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

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 source code is derived from the 3DO code, as the original PC source was lost.

Plot

The events of the plot occur twenty years after the Ur-Quan Slave War pitting the New Alliance of Free Stars against an even more powerful (but distracted) Ur-Quan Hierarchy.

The Hierarchy appears to have won. The old Alliance is in ruins. Only one member isn't slave shielded or destroyed, and they became Battle Thralls. It is a dark time for our region of space, but on a small planet in the Vela system named Unzervalt by its inhabitants, a secret weapon which may very well turn back the successes of The Ur-Quan Masters has been found.

The Captain commands his Flagship across the stars to win back freedom for all sentient life.

Notes and references

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:
This is essentially true. 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.