|Wow. Every headline in the "traingle!"|
Star Command was fun for a while, but I feel that it fell apart in its last act. It was already getting silly at the time of the last posting, when I needed to consult a mysterious "space hermit" to find out information about the insect alien threat. For some reason, he lived in a huge maze and needed me to find four gems, also hidden in the maze, before he could tell me anything useful. All he told me were the aliens had a master plan for their attack against humanity, but the plans had been stolen.
Somehow, my superiors at Star Command divined that I might find them at The Bar, a wretched hive of scum and villainy. The Bar presented an interesting "dungeon," with a quasi-outdoor map of ships surrounding the bar itself and a storage building. There were some light puzzles here. I had to gamble with a lizard until he got drunk and passed out, then steal his keys, then board his ship and recover the plans. I don't really know where the lizards came from. They started popping up towards the end of the last mission, but I never got a sense whether they were allied with the insects (apparently not, since one of them stole their plans) or what.
|We tore that ship apart until we found those plans.|
With the recovered plans, I learned that the insects were building a "radiation bomb" on one of their planets, and I was assigned the task of destroying the central computer and, thus, the bombs. This was the most frustrating dungeon in the game because the puzzles didn't make any sense. I had to solve them through brute force--by trying every possible command--until, for some reason I don't understand, a tuning fork helped me get hold of some sheet metal that I used to protect myself from falling acid and reach the central computer. The computer required a password that was spelled out in the dungeon's walls (honestly, who would build a dungeon like that?)--a fact that I only uncovered because I happened to use my esper's "view" ability just to test it out. Anyway, in due course I ordered the computer to self-destruct and fled.
|Tips on securing passwords:make them a minimum of eight characters, include a mix of upper and lower case, and don't build them into the sodding floor plans of your secret base.|
About this time, I started to find that I couldn't win a single ship combat. The difficulty of ship encounters appears to be based on your characters' levels and not the distance from starport, so even battles right out of dock were killing me. I started encountering a lot more robot ships, which were nearly impossible to hit. My ship was already way overloaded and I couldn't spare the weight for more, or better, guns. This was particularly compounded because so many missions were now occurring in deep space, and I needed to defeat enemy ships to get enough fuel to return home.
|This was one of many combats that did not end well.|
Thus, I engaged in some grinding until I had enough money for a ranger frigate, which took more than twice the weight and fuel of my dagger-class escort. I christened her the ISS Kellandros after my own encyclopedia of all things Star Command.
Unfortunately, I hadn't done quite enough grinding. With the money I had left over from buying the ship, I was only able to purchase one gun position in addition to the defensive hardware I felt I needed. This was offset by the fact that I now had enough fuel to hyperspace out of most combats. Thus, ironically, even though I bought the Kellandros to improve my chances against enemy ships, I don't think I won another ship combat afterwards.
|My commanding officer is prone to hyperbole.|
The last couple of missions had me return to the space hermit to get more information about the insects. He said he needed the "Gem of Death" from a lizard base. The whole hermit/gem thing was horribly explained. I infiltrated the base, got the gem, fought about a billion melee combats against the lizards, and returned. The hermit said that the insects are ruled by a queen, and that if I destroyed her frigate (he helpfully gave me the coordinates), the threat would end.
|Yeah, that's what they said about al-Qaeda.|
This turned out to be my last mission, and it was actually one of the easier missions in the game. I simply flew to the coordinates and scanned around until I found the alien frigate.
I don't know if my one gun position would have been enough to defeat her in ship combat, but I didn't wait to find out. I boarded the frigate and killed the queen and her minions. I lost one of my characters in combat.
Returning to starport without incident, I was awarded all kinds of cash, and each of my characters received "medals of honor" in a little fireworks ceremony. After that, the game offered the ability to keep playing, but there were no more missions.
After winning it once, I did it a second time and recorded it. You can watch it below, but I'd recommend doing it with the sound off. It was the middle of the night, I was tired, and I sound like I must be drunk or something.
My biggest question after winning is: what the hell was with the robots?! At the beginning of the game, I was told that humanity faced three threats: pirates, insect aliens, and robots. I figured I'd be taking them on in turn, but the robots were just there; they didn't really have a story of their own. Who made them? Why were they helping the insects? Maybe I missed something in one of the computer banks.
Just a few notes before I sign off:
- I had promised a detailed analysis of melee combat in this posting, but now that I've won, I've kind of lost interest. You can see the basics in my two YouTube videos on Star Command.
- The most frustrating part of the game, aside from the extremely-difficult-to-hit robot shops, was the continual destruction of my equipment in every melee combat. Repair kits took the edge of this annoyance, but it was rare that I exited a dungeon with every character holding a working gun.
|Gelt and Exmin are fighting with their hands because they had their RPGs destroyed. Meanwhile, everyone else is running out of ammunition.|
- The end of the game was melee-heavy. I must have fought 30 battles in The Bar, against almost every enemy in the game, and another 30 in the lizard dungeon. This required multiple trips back to starport to restock.
|There were a host of events like this, against pirates, insects, and lizards, upon both entering and exiting The Bar.|
- The lizard dungeon had one of those annoying scripted events where you wander into a room, get gassed, and wake up in a prison cell without your equipment. The resolution (shock the jailer with some exposed wires) only took a few rounds and made the entire episode pointless.
|One of the most tiresome RPG tropes.|
- As Kellandros has pointed out a couple of times, the game tends to remember dungeon maps and special encounters even when you haven't saved. For instance, after successfully obtaining the Gem of Death from the lizard base the first time, I died in an attack from some robot ships on my way back. When I reloaded and returned to the dungeon, I found that all of the doors were open and all of the puzzles were solved, even though I had never saved my progress after the first visit.