Monday, May 28, 2012

Star Command: Final Rating

Star Command has no more use for a group of seasoned, decorated veterans.

Star Command
Strategic Simulations, Inc. (1988)
Winston Douglas Wood, Eric Liebenauer
Date Started: 10 July 2011
Date Ended: 25 May 2012
Total Hours: 12
Difficulty: Moderate-Difficult (3.5/5)
Final Rating: 43
Ranking at Time of Posting:  48/61 (79%)
Ranking at Game #454: 399/454 (88%)

I felt that Star Command was a fairly good game, especially in the opening stages. Although the plot veered into nonsense towards the end, it held together better than Sentinel Worlds. The game offered lousier graphics than Worlds but a more challenging, tactical gameplay. It led me on a roller-coaster ride of difficulty, alternating easy milk-run missions with multi-stage ordeals involving dungeon exploration (with adventure game-style puzzles) and massive ship combats.

It appears largely overlooked in the history of CRPGs. After I completed the game, I could only find one walkthrough. Barton doesn't cover it in Dungeons & Desktops. The Wikipedia entry is barely a stub. On the latter, the entry indicates that it was based on a board game by Avalon Hill, but I don't know about that; I can't find anything in the copyright or credits in the game manual, and the one contemporary review I was able to find (Computer Gaming World seems to have ignored it) doesn't mention anything about it. If anyone has information about that board game, I'd be interested in hearing what it's like.

Nothing about Avalon Hill, though I am vaguely interested in which portions are copyrighted by Microsoft.
On to the GIMLET:

1. Game World. The game takes place in a densely-populated sector of the galaxy, in which humanity huddles in a "triangle" anchored by three starports. The world is fairly open but not terribly memorable as science fiction RPGs go. The races you encounter (insects, lizards, robots) are somewhat derivative of Starflight, and the political situation calls to mind both Sentinel Worlds and Star Trek. The game responded minimally to my actions. For instance, although pirate ships disappeared once I defeated Blackbeard (and frankly, this might have just been because I stopped visiting their sector), the insects didn't stop attacking after I destroyed their queen. The overall setup was easy to understand, if fairly cliched by this point in the genre. Score: 4.

The galaxy is large and full of planets. If only there had been more on them.
2. Character Creation and Development. The game begins with an original character creation process. After defining your character's class (pilot, soldier, marine,  or esper), you send him through the academy for eight years, choosing what skills you want to develop during this time. Certain skills are restricted to certain classes, and you have to choose your areas of focus carefully. You can train in skills or send your characters to "officer school" to increase ranks (and therefore pay) or "survival school" to increase attributes. There's a lot of choice in this process--and fairly original choice at that--which drew me into the game immediately.

The composition of the party is also an important choice. Only pilots and espers can increase in astro-gunnery, but the pilot and copilot don't man gun positions. That means that if you want to have a pilot firing a gun, you have to take on more than two pilots--which might help you in space combat but will hurt you significantly in ground combat. Soldiers, espers, and marines all have their strengths and weaknesses, and I'm not sure I had a very good balance in my party.

Training my first marine. Note that I've invested heavily in scouting and heavy arms, excluding everything else.
Increasing levels is similarly rewarding. I didn't like that there was no experience, and you could only train after completing missions (or paying lots of money--see below), but I liked the process of training, in which you can choose an attribute and then a skill to increase. I learned that it was better to focus on a couple of skills rather than spread your points out (e.g., heavy weapons and recon for a marine, not heavy weapons, light weapons, recon, and hand weapons), and only towards the end did my characters begin to max out their categories. Overall, character development was one of the best parts of the game, although the types of characters you choose don't affect the encounters. Score: 6.

3. NPC Interaction. There were very few NPCs in the game: a hermit, a couple of guys in a bar, a captured lizard, and a few computers. The game's system for talking with them, by entering keywords, recalls Ultima IV and other Origin games, and was kind of fun. I just wish the NPCs had more to say, and that the most important--the space hermit--wasn't so manifestly goofy. It would have been a little better if there were more NPCs to engage and learn about the various races; in a science fiction CRPG, only Starflight has done that well so far. Score: 4.
4. Encounters and Foes. The special encounters in the game brought out the worst tropes of adventure games, requiring illogical combinations of commands to produce unlikely outcomes. Fortunately, the game has limited inputs, so barring a couple cases where I blew something up and needed to reload, I got through them by just trying every command until something worked. Not many CRPGs of the era try to blend in some adventure game elements, so I appreciate the innovation, but it just didn't work well in execution.

