Friday, May 10, 2019

Star Control II: Age of Ultron

No, it's not a sentient, malicious robot. It's the galactic equivalent of a Lance Armstrong bracelet.
Lots of stuff to talk about, so I'm just going to pick up where I left off.

Running out of items on my "to do" list, I next went to where Admiral Zex wanted a life form on a yellow sun world. I poked around several planets in the Lyncis constellation, taking longer than most players because a lot of colors look like they could be "yellow" to me. Eventually, I found what I was sure was the correct world when this big devil's head started attacking my lander. He killed all but three crewmembers before I hit him enough time to stun him and bring him back to the ship.
A close-up of the monster that my team hoped to bag and tag for Admiral Zex.
The crew reported:
We had only a few seconds to get it into the magnetic restrainor before it started thrashing around again. Even as I make this report, that damn monster is shrieking like a steam engine and trying to tear its way free. I hope we know what we're doing, bringing that thing aboard.
Back in VUX space, Zex gratefully took the alien demon off my hands, but then immediately announced he wouldn't be honoring his side of the bargain (to give us the Shofixti females). Instead, he said that his menagerie would never be complete without humans. But as he ordered his underlings to attack us, a fun vignette played out (entirely by text) in which the demonic alien escaped its bonds and slaughtered everyone in the complex, including Zex.
Undone by his own perversions.
When it was over, a trip to the planet allowed us to recover the cryogenically-frozen forms of the Shofixti females. We brought them back to Tanaka, the lone Shofixti male, who gratefully set himself to the job of repopulating the race.
I'll bet you do.
Out of ideas at this point, I returned to the Melnorme and turned in a bunch of life forms and the locations of two Rainbow Worlds for over 1,000 credits, which I proceeded to spend on technological upgrades (including the ability to double the carrying capacity of my lander) and information. 

Among the information was a bunch of stuff I already knew, like the origin of the probes and the location of the Slylandro home planet. But then the Melnorme started talking about some races I'd never heard of, including an extinct race called the Burvixese, a terminally-depressed race called the Utwig, and trading race called the Druuge who "care for nothing but profit and personal gain through unfair mercantile exchanges". I learned that the Utwig have repeatedly talked of ending it all by exploding a Precursor super-weapon. The Druuge tried to obtain the weapon from the Utwig by selling them a worthless "personal magnifier" called the "Ultron," but the Utwig refused to give up the weapon. Later, the Utwig broke the "Ultron" and got even more depressed. The Melnorme gave me three locations where I could find parts to fix the Ultron. I already had one of them--a "clear spindle" from the Pkunk.
The Melnorme are not happy about the existence of another trading race.
The Burvixese, meanwhile, had been destroyed by the Kor-Ah. The Burvixese had learned that the Kor-Ah find other races by scanning for HyperWave transmissions. They were kind enough to warn the Druuge of this, and the Druuge repaid them by building a HyperWave caster on a Burvixese moon, ensuring that the Kor-Ah would attack the Burvixese instead of the Druuge.

I decided to head first for the old Burvixese homeworld, where I found the HyperWave Caster on the moon. When I used it, oddly enough it seemed to summon the Melnorme, so I guess that could be handy, although not what I was expecting. I next went to Utwig space, hoping to see about that bomb. They were indeed a terribly morose species, like the Dweenle of Starflight II. They refused to trade me the bomb, but the visit was useful because their system (Zeta Hyades) had three treasure worlds.
For some reason, this was the only shot I took of the Utwig.
While I was in this corner of space, I decided to explore the most remote system, Groombridge. It turned out to feature just one star and one planet, but it was a Rainbow World.

