Friday, March 20, 2020

Planet's Edge: One Line in Three Dimensions

One of several stitched-together mini-quests that I encountered this session.
         
Planet's Edge is not shaping up to be what I thought it was going to be, which was a New World take on Starflight. I think that the developers perhaps started with an intention to imitate Starflight; certain similarities between the games are too stark to be coincidences. But they removed one of Starflight's most attractive traits--the joy of exploration in an open universe--and replaced it with something that I'm not convinced is better. Specifically, there's a lot more emphasis on axonometric exploration of the planets' surfaces, which could have been done well, but so far is a bit silly and trite.

When we left off, I was headed for Sector Algieba, as I had a couple of hints that it would be the best place to start. The sector consists of seven star systems--Subra, Talitha, Regulus, Algieba, Alphard, Koo-She, and Miaplacidus--any of which would also serve as the next Nissan model. Talitha was the closest to where I was coming in, so I explored it first. The system had six planets. As with all the systems with multiple planets, it's hard to keep track of which ones you've already visited since they don't stop whipping around their suns, fast enough that a year might pass while you take a sip from a soda bottle.
            
The stars of Sector Algieba.
          
In Starflight and Star Control, there was a certain joy to exploring even random planets because you might find useful and valuable elements. That's sort-of true in Planet's Edge except that it's very rare to find a planet that has them, you can mine them near-instantly when you do, and at the beginning of the game you can only carry 5 units of any cargo at a time. If you get rid of all your weapons, you can carry 8. So clearly element recovery isn't going to be a big thing until I can build a ship with more room. I'm not 100% sure if I could do that now or if I need to find some plans.

Each planet has a nice textual description (when you "scan") regardless of whether it has any utility. I was enjoying these a lot for a while, but then they started repeating. Ultimately, it turns out there are only about 9 common descriptions:
          
  • A molten, superheated surface giving off toxic fumes.
  • Lots of organic life but no intelligent life, "a nice place to have a picnic."
  • A small rock with a thick layer of gases.
  • Incredibly hot, unstable, with constant volcanic activity. 
  • A "jelly world" with large crystal formations. 
  • A surface only recently cooling down from volcanic activity, no vegetation or atmosphere.
             
One of the "generic" planet descriptions.
           
  • A desert planet.
  • A planet of grasses and plains with no intelligent life.
  • A snow and ice planet.
              
All but one of Talitha's planets were one of these. On Talitha II, however, my scan revealed a castle, "the seat of Avian government." Oddly, the scan screen was titled "If Love Be True," which made no sense at the time but later turned out to be related to the mini-quest that I found on the planet. Thus, it seems that if you scan a planet that has such a quest, you know it immediately because you get a title.
           
I'm not sure that the game needed to be so explicit about each quest.
         
We found ourselves in an Earthlike castle with guards stationed at just about every intersection. The game repeatedly referred to them as "avian," so I guess they were bird-like. We never got a close-up portrait. Most ignored us, but a guard at a section of the castle that was clearly an arena told us that the queen had canceled all spectator sports for a few weeks. We would later meet the queen, and her two princess daughters, but let's pause for a moment to note that these aliens are the first non-human sentient life forms that my characters--perhaps humanity as a whole--have ever encountered in-person. They apparently look like birds and live in castles and have the same type of social structure as a past Earth society. And we're able to speak their language I guess because of information from the crashed Centauri Device? In any event, my characters managed to jump right in to palace intrigue while in real life they probably would have still be staring open-mouthed at the alien guards. For their part, the aliens didn't react to us at all despite presumably never having seen humans before.
               
Exploring the castle.
       
From dialogue with NPCs, it transpired that Princes Jhenna was being forced to marry a reptilian alien from another sector. She naturally didn't want to do this and was hoping to escape Talitha II to find her true love, a former palace servant who came from the planet Henresia, also known as Subra II. Meanwhile, some faction was planning a coup and had placed a bomb in a fountain near the wedding site, intending to kill both the queen and the princess.
   
