The third instalment in the SC saga was released in 1996 for Dos and Macintosh. This game was designed by a completely different developer called Legend Entertainment, a decision that has caused some controversy. Toys for Bob who created the original games were not interested in developing a new game for Accolade under the terms they offered. The game structure was superficially similar to SC II, consisting of an adventure game and a HyperMelee.
The SC3 adventure game differs significantly from SCII, even though the base idea is the same. You still travel the stars, meeting aliens and fighting enemies. While conversing with aliens works as before, both navigating in a solar system and between systems is much more automated. In system, you navigate between different planets simply by clicking them by mouse. There is no lander subgame, but instead you can place colonies on planets. You then rely on colony production for fuel, ships and currency. For travelling between stars, the 3D map from SC1 has been brought back in a larger scale. The map can be rotated or kept still and different display modes can be turned on and off. These will help the player by showing fuel storages, colonies and other facts about certain star systems. Navigating is again done with a click and is instantaneous.
Navigating within a star system. Simply use your mouse to click on the planet you wish to visit.
First the planet view., then a colony placed on planet, generating fuel, resources, crew and ships.
Story wise, the plot casts the captain from SC2 leading a mission to another quadrant. The overall goal is to stop a mysterious force known as the Eternal Ones, hell bent on destroying all life in the universe. Because of the collapse of Hyperspace, a new flagship capable of Warp Bubble travel has been built. The player brings with him members from 10 races from the previous game, who at the beginning are scattered and must be found. The new Kessari Quadrant also has a slew of both indigenous and foreign races, who must be dealt with while the Captain searches for clues on how to defeat the Eternal Ones.
Hypermelee once again allows the player to fight ship battles without bothering with the adventure mode. It features ships from all new races and the old races included in the story mode. It also features two vision modes, the traditional top down mode and a pseudo3D mode.
A view of the melee in pseudo3D where an Ur-Quan Dreadnought has just incinerated an enemy ship.
Criticisms and controversies
SC3 has been criticised on numerous occasions for a slew of varying reasons. First and foremost among these is that the team writing the story and creating the game did not contain the original creators Paul Reiche III and Fred Ford. The story has in general been said to borrow conversation trees from SC2 too heavily and resolve too many of the original questions left behind by SC1. Many specific grievances have been brought up as well, ranging from rewriting and partially ignoring the end of SC II to having a rather unfulfilling ending sequence.
The game was also criticised for its change in appearance. The splashes of colour seen in SC2 had been turned into a much darker and greyer palette. The conversation screens had been redone with animated puppets, to the horror of many fans. Many races, such as the Syreen and Pkunk, bore only a slight resemblance to their appearance in SC2.
The syreen puppet from the SC3 conversation screen upset many fans of Talana.
The reduction of space travel to the click of a mouse was not unanimously welcomed, nor was the colony subgame which was seen as boring and impractical. There were also complaints regarding the very large 3D map, since the large amount of stars could make navigation challenging.
Another major point of criticism in the game was its scripting system. If tasks were done in an unexpected order it would sometimes break down, leaving the player waiting for some key event that failed to materialise. Many players were unable to complete the game without first finding a walkthrough so that they could finish their tasks in the correct order.
Melee wise, the pseudo3D system was not very popular, but since it could be turned off it wasn’t a big problem either. Much worse were the facts that half of the SC2 ships had been left out, the other half had been rebalanced and the new races introduced often had unbalanced ships. This made melee a less enjoyable experience to most players.