I am unable to convince three insect freighters that I am their god.
Perhaps even more frustrating was the shallowness of the encounters with various enemies in the game. Upon encountering ships or land-based forces, you almost always find yourself locked in combat; strategies like plead, demand, and bribe worked so rarely that they might as well have not been there. I don't think I ever got "impersonate a deity" to work,  nor did I ever talk myself out of combat with a superior foe. Late in the game, when enemy ships outmaneuver and outnumber yours, each encounter produced only one viable option: fleeing. Even more nonsensical was the way that civilian freighters and luxury ships kept engaging me in combat, to their own inevitable destruction.

The foes themselves were unoriginal and tended to attack the same way in combat regardless of type. I do have to give my usual point for respawning and allowing grinding, though I don't appreciate how all the foes in the game increased with my level. Score: 3.

5. Magic and Combat. The tactical nature of both ship and ground combat were flawed, but still appreciated after the rote combat of Sentinel Worlds and so many other games of the era. There were considerations of weight, movement, weapon type, damage, terrain, type of attack (including the "aiming" rounds), ammunition, reloading, and several other factors that I'm probably forgetting. I never really mastered it all. Ship combat became far too difficult towards the end, and it was tough to even grind at that point, because every encounter tended to produce five deadly enemy ships.

On the other hand, I found the "magic" system to be fairly stupid. I never thought I got anything out of my esper, whose best magic attack only affected one enemy per round, that made him invaluable. If I had to play again, I'd forget about his psychic abilities and invest all his skills in astro-gunnery, or perhaps even replace him with a pilot for that purpose. Score: 5.

"Psychic scream" is about to fail again.
6. Equipment. There is a very wide variety of weapons, armor, accessories, and special items to buy, and a lot of statistics to balance as you make your choices. I didn't mind so much that combat tended to break these items, but I did mind that every combat tended to break them. I also think it would have been more fun if, as in most CRPGs, you could pick up your enemies' weapons and armor after combat (for resale, if not replacement). Overall, though, this was one of the better parts of the game. Score: 5.

7. Economy. At first, I thought I loved it. There was always something new to buy: ship upgrades, weapons, armor, accessories, and ammunition. And if I was comfortable with all that, I could buy a clone to protect against death or even pay $200,000 for training sessions in between missions!

If things get bad enough, the game has the option to "declare bankruptcy." You lose your ship and all personal and ship's equipment, but you get $90,000 to start over (after a lecture from high command).
But in practice, I found the economy deeply flawed. There are only a few ways to make good cash: completing missions and getting paid, and finding espionage items (of which there are a limited number). Defeating enemy ships is often not a viable option, as repairs to and rearmament of my ship usually meant that I was making negative progress. The game had a trading system (I didn't really cover it) by which some planets would sell special items and others would buy them, but the profit margins were so small you'd have to make thousands of the transactions to make a difference. Paying for training remained tantalizingly out of range for the entire game; by the end, I couldn't even afford a decent ship. Someone with more grinding patience or better combat tactics may be able to do more with it. Score: 5.

8. Quests. There were 17 total missions, with enough varied content to make them interesting: destroy a ship, explore a base, rescue a princess, deliver supplies, and so on. They came rapidly enough and, as I previously discussed, the rewards were tangible. Regrettably, there are no side quests (including a few might have helped with the economy) nor any decisions to make during the main quests. However, a few of the main quest stages are randomly generated, allowing for some minimal replay value. Score: 4.

9. Graphics, Sound, and Interface. In the GIMLET, graphics don't have to be terribly good, just not "distractingly bad," but I have to say the graphics in this game were almost distractingly bad. Audio was okay, with different sounds for different weapon types and such, but often annoying--such as when scoring repeated hits against an enemy. The controls were great--very intuitive and responsive--although I wish ships and parties had the ability to move diagonally.  Score: 3.

