|A new crew is assigned, a new ship christened.|
Reading over my postings on Star Command from last July, I really have no idea why I abandoned it. I seemed to be having a lot of fun. I have an active saved game and a perfectly healthy party, and I was tempted to pick up where I left off, but I decided it would be easier to re-learn the interface by starting over. However, I'm going to skip quickly past the things I already covered, so I encourage you to review my first posting and second posting on the game to catch yourselves up.
At first glance, Star Command seems a little like Sentinel Worlds but with worse graphics. Like the game I just finished, it takes place in a region of space far from Earth with three major ports. These ports form "The Triangle," in which humanity is mostly safe, albeit assailed from all sides by pirates, hostile insect aliens, and robots. You play a crew of 8 members of Star Command, and the game begins as you role a series of statistics--strength, speed, accuracy, courage, willpower, esper (psychic ability), and intelligence--and assign your crewmembers to one of three classes: pilot, soldier, and marine. You then take them through eight years of basic training in which they can improve in certain skills (hand weapons, light weapons, heavy weapons, combat medicine, explosives, astro-gunnery, and so forth) and sometimes in rank. Every once in a while, during basic training, you fail your courses and waste that round.
The crew has around $95,000 upon graduating, which I used to buy my first ship--a hornet-class ship that I christened the ISS Corsair.
|There is no mosquito-class vessel.|
The first three missions I did were to:
- Collect a shipment of vaccine from one planet and deliver it to another planet.
- Destroy five freighters containing "dangerous criminals."
- Destroy a pirate ship menacing a colony of miners and pick up their ore shipment
I noticed that these missions were different than the ones I was assigned the last time I played, so apparently there is some randomness to the quests. That's pretty neat. It's not the first for a CRPG--I think that belongs to Might & Magic--but it's still quite rare for the era.
As I said, the graphics aren't the best part of this game. As you fly through space, you don't even see your ship moving--just a rectangle going from sector to sector (identified by X and Y coordinates). Each movement costs 5 units of fuel out of a maximum of 100 units, so I can't stray too far until I get a better ship.
|My originating starport is in the upper left.|
At each sector, you can "upscan" or "downscan." The highest "upscan" is the entire galaxy...
|The galaxy is shaped like Azura's Star.|
...followed by the star cluster, then the star system, then individual planets. As you can see, the galaxy is quite large, with what must be hundreds of systems to explore--more like Starflight than Sentinel Worlds. Unlike either of those games, however, you can't land on a planet in your ATV and explore it. Planetary-level actions are limited to espionage missions, scientific missions (both of which have a chance of bringing back items or life forms), and cargo pickup and delivery (which you would do in response to a specific quest). This system of being able to do a couple of things in each area reminds me unfavorably of Wizard Wars.
|Sweet! Did I mine them, or were they just laying around?|
The SSI lineage of the game shows through in its approach to ship and ground combat; both are far more tactical than Sentinel Worlds or Starflight. Both are turn-based and consist of a communications phase, a movement phase, and a combat phase. In the communications phase, you can try to be friendly, demand surrender, or impersonate a deity (or "diety," as the game has it). In my mission to destroy the five criminal ships, my demand that they surrender worked and I didn't have to fight them.
Maneuvering around the battlefield is part of the tactical challenge, as are the specific actions that you take in combat. In space combat, you have six "stations" on which gunnery can be loaded, and you can only fire from those stations that face your enemy. In the screen below, all of my stations but #1 can fire on someone. If I was rotated one more click clockwise, I think they all could fire.
In addition to simply firing, I can choose "rapid fire," which sacrifices accuracy for volume, or "aiming," which doesn't allow you to fire that round by helps ensure a hit the next one. Ground combat offers a lot more options for both terrain and actions. I haven't really had a chance to explore it yet, though, so I'll save it for a later posting. I also haven't attempted boarding enemy ships, which is theoretically possible.
Upon completion of a mission, you return to a starport and get rewarded for the mission, any good loot you found, and your regular pay (which seems to be based on rank). This early in the game, there are plenty of different types of weapons and equipment to buy, and I'm saving up for a better ship, so the economy promises to be rewarding (at least until later; we'll see).
Every completed mission also gets you a training session, where you can increase your attributes and one of your skills. This makes "leveling" fairly quick and satisfying, although I don't like that leveling is mission-based rather than experience-based.
There are a few oddities to the game:
- The game has a copy protection feature that asks you for keywords from the manual, but they don't seem to work. I found on another site that typing "aaaa" is the solution, but it fails once every two or three times. At that point, the game simply doesn't allow you to save until you quit and reload. Since you can only save in a starport, this has already made it a bit frustrating after coming off successful simple missions; I imagine it's going to be infuriating when I've just finished a major quest.
- As far as I can tell, there's no way to determine how damaged an enemy ship is before it suddenly shatters into pieces. This makes it difficult to determine, as your own armor gets low, whether to flee or continue combat.
- On every expedition, when I first start visiting planets, I find stuff readily during scientific investigations. After three or four planets, I generally stop finding anything.
- I regularly encounter civilian ships that, for no reason I can see, engage me in combat.
I think this brings me up to where I was after I finished my first two Star Command postings, so let's see what else this game has to offer.