We agreed to help the princess. I don't think this was a role-playing choice so much as something that you have to do to as part of the main plot. She said that she could escape through a hidden door if we could move a heavy piece of furniture. This required us to find a "levitator," which was on the other side of a navigation puzzle so annoying that whoever designed it should be hunted down 30 years later and forced to make it through a real-life version.
            
The princess's sister, who I guess is also a princess, explains the situation.
          
The puzzle required the party to wend our way through a roughly 6 x 10 matrix of bushes, only some of which could be walked upon, and some of them had mines planted within them that would damage the party members for about half their health if they were within the one-square explosion radius. Unless I missed something, there was no way to tell which bushes had bombs without setting them off.

You can S)earch for them, which is the subject of its own annoyance. The reference card that comes with the game doesn't mention "search" as a function when exploring on land; it only mentions "look." (It does mention "search" later in a master list of commands, but not in the list specifically within the ground movement section.) For most of this session, I didn't even realize that "search" existed, which means that I missed a lot of loot in various chests and barrels in the palace and probably on the Centauri outpost, too. But even when I reloaded and checked, "search" just caused the bombs to go off.

Thus, through trial and error, I had to make a map of the safe route through the bushes (this reminded me unfavorably of a level in Wizardry IV), only to discover that it still wasn't safe. You only really control the movement of your lead character. The others do their best to follow, but they often go blundering off in their own directions, get trapped behind closed doors, get lost in mazes, and so forth. Even when I had the right path mapped, I couldn't necessarily stop my trailing characters from wandering off it. I eventually just had to accept the damage and move on.
            
My moron party members set off a bomb despite my best efforts.
         
In due course, we found the levitation device, used it on the bureau, and hustled the princess through the secret door. The passage led to a courtyard where one of her friends waited with a spaceship. As she rushed aboard, she tossed something at us and told us to take it to "He Who Speaks" on Henresia, presumably her lover. The item was a "trinket."
           
Man, this would have come in handy in the Bolingbroke household over the last month.
         
I tried to explore more, but the palace guards all turned hostile at this point, and without any experience gain or any place to sell looted equipment, you're basically fighting for no reason. We ultimately beamed back to the Ulysses and moved on.
           
The crew has a Star Trek-like transporter chamber for beaming up and down.
        
The closest next star was Subra, presumably home of the Subra II that we had to visit to find "He Who Speaks." We warped to the system and scouted a few planets before we were contacted by a ship. It had the same thuggish-looking alien who'd defeated us in combat before, demanding 3 "units of cargo." I hadn't saved in a while and wasn't confident in my ability to win in combat anyway, so I offloaded 3 units of heavy metals we'd brought from Earth.
              
Transferring cargo.
       
The transfer screen above comes up at the warehouse on Earth, while you're in orbit around planets, and when you're trading with aliens. You hit + or - to add or subtract cargo from your ship. It's not quite as fun as taking a lander down to the surface and looking for signs of ore deposits.
             
The next quest begins.
          
On Subra II, we hit the next quest, titled "Gift of the Magin." The planet was far more imaginative and alien than Tanitha, covered with swamps, ferns, mushrooms, tall trees with sprawling root systems, and biting insects. We were attacked several times by some kind of bear-looking beast which left meat behind when we killed it.
           
Firing at, and killing, a beast.
        
The intelligent species was a fungus-based biped with no eyes or mouth. To communicate with them, we had to first find a writing tool called an "imastyl" which the aliens could use to write messages in the muck. One of them wanted the meat we'd collected from a beast to allow us to cross a bridge.
            
The party approaches the Magin on the weird planet of Subra II.
          
Living in the hollow of a dead tree, we found a woman named "She Whose Steps Are Wise," otherwise called "The Magin." She asked us to kill a mutant named "He Who Speaks" who lives on the other side of the river and apparently sets traps for his fellow Subraites. We fell victim to more than one of them.

