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Atari Gravitar
Written by  :  APFelon (21)
Written on  :  Aug 02, 2005
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  0.6 Stars0.6 Stars0.6 Stars0.6 Stars0.6 Stars

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Enraging on every level

The Good

I won't mince words here. I hated this game, and I still hate it with every fiber of my being. I have bought some really lousy games over the years, but Star Control 3 is the one I think of when I think about absolute wastes of time and money. The one glimmer, iota if you will, of glee Star Control 3 gave me was when I plucked it off of the store shelf, brought it to the register, and bought it. I had THE sequel to my beloved Star Control II in my hands, and I drove 120 miles round trip to get it. Star Control II has a universe so rich and deep that it would take a team of the worlds largest collection of numbskulls to screw up the sequel.

Enter Legend Entertainment.

The Bad

If I had written this at the time when I removed the Star Control 3 CD from my CD tray and chucked it across the room, I could have written an encyclopedia length entry here. But let's start with what I remember now, and as my blood pressure rises, I may remember more.

When I first opened the box, I noticed a very barren manual. Sure, it told me how to play the game, but I was looking for a little more. The Star Control II manual (like the Star Control I manual) had a backstory and background in order to prime the player to enjoy the immersive environment of the game. Not only did Star Control 3 NOT have that included in the manual (to any significant degree), it also included a (apparently) hastily printed addendum on a small slip of paper warning of a bug. Basically, it said if you wanted to play Star Control HyperMelee over a LAN, DON'T HIT THE PLANET because the session will fall out of sync. In essence, they pretty much said that a major advertised feature of the game (network play) was broken and by scrawling this disclaimer on a slip of paper, they absolved themselves of the crummy coding and had no intention to fix it. Since I wanted to play the game on Kali, I was a little disappointed. Disappointed even before I had even got home and unleashed this horrible game on my PC's hard drive. Not a good sign.

The ships were so incredibly unbalanced in Hypermeelee that it was possible to have fights where the battle would NEVER end. There is a defensive Crux ship that would spawn shields and has virtually no offensive weapons. If this ill-conceived ship fought a ship with light offensive weapons (or Heaven forbid, ITSELF) the fight could last for hours, or even DAYS if allowed to play out. Some of the new ships were useless beyond belief, and they ripped out several Star Control II ships for no apparent reason (aside from the fact that they weren't races represented in the game... but Star Control II put in ships like the Androsynth and the Chmmr despite their absence as space faring races in the Star Control II adventure game. Star Control 3 had neither. No Thraddash, Zot Fot Piq, Supox, ad nauseum).

The 3D battle mode was next to worthless, in that worthless would be a step up. The perspective was so askew that fighting in this mode was like an exercise in banging your face against concrete.

I could go on about Hypermelee, but I'll just boil it down to "dreadful" and "complete waste of time". My friends and I used to play Star Control I and II hypermelee for hours, laughing and having a good time. After a hour with Star Control III, they never wanted to play it again.

SO, let's move on the the adventure part of the game.

If you have read the other reviews, you'll know that Star Control III is just a retelling of Star Control II. The Utwig break their Ultron. The Ur Quan start fighting the Kor-Ah. But it gets worse than that. The original ideas they DID have just stink. The Mycon have rebellious youth who get all whiny and feel like picking daisies. You meet a race of bacteria who have taken up residence in a cow (that was native to your homeworld) and travel space for some reason. The Crux races seem to have no idea what was going on around them . For example, I had most of the Crux races allied with me, and the "lead baddie" Crux leader race hyperjumps in and tells me how bad the war is going for me (despite the fact he only had about THREE original races in his alliance and I was kicking thier rear ends every time we met). It all felt so derivitive, so scripted, so outright unpolished.

