Star Control II
Star Control II: The Ur-Quan Masters was released in 1992 by Accolade. It is the second and final game in the series created by Fred Ford and Paul Reiche III. The original version was created for PC, but later an alternate version was released for the console 3DO, which allowed for the inclusion of speech and a modernized intro. In a similar fashion to Star Control, the full game is made up of two parts, one being arcade spaceship combat called Melee. The tactical gameplay in Star Control has been replaced by an adventure game, where the player travels through the universe and encounters all sorts of challenges.
In the adventure game, the player takes charge of a flagship of alien origin and sets out to free the Earth from enslavement. This is accomplished by travelling between different solar systems and interacting with the systems and their inhabitants.Travelling is in itself quite challenging. Inside a solar system you can fly between planets and scan them to see if they contain anything interesting, such as minerals or energy readings. But to travel between systems you must enter Hyperspace, a strange dimension where a mysterious drag slows you down but distances are much smaller. Thankfully you have a trusty starmap, which makes navigating this bizarre place much easier.
Picture: Navigating in system, inside Hyperspace and using the Starmap in Hyperspace to decide where to go.
There are several sub sections in the adventure mode. To raise cash to equip your ship, you must mine a multitude of planets by sending down a planet lander to collect minerals. This is fraught with danger, as planets can be very inhospitable. Everything from weather and earthquakes to extreme fire-storms and indigenous beasts are out to get your lander. The collected minerals can be deposited at the Starbase, where your modular flagship can be repaired and upgraded in many ways, as well as refuelled and stocked with more crew. At the starbase you can also build escort ships, that can fight instead of your valuable and irreplacable flagship. At the beginning of the game, very few escort ship types are available, but as the game progresses you steadily gain more by making alliances with other species.
This brings us to the other part of the adventure. The universe you travel in isn't empty. There are a large number of different races inhabiting it, each with their own agenda. Through diplomacy of many forms some of them can be persuaded to join your cause and help you in the battle against your enemies. This is usually accomplished either by conversations, or item quests of some sort. While most planets only contain minerals and sometimes indigenous life, some contain valuable artefacts and objects that must be used to progress through the adventure.
Unlike Star Control where playing only melee was somewhat restricted, Star Control II comes with all the bells and whistles you can dream of in SuperMelee. You can build teams of up to 14 ships per side, and have any number of doubles. You can play against the computer or a human opponent. SuperMelee contains all the ships seen in the adventure games and some that aren't seen. In total, there are 25 ships to choose between, a not insignificant amount. Each ship has different its own weapon systems and abilities, making the game quite complex.
The free version of Star Control II is known as The Ur-Quan Masters for copyright reasons, and is featured in our links section. Because the game is open source, it can be modified by anyone. Some people already have released mods for the Ur-Quan Masters, ranging from melee modifications to story changes. They can be found here.