We found "He Who Speaks" in a cave. He was so-named because of a genetic mutation that allows him to talk with a mouth, and he claimed that the deformity left him persecuted by his people. We declined to kill him (again, I don't know if we had any other real option). He thanked us and asked us to go rescue Princess Jhenna. When we gave him the trinket instead, he thanked us and suggested that if we took the Magin the Talking Stick that he previously stole, she'd prize it more than his death. Jhenna hadn't arrived yet, but he seemed confident she'd be along. I'm not sure how an anthropomorphic bird mates with a talking mushroom, but I guess that's for them to figure out.
              
I guess maybe this is a real choice, and I could have killed him to solve the quest.
        
We found the Talking Stick in a cavern nearby. There was some creature called the Bladderclaw--an underground beast whose bladed tentacles came bursting out of holes and attacked us. We tried to fight it for a while, died, reloaded, then remembered we had no reason to keep fighting once we had the stick. (Perhaps there was a cache of better weapons and armor past him or something.) We left Bladderclaw in the cavern and returned the Talking Stick to the Magin. She said that since she had it back, she would be "too busy to deal with the Algiebian issue" and thus appointed us as her envoys to . . . something.

The crew wastes time trying to fight a monster.
             
The next star was Koo-She. It had only one planet, Koo-She Prime, where a scan promised a quest called "Solitaire." We beamed down into some structure beneath the surface of the planet. That's as far as we got. We were blocked at the first door with a message that "only envoys of the President are allowed in the facility." I guess the Magin isn't the president because that didn't do us any good.
           
I swear to you, Sy Sterling sent us!
           
The Miaplacidus system also only had one planet, and it was guarded by two ships and an orbital platform. When we communicated with them, they turned out to be staffed by the same species of goon who had previously extorted us for cargo. Here, he just demanded that we leave on pain of death. I decided I was sick of being pushed around and chose to attack.

Space combat in the game is disappointing. Basically, you just maneuver around the enemy, point your nose at him, and shoot. You can even turn on automatic firing if you want the game to shoot for you, which makes it almost just like Starflight. I assume that once I have a ship with cannons and missiles on the wings and such, I'll have more things to shoot, but nothing really will change. Numbers show the status of your shields and your opponents. I honestly found it easiest to stay in one place and just rotate to face the foes. In the first combat, I destroyed both alien ships but then got killed by the orbital platform. I figured that was close enough to try again, and I achieved victory on my second attempt. My ship was repaired automatically afterwards, requiring no inventory of elements to do so.
           
Destroying the alien ship. I have no idea why the GIF is so slow in the beginning. I have issues with GIFs.
            
Miaplacidus Prime turned out to be uninhabited, but the planet had 27 units of "alien metals" to mine. Of course, after jettisoning the heavy metals we'd brought from Earth, we could still only take 5.

The Alphard system had mostly generic planets. One of them, Alphard Six, had 107 units of inert gases available.
           
Those gases do not look inert.
             
That left the Algiebian system. It had several generic planets and something called Ishtro Station. As we approached we were contacted by an alien who said that the world is "under the Great Protection Treaty signed by affiliates of the Galactic Enclave," and that I would have to pay a fee of 6 cargo units before being allowed to contact the world. I tried giving him just 5, but he wouldn't take it.
          
What would you say he look like? A horse?
           
Random notes:
             
  • One denizen of Talitha II did recognize us as "humans" and said that he hadn't seen any of us "since the Concierge locked up the Izor system." This suggests that humans live in the Izor system and perhaps that its ruler even is one.
  • There is no consideration of fuel in this game, nor does there seem to be any kind of timer.
  • The inability to move diagonally is really annoying.
  • I didn't talk much about ground combat, but it has so few options that the game might as well have offered autocombat. 
  • I got stuck in He Who Speaks's cave for a while because although there was an obvious ladder, apparently the command needed to climb it was "search." The game has a lot of weird interface quirks like that.
            