Looking to assemble the components to fix the Ultron, I next headed for Zeta Perseide and the Druuge, a weird primate species that hangs from chains. They somehow knew I had the eggshell fragments from Syreen, the portal spawner, and the HyperWave Caster, and they offered to buy all of them, although what they offered for the latter two (fuel and ships) wasn't very tempting. I needed from them the "Rosy Sphere," which they offered to sell for 100 crewmembers or the Mycon eggshell fragments. I didn't like either option, frankly, but I wasn't about to sell my crew into slavery (I barely had enough anyway). The eggshell hadn't gotten me anywhere with the Syreen, so I reluctantly let it go and took the sphere.
So few altruistic organizations have the word "crimson" in their names.
The Thraddash supposedly had the final Ultron piece, the "Aqua Helix." I'd been unsuccessful finding them before, but after some searching, I finally met them--huge, rhinoceros-looking beings--in the Draconis system. I tried to adopt a threatening, blustery posture with them, but it didn't work out. I found myself in combat regardless of what I did, in fact.
The "hostile" option did not cow them.
Despite their supposed ferocity in battle, I found the Thraddash relatively easy. They have a smoke screen that draws in homing missiles, but their ships are small and die within a couple of shots of a fusion cannon, so I just destroyed them with my flagship. The problem wasn't difficulty but quantity. Once hostilities developed, they just swarmed me with squadron after squadron, and I got sick of all the fighting, which didn't seem to be drawing me any closer to the Aqua Helix.
Note how few hit points the Thraddash ship has.
I headed back to Earth to consider my next moves. When I arrived, Commander Hayes told me that the Spathi had abruptly departed, taking their commanders and ships with them, but the Shofixti had joined us. I sold a Zoq-Fot-Pik Stinger to make way for a Shofixti Scout.
Apparently, the Shofixti reproduce so fast that finding crewmembers won't be a problem. Not that it ever was. Maybe I should have sold them to the Druuge after all.
The starmap showed me that the Pkunk were in the process of moving back towards Yehat territory again. I decided to visit the Yehat with my Shofixti commander and ship and see what they had to say about the return of their "ward" race. It was pretty extreme. 
Our children have returned from oblivion!! But now we are faced with the cruelest truth! We who have sacrificed our honor! We who have lain with our enemy! WE ARE NOT WORTHY! WE ARE NOTHING! We are less than nothing. But wait! We are not Spathi. We are Yehat . . . OF THE SHARSHIP CLANS! We will NOT live this lie any longer! Listen as I speak these words! If our Queen makes the dishonorable command, then it is THE QUEEN WHO HAS NO HONOR! And a dishonorable Queen is NO QUEEN AT ALL!
And at that, the Yehat were at civil war.
Well, good luck with that.
I next headed to Ilwrath space, hoping that I could impersonate their gods with the HyperWave Caster. But there must be something about the Umgah version that makes that possible because this one did nothing except summon the Melnorme again. The Melnorme did happen to mention that the Caster could penetrate a planetary shield, so I took it to Procyon to see if I could talk with the Chenjesu or the Mmrnmhrm. It worked. They related that they decided to accept fallow slavery because of the Ur-Quan doomsday weapon, the sa-matra. They figured they'd bide their time and create a stronger hybrid race before emerging from the shield and attacking the Ur-Quan once again. They said if I could find a powerful enough energy source, it could speed up the process.
My old allies weren't much help.
I felt it was time to deal with the Spathi and their repudiation of our alliance. When I arrived at the Spathi homeworld, I found it covered in a red shield--but not one of Ur-Quan origin. Apparently, the Spathi had used their time on the alliance starbase to study Earth's shield and then reverse-engineer it, thus sealing themselves off from hostile races forever. They didn't respond to my use of the Burvixese HyperWave Caster.
An unwelcome sight as we approach the Spathi homeworld.
On the moon, they had left behind the Umgah HyperWave Caster. I can't remember exactly how it came into Spathi hands, but at last I had what I wanted. I returned to Ilwrath homeworld and hit them with the HyperWave Caster. As with the Umgah, they believed that we were their gods. There were some funny options where I could tell them to change the name of their own species or replace common words with nonsense words.
The Dill-rats take immediately to their new name.
But the most important option was to tell them to leave Pkunk space and "seek new prey." They mulled it over and decided to vent their fury against the Thraddash. Over the next few months, I watched on the starmap as the Ilwrath circle migrated across the galaxy to the Thraddash circle. Then slowly, both circles got smaller and smaller. It was pretty cool.