So let's talk muppets. One of the big selling points I saw for this game in the ad copy was that the aliens were designed by professional Hollywood puppeteers. I would like to know what other work these guys have done, because the puppets are really lousy. I mean, they're not sock puppets by any stretch, but some of the effects and attempts would be laughable if they weren't so annoying. The humanoid characters (human and Syreen) look like they were born with some bizarre soft-skull disease. There is a race of aliens that eat these fuzzy things that perch on their shoulders (for some reason these creatures live to be eaten by those alien lizard guys) so they dash into their open mouthes as though they were fetching gold bars from the lizard's throat. You could almost see the string pulling the fuzzy things, and Cookie Monster of Sesame Street fame looks more convincing eating a cookie than these lizard guys eating those suicidal fuzzy creatures. If the guys constructing the puppets were professionals, the puppets must have been thrown together on some drunken weekend without the proper tools or materials.

Which leads us to the voice talent. In all, it is pretty amateurish (the budget must have gone towards constructing those puppet monstrosities) but the one that really stands out in my mind is the Doog. As you may have guessed, the creatively named Doog are a canine race that looks like a cross between a bulldog and a cromagnon.The guy doing the voiceover sounded as though he wanted me to "tell him about the rabbits" as he stroked a dead mouse in his pocket. Despite thier portrayal as the most dimwitted race in the game, the Doog had somehow mastered the art of interstellar warfare. They constructed a ship that would tear nearly every other ship to ribbons without doing anything more than holding down their fire button. The best ships in the game, like the Avatar, would be no match for a Doog ship piloted by the worlds worst pilot. Which leads to a certain disconnect between the race and the ship they fly. Sure, the Doog sounded like Lenny, but man oh man could they construct a ship like no ones business.

And the music... oh Lord the music. After being enthralled by the MODs of Star Control II, Star Control 3 followed it up by offering us MIDI. Yes, the same music that was the staple of every teenage web designers website back in those days were now tinningly chiming their way from my computer speakers to my ears. Aside from being annoying and dislikable, they were forgetable in every respect (in comparison, I can hum nearly every Star Control II tune despite the fact that I haven't played the game for over ten years).

So let's move on to technical support. I know if you get your hands on a copy of Star Control III, you won't have the luxury of having your questions fielded by a crack team of support specialists standing by the phones at every waking hour, and ready to pounce on every e-mail arrival chime. Well, I bought this game brand spankin' new on the day it was released, and I didn't have that luxury either. I encountered a "show stopper" bug which would not allow the game to continue, so I fired off a rather curt e-mail. My comments and questions were ignored wholesale. I pointed out bugs, inconsistancies, and quality control issues. I asked questions and tried to get them to tell me how I could continue my game (a trigger failed to happen, so the game could not continue past the point I was at despite trying for endless hours to figure out what I was missing... I finally realized I didn't miss anything, it was simply a show-stopping bug). I had apparently bought an orphaned piece of software. Orphaned seven days after wide release. While this is more common nowadays, this was the first time I encountered it. After waiting and firing off some follow up messages, I realized that Legend wasn't going to support this "space opera extrordinarre" and I hurled the CD from the drive.

Yes, I said I encountered a show-stopper bug. I am surprised none of the other reviewers on Mobygames have had this experience. Since this game was never patched, the bug is still out there somewhere, waiting to slap an unsuspecting player across the face. A piece of software can do nothing more insulting to a player than to end a game prematurely by not allowing them to continue past a certain point. My hours of gaming time were utterly wasted. In retrospect, I imagine that the bug may have been a blessing in disguise, as I can't help but to think that the game would have never gotten better. But just as I sit though a crummy film in the hope that it will somehow redeem itself, I had to try to play Star Control 3 through to the end. I never did, and I'd bet I spent my time doing better things back then. Like darning socks.

This game is garbage, through and through. While time may have dulled my rage at the creators of this product, I shall put out this warning: This game should not be bought or played by anyone at any time. If your time is a precious commodity yet you have the choice between playing this game and throwing playing cards into an overturned fedora, choose the later. It's time better spent.

The Bottom Line

Hm... How would I describe this game to others... While bad software and misburned CDs are often referred to as a "coaster", try to think of something more creative to do with the CD, manual and packaging of Star Control 3. While having your end table shielded from a cold beverage's condensation is a swell thing, it is a purpose far greater than this piece of crudware is worthy of.

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