Since my ship is only capable of carrying 5 units of cargo, I leave you heading back to Earth to either build a new space ship or remove my only weapon from my current one to make more space.

My suspicion is that I'll find some quest that leads me to the first artifact and that the other seven systems will have other batches of extremely linear, named, interrelated quests. But with no open exploration and no good RPG mechanics (there's no character development and combat tactics are minimal), everything is going to hinge on the quality of the stories that make up those quests, and I find their quality mixed so far.

Time so far: 8 hours




64 comments:

  1. The space station in Algeiba is called "Ishtao Station." I blame the font choice for that one. =p

    Space combat, as well as cargo mining, gets easier when you get larger ships mostly because the next ship you can build has 40 Shields per facing and has a capacity of 40 units; larger ships can use larger engines and the larger ships can use turreted weapons. (So, uh, I guess space combat eventually goes from "Starflight" to "Star Trek Online?")

    The benefit of a turreted weapon is that you don't have to aim at your target, you just press Space to fire. The drawback is that one turreted weapon is four times larger than a regular 90-degree weapon (and that doesn't take into account Targeting Computers. You might have noticed that you need ever-increasing room for multiple installs of weapons and engines, Chet!)

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  2. T"2021 Nissan Koo-Shee. Built for your lifestyle. Keeps going when the going gets tough. Buy now at your local Nissan and get zero percent APR financing."

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    1. How fast does rev up in its warp 0-60 times?

      I like to bend spacetime...

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  3. I want to see the version of this story where the princess ignores her duty to her people, runs off with the man of her dreams, and a war starts because she's such a narcissistic twit. Thousands killed, cities destroyed, and her kingdom conquered: even better if her man is conscripted and gets killed in a battle because of her egomania. Now that's a tragedy worthy of Shakespeare.

    However I get the idea it would make a lot of people very angry and be widely regarded as a bad move. Stories are about giving people feelings to feel and this one would make them feel very bad indeed.

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    1. I guess that would be more or less the story of Helen of Troy.

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    2. And Guinevere/Lancelot if you extend it to queens as well as princesses.

      I think the most tragic take is in Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, where the title character runs off with the man she loves, leaving ruin in her wake, only to find that the infatuation was only temporary and she and Vronsky don't even really like each other.

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    3. Helen was ensorceled by Eros on behalf of Aphrodite, and the whole thing was set up by Zeus wasn't it?

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    4. I'd prefer a story where you come to realise that the enemy you've spent years being trained to fight against doesn't actually exist, and your real enemies are the people who've been training you.

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    5. Alan Twelve, this is too realistic.

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    6. @Alan Twelve that feels familiar but I can't pin it, except for a Black Mirror episode.

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    8. @Alan Twelve @Tristan Gall wnqr rzcver (ROT13 encoded) has that and it is a fantastic story...I have never been as blown away as I was then...

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    9. That's an oikophobic theme. As opposed to xenophobia, which is an irrational fear of the outsider, oikophobia is an irrational fear of one's own people.

      Be that as it may, it was the plot of Ender's Game.

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    10. I was going to mention the same game as @Gamerindreams; it's not quite what Alan is describing since there are also external enemies, but similar enough to warrant mention.

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    11. No, the plot of Ender's Game is that I'M the victim, not all the people I murdered.

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    12. @alantwelve that's a pretty good description of orson scott card's thought process and questionable politics as well

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    13. Ender's Game is a riot.

      I get why certain people like it. One teenager is so good at video games that he becomes a war hero, while his teenage brother is so good at chatting on the internet that he becomes leader of the world =p

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    14. I liked Ender's Game a lot, but I last read it when I was still reading authors like Terry Goodkind so I might not be remembering it well, or I might have been too young/too stupid to read into it. I had really awful taste for a long time.

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  4. "I didn't talk much about ground combat, but it has so few options that the game might as well have offered autocombat. "

    The curse of nearly all SF CRPGs.
    Only exceptions I can think of at the moment is the Buck Rogers and X-Com games.