Coming up on only one year before Earth was due to be destroyed, I wasted a couple of months collecting more life specimens for the Melnorme only to find out things I already knew. Eventually, they told us about the Mycon "deep children" and how the Mycon sent these eggs into the crusts of other planets which expanded and essentially cracked open the planets, making them more suitable for fungal life forms. The Mycon had already told me this, but now having double-confirmation, I returned to the Syreen commander to see if she'd react. She did--but, unfortunately, she wanted proof, and I'd sold that proof to the Druuge. I knew that would come back to haunt me.

I began to wonder if I could find another eggshell on one of the many "Shattered Worlds" within Mycon space. I spent a while trying, but after having no luck on three or four planets, and getting sick of trying to fight the Mycon ships (which I hate), I confess I looked up a spoiler--just to see if I was on the right track, or if I had to restart from before selling the eggshell. Well, it turned out that I was on the right track and that there was a single alternate eggshell on Gamma Brahe I. I would have found it eventually. With evidence in hand, I returned to the Syreen. The commander vowed vengeance against the Mycon and told me to leave.
That's what I like to hear, but aren't you trapped on this planet?
Meanwhile, the Ilwrath had reduced the Thraddash so much that I could freely explore the former Thraddash space for the "Aqua Helix." It took forever--Draconis, Apodis, and Antilae are all huge constellations--but I persevered (reloading when a visit turned out to be a complete waste of time) and finally found the thing on Zeta Draconis I. 

With the three parts in hand, I returned to the Utwig, who told me that they gave the broken Ultron to their friends, the Supox. The Supox turned out to be another alien species--this one plant-based--in a nearby system. Long story short, they gave me the broken Ultron, I fixed it, I returned it to the joyful Utwig.
My current list of devices.
At this point, I was hailed by a Druuge cruiser. The Druuge had got wind of our impending exchange and had zipped over to Utwig space, hoping to seize the weapon they'd tried to acquire in the original Ultron exchange. All dialogue options--except letting them have the weapon--led to combat.

The combat was difficult in several ways. First, the Druuge ship is capable of killing almost every ship in my fleet, except the flagship, in a single shot. Second, it has some kind of "turbo boost" that sends it zooming away just as I'm aiming at it. Third, I had to defeat like 10 of the damned things. They weren't very well-armored, and I could defeat them in a few shots if they sat still long enough for me to hit them, but the sheer number of battles meant that the encounter ended with about a third of my fleet destroyed.
I lose my Earth Cruiser to the Druuge ship.
In the end, I got the Precursor weapon, which the game calls an "Utwig Bomb." I'm not sure how to use it. If I try to use it from within my ship (as you do other devices), it just blows up my ship.
My crew finds the weapon on the planet.
As I close, I'm back at starbase, replenishing my fleet. It is the beginning of April 2158, or only about 10 months to go before the originally-prophesied destruction of Earth. On the map, the Thraddash have disappeared and the Ilwrath territory has shrunk to the size of a pea. Yehat territory has also grown alarmingly small.
Rebuilding my fleet. The Utwig Jugger is now an option.
And I'm out of ideas. I have nothing left on my "to do" list, and I've bought all the information that the Melnorme have to offer. The only thing I can think to do is re-visit each species and see if anything new comes up in dialogue. I'll probably save-scum a bit during this process, as I cannot afford the wasted time if the visits offer nothing.
The state of the galaxy.
I'm still enjoying myself and the unfolding story, but I also wouldn't mind if it was heading into its final chapter.

Time so far: 38 hours



  1. I'm pretty sure you've gotten a couple hints in this session for things you could do next, and at least one thing was mentioned quite some time ago that I don't think you've followed up on, yet (or at least, I don't remember you following up on it).

    I'm sure you'll manage to stumble into a few options as you revisit, though. It's so fascinating reading someone coming into this with no background, discovering it all for the first time...