 10. Gameplay. I guess what I like most about the game was its relative speed. I'm not saying that I always want to race from quest to quest in a CRPG, but when there's not much in between--not many flowers to stop and smell, as it were--I'd rather just get a pair of coordinates and zip on over to them. Not only was each mission pacing fairly good, but the overall game pacing pleased me, too. It didn't overstay its welcome.

At first, I was entranced with the open game world--the whole galaxy to explore at the outset (if you have enough fuel), but that was when I thought I might find interesting encounters on the planets.  An open game world doesn't mean much if there's nothing to find within it, and ultimately I don't think the game, in its non-linearity, really outperformed Sentinel Worlds, which only had three planets.

Perhaps the most frustrating element of the gameplay was its extremely variable difficulty. The first few missions were cakewalks. Then it got harder, but nothing that a little grinding wouldn't help. Then all of a sudden, towards the two-thirds mark, the ship battles became functionally impossible. But during this time, when I was hyperspacing away from every ship that engaged me, the missions themselves were fairly easy, and the last battle (as you can see from the last post's video) was disappointingly easy. Score: 4.

That gives us a final score of 44, which outperforms every game I've played since Wasteland. That feels right. It was an interesting game with innovative ideas and good moments, and it motivated me to play to the end, even if the overall package is a bit flawed. It didn't really stand out in any one category, but neither did it completely fail in any one category.

This was apparently the last game from Winston Douglas Wood and Eric Liebenauer, the team that designed the Phantasie series for SSI. As with other SSI offerings, the company's war game roots show in the game's devotion to tactical combat, which was uneven but innovative. I look forward to playing a lot more SSI in the coming months, as we enter the golden age of the "Gold Box" games.

Now, if I can just finish up Wizardry V, we'll be out of 1988 forever!


  1. Man, how I've waited for this year to come, as it has some of my all time favs: Quest for Glory 1, Drakkhen, Dark Heart of Ukruul, Bloodwych... 1989 was a GREAT year for CRPGs...

    Curious to see if they have survived well...

    1. Couldn't agree more, 1989 was the year I got my first computer and those titles hold a special place in my gamer heart (even though I could never really get into Drakkhen).

    2. Drakkhen was damn hard. I found the Super Nintendo port a lot easier to deal with, but I was several years older by then too.

    3. With luck, Wizardry V won't kill me again, and I'll actually get there.

    4. Don't worry; The underdog always wins in the rematch.

    5. I loved Drakkhen. I can't wait to see the CRPG Addict run into what I call the "I Love You Monster". No, I won't say where it is, nor will IO mention the other batpoop crazy stuff :P

  2. I would find the increase in combat difficulty / number of enemies based on progress in the game really frustrating. I like the model of having different areas / maps of difficulty rather than ramping up the number of enemies. Shame, as it sounds like they set up lots of good possibilities here.

    1. It's an early version of Oblivion's leveling problem. Not many games of the era did this.

      Like you, I'm usually annoyed by it. The best games, I think, strike a balance by adjusting the MAXIMUM level of monsters based on your level, not the minimum or average level. I think this was Ultima IV's approach. As you level up, you start to encounter larger parties of more dangerous creatures--but you still occasionally encounter a single troll or a pair of orcs.

    2. Technically you could still occasionally run into scout ships and tiny enemies even in the late game. And generally then they would appear in packs of 5, and sometimes automatically just start trying to run away from you. But it feels like they unlocked more and more of a much larger encounter table as they went on.

      Also, there are different regions with different encounter types- Alpha sector is only pirate ships, Beta only insects, and unknown is both robots and lizards. In the triangle you only rarely encounter insect and pirate scout ships. In all you can still occasionally encounter civilian freighters and intimidate them into 5000 credit payoffs or giving fuel.

      Until the end of the missions against pirates, the biggest insect ship you will see is the basic scout ship. At that point the patrol ships start appearing, quite a bit tougher. As you complete more missions, corvettes start appearing, then finally the frigates. By that point the scout ships are well less than half the random ship encounters; at least then they appear to be a welcome break.