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    1. And Buck Rogers had an auto-combat option!

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    2. Shadowrun is a sci-fi/fantasy hybrid, but I thought its sci-fi classes provided a solid number of options - drones, hacking, cyber-implants, weapon abilities, grenades - even if you didn't use magic.

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    3. There are a lot of SF RPGs with fine combat, but maybe PO means Space RPGs specifically.

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    4. Oh, no they don't. X-Com is not.

      The original X-Com games had a lot of combat options, but when the correct strategy in every map outside of a terror mission is a step-by-step crawl across the map, often involving ending the turn after one move, or ending 50 turns in a row outside an enemy ship, it's hard for me to call the combat 'good'.

      Unless you mean the new X-Coms, in which case yes, they have some of the best combat going.

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    5. TG, sounds like it was too hard for you. If you talked about Terror From the Deep I could understand you, based on its reputation. Personally I loved OpenXcom and thought the difficulty was just right. And you could always use rookies as cannon fodder.
      Haven't played Space Rangers yet, but it's on my play list.

      Addict, I used auto-combat once in Buck Rogers. But when it wastes grenades on lowly rats, it does more harm than good.

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    6. Weird assumption to make. It’s not a case of difficulty but of design. The best way to manage risk is to slowly plod, whether you’re playing on the easiest setting or the hardest.

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    7. Who said that the only way to play the game is the most efficient?

      XCOM soldiers are cheap. There's no rule that says you have to play zero-risk. I've sent rookies out in front as scouts to draw fire and find out where the aliens are. I moved them around corners and into UFOs and if they get shot, hire another batch of 10. Who cares? Sure you want to keep your veterans in the back (usually) but rookies are there for a reason. Use them.

      I had a blast playing XCOM 1, and it was because I played the game, instead of viewing it as some kind of spreadsheet optimization exercise. Some of my best memories are when success was in real peril and we squeaked by a mission with 75% casualties.

      Get back to base, load up with more soldiers, right back out there again. The ones who survive to become captains and commanders have real stories to tell. XCOM is one of those games that writes its own story, with you as storyteller. Slowly plodding stories aren't popular for a reason.

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    8. You tell 'em, Harland.

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    9. People actually like the dumbed down all-or-nothing action point system the nu-X-Com games have? I checked out of those when my only options were move, shoot or run.
      I also have to wonder if Harland has played the new ones, since his statement about story curiously lines up with how the sequel went...

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    10. I don’t consider it dumbed down, the complexity is just redistributed. Some people don’t like that the new games feel less like traditional war/strategy games, and more like boardgames. In my opinion they’re no easier to play well.

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    11. In many ways the nuXcom games have more complexity than the originals due to the variety of skills.

      What they lose is the granular customization of equipment that the originals provided, as well as a great deal of flexibility in the movement/firing mix.

      ((Also, the "slowly plod" method in the original games is not only not the only way to play the games, it is objectively poor strategy in a lot of ways.))

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    12. I like them both, but there are times when old X-Com is tedious no matter your play style. Strapping individual ammo clips onto a paperdoll every single mission has never been fun.

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    13. I love the original XCOM combat system. So full of surprised and great tactical choices as you level up your gear and your veterans improve. Those terror mission where always the most tense missions along with the alien base. There was also nothing more heartpounding than a base defense mission with a psi contol enemy lurking.

      I haven't played the new XCOM's but have watched many playthroughs. I think XCOM2 is much better than the first nuXCOM. It added even more unit variation and RPG elements. However, I can't wait to get my hands on Pheonix Point which seems like the melding of the best of both. I just don't have the system to run it yet.

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    14. CRPG fans: "I know this game from 1989 is basically unplayably buggy, repetitive, and derivative, but it's a forgotten gem because of this one unique thing it does and the fact that I played it when I was 12 and it reminds me of my childhood. Please just give it a chance."

