In 1990 a game arrived called Star Control. Released by Accolade, it was a strategy game with some good, old-fashioned arcade style battles. Played in full game mode, there was a rotating map that you moved along to control points and find upgrades, land on a space occupied by your opponent, and then battle to the death. In melee mode, the more “to-the-point” version of the game, you selected ships and battled. There were two teams, the Alliance (the good guys) and the Hierarchy (the bad guys), that came with a preset 7 ships each, but it was easy enough to create a new team. My friends and I had a lot of fun with Star Control. When Star Control II was released in 1992, my best friend and I were there on the release day.
Where SCII differed from its predecessor was in the story mode. Now, an ultra-rich universe was created. But the melee mode still existed. Many an hour was spent with friends coming over like lambs to the slaughter. When one friend finally beat me in a round, he walked out without ever playing again, to go out a winner. And my very first experience with it almost caused a friend of mine to break his finger! I might share that warped anecdote one day… But the single player mode was amazing. Earth, imprisoned in a bubble, is cut off and upon returning to earth you find you may be Earth’s last hope. This meant traveling around the stars looking for help and finding all manner of life. While there were races that had to be found to win the game, having thoroughly explored the entire map, I encountered things that were just out there, like the gaseous beings living where no life should be (I still remember their names: Sullen Plummet, Content to Hover and Joyous Lifting). When SCIII came out, I was there again… but alas, it was a pale imitation of its namesake. The aliens looked better, but they all sounded like Woody Allen, without even a fraction of his comedic timing. I refuse to even talk about III if I’m honest! But SCII! To give you an idea, I’m standing over this map to take the picture.
Every star had planets, every planet could be explored. This was Star Trek in game form without the weight of lore to hold us down. (Not Data’s brother, I mean backstory!) Oh, and observe the added map, “QuasiSpace Portals”. These were holes into a subdimension that allowed rapid travel all over the cosmos… if you could find them. And there was another race that lived within that dimension.
SCII still holds a special place in my heart. And it seems I’m not alone. Nearly 30 years have gone by when, last Christmas, I saw the announcement: Star Control: Origin was coming. Needless to say, I pre-ordered. The story, unique and unrelated to the earlier games, shows Earth just finding its space legs when we encounter another race on one of the planets in our solar system. They’ve been blocking another, more dangerous race from finding us. But now that the other race, the Skryve, know we’re here, we need to go get allies to help us fight. Exploring planets seems to get a bad review from some gamers, but I can’t deny, the feeling of going down to a planet never knowing what I might find was thrilling. Especially when I encountered legendary “rainbow worlds”; a carry over from the days of SCII. And interacting with some of the strange life in the universe was usually quite comical, without coming across as cheap. (Although I may be biased, having been so hyper-excited to play this game!)
Meeting a new race means diplomacy. Dialogue options usually offer one good choice, one questionable choice and one stark raving mad choice for those who enjoy seeing how things play out. Barring one bad word, spoken by one of the races we meet, the majority of the game is very kid-friendly! It’s colorful, exciting and all in all, quite fun. The music while exploring planets get tedious but it pays homage to the original games. There’s even a star system called Accolade, as a tribute to the original game makers.
While most of the races can be found in space near their homeworld, it is easy to find others out in hyperspace, although until you build alliances, most will attack pretty quickly. Ironically, I became quite adept at the first two races I allied with and found they could handle most of the things thrown at me. The arcade style action was fun mixed in with the story mode. The melee mode has been fun for my kids, but I’m dying to have some of my old friends over to see how we do after all these years! I’ve finished the main game about a month ago, but there are many stars I have yet to explore! I do intend to keep exploring too because it’s in our blood, right? And you never know what you might find out there. Like these two wonders that caught my attention and made me giddy!
Look, it may not win game of the year, but it is a fun game and it’s not short. I played for just under 40 hours and payed about $35, so I call that good value. Hope you enjoy it too. See you… out there! ML