      Because it is tied to mission progress, it doesn't take into account struggling for money or non-optimum play. If you avoid grinding and just rush through missions, you have less money to keep pace with enemy power inflation.

      The second problem is the Insect ships get faster as they get bigger and tougher- it makes it harder to force distance to reduce the odds against you. The early game lets you do more tactical positioning, but late game you end up having to just sitting there trading volleys and hoping your defenses hold. Which is why I generally favor boarding over ship combat.

      Your choices in ships get slower as they get larger, but that can be offset because it is harder to overload them and defensive hardware can crank that move distance back up.

    3. I rather that then having to click through dozens of fights with enemies that pose no threat.

      I still remember how game reviews complaining about games that didn't scale except via region, due to how much time you spent in fights with things you kill in one hit, and give useless loot now.

    4. I think this goes off in the opposite direction- everything can still damage you slightly(assuming armor is roughly equal to HP), and you can only 'heal up' fully in town.

      But in this case the majority of fights you have to try to run away from as either not worth the time or too hard to kill. And they make it harder over time to run away without hyperspace, and that has a random failure chance(where they get a free round of attacks on you).

    5. In my opinion enemy scaling should be made regarding the genre. If I'm playing epic high fantasy, I do expect character(s) to become force to be reckoned with and capable of simply wading through hordes of lesser foes. Continuously surviving by tooth and nail works fine with things like post-apocalyptic games.

      But biggest grief comes that scaling takes sense of achievement from player. Why would I bother grinding and jumping through extra hoops if all I get are stronger enemies.

    6. That's why scaling the max level instead of the min or average level provides the best of all worlds. At Level 1, you encounter rats. At Level 2, goblins start appearing, but there are still a lot of rats. At level 3, you get the occasional ogre, plus goblins and rats. Using this system, you still have plenty of opportunities for grinding (and watching in satisfaction as your high-powered characters mow down lesser foes), but also frequent challenges.

      The problem is, I can't think of any games that really do this.

    7. That doesn't change the problem of having to click through through (or fight) a level 1 slime q bunch of times. I mean, can't we just assume that foes that much weaker then you take one look t you, then tail, and run? That is whati I would do if I was a level 1, leather amour and iron sword bandit seeing a 30th level fighter in obsidian armour.

    8. I suppose it depends on how often the game throws combats at you, and the mechanisms for those combats. If POR kept making me fight long battles against kobold hordes when my characters were Level 6, I'd find it annoying. But it doesn't bother me when I my Level 40 character encounters a skeever or mudcrab in Skyrim.

    9. Random encounter with slime wouldn't be considered epic, but I think one example could be found in - surprise - AD&D goldboxes and we don't even need to consider magic of mass destruction like Delayed Blast Fireballs.
      * Party encounters some dozen orcs who would've been deadly to beginning levels but on high levels fighter-types were capable sweeping through numerous opponents at one strike.
      * Party encounters horde of undeads, with high level priest's turning destroying half of them before the battle has even really started.
      * Party encounters red dragon, which could've been final enemy some time ago but now due lucky turn order thief gets to move first and backstabs successfully.

      Real life analogue for level-upping just to beat the final enemy would be studying hard just to pass the test.

    10. If I remember correctly, orcs aren't sweepable due to high hit dice; I only remember kobolds and goblins being sweepable. Everything else applies though, and fighters also get extra attacks per turn.

    11. Any game where I have to watch a load animation, click the attack button, select targets then watch them die should not have any enemy I can kill in one round. Just popup a message saying 'slime dead' or something.

    12. Zenic - You're correct. Thought that sweeping attack is dependable on level of fighter, but apparently it affects only 1HD and less monsters.

      Canageek - Let's forget about those slimes for moment - Think about for example Knights of the Old Republic's Starforge. Siths over there doesn't provide much more than slight delay on your characters at that point. That didn't bring anything to plot, but gave certain epic feel how far from your character had become since the beginning where even single one was serious opponent.

      Or Planescape: Torment's escape from Pillar of Skulls - if Nameless One was up to it he could beat all those demons and walk away from Hell at leisure - they weren't scaled unbeatable.