      Also CRPG fans: "OMG this critically-acclaimed major title that sold millions of copies is complete trash and everyone who likes it is stupid."

      Sometimes I think the perfect game for some CRPG fans would be a game so obscure and strange that literally nobody is able to buy it, and even if they did it wouldn't run, so as to most perfectly allow them to express how elite and refined their tastes are...

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    15. Honestly, I feel like that's most gamers, or at least most people that go out of their way to call themselves "gamers." Every series and genre has its retro snobs. Older Mario is always better, older FPS is always better, older shmups are always better, older fighting games are always better. Older movies are always better, older books are always better, older comics are always better. Rah rah rah, the new stuff is for casuals/kids/amateurs.

      The solution is to never claim yourself as a fan of anything and never join any forums, fansites or subreddits.

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    16. I have to say, the comments section on my blog tends to avoid that thinking, which I like. Unlike many other sites with comments--I'm absolutely not thinking of any one in particular--no one here gets called names for having a fondness for a particular game or a particular gaming element. We give each game a chance, highlight its strengths, and yes, occasionally poke fun at its weaknesses, but even that isn't malicious.

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    17. Terror From the Deep's reputation for being difficult is actually the function of a bug from the original xcom. When it shipped there was a bug that, whenever you loaded a saved game the difficulty would be set to the easiest setting, nobody ever really noticed because the early game is so deadly to your rookies anyways. When TFTD rolled out the bug was fixed and people playing on harder difficulty levels actually got the intended challenge.

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    18. People liking old games and disliking new popular ones isn't necessarily nostalgia. I prefer the old XCom to the new, too, and have valid reasons. My nain reason is the action point system. XCom had several APs per soldier and each action would take a certain amount of AP. Not every soldier necessarily had the same AP. Action economy was a lot more interesting. The new XCom introduced the 2 AP system where one movement action costs 1 AP no matter how many steps you take, and shooting also costs 1 AP. This system has by now been copied by many other tactical games, and I like it a lot less than the proper AP system of the original XCom, or Jagged Alliance, etc etc.

      It doesn't have anything to do with liking a nostalgic old game more than a popular new game for the sake of being edgy. I just prefer one core gameplay system over the other.

      Popularity and obscurity are no criteria for quality, by the way. Chet discovered a couple of high quality games in his blog that are relatively obscure (Starflight and Ragnarök are good examples). Meanwhile Call of Duty is extremely popular.

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    19. @JarlFrank - I think you hit the nail on the head of while the original XCOM is so good and that is it's action point system. Not only did each soldier and action have a different AP, but so did each weapon as well by varying the percentage of AP. It is extremely tatically rich. It is what keeps me coming back for more and I fire up OpenXcom that eliminated a lot of the bugs of the original.

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    20. I don't get why people get so upset that the games they like are dumbed down compared to past games? Are you that insecure about the games you like? Do you need constant validation that your choices in entertainment are right? I like Watch Dogs and Far Cry 4, you don't see me whining on the internet that they aren't dumbed down in comparison to older open world shooters.
      People used to go out and watch hot garbage, and they liked it. They didn't tell their friends that the newest Rocky and Rambo film was high art.

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    21. Morpheus, my answer to that is that there aren't enough games--at least, not enough that I really like. I wouldn't make the same complaint about films because there are already too many good films to watch, so you can just enjoy them and ignore the bad ones. Same with books. But there absolutely are not, from year to year, enough good RPGs. So if the ones you DO get are worse than those in the past, then you're naturally pretty upset, particularly if they sell well, because you know you won't be getting what YOU like any time soon.

      A better movie analogy is to take a specific genre or franchise. If you love Star Wars but hate the latest trilogy, it particularly sucks because that's all you're going to get for several years.

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    22. Yep. I've been waiting for another Morrowind since 2002, but Bethesda went into a completely different direction and nobody else has made a game like it yet. I've also been waiting for another Arcanum since 2001. Troika went bankrupt and nothing since has reached the same quality for me. Or another game like Jagged Alliance 2... which isn't likely to happen because nu-XCom made the 2 AP system so popular, every second tactical RPG uses it now.

