|I think we covered this last time, but this opening screen seems to tread on a lot of copyrights.|
I cannot remember exactly what caused me to bail on Sentinel Worlds after only one posting, but I apparently didn't hate it enough to remove it from my roster entirely. I can barely remember the game (in my mind, I've conflated it with Star Command, which came just after), so I'm going to avoid re-reading my original posting to avoid prejudicing myself. I thus apologize if any of the material in this posting duplicates what I said many months ago
The game takes place in 2996, and humans have colonized several systems of planets. One of them, the Caldorre System, has recently come under attack by bands of raiders who, armed with swift ships deadly energy weapons, are destroying trading ships but are mysteriously not salvaging the remains. Your party is one of eight that set out on a six-month journey from the Federation Central Base in new "Interceptor-class vessels." Upon arrival in the Caldorre system, your mission is to investigate and neutralize the raiders. The game manual suggests a large amount of freedom in how you do this: you can act as an escort for various transport ships, engage the raiders in battle, and hopefully board their ships, or you can search for intelligence on the various planets. Either way, we apparently cannot depend too much on Central Command. Because of "budget cuts," we will need to earn our own money and buy our own training and equipment.
The crew consists of a pilot, navigator, communications officer, engineer, and medic--just as in Starflight. The game automatically rolls these five positions for you and assigns their names, but you have the option (which of course I exercised) to go in and create party members from scratch. I decided to use the name generator that LordKarnov42 wrote for me in Python last year. Its products do tend to be worthy of sci-fi.
|I'm thinking "Masher" is going to be my medic.|
Character creation is somewhat limited, though. You can select from only eight portraits--some of which look stupid--you must select attributes within a range of 10-20, and the game automatically determines 2 of the 3 skills that you start with. Based on the manual's description that the comprehension score determines the number of skill points you get on each level, I decided to give everyone the max of 20 in that category and then spread out the others based on how I thought I'd most likely use them. Prompted by the manual, I gave a high charisma to the communications officer and a high dexterity to the medic.
|Everybody gets "contact" and "edged" weapons automatically, even though I assume, like in Wasteland and BattleTech, these soon become obsolete.|
The skills system seems not unlike that in Wasteland and some of the other CRPGs we've studied, with several combat and noncombat skills. Like Wasteland, I suspect some of them are going to turn out to be useless, but we'll see.
|The intrepid crew. Yes, I went with a female captain. I'm progressive that way.|
Once you assign your characters and name your ship (mine is the "FSS Storyville"), the game begins by dumping you in the Caldorre System, in the middle of combat, before you've had a chance to adequately check out the controls. It's not terribly difficult combat, though--several other interceptors are on scene--so while I was messing around trying to figure out what I was doing, everyone pretty much just flew away.
Determined to figure out combat, though, I squinted at the screen until I had a decent guess as to which of the little dots represented red ships (enemies) and headed towards them. When I got to them, I had just enough time to wave hello before I blew past them by several parsecs. Reducing thrusters, I turned around and crept back, finally engaging two of the raiders' ships and, with the help of other interceptors in the area, destroyed them. I didn't get any loot from the endeavor--that would have required doing something complicated like knocking out the engines and boarding--but I did seem to get some experience points.
|Either there's too much going on on these screens, or I'm just getting too old for this.|
My next step was to visit the nearest spaceport, which turned out to be Norjaenn. Here, you can buy fuel, sell minerals, get quests from the Science Foundation to deliver "science missions" (I got a quest to deliver a seismometer to a pair of coordinates). There's a recruitment center to replace dead party members, and while in spaceport you can visit your ship's armory. I'm glad I did, because it turned out I had a bunch of weapons and armor stuffed in there that I didn't know about.
|This is the same planet I'm already on, so it ought to be an easy one.|
Landing on a nearby planet, I attempted to search for minerals but couldn't find jack. Clearly, I'm missing some strategy here. According to the manual, mine deposits are distinguished from animals in that the former are "light blue" and the latter are "blue." The game is not forgiving to the color blind. After several attempts to mine cows, I gave up and headed for the nearest town. Note how detailed the ATV navigation screen is about the territory you're visiting.
|I think cattle have undergone some genetic modifications since the 21st century.|
I entered a bar and remembered how much I didn't like the weird combination of top-down and first-person navigation that the screen presents, although I found it a bit more tolerable if I just ignored the first-person part. There were a bunch of farmers in the tavern, mostly complaining about ranchers.
|In its quasi-western theme, does this game anticipate Firefly? Or is that a common genre?|
Two of the dots were different colors and represented unique people. All of them had a few interesting things to say but cut off their conversation after a few lines, at which point I had to wander around before they would talk to me again. Starflight was like this, too. I don't really see much purpose to it except to waste time.
|The crew exchanges a few words with an NPC before she gets sick of them.|
My major questions at this point are:
- Where do I find minerals? (My mistake is probably expecting them to be as plentiful as in Starfllight.)
- The long-range navigation window shows about four planets in the entire system. Is that all there is?
- The manual suggests that I can "hack" my ship's various systems to improve them. What would be the disadvantage to doing this?
- Are the tensions between the ranchers and farmers in this town supposed to resolve to some kind of quest?
- I've got a couple of weird items in my ship's hold--a "arisian lens" and "holophones." The book doesn't mention anything about them, and I can't find a way to "use" them. What are they for?
|I gave them to my doctor, because why not?|
I still find the controls horribly non-responsive, and no matter how much I mess with the DOSBox CPU settings, I can't find a good balance with speed. If I set it too high, I whiz by the other ships; if I set it too low, they whiz by me. Perhaps this is intentional, though; after all, I am only Level 1.
I'm at that awkward stage I blogged about last year in which I'm intrigued by the game, but I haven't gotten comfortable enough to really enjoy it. The game has a lot of good features, I can tell, but it feels curiously inaccessible. I can't think of a better way to describe it.
I'm sure you've all noticed that my blogging has slowed a lot lately, which is infuriating to me. E-mails from some of you have suggested that you fear I've entered another funk like the one that drove me to a hiatus at the beginning of the year, but that's not it at all. I want to play games. I'm excited about making progress on this blog. I've just entered a period of a crushing workload accompanied by near non-stop travel.
If you're absolutely jonesing for more information about Sentinel Worlds until I can get out from under this pile, Amy Lunitari has a "let's play" on her YouTube channel, which I plan to watch in full as soon as I finish the game myself.
|The crew has a goal.|
My plan at this point is to try to make enough money through mining or Science Foundation deliveries that I can buy some decent weaponry. I'm also going to scan the comments from my previous posting on the game for hints, but feel free to offer them here, too.