Rescued from our now-defunct Archives site, these threads chronicle some of the Squad's earliest missions. If you've played any of these games, feel free to jump in and add some modern thoughts!

Star Control II

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Angry Jedi

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Star Control II

by Angry Jedi » Wed Jul 09, 2014 12:44 pm

Published by: Accolade
Developed by: Toys for Bob
Genre: Spacefaring RPG
Platform: PC, 3DO, OS X, Linux
Rating: ESRB E (US)
Original release date: 30 Nov 1992
SoS mission date: 29 Jan 2007

Where to get it: Star Control 2 was released into the open source community a while back by its developers, under the condition that the “Star Control” title (the copyright for which is held elsewhere) was dropped. You can pick up an updated version for every home computer system you’d care to mention here. For FREE!

Original briefing by Beige (29/01/2007)

Allright Squad, Listen up. Capn' Pishu has given me the privelege of breaking down Star Control 2 for all the rank and file, and I couldn't be happier. This next mission is an assignment near and dear one to my heart, friends. Let me spell it out:

Allow me to speak freely for a moment. Personally. I can count on one hand (without even resorting to the thumb) the number of games whose name I utter with genuine reverence. Star Control 2 is one of those games. I'm talkin' here about a game who casts a shadow longer than Gus McRae standing on Roland Deschane's shoulders -- a game so respected and so beloved by all who have played it that more than a decade after its release it is still being meticulously preserved, tweaked, refreshed, and made playable on modern hardware by a dedicated cult of faithful devotees. I'm talking a game who consistently gets rated one of the best games of all time by critics and fan commentators alike, despite being a play exerience largely incomparible to any other. John Davison himself described the experience as being one of those game literacy fundamentals. The reason you don't see other games like Star Control 2 these days is because they broke the fuckin' mold after they poured and printed the copy.

SC2 was maybe the first game that I obsessed about -- I mean TRULY obsessed about, back in the day. We've all been there. For me, memories of SC2 are inextricible from my grade 10 self back in 1992, sitting spellbound in a bathrobe, spooning cheerios into my mouth as I sat in front of the computer for 48 hours straight. I was drawn into its enormous universe, captivated by its memorable characters and crazy races. Pushed into zenlike states of consciousness by the wonderfully balanced Super-Melee ship fighting system. Oh yeah, SC2. It's a hell of a ride.

First of all, know this and recognize this: The opening movie of Star Control 2 tells you everything you need to know. About 30 or so years ago, Human vessels began to head out of our Solar System, into the wide universe. First stop on their colonization tour was Earth's next door neighbor. This is the world where you, the player character, were born.

On this little world there also happened to be something very cool -- a secret factory (lost for millions and millions of years) where the ancient Precursors stashed some of their secret archeotech. Over the last 20 or so years, humans have figured out how to flip the power on to this crazy place. As the game opens, the factory has just completed the purpose that it was built for: The creation of the biggest, baddest, most butt-kicking and hugest spaceship the universe has ever seen. It's precursor technology, so of course nobody understands what the hell it does or why it was being hidden in pieces on some nowhere world -- but that doesn't matter! You're the captain and you get to drive it. First order of business -- fire up those crazy alien engines and drive this bad boy around the block and back to Planet Earth, where you can show it off to all the long-lost relatives that you said goodbye to 30 or so years ago.

Only one problem. See, when you actually make it back to Earth... well, there's kinda this giant red *shell* around the whole planet... The game's plot takes it from that point onwards. You'll see.

So what is Star Control 2? It's the game that's gonna be mentioned up the yin-yang by way of comparison when Mass Effect launches. It's a game that's unlike anything else you've probably ever played. Sci-Fi character driven universe-spanning epic quest? Check. Fast and furious goofy arcade action? Check. Planetary exploration and resource management? Check. It's a game where you explore star systems in your phatt-ass spaceship, befriend (or kill) numerous weird and crazy alien races, discover the long-buried secrets of the galaxy and save Earth and the universe.

Best of all, it's totally free to play, thanks to the efforts of the aforementioned coder cult. You can download the whole damn game totally free from here, PC, mac or Linux. Just get the installer file, run it, and you're good to go (just remember to fullscreen it) It's the whole damn thing just as it was back in the day. Sure once somebody owned the rights to this production but that was long ago, baby. Totally open source! Even better : the current version of Star Control 2 (called the Ur-Quan masters) has sweet sound packs from the 3D0 version of the game that were never included in the original PC release. Now you too can hear the Kohr-Ah recite that immortal line "My trophy bone pit" in realtime! Frungy FTW.