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    23. Morpheus point was that people who like the new games shouldn't get upset about people calling them "dumbed down". Not that people shouldn't complain about games being "dumbed down".

      But yeah, another Jagged Alliance with the engine and qualities of part 2, just new maps and story, would be nice. Probably not going to happen.

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    24. Yeah, I forgot to add the word called. Called dumbed down. My ultimate point is that some things you or me or anyone likes aren't smart. Since I was questioning why anyone would like Nu-XCom's AP system, which I view as dumbed down, and didn't like it influencing every other game either.

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    25. I dunno, I like it because I like it. Why do you like your favorite color?

      I suppose AP is potentially more nuanced than "one move + one action" but nothing really essential to the game. It's on the level of Pool of Radiance's extensive halberd/polearm/spear catalogue IMO; I didn't mind it before but I also don't mind that it's gone.

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    26. I think 'dumbed down' carries with it a negative connotation, in the same way 'streamlined' carries a positive one.

      I like granularity but it often has overheads. I don't really want to have to click my way through turning/crouching every single action.

      I like it when games have a mix of situations you can blow through, and ones you have to pay more attention to because there's a lot on the line.

      During instances of the former, granularity can feel like it's just slowing everything down.

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  5. The Star Trek influence here is obvious, down to each planet acting like a titled "episode".

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    1. Star Trek 25th Anniversary, one of the greatest Star Trek games of all time, had a similar structure. The game was broken into individual levels, each with their own title and patterned like a self-contained Star Trek episode.

      I was going to make a similar comparison but chose to riff on Chet's Nissan joke instead. :P

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    2. Somehow, I didn't think of those quest titles as "episode" names, but now it completely makes sense. Thanks for pointing that out.

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    3. I was thinking the same thing. Definitely a homage to Star Trek and Star Trek the Next Generation.

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    4. even down to the "avian" planet having a medieval castle, that feels very TOS to me :)

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    5. I'm sure if the resolution were higher, we'd be able to spot some re-used props from Ultima VI and a bunch of glitter-painted "jewelry," haha. Original Series was a beast all its own.

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  6. The comment about the lack of reaction at meeting another sentient species reminds me somewhat of Gametek's Nomad, a fun space combat/trading game from 1993 which is alas, not a RPG.

    In Nomad the other races comment on how utterly bizarre you look and occasionally wonder, quite rudely, if letting a human fly around space is really a good idea at all.

    Also the cat people are conceited jerks who cheat you out of everything you own, but they are presumably evolved from cats, so that checks out.

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    1. I imagine a race of sentient cats would spend most of their time sleeping, and the remainder knocking things off shelves and whining for food despite both dishes being full.

      At least my cat was like that. Poor Enzo...

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  7. What's going on in the first screenshot, the one from the planet Koo-She? At first I couldn't read the it at all and felt like I had suffered brain damage during the night and could no longer recognize shapes. After studying the picture, I think the brown figure on the right is tearing a panel, and the weird bear-stitch-creature is lifting a huge green tree trunk-like thing. Some sort of science experiment gone wrong?

    Where is that view from? The planet description says no life forms of structures, yet I think the main screen of ship is showing both? How does the ship get that view? Then again, no one ever explained in Star Trek TNG how the hailing worked, or various other things captain Picard wanted shown on the main screen.

    I was a huge sci-fi fan as a kid, and Planet's Edge was one of those games I wanted but never got. I suspect I would have enjoyed it as a kid (it's sci-fi!), but it seems I would not enjoy it too much as an adult.

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    1. See, I thought the green part was the background, and the arms were pointing downward as if holding or lifting up that purple crystal thing. The more I look at it, the more it's confusing me.

