Videogame Review: Star Control 2

I have never successfully convinced anyone to play Star Control 2.  I’m writing this now because I want you to understand that this game is immensely special and I lack the charisma of speech to deliver this message but I’m going to try anyway.  This is one of those games I replay every couple years because I love it so much.

Star Control 2 is an open space (as in outer space) RPG with a somewhat non-linear story where you make decisions that will change the process to how you arrive at the end.  Game play consists of conversation trees, space exploration, mineral mining, space ship customization, and space ship combat.   Star Control 2 was released for the PC in 1992 and is currently free for PC and updated to work on pretty much any OS (http://sc2.sourceforge.net/).

Describing the introduction sequence to Star Control 2 is somewhat difficult, as it was very ahead of its time and there are story elements and choices that are all present that I do not want to spoil.  Essentially the player character starts out with a rare artifact spaceship from a race known as the Precursors.  The galaxy has been caught up in a war between the Urquan and the Kohr-Ah.  Various races have been forcefully recruited in this war or simply confined to their home world by way of  a red slave shield.  The player character teams up with the head of the starport orbiting the now enslaved Earth to save the universe.  Or sell all the ships’ crew into Drudge (another alien race) slavery for profit.  This was an extremely innovative game at the time of its release and many of the ideas used in this game are still trying to be implemented to this day.

Star Control 2 is subtlety open ended.  While the ending does not change, which races march into battle with the player does based on the decisions and actions and explorations the player makes.  Almost every conversation the player enters has dialog options and oftentimes more than three.  The response is shown in its entirety and at any time during the conversation the player can view the conversation in its entirety.

A large part of the game is based in exploration.  There are literally hundreds of solar systems to visit to search for minerals, alien races, and lost technology.  Gas is used and will have to be purchased and there are even multiple vendors to buy gas from.  All the vendors have deals they are willing to make to bring their prices down.  This is one of the old school where you will absolutely need a notepad and pen nearby to take notes for solar system coordinates and anomaly coordinates.  I should also give warning that the game is limited to 4 four years time. so too much exploring and you’ll automatically lose when the Urquan or Kohr-Ah win the war.  Four years is still quite a bit of time but if hyperspace is the fastest form of travel the player uses well…  it might be quite a bit harder to make that deadline.  The four year time limit also makes it extremely hard to explore every solar system.

Now I know I wrote something that will automatically turn off Mass Effect 2 fans.  Yes traversing planets for minerals is part of the game.  No its nothing like Mass Effect 2 but I do imagine Bioware had Star Control 2 in mind when they started the Mass Effect franchise.  Every planet in every solar system except for the gas giants and enslaved worlds are explorable.  A lander is used to…  well land on the surface of the planet and the minerals are repsented by different colored dots.  A color spectrum is used to identify the minerals worth the most with gray being the most worthless and  red representing some of the more valuable.  Minerals are the currency with most races and also used at the base to upgrade the flagship, hire more crew, or purchase additional ships for your fleet.

The catch is surviving in the lander long enough to get the minerals.  Every planet has weather, temperature, and tectonic conditions.  Some planets even have native life, although not all native life is hostile.  Certain races will even trade for data on alien life so capture is always an option as well.  The lander can be upgraded through the proper vendors or traders.  A quick scan before landing will reveal this information.  The hit point equivalent in the game is in crew.  The lander can only hold a certain amount of crew and the flagship’s number of crew held is dependent on how many crew modules are purchased.

The point of mining minerals besides upgrading your lander and purchasing additional crew is to customize your flagship.  Again new technology can be traded for and can only be found by interacting with alien races and exploring.  The flagship can be equipped with lots of guns.  Yes that is obvious.  But the guns have a recharge rate so dynamos need to be purchased to increase reload speed.  And the more guns and dynamos are on the ship the less room there is for crew pods, fuel cells, and mineral storage tanks.  The direct speed and turn speed of the ship can also be increased.  There is also the option for secondary weapons among them laser defense for those pesky Urquan battle crusiers that like to shoot out their crew in tiny miniature spaceships, not unlike certain Star Craft Protoss vehicles.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have an Urquan vessel in your crew?  I wonder if you can find one…

The story is an adventure story.  While there isn’t the dark, private emotional depth of today’s mass murdering main characters, there is the humor and adventure experienced in Indiana  Jones or Star Trek.  There are also many hints at a much larger universe than the already staggering size that can be explored in Star Control 2.

The original Star Control was simply a space ship one on one fighting game, really just a prototype for one aspect of Star Control 2.  There is absolutely no need to play the first game to play the second.  I know some will cry blasphemy but imagine if the next Street Fighter game were suddenly an open world game where your character could climb buildings, develop skills and techniques, and take part in an immersive story.  This is the difference between Star Control 1 and 2.

The fights are all done as one on one spaceship battles.  The battle works from overhead and asteroids and possibly a planet or two will more than likely be present.  Each ship has its own primary and sub weapon.  The Pkunk for instance have a chance to resurrect themselves after dead.  The Spathi have a rear missile to fire while they run away.  Many encounters will have multiple enemy spacceships.  The battle is over either when the player loses their flagship, all enemy ships are defeated, or the player runs away.

I cannot recommend this game enough.  And please if you do try it, come back and let me know what you think.  Yes the graphics are old but the music, gameplay, and story is fantastically fun.  And its FREE (see the link at the beginning of the review)!  Did any of that work?  Any of it?  Okay there is sex in this game.  There I said it!  Go play!

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About MusiM
Musician, writer, Gundam model hobbyist, video game lover, host of The Carousel Podcast, and all with a day job.

2 Responses to Videogame Review: Star Control 2

    • MusiM says:

      Definitely let me know what you think of it. I’m highly curious as to what people think of this game, especially if its their first time playing it.

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