Things you should know about Star Control 2: (aka tips for enjoying the ride)

-- This game was produced back in the day when men were men and hand-holding was for old ladies getting chaperoned across the street. SC2 is like a fine woman -- beautiful and charming but neglect her or start getting distracted and she's bound to leave you hurt and bleeding. From the moment that the single-player campaign starts, you are on a timer. Maybe you don't know it yet, but you are. Respect this fact. The universe moves at its own steady pace. Things happen, races and cultures collide, do their thing, whatnot. It's their universe -- you're just flying a hugeass spaceship though it as it moves. Dick around long enough, waste enough time, DON'T be heroic and lo and behold, the bad guys totally will win. Don't say I didn't warn you.

-- It's also totally possible to fail SC2 permanently and without even realizing it at the time by doing something stupid. Often this fact will not be made clear for several hours of gameplay. If your first contact with an alien species is to open fire before opening hailing frequencies, expect that race to be at war with you for the rest of the game. This is bad news if you find out you suddenly need their help. That goes double for firing on poor innocent ships who contain the sole survivor of a near-extinct race. That ESC key will flee from battle if you're unsure of what to do. Use it.

-- Write EVERYTHING that sounds interesting down somewhere. I'm serious. If some diplomatic emissary offhandedly mentions that they saw a blip one day heading westward in the general direction of Alpha Tucanae, that will likely be the ONLY clue you will ever get that something important is there.

-- With these facts in mind, SAVE OFTEN, in multiple slots.

-- Star Control 2 has two modes. The big roleplaying sci-fi space adventure, and Super Melee-- the fast and fun multiplayer battle mode. Play Super Melee. Play it often. Play it against Hard Cyborg opponents (or even better your real world friends). Even if you don't dig on gigantic spacefaring RPG action adventures, play Super Melee. It's hella fun.

Here's why: As you play the game, every now and then you'll get the opportunity to pick up alien ships or do some kind of cool trade that will get you some wacky ride of your own. THESE WILL PROBABLY BE THE ONLY SHIPS OF THEIR KIND YOU WILL EVER GET THE CHANCE TO AQUIRE DURING THE GAME. Don't be a chump and squander them senselessly because you don't know how to fly one. Play Super Melee. Build yourself a team of just one single type of ship and practice against every type of opponent. Understand the paper/rock/scissors mechanics of how each ship works. Sun-Tsu shit. If you understand yourself and your enemy in battle, then you will never be in danger, even in a thousand fights. When you understand an Arilou Skiff inside and out you will be able to kill hundreds and hundreds of Mycon Podships as if they were chaff in the wind.

Star Control 2.

FRUNGY FRUNGY FRUNGY!

-Beige Out

Squad Archivist Report

Star Control 2 is the quintessential example of how to do a space game right. Rather than focusing tightly on one particular element of floating around the cosmos (combat, trading, exploration, seducing women with primary-colour skin), SC2 fuses all these things together into one utterly captivating whole - the very thing a Star Trek game should be, in essence, and, ironically, the one thing a Star Trek game to date hasn’t really done properly.

To give you an idea of the high regard that this game is held in, the fact that the Sourceforge community responsible for updating the game to run under Windows, Mac OS X and Linux is still very active and constantly making the game better and more stable should tell you something. This is a genuine “essential” game - one which every gamer owes it to themself to at least try out and understand what it means to do a game like this RIGHT.

SC2’s biggest strength is in its variety and its staunch refusal to conform to the “norms” of gaming. One moment you’re engaging in diplomacy with alien races in order to attempt to get them to join your alliance against the evil Ur-Quan. The next you’re scouring the surface of planets in your tiny little lander in order to harvest resources to use in building up your flagship and fleet. The next you’re engaging in high-stakes ship-to-ship combat against unknown alien ships.

Squad members exploring the game for the first time and revisiting the game alike remarked on the patience involved in the game - the Earth Starbase commander who becomes your primary point of contact for building your fleet remarks towards the start of the game that you may wish to spend a year of game time just collecting resources and building alliances in order to be strong enough to face the challenges ahead. There’s no “Get to it, Soldier!” here - this is a game which demands (and rewards) patience.