      Not to say that characters beating impossible odds, wouldn't grow hair on chest. Azure Bonds' fight with Beholder Corps might come to mind on RPG department, but aside points mentioned in previous posting - being constant underdog of the world due artificial opponent scaling just to stretch gametime wihout adding anything to plot is just lame.

    13. Not consant underdog, just have a few fights with enemies when you return to a very underleveled area, then have the rest see this and run. Saves me having to wait through a loading screen, pick targets, and then watch a dumb victory animation.

      Yes, I did this a *lot* in Skies of Arcadia Legends. Why? I printed out a list of hidden locations to find. Some of these are jst about impossible as they are *invisible, floating, moving islands*. That are somewhere in an area, but usually hang out at X. Sometimes. If you are lucky. So I then have to fly across then entire level 1 zone, killing every damn looper I meet, getting a tiny amount of XP and GP each time, and doing nothing but increasing my travel time.

      Skyrim is normally a diffrent issue, since there is no real dealy due to wolf or mudcrab attack, but I still do get sick of wolves since they come in packs.


  3. Your rating sounds pretty spot on, identifying the various weaknesses. I never really considered the graphics a problem, but I played this game years before many things from only a year later(like BattleTech) so I always thought of it as quite a bit older than it turned out to be.

    The only quibble I would have was with how you list out the Esper; but like another commenter had said, in this game they are more like a fantasy rogue- the guy with special abilities others don't get.

    Psychic Scream is pretty useless- I think you have to pump his ESP stat to 100 to get a 25% chance for success.

    Mindshock is fairly low damage, but generally 2 times on one target will kill a weaker enemy outright. It is wonderful for cleaning up after a missile barrage kills all but one in a party, unless it bugs out and won't let you do it.

    I wish you had experimented with hand-to-hand weapons more; the Esper's light sword's damage is on par with the grenades and chemical weapons you were using. If nothing else it is good for saving ammunition to finish off a few stragglers. Even the other hand to hand weapons are plenty at the beginning of the game to take out enemies, or useful after weapons break. If nothing else that would have helped the problem you had with running out of ammunition.

    The communication options are often far too random, but after about 3 tries I can usually end up demanding free fuel from freighters. I've never managed to demand surrender from enemy craft successfully, but have in ground combat. I think part of it is the 'intimidation factor' column of the weapons chart- the Panzerjaeger has a rating of 9(only a few have higher ones). I have boarded Insect Scout Ships and gotten them to surrender without even firing a single shot with a party with 5 of those rocket launchers(sometimes takes 2 tries). Generally for tougher enemies it requires at least half the enemy being dead for that to happen.

    And now I'll have to swap back to lurking mode for a while; the next upcoming games you have in your list that I've played are ones I've never beaten or gotten too far in(Heroes of Flame(which is questionable on RPG as I mentioned), and Chaos Strikes Back). After those are ones I ended up relying almost entirely on walkthroughs on.

    If you can even successfully map out 1 challenge in Chaos Strikes Back I will be thoroughly impressed. Even with a full map and walkthrough I couldn't get very far, but I was using a strange Java port that had some issues saving games.

    1. I really appreciate all your help and comments on this game.

      I forgot to mention it in the notes, but I did eventually buy the light sword for the esper and other hand weapons for my other characters. When they maxed out in their primary skills (heavy weapons, medical, etc.), I started to give them levels in hand weaponry so we could do exactly what you suggested. But by then the game was winding down, and I didn't have quite as many melee battles to fight.

    2. Trying to find info for you made me discover a few things in the manual I had overlooked before.

      One thing was that the base chance for success for most things was 50%, then modified upwards by 5% per skill level(meaning 8 levels = 40% bonus to reach base chance of 90%) and whatever penalties. In terms of ground combat, the best sighting hardware adds 35%. So at Weapon Skill 4(20%), looking at ~95% chance to hit without aiming, and before penalties.

