|That's more like it.|
Starflight II is a fun game for exploration. I stayed up way too late last night because I kept saying, "just one more system." But on the combat side of things, the game is pissing me off.
A lot of CRPGs ease you into combat, offering low-level enemies at the beginning so you can get used to the interface. Not Starflight II. The attitude of this game seems to be that if things come down to violence, you've already lost. I've yet to face a single foe in a group of fewer than three ships, and until the end of the session, even one of them seemed capable of defeating my Class 3 shields, armor, and weapons.
|Getting trounced in combat.|
Combat was the one thing I hoped Binary had improved after Starflight, but unfortunately they didn't. It's barely changed at all. It's theoretically a bit easier in the sense that you no longer have to be pointing directly at the enemy ship when you fire; the game automatically targets the closest enemy. But that reduces combat to a simple exercise of mashing the SPACE bar while flying to avoid enemy missiles (lasers are unavoidable). You can't even choose between your own missiles and lasers; the game simply chooses lasers for close enemies and missiles for distant ones. I would have thought the opposite made more sense, but there you have it.
|I've been seeing this screen a lot.|
When you first encounter enemies, there's really no way to tell they are enemies unless you want to make an assumption based on the sector of space you're in. They usually give it away by shooting at you. You could mitigate this by flying around with shields up and weapons armed all the time, but some friendly races understandably take exception to that.
|You don't want to take too long deciding whether to hail or raise shields at this point.|
I haven't been talking about it so far, but I find the game's controls a little annoying. There aren't so many actions that the developers couldn't have programmed each one to a unique key instead of forcing you to scroll through horizontal and vertical menus. The process of "deselecting" a menu option so you can scroll through the others is inconsistent: it's ENTER on the land, the right or left arrow when looking at your inventory, and SPACE while in flight. This makes it easy to deselect a command when you want to select it or to keep doing something when you really want to deselect it and move to a different command. There's also a bit of a pause between a keyboard input and the games acknowledgement of that input.
All these problems are livable until you have six enemies shooting at you, and you're desperately trying to raise shields, arm weapons, and enter combat, and you end up raising shields, then accidentally lowering them again, then arming weapons, then disarming them, then entering combat, then exiting combat, and then you're dead.
At least reloading doesn't take that long.
|The last two voyages of the ISS Laivas.|
My many defeats at the hands of what I can only assume are the Umanu, and also a few at the guns of the Spemin, came as I explored around the cloud nebula. When I last wrote, I was trying to skirt the upper edge in search of artifacts on the other side, but I soon found myself outclassed by so many enemies that I decided to return to starport. The fastest way was directly through the nebula (I hadn't found any contiuum fluxes), so I aimed and booked it, simply running every time I encountered any ships.
In the upper-left quadrant, I'd found a Dweenle outpost where they were selling god-masks, a craved trade item for the Tandelou. I bought 30 cubic meters of them thinking I'd make a huge profit, but the Tandelou only offered to buy them for pretty much exactly what I'd paid. The venture paid off in another way, though: when you sell a favored trade item to a species, they'll allow you to buy any artifacts they have, and the Tandelou Eshvay had a "System Scanner" that came in handy on my next expedition. It shows the presence of other ships and tells you a little bit about each planet the moment you enter the system.
I've adopted the practice of buying at least 1 cubic meter of every special item that a species sells. I won't make much profit that way, but it ensure that I'll always have at least one on hand if a species really wants it. It was by this method that I had a "livelong" in my hold when I visited the Humna Humna, and was thus able to buy a "Flux Scanner."
|I guess I should have bargained harder.|
Setting out from starport again, I explored the bottom third of the map, hitting almost every star system--trade or no trade--along the way, picking up minerals, selling them, restocking fuel, noting trading outposts, logging planets for colonization, and reloading every time I got killed, which was lots. I visited at least two systems that had "trade beacons" but found that there was "no trade" when I arrived. (Thankfully, I wasn't low on Shyneum!) Two other systems were full of aliens that immediately attacked when I entered, preventing any trade.
|If the gravity of this planet didn't turn me away, the flying, carnivorous plants who refuse to trade certainly would.|
It was towards the end of my expedition that I finally encountered a new species called the Arla. Conversation revealed that the species goes through three mental metamorphoses tied to the moons on their home planet. In the "Arla" stage, they're peaceful and rational. In their "Kher" phase, they go insane. And in the "Ng" phase, they become extremely hostile. Because of this, they tend not to spend much time around other races. They say that the Lowar was the only species to understand them, and they feel sadness at their destruction. They warned me to beware of the "microwave beam" used byt he Umanu, which defeats both shields and armor; to defeat it, I need to somehow acquire the "phasing" technology of the ancient Leghk.
|An entire species with multiple personality disorder.|
On a planet run by the "Nelsons," a goofy "species" that prides itself on "hard work and good, honest, down home values," I bought an artifact called a "gas slug." I had no idea what it was for, but I figured, hey, an artifact! Plus, the Nelsons promised that if I had one, I'd never have to worry about my crew getting injured.
Well, it turns out it it prevents them from getting injured by ensuring that they won't do anything. My crew got lazy and refused to perform their jobs. (I wonder if this is what Burzmali was talking about in my first posting.) I jettisoned the thing into space and everything returned to normal.
|Get it together, crew.|
When I was finally ready to return to starport, I used my new "Flux Scanner" to find the presence of continuum fluxes. Some of them took me to random places, but eventually I found the right combination to return to starport.
|This thing is pretty handy, but there are lots of places where multiple fluxes appear in groups, and it's hard to distinguish them at this scale.|
Checking into the headquarters, I was delighted to find that I'd made so many successful planet recommendations that I had over $400,000.
|I also got a $10,000 fine for recommending a planet that was too cold.|
This turned out to be just enough to outfit my ship with Class 5 everything: engines, armor, shields, and lasers. Knowing that I wasn't going to get any better equipment than that, I headed back out to find something to kill.
|The Laivas isn't taking @#*# from anyone any more.|
Delightfully, my first encounter in hostile territory was with five Spemin ships. As usual, they tried to shake me down for a quarter of my Shyneum.
|Yes, that's exactly why I'm here. Come closer.|
Without even bothering to return their communications, I raised my shields, armed my weapons, and opened fire.
|I still don't like the combat system, but I admit this was pretty satisfying.|
Well, "Class 5" must mean pretty good, because I defeated three of them very quickly. The fourth immediately surrendered, and in true Spemin form, spilled everything.
They confessed to stealing the "most valuable thing" from the Tandelou, only to sell it to a species called the G'Nunk when they "discovered it was only a worthless hunk of green glass." They admitted to acquiring their new technology from a "data cube" found on a "derelict ship," and they gave me the coordinates. They told me their planet in the system is called Bemfblunk and gave me the coordinates. Finally, they said that Shyneum originates on a planet somewhere in the middle of the cloud nebula.
|Disgusting little things. I shall rid the galaxy of all of you.|
When they had nothing more to say, I armed weapons again, destroyed them, and looted the wreckage of their ships.
Now it's time to get serious about various quest locations. In addition to the three I mentioned last time, I've heard that the Humna Humna sell an "encounter scanner" on one of their planets in the center-right part of the galaxy. It's time to finish my explorations on the right side of the map, try to find these G'Nunk, and see if my new weapons don't help against the Umanu.