    1. Well, I need to find some major power source for Procyon, but I don't have any leads on it. I guess I won't mind a ROT13 if there's something else I mention here that leads to a "to do" item that I'm missing.

    2. One story thread you've missed following up on: gnyx gb gur flerra ntnva.

    3. Also, gnanxn gur fubsvkgv should have offered you some hints that you may have failed to pick up on. I don't know if you can still get these at the stage your game is in, so just in case you can't, here's the relevant dialogue:

      D: Vs lbhe fha jrag abin, ubj qvq lbh fheivir?

      N: V jnfa'g urer jura gurl znqr gur fha abin.
      V jnf nffvtarq gb n Lrung fdhnqeba nf n sberjneq fpbhg cresbezvat qrrc erpba vagb Zlpba fcnpr.
      Jr jrer frag gb vairfgvtngr ercbegf bs hahfhny Zlpba npgvivgl nebhaq Orgn Oenur.
      V jnf gur svefg fuvc gb ragre gur flfgrz.
      Zl fpnaaref fubjrq n fznyy syrrg bs Zlpba pyhfgrerq nebhaq n cynarg, pbaqhpgvat n grfg bs fbzr qrivpr.
      Gur havg jnf fznyy, abg rira unys gur fvmr bs zl fuvc.
      Jura gur Zlpba npgvingrq vg, n tybj ortna gb enqvngr bhgjneq.
      V percg pybfre gb trg n orggre ybbx.
      Fhqqrayl, gurer jnf n syner, yvxr n arj obea fha, oyvaqvat zr naq bireybnqvat zl frafbef.
      Jura V erpbirerq zl ivfvba, ubhef yngre, gur Zlpba naq gurve qrivpr jrer tbar.
      V jnf noyr gb rssrpg ercnvef ba zl frafbef naq qrcneg gur flfgrz
      ohg V unq orra phg bss sebz zl fdhnqeba, naq unq gb geniry ubzr nybar.

    4. The lead should turn up if you revisit all the races, but anyway: gur flerra if zlpba fgbel vfa'g bire lrg.

  2. Double delete as I try to give as few extra info as needed.

    What you should do is written black and white in :

    What do you think of your new ships like the Supox and the Umgah ships ?
    I always like the

    1. I guess I didn't follow up on the "talking pet" thing.

      I haven't had a chance to test out the new ships yet. I just bought them. I'll let you know next time.

    2. The Supox Blade can accelerate sideways and backwards as a secondary function. It can be very effective against many enemies, but it's probably very confusing for an unskilled player.

    3. Supox Blade is not easy ship for skilled players either. I'm pretty hopeless with it. It's one of my least favourite ships, not because it's bad, but because it's so difficult to use effectively to its fullest potential.

  3. The "turbo boost" on the Druuge ship is actually an effect of the primary weapon - the huge cannon has massive.recoil.and sends the ship flying backwards.

    1. I always liked that ship. Just take potshots at the enemy from long range at little risk to yourself. Problem is, you'll win but it takes forever.

  4. Some notes on the ships:

    Druuge: The speed boost is actually the massive recoil of their main gun.

    Thraddash: The 'smoke screen' is actually an afterburner. It makes their ship go faster, and the flames are damaging to anything they touch. It is quite good ship against the AI, since most AI ships are dumb enough to fall for it.

    Since you're past these points now, I'll give some minor spoilers. Still ROT'ed in case anyone else is playing along:

    Thraddash: Gurl erfcrpg abguvat ohg sbepr, ohg lbh arrq gb fubj rabhtu bs vg. Lbh pna nyyl jvgu gur guenqqnfu vs lbh qrfgebl nccebkvzngryl gjragl bs gurve fuvcf va pbzong. Gura lbh orpbzr gur urenyq bs n arj guenqqnfu phygher. Ubjrire vs lbh gnxr gur ndhn uryvk gura gur guenqqnfu orpbzr ubfgvyr ntnva.

    Lbh pna nyfb fraq gur guenqqnfu gb nggnpx gur xbue nu gb ohl n srj zber zbaguf bs tnzr gvzr.