That said, there is also a time limit to your actions. Unfortunately, due to the newer open source “Ur-Quan Masters” edition of the game being largely based on the later 3DO version as opposed to the original PC version, this fact eludes many players due to a rather important speech being cut out. Upon meeting the Melnorme trader at one point in the game, in the original game, the following exchange transpired:

How nice to see you again, Captain.
Before we go on, I have a small announcement.

As you may know, in our travels throughout the galaxy we Melnorme have found many strange and interesting alien artifacts.

One of these devices is the MetaChron, a kind of trans-time alarm system.

In a nutshell, it warns me of future dangers by predicting its own demise which is most likely linked to my own well being, since I keep it under my pillow.

The unit is a small pyramid and, when all is well, white in color.

But if we are proceeding along a timeline which will eventually result in the destruction of the MetaChron the unit slowly darkens.

Presumably, it will be destroyed at the same time as it turns completely black.

When we first entered this region of space, the MetaChron was white.

Now it is light gray.

At its present rate of change, something will destroy the MetaChron in the early part of the year 2159.

In order to avoid this unpleasantness, we may be leaving just before this time so if you have business you wish to conduct with us I suggest you do so before January 2159, or February at the latest.


Due to the 3DO version being a full “talkie” as opposed to the text-based PC version, a large amount of dialogue was cut out, presumably in order to make it fit onto one CD. Unfortunately, this important exchange was one such section that ended up on the cutting room floor, leaving many players somewhat confused when they reached February 2159 and found everyone dead.

This aside, SC2 remains a fantastic space adventure, helped hugely by several things - firstly, an excellent, well-written plot, secondly, a brilliant early 90s electronica soundtrack (brought bang up to date by the Ur-Quan Masters team) and thirdly with an utterly brilliant combat system which the developers recognised was so good that they even allow you to play it separately from the main campaign, including some two-player head-to-head action.

The best thing about the combat, as Beige mentions in his briefing, is that it’s very well balanced. Each ship has its own strengths and weaknesses and this allows you to engage the enemy tactically by picking ships that take advantage of their weaknesses. For example, huge hulking powerful ships such as the Ur-Quan Dreadnought can be taken down by smaller, more agile ships such as the Arilou Skiff, though heaven help them if they find themselves in the way of the Ur-Quan’s plasma cannon.

The other thing about SC2 is that it is relentlessly old-school in its execution. This means absolutely no hand-holding for the player and the necessity of having a notepad on hand when playing. This was from the days long before game characters were sensible enough to write their own journal as they went along. Many alien races will quickly riff off some information that is absolutely essential to your continued progress in the game once and once only, and if you missed it - well, that’s tough luck, buddy.

Beige also tells an interesting story about the game’s development - the game was apparently finished about a year before it was actually released... but Fred Ford and Paul Reich III absconded with the master disks and disappeared off the face of the planet. A private detective eventually found them in a cabin up North writing pages and pages of “flavour” dialogue - beloved stuff like Captain Fwiffo and all manner of other content that the game just wouldn’t be the same without. This sort of thing is something you just don’t hear about developers doing these days - sometimes it’d be nice for a developer to disappear with one of those “blockbusters” and return a year later with a considerably better game!

That aside, SC2 remains a brilliant game well worth the time of any self-respecting gamer. Pick it up now here and prepare for your own space odyssey. Don’t forget your pen and paper. I’ll leave you with some thoughts originally posted by Papapishu:

---INCOMING MESSAGE FROM THE ORZ. TRANSLATION CIRCUITS UNABLE TO RESPOND----

Hello *Campers*! Having a happy time is being *bread*. *Bread* is very good. It fills us to *expanding*.

Continuing the *Jello Puddin'* into deep space we are. Many new *Campers* have we met. Our hearts *detonate* at the sight. It is an occasion for great *Umbrellas*.

We are having trouble *Screwing* the many silly *Campers* that we encounter. Gives us much trouble. Weeping tears of *Vasoline*.

Some *campers* ride in very silly *bobsleds*. Some have very *milky* bodies. Some have *citrus* bodies. All are slippery.

