alliance fleets; or, should you wish for a more challenging game, lets you play one of 9 preset scenarios.

Groups +



Credits (DOS version)

37 People (17 developers, 20 thanks) · View all



Average score: 65% (based on 25 ratings)


Average score: 3.5 out of 5 (based on 75 ratings with 9 reviews)

It's easy but it's fun. Two player games are memorable.

The Good
It has a cool sci-fi atmosphere (the great manual helps)

Only four different ships per side in this version but still adds replay value.

Supports 2 player hot-seat.

Lets you choose to focus on battles, management or both.

One of the best loading schemes I've seen (important if you play in a real spectrum )

The Bad
AI is not very smart even in hardest setting and when you master the battles, you will hardly lose a fight even vs better ships

The Bottom Line
Graphics are ok, the intro screen and battle intros are colorful and well-drawn. The ships are monochrome and make a bit of color-clash with the stars, but nothing serious. I wish it had bigger and more detailed ships, but maybe the spectrum doesn't allow more than what it's in the game.

The sound is functional. It lacks music but there is a lot of beeps and bops when you move the cursor in the strategic map or in the battle part when a ship fires, when laser or missile hits and so.

The one player game is nice to play if you try not to think how easy it's to win. If you have a minimum experience with shoot'em ups it will be no challenge to win every fight. And in the strategic plane I was never pushed or something like that.

Where this game shines is in two player game. When your opponent fights you back, and it's battled for every world. Alliance players may have the high ground, because in my opinion, their ships are better. Anyways, you can take it just like in chess. I must say though, that hierarchy ships are much funnier to play with.

ZX Spectrum · by Emlyn Hughes (14) · 2009

Great game for its day

The Good
At the time SC came out, it was unsurpassed in the depth of its play. Although the controls were fairly Arcade-like and simplistic, the balance of the different ships is nearly perfect. (and arguably unmatched even by SC2, which had a few too many ships) Not only was each ship completely distinctive, but the dynamics of the battle changed completely depending on which ships were in play. An Ur-Quan and a Chenjesu would have a long-distance slugging match without closing, whereas a Spathi and Arilou would have an insanely frenetic dogfight. And there was great joy in discovering particular strategies for each matchup. On a smaller note, the included strategy game section was entertaining, if simplistic.

The Bad
The AI is a bit dumb compared to SC2, but my guess is they programmed the AI in SC2 based on the more successful strategies discovered by players. (IE, the AI was about as good as could be expected) The rotating starfield in the strategy segment was INCREDIBLY difficult to learn, and many players never got the hang of it. (although if you could, it made the navigation a lot of fun)

The Bottom Line
Overall, this is a fun game with incredible amounts of replay ability. While it's easy to see all the game has to offer within a few hours, months could be spent exploring combat strategies.

DOS · by WizardX (116) · 2003

Great concept, painful implementation.

The Good
The Star Control series has quite possibly one of the best concepts and storylines used in a sci-fi game to date. The races, the interaction, the combat system, all very clever and unique. It's a game that leaves you craving it for years if you haven't played it in that time. And in Star Control 2 & 3, it just gets better.

The Bad
However, the reality is, Star Control 1 is actually pretty sad. I might even go so far as to say that if you played this over a decade ago and haven't seen it since, leave the past in the past and keep the pleasant memories. In reality, as great as the concept still is, the playability of this game leaves a lot to be desired. There is no set storyline or single player "campaign", just a set of individual - and fairly dull - combat scenarios. The rotating starmap is an instant headache, unless your idea of stargazing involves staring at your monitor for half an hour trying to work out which stars have a close enough orbit for a jump.

And last but not least, Star Control's biggest letdown is the Ur-Quan Dreadnought. While most games tend to balance their combat pieces strengths and weaknesses - ie. stronger units are often slow and bulky, units with a strong ranged attack are weak at close combat, etc. - the Dreadnought is undoubtedly strong to the point of an unfair advantage. In any and all scenarios that involve ship building, the player that controls the Hierarchy starbase and can build a Dreadnought, WILL win the scenario, be it a human opponent or the computer AI. The ship can wipe out any five other ships even in the hands of an incompetent player or the lowest difficulty AI.

The Bottom Line
If you have a craving to aggressively attack some Alliance aliens, or horrifically hurt some Hierarchy hostiles, play StarCon 2 or 3. They come with a detailed storyline campaign, a distinctly improved navigation and combat system, and a much higher overall playability while still retaining that unique Star Control feel. As for StarCon 1 though? Play it only if you want to see where it all began - otherwise, leave the past in the past.

DOS · by Vaelor (374) · 2005

[ View all 9 player reviews ]



The "special thanks" in the manual list off an equally large number of sci-fi authors whose work in some way influenced the game. It's fairly rare for game designers to be so rigorous in documenting their inspirations.


The vast majority of captain names in the game were taken from various famous and semi-famous sci-fi sources. (far too many to list here. For example, there's a Syreen Captain Alia (from Dune) and an Earth Captain Pike (from Star Trek))


From almost the very beginning of his video game design career, Paul Reiche III has revisited the theme of pitting varied teams of carefully balanced but widely varied opponents against each other, first in 1983's Archon and most recently in 1998's The Unholy War (and its Japanese analogue, Little Witching Mischiefs).

Star Control also falls in the middle of this chain, and its heritage is plainly spelled out phonetically in its abbreviation:

__Archon Star_Con


  • Computer Gaming World
    • November 1996 (15th anniversary issue) – #127 in the “150 Best Games of All Time” list

Information also contributed by Pseudo_Intellectual

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Star Control 3
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Star Control: Origins
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Star Control Collection
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Star Control: Origins - Reinforcements
Released 2018 on Windows
Released 2019 on PlayStation 4
Released 2019 on PlayStation 4
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Star Control: Origins - Multiverse DLC
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Related Sites +

  • ComSim Central
    Info on getting the game, and lots of scenarios for the full game.
  • The Dot Eaters
    The Dot Eaters: Videogame History 101 An extensive history of videogames, including computer games and the work of Paul Reiche and Freefall Associates.
  • The Pages of Now and Forever
    This site could perhaps be called the heart of the Star Control fan movement on the 'net.

Identifiers +


Are you familiar with this game? Help document and preserve this entry in video game history!

Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Tomer Gabel.

Genesis added by PCGamer77. ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC added by Martin Smith. Amiga, Commodore 64 added by Servo.

Additional contributors: Ben Voynick, RmM, Ummagumma, WizardX, Ricky Derocher, Patrick Bregger.

Game added August 11th, 1999. Last modified August 17th, 2023.