    Groombridge: Tebbzoevqtr jnf fhccbfrq gb or n ybpngvba bs na rnfgre rtt va gur tnzr, jurer lbh pbhyq gnyx jvgu gur gjb perngbef bs gur tnzr, cnhy ervpur naq serq sbeq. Ubjrire vg jnf arire vzcyrzragrq, fvapr svavfuvat gur erfg bs gur tnzr unq orpbzr n zhpu zber cerffvat znggre.

    Crewmen: Perjzra ner npghnyyl n svavgr erfbhepr va gur tnzr, hagvy lbh erivgnyvmr gur fubsvkgv enpr. Vs lbh unir znantrq gb xvyy n gubhfnaq crbcyr, gur cevpr sbe erpehvgvat qbhoyrf. Naq vs lbh jrer gb qb fbzrguvat rkgerzryl urvabhf, gur cevpr jbhyq whzc hc gb gjragl cre.

    Utwig & Supox: Fvapr gur hgjvt naq fhcbk syrrgf tb gb nggnpx gur xbue nu, guvf fybjf gurz qbja naq guvf vf nabgure jnl lbh pna rkgraq gur qrnqyvar. Guvf bar rkgraqf vg fvtavsvpnagyl, nyzbfg n jubyr lrne vs V erpnyy pbeerpgyl.

  5. Regarding the time limit - if you're worried about save scumming, there's one thing you can do to get a bit of breathing room:

    Lbh pna ohl lbhefrys nabgure lrne vs lbh nfx gur Hgjvt naq Fhcbk gb nggnpx gur Xbue-Nu

    1. Ur nyernql unf, lbh pna frr vg va gur fgneznc.

  6. Before turning the Ilwrath against them, you can still acquire the Aqua Helix by fighting Thraddash ships until you gain their respect, at which point they become friendly and they will let you land on the planet with the artifact (and after you nab it, they turn hostile again).

    The twist about the Spathi is hilarious and in character, possibly my favorite race in the game.

  7. Aww, come on. Buy some stuff from the Druuge for crew. There's content you won't see if you don't.

    I thought you would enjoy the Thraddash more. They go into a lot of exposition about their culture(s) if you visit them at their homeworld. They respect those who kill a lot of them.

    The Utwig are also cool, with their masks. A culture who has something called the mask of Ultimate Embarrassment and Shame gets my vote.

    I'll reproduce the text about the Burvixese from the hint book here, since spoiler danger has passed and it is one of my favorite bits of prose from all of SC2:

    The Burvixese race evolved on the planet Arcturus 1, progressing from turtle-like swamp dwellers to a benevolent, highly technological society in just over fifteen million Earth years. Although the Burvixese had the wherewithal to build crude interplanetary vessels, they preferred to remain on the comfortable damp surface of their world and explore the galaxy through HyperWave communication. Using this method, the Burvixese made contact with several neighboring alien cultures, including the Utwig, the Gg, and unfortunately, the Druuge, whom the Burvixese would have been much better off never finding. For many decades, the Burvixese exchanged information with these races, trading technological, historical and philosophical facts and theories, until the fateful year 2142. It was then that the Gg announced that they had come under attack by a unknown alien race, who appeared to want nothing less than their complete annihilation. The Gg surmised that the hostile race, the Kohr-Ah, had located them using the Gg's HyperWave transmissions. Knowing that they had little chance of survival, the Gg warned the Burvixese that, unless they restricted their own transmissions, they too might face a gruesome fate.