Goodbye! Until we *porkchop* again!

----END OF TRANSMISSION----
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Re: Star Control II

by Bowley » Thu Jul 10, 2014 8:03 pm

A game well ahead of it's time, to the point where games still haven't caught up to it. Seems a prime candidate for "what would this look like if they made it now" chin stroking, which is why I'm surprised there hasn't been a Kickstarter for a Star Control, or Star Control-like game (unless I missed it).

It's still amazing to me how much character Star Control 2's universe has. It's cartoony and funny on the surface and it's also dark and messed up too.
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Re: Star Control II

by Angry Jedi » Thu Jul 10, 2014 8:35 pm

Bowley wrote:A game well ahead of it's time, to the point where games still haven't caught up to it. Seems a prime candidate for "what would this look like if they made it now" chin stroking, which is why I'm surprised there hasn't been a Kickstarter for a Star Control, or Star Control-like game (unless I missed it).

It's still amazing to me how much character Star Control 2's universe has. It's cartoony and funny on the surface and it's also dark and messed up too.


But how sad that Toys for Bob are making Skylanders these days. Criminal.
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Re: Star Control II

by Bowley » Fri Jul 11, 2014 2:15 pm

Angry Jedi wrote: But how sad that Toys for Bob are making Skylanders these days. Criminal.


Yeah, can't fault them for wanting to make money though. Edit: Topical: At least they didn't prop a shitty f2p version of it to make that money.
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Re: Star Control II

by RedSwirl » Mon Aug 18, 2014 6:06 pm

So, talk of No Man's Sky has gotten me interested in space sim games. Particularly games about exploring planets and such, to the point where I'm thinking about taking the older Elite games for a spin. I guess that could include Star Control.
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Re: Star Control II

by Angry Jedi » Mon Aug 18, 2014 6:31 pm

RedSwirl wrote:So, talk of No Man's Sky has gotten me interested in space sim games. Particularly games about exploring planets and such, to the point where I'm thinking about taking the older Elite games for a spin. I guess that could include Star Control.


The original Elite doesn't have much "exploration" outside of seeing who sells what for what price. You hop from planet to planet, yes, but they're all the same: a green, flat-shaded disc with a rotating space station in orbit around it that you absolutely, positively will crash into repeatedly in your first few forays. Frontier (Elite II) had planetside stuff, though I never actually got it running on my old computer at the time it came out and consequently never played it in depth so I can't say for certain how well-realised it all was. Elite III (aka Frontier: First Encounters) was released before its creators thought it was ready, but it's worth a look if you can get it running on a modern system.

Star Control II is a rather different affair to Elite. While Elite is freeform, Star Control is essentially an RPG in which your "character" is your upgradeable flagship and your "party" is made up of the various races' ships that you gradually acquire over the source of the complete story. There's a good sense of exploration, though; you have to pay attention to what people say in conversations and make a note of co-ordinates or regions they mention, because in most cases they won't tell you again, and there's no automatic "quest log" for you to refer back to.

For yet another perspective on space exploration, the two Star Flight games (available on GOG.com) are worth a look, too. Although extremely antiquated from a technical perspective (low-res 16-colour graphics, minimal sound) they both capture a wonderful feeling of manning a starship and taking it out into The Great Unknown to see what is out there.

For another perspective still -- and one you'll have to look pretty hard for to track down, let alone making it run on a 2014 system -- Origin's Space Rogue was a brilliant, brilliant game, featuring a well-realised universe, some interesting spaceflight systems (there was a "Newtonian" mode you could engage where you could spin your ship around while it continued to fly in another direction altogether -- confusing but occasionally helpful in combat) and, best of all, top-down Ultima-style RPG sequences when you landed at a base. I really wish GOG.com would hurry up and re-release this, because of all the space sims of the dim and distant past, this was one of my absolute favourites -- and one that very few others seem to have heard of.

Outside of that, in more recent terms you're looking at stuff like the X series (most people say avoid Rebirth, though I don't know how much it's improved, if at all, since its major patching and upgrades a while back), the Elite: Dangerous beta or Star Citizen, whenever that might appear. Freelancer is also good if you enjoy rather more "arcadey" combat, and both Wing Commander: Privateer and its sequel The Darkening take a more narrative-heavy approach to the otherwise more freeform space trader subgenre.

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