      Assuming symmetry in terms of defense bonuses- by training Speed stat up to about 100 gets a defense bonus of about 23(23% reduction in chance to be hit). In most games, enemies end up tougher than player characters(mostly just extra hit points), so even assuming twice as good would be about 40%; most would be quite a bit less dodgy than that. That still gives better than a 50% chance to hit straight off, a single turn of aiming would turn that to almost a sure thing.

      Space combat doesn't get sighting hardware bonus, so more skill levels would be useful there, but starship defense bonuses do decrease for larger ships according to the manual. Which fits, my pattern has been relying more on extra turns aiming there.

      Out of combat skills probably get fewer bonuses and greater penalties- your experience with lockpicks for one example. And they are very unclear how base stats would influence something like that- the short descriptions say nothing. Intelligence is described as helping with training, but I don't recall any noticeable improvement there(my pilots are never in combat, so the only stat I raise is Int for them; they don't seem to improve stats any faster than anyone else).

  4. Just think Chet: One more game and you'll be on to games younger then I am.

    1. Oh, man, that's depressing. My readers are two decades younger than me.

    2. About a decade for me then- Star Command was probably the first DOS game my dad had bought for us for his expensive and powerful 286 computer; I remember when he bought a spacious 50MB hard drive for it- 5.25 inches wide and took up 2 drive spaces vertically.

      About the only other really old game from around that era that I remember strongly is Wiz Ball, mainly because I never really understood it. It involved controlling a bouncing round face with a bullet attack, you collected upgrade tokens to buy improvements (like the Gradius series; first upgrade was the ability to stop side to side instead of having to counter the momentum you started). The goal was to collect stolen drops of color to restore the world. It had warp pipes to jump between worlds, but could never get past the 4th one.

      And apparently I hadn't looked for it in many years- in the top links was a Wikipedia article that mentions a 2007 re-creation; that would be much easier to go try(and much better looking than a CGA/EGA port of a Commodore game).

    3. Not me! I'm 46 and my first CRPG ever was Phantasie. My now ex-hubby and his shipmates were playing and I joined in out of curiosity. Almost 30 years later, here I am, still playing away.

    4. Wow. I would have thought you'd won by now.

    5. (That comment would have been accompanied with a little smiley face if I was the sort of person to include those in my postings.)

    6. If nothing else emoticons are good for indicating humor/playfullness/sarcasm that can be lost in a written work.

    7. It's not depressing at all; it means that the next generation is still interested in old DOS games and will keep passing them on :D

  5. The Microsoft copyright notice is likely for whatever the game ran in, probably a basic interpreter.

  6. Sounded like a fair review of an unbalanced game experience. I looked forward to this game and your excellent coverage did not disappoint. Like Sentinel Worlds, I am interested in trying this out some time. Does sound much better than the former. Especially it sounds like it could have been a fantastic game with more polish and balancing. A roguelike with similar premise would rock - like Weird Worlds, but a little more involved, including ground/crew combat.

    Regarding press, it was fairly favourably reviewed in an issue of MikroBitti, a Finnish computer magazine in 1988 or 1989. I don't have the issue any more, unfortunately.


    1. Are you familiar with Prospector? Maybe it's to your liking:

    2. I've heard about it, but forgot. Thanks! I will have to try it soon.


    3. Thanks for the tip trudodyr!

    4. Star Command got a (fairly good) review from ASM (a German Gaming Magazine)

    5. If that's a GOOD review, why does the first sentence say, "Die, American software firm SSI!"

    6. Die ist not to suffer death in german
      Die is the article to start the sentence :

      "THE american software firm SSI - lately succesful with their conversion of the AD&D series to the computer - dared to advance to the area of Science Fiction with the program Star Command and developed a complex strategy/RPG... "

      But as you don't use smilies i'm not sure if you are just kidding ...

    7. Yes, I was just kidding. I should probably learn how to use emoticons, but every time I think about them, it makes me want to (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

    8. In German, Die is the article to start the sentence at the beginning of a poem. It is also what I prefer to do than listen to another German poetry reading.

  7. Two decades younger, your readers? Not all of them :) I'm a soul destroying 49 years ancient (I'm suffering age related issues at the moment- could you tell?). I bought a c64 in the store when it was new! ...After I bought a Vic-20 in the store!