    Being a charitable race, before the Burvixese turned off their HyperWave transmitters, they shared the Gg's warning with the Druuge. But it was too late. The Druuge's powerful advertising beacons had already attracted the attention of the murderous Kohr-Ah, who, having finished with the Gg, began moving in the general direction of the Persei constellation, home of the Druuge. Realizing their peril, the Druuge took immediate action. They ceased all transmissions and sent a task force of their fastest ships to the moon of the Burvixese world. Once there, the task force assembled a huge HyperWave broadcaster on the moon's surface. When it was complete, the Druuge activated the unit which began emitting powerful HyperWave signals, focused directly toward the oncoming Kohr-Ah fleet. The Druuge hoped that the hostile aliens would change course toward the Burvixese planet and fail to find their own worlds. Unfortunately, this ruse was all too effective: the Kohr-Ah changed course, attacked the poor Burvixese and, sadly, destroyed them all in three days of orbital bombardment.

  8. I think you skipped mentioning this, so for the benefit of curious readers: restoring Shofixti species grants a permanent discount to the cost of buying more crew at the starbase (normally it goes from 3 RU down to 1, but other things in the game can alter this).

  9. Honestly, you're doing fine. You're in the second-to-last chapter now. The time limit ...probably... won't bother you.

  10. I wonder why the Mycon circle isn't coming up on your starmap seeing as how it seems like you have interacted with them a few times.

  11. Very nice progress! I'd like to echo others' voices that it is fantastic to read about someone exploring SC2's universe for the first time.

    How do you do interstellar travel? Do you regularly use quasi-space? It's the biggest in-game-time saver.

    1. Yes, I use quasi-space for all of the long trips.

  12. I saw you mention a book announcement, but I can't find it. Hook a brother up :)

    1. The announcement was just that I was working on it. No book yet.

    2. I know, I figured. Any details about what you are thinking of? Just curious where your mind is at on the topic. I really feel you can create something special.

  13. You may want to finish your Melnorme upgrades soon, if you haven't already.

    When you get that final upgrade, here's a tip from the files of "stuff I wish I knew when I played for the first time." ROT13'd just in case anyone doesn't want to know. Each paragraph is in ascending order of spoileriness.

    Gur svany hctenqr ner Fuvin sheanprf. Gurl frrz yvxr hctenqrq qlanzbf, ohg npghnyyl nera'g. Gb bcgvzvmr raretl hfntr, lbh znl arrq obgu.

    Vs lbh pna bayl fcner guerr be srjre zbqhyrf ba raretl, trg evq bs lbhe qlanzbf naq whfg hfr Fuvin sheanprf. Vs lbh pna fcner sbhe be zber, gura znxr guerr bs gurz qlanzbf naq gur erfg Fuvin sheanprf.

    Univat zber guna gurr qlanzbf qbrf abguvat.

    Vs lbh'er phevbhf nobhg jul guvf vf, lbhe fuvc ertrarengrf K raretl rirel G senzrf. K fgnegf ng 1, naq rnpu Fuvin sheanprf vapernfrf guvf ol 1. G fgnegf ng 11, naq rnpu qlanzb qrpernfrf guvf ol 2, qbja gb n zvavzhz bs 5 (tnzrcynl vf 24 scf).

    1. Honestly, I doubt he's going to notice a difference. Or for that matter, add that many modules into the ship for it to matter. When I get the upgrade, I just put up 3 of them and call it good.

  14. A couple of similarities (or at least so it has long seemed to me) between Starflight 2 and Star Control 2... ROT13 just to be safe, for both games:

    1. Gur Hgjvt ner abg bayl fvzvyne gb gur Qjrrayr, ohg nyfb gur Gnaqrybh (jrnevat znfxf; zvffvat/qnzntrq negvsnpg gung unf guebja gurve phygher vagb punbf).

    2. Gur Guenqqnfu ner fvzvyne gb gur T'ahax: N jneevbe phygher sebz jubz lbh pna rnea erfcrpg ol orngvat gurz va pbzong.

    1. There's a nice story behind that. Starflight's lead designer Greg Johnson worked across the hall from Star Control's co-creators (Paul Reiche III and Fred Ford) for a while. Johnson credits Reiche as a mentor who helped him get Starflight done, and in return Johnson contributed to Star Control 2.

    2. Yep, the designers' connections really show. SC2 is a great remix of SF1/2's ideas.

      And the Melnorme have a certain resemblance to the Humna Humna, methinks.


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