Star Control II

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Star Control II, the sequel to the original Star Control, is a space adventure game that features role-playing elements alongside a robust 2D combat system. It was a milestone for non-linear gaming and an undeniable influence on modern space travel games such as Homeworld; many consider it one of the best computer games of all time. The player assumes the role of The Captain of a single starship wandering a detailed environment of solar systems, gradually gathering information and resources in order to defeat a mysterious and implacable enemy; the plot contains numerous mysteries and other half-explained elements that contribute to the beauty of the game,1 along with a rare sense of humor that manifests numerous times, inevitably having the player rolling on the floor laughing.


It is difficult to pin SC2 down to a single genre; it contains elements of exploration, scavenging, diplomacy, role-playing, and combat, blended together seamlessly. Intense, real-time, ship-to-ship melee is sprinkled throughout your interstellar travels. The Flagship can be outfitted with various modules to change and improve how it functions, as well as bolstering its effectiveness in battle. The meat of the game, however, is information gathering and the acquiring of unique inventory items through conversation and exploration to unravel the numerous mysteries of space.

Game play is divided into six basic modes:

  • Conversation - Interact with other sentient species; Learn from them, trade with them, and form alliances (or attack them). The dialogue was written in five months by various people after Paul Reiche III's plot structure.2
  • Solar system exploration - Navigate solar systems with your flagship, exploring the various planets and moons, while contacting or avoiding other ships in the region.
  • Planetary exploration - Control the Planet Lander to collect minerals and biological data while avoiding earthquakes, hotspots, lightning, and aggressive life forms.
  • HyperSpace travel - Travel from star to star in HyperSpace (and later, QuasiSpace) while being chased by unidentifiable alien ships, represented as gravity wells.
  • Flagship/fleet management - Spend your accumulated Resource units (RUs). Outfit your flagship for whatever lies ahead. Construct a fleet of up to 12 escort ships. Add crew and fuel to you fleet.
  • Space combat - Fly your armada against alien ships in an all-out brawl to the death (unless you run away...).

Created by Toys For Bob, Star Control II was released for the PC in 1992, and the 3DO in 1994. The 3DO port included remixed music, spoken dialogue, and 3D-rendered cut scenes, among other version differences. The Ur-Quan Masters (also known as UQM) is a free port of Star Control II for modern personal computers and operating systems, derived from the 3DO code because the original PC source was lost. UQM removes bugs, enables network play and serves as a base for mod projects.


Star Control II begins on 17 February 2155, some twenty years after the Hierarchy of Battle Thralls crushed the Alliance of Free Stars in the Ur-Quan Slave War.

The player enters the game as The Captain, who grew up in a marooned scientific outpost on the planet Unzervalt that lost contact with Earth during the war. The Humans have discovered an extremely ancient starship factory and built the skeleton of the giant Flagship. The Captain and his small crew pilot the Flagship to Sol, where they find that Earth has been encased in an impenetrable Slave Shield. At the orbital space station, they meet Commander Hayes, who is skeptical of their identity, but brings them up to date on the War and the fate of the old Alliance. At this point, the Captain and the Commander establish the New Alliance of Free Stars and embark on a mission to resurrect the coalition and liberate the galaxy from Ur-Quan rule.

The events that follow, and their chronology, depend on the player. As the Captain pilots the Flagship through the galaxy, he will make contact with many races, some will be eager to join the Alliance, some will be outright hostile, and others will have their own agendas altogether. The Captain can pretend to be a pair of gods and convince a race to rename itself, he can start a civil war, sell his crew into slavery, put the moves on a hypersexualized blue alien woman, speed up "the process", learn about the extremely ancient Precursors, and even fix a seemingly useless device that brings insurmountable joy to an entire world.

Above all, The Captain will learn that the New Alliance faces a new enemy. In addition to the Ur-Quan Hierarchy, there are the Ur-Quan Kohr-Ah, a superpower who have migrated into our corner of the galaxy to continue the Doctrinal War against the established Ur-Quan Kzer-Za. As the Captain's fleet becomes more and more involved, the conflict becomes a battle royal of ideologies, pitting the imperialist slavery of the Path of Now and Forever against the genocidal Eternal Doctrine against peace and Allied co-operation.

If the Captain manages to play his data plates right, he will find himself allied with the Chmmr, a new race of old friends who outfit the Flagship with a powerful bomb. The Captain will take the Flagship and its escort fleet on one final mission to locate and attack the Sa-Matra, a seemingly invincible battleship that both the Kzer-Ah and Kohr-Ah use to ensure their domination.

In addition to the in-game action, some plot elements could not be programmed in time and are not present in the final product. This includes an easter egg dialogue with the game creators at Groombridge, a cloaking device for The Flagship, and strange events caused by bringing Orz ships in QuasiSpace. 3

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Notes and references[edit]

1From a mail by Fred Ford to a Star Control II player:
I think one of the reasons SC has endured is that Paul and I were conscious of hinting about things, but ultimately letting the game-player use his or her imagination to fill in the picture. Frungy is the poster-boy for this technique.
From a mail by Fred Ford to a Star Control II player:
We left ourselves and you enough unexplained and interesting mysteries that we would have a wide variety of choices for expanding into a sequel. Neither Paul nor I are meticulous planners -- that takes all the fun out of exploring ones capabilities. So we had many possible avenues, one or more of which we would have explored, if a sequel had been in the cards.
2From the 1998 IRC chat with Toys for Bob (Fwiffo is both Fred Ford and Paul Reiche III here):
<_Stilgar> <Spyhunter> Fwiffo: "How many people was involved in writing the huge amounts of dialoque in SC2?"
<Fwiffo> Regarding the dialog: I defined the conversations structurally and wrote pieces of all of them, however, Greg Johnson was responsible for the majority of the Orz, Arilou, and Pkunk. Mat Genser wrote the Utwig and Ilwrath. Robert Leyland wrote the Supox, and Leonard Robel wrote some of the Thraddash. Iain McCaig did much of the VUX.
<Fwiffo> The dialog took about 5 months.
From the 2007 IRC chat with Toys for Bob (robot is Fred Ford, PR3 is Paul Reiche III):
<+PR3> The Orz dialog was begun by Erol Otus, fleshed out by Greg Jognson [sic] (off of plot structures by me) and then I added a little wackiness.
3From a mail by Fred Ford to a Star Control II player:
[Groombridge] was basically going to be an easter egg where you would be able to progress through a conversation tree much like any of the other alien race conversations. We were going to reveal interesting trivia and possibly pose questions to you which were impossible for you to answer correctly -- like which do you like better about this game: the design or the programming? And suddenly you might find yourself in the middle of Urquan [sic] space (ala the Talking Pet).
From a mail by Fred Ford to a Star Control II player:
O.K., O.K. I must admit the conversation threads relating to the cloaking device have been the most amusing to someone who knows the truth and after six years I don't think it will diminish the game to put this matter to rest. No, there is no cloaking device. Yes, there was going to be one, but we couldn't figure out a way, given the limitations of two players fighting on the same screen, to make it functionally better/more interesting than the Ilwrath's.
From a mail by Fred Ford to a Star Control II player:
The first [interesting plot line left out of the final product] that comes to mind is that we wanted the Orz to be much scarier and if you ever took them into Quasi-space with you bad things would happen. We really wanted them to creep you out so that you were never sure whether or not it was a good idea to be allied with them.

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