    So, uh, I guess I should stop asking what happened with the whole Andrew Schultz thing before you drop the Psychic Scream on me as well, huh?

    1. I am probably the youngest person here, or close to it. Don't worry too much Chet.

    2. I didn't really "get" the site. It appeared I had to register an account with them before it would let me post anything, and even then I couldn't find a way to e-mail Schultz. It looks like my only option (unless you see something else) is to leave an off-topic comment in one of his random postings, and I just haven't done that yet.

    3. @Canageek - 1988? You're not the only one :)

    4. Sorry meant Canageek.

      - Giauz, enjoying the greatest gift a mobile device can offer

    5. My last comment seems to have disappeared. I just wanted to say me too Canageek and Taylor.

      - Giauz, enjoying the greatest gift a mobile device can offer

  8. A friend of mine and I bought this game and both played it back in the day (that is pretty light, as far as 1980s piracy goes), and I have always been surprised (given how much we enjoyed it) how completely unknown it has become (and there have been TWO more games called Star Command since, as you undoubtedly noticed, making finding information about it even harder). I pretty much bought anything I saw with SSI's logo on it at the time, though, thinking they made nothing but games like the Gold Box Dungeons & Dragons series.

    It took me until about ~2002 to realize that the Esper were supposed to be Jedi, incidentally. That shows just how much I cared about recognizing Star Wars references.

    1. Well, they're rather weak Jedi. They can't do any mind tricks (except establishing communications at the outset, I guess). No force lightning or pushes. I think they could have powered this class a little bit better.

  9. Chet, about the GIMLET, maybe you could have a "Global" GIMLET on the sidebar.

    "Global", as in, it shows the highest score for each category from all the games you played.

    For example:
    1. Best Game World: Might & Magic, Ultima 4, Fallout (8)
    2. Best Character Creation and Development: Planescape: Torment, Morrowind (9)
    Blah... blah... blah...
    So on & so forth.

    1. That's not a bad idea. I'll play around with it over the next week.

  10. as a side note, im curious (i am SC's fan back then) how many of you would be interested in a Star Command remake to iOS (iPad platform)? i am iOS developer that currently involved in a tactical starship combat game design and want to expand the game to include RPG elements.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. I love star command back then.. currently i am planning to make a Star Command remake for iOS (not the KickStarter StarCommand mind you).

    Would you all be interested in a (relatively faithful) star command remake ? if so :
    1. what features would you like to be improved in the remake beside the User Interface (it will be designed for tablet/iOS interface)?
    2. what part of the game you want removed in the remake ?
    3. what kind of graphic style is more preferable ? a realistic EVE ONLINE graphic or an FTL style retroish graphic ?
    4. which do you think should be improved more ? the indoor parts ? the squad combat parts ? the space combat part ? or the trading part ?


  12. Hmm... the individual parts of the game sound very interesting, though it also sounds as if the game looks bigger than it actually is. Oh yeah, and the psychic capability... Mass Effect had that, too. They called it "biotics". Apparently "psychic capabilities" are the sci-fi version of magic. It seems to me they didn't do much with it here though.

  13. Joining the 'Phantasie' trilogy by the same creator, Winston Douglas Wood, 'Star Command' is now available on GOG and Steam.

    Over ten years after the present blog entry was written, the Wikipedia article on this game you mention is still rather short, but lists and links quite a few contemporary reviews, even including a German and a French one. The review link you included yourself now leads to a compilation of three contemporary reviews of the Amiga version. Some reviewers praised 'Star Command' as very good, but mostly the tenor is 'OK, but not great'.

    As for the Avalon Hill board game it supposedly was based upon, this seems to be a misinformation. There are two board games with that name (from 1976 and 1989), but neither appears to be related to the CRPG and none of them was published by Avalon Hill. In the RPGCodex interview with Wood you link to in your final entry on 'Phantasie II', he was asked directly about this and his answer was:
    "While I had played a few fantasy RPGs I had never played any science fiction RPGs or board games. Most of the ideas for Star Command were original.​"
    Some reviews mention similarities to the tabletop Traveller RPG, so maybe that's where this confusion stems from.


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