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  8. Yes, those are most definitely role-playing choices. You could have killed "He Who Speaks" or helped him out as you did.
    One of the nicest things about the game is you can pick any side (or sometimes no side) and it will not prevent you from winning the game. You can always get the objects (or whatever else) you need to progress.

    As you have already pointed out yourself. Helping the princess may not be the "good" choice. It is the romantic and more traditional one, but a strong case can be made for having her go through with the wedding for the good of her subjects (noblesse oblige).
    There are also subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) results of your choices on other planets. For instance, I, as you did, sided with helping the princess. Later on Subra 2, while exploring, I ran across a squad of soldiers from Talitha 2 who yelled "There are the guys who kidnapped the princess (Apparently this is how your rescue is being spun back on Talitha) and I wound up running from the patrol (to avoid injury and not wanting to kill them for just doing their job).

    You also missed a lot on Talitha 2. In addition to equipment, there is no need to wish retribution on the designer of the courtyard bomb maze. You can obtain a map that shows the safe path through the courtyard. There is also a switch that deactivates the bombs.

    One of the other nice things is that which side is the "good" side (if any) is often not what you would think when you first beam down (and your not required to help them anyway).

    The game is fairly non-linear. While Algieba sector should be done first and Alnasi last, the others you can really do in any order you like. The "Suggested" order is kind of a general guide to the difficulty of the combats you will face, but there is no requirement that you do them in that order. Close analogy would be Might and Magic 3 (since it is from same manufacturer). There you are clearly intended to do the area around where you start first. Work your way clockwise around the map and end up on the fire island. But there is nothing to keep you from hopscotching around to a more difficult area first if you want to. As with most RPGs you will find some places guarded by ships too tough to get past until you are stronger.

    As someone else has pointed out, this is not a Starflight clone, it is closer to the Star Trek 25th anniversary in that the meat of the game are the "episodes" (complete with episode titles) on the planet. It has a very Star Trek TOS feel as you move from planet to planet (or episode to episode). Frequently the events on various planets are interrelated with one another.
    On the minus side, combat is not a strong point. Space combat in particular is much like the original starflight and not very interesting (buy a turret, run away from the enemy and keep firing). On the plus side, a surprisng number of episodes do not require combat (unless you prefer that role-playing choice). Getting resources from the planet is just a menu choice. Equipping your ship(s) can be fun.

    Also, I seem to remember there is a command that will decouple your squad from following the leader and allow you to move him(her) individually (it's awkward, I think you may have to then make the next person the leader and move them etc., so not something you want to use very often, but useful for the occasional spot where precise movement is a must), but I can't remember what it is.
    Sorry for the long post.

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  9. P.S. The command I was thinking of was "C". When not in combat you can press "C" to put you in Combat mode. This will let you move just Character #1 one space, then Character #2 one space, Character #3 one space, Character #4 one space. Then (unless you are in combat) you will have to press "C" again, move everybody once, wash rinse and repeat. It's important to remember to hit C after everyone has moved once or you automatically go back to moving everybody at once. Like I said, awkward, but the situations where you need it are quite rare.

    As you have already discovered, the master keyboard command list at the end of the reference guide is your friend, as it puts everything in one place.

    Also note, that in addition to the usual side quests, there are other opportunities for additional role-playing, or strategies, in each episode. For example (Since you have already been to Talitha, this is a non-spoiler) if you use the matches (from the kitchen) on the Banners in the courtyard, this will start a fire and distract the guards, letting you get the assault laser gun without hurting anybody.

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    1. Well, this is weird. The manual also suggests that it should work that way (with combat mode). But in my came, pressing "C" appears to do nothing. I can enter combat mode by hitting "A" and attacking something (like the floor), but if there's no valid enemy, the game puts me back in regular mode after one turn. Are there different versions, I wonder?

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    2. I wonder if the correct mouse icon needs to be on screen for the keyboard equivalent to work.
      You know how you have those two palletes with 4 commands in them in the middle of the left and right columns? By default these are (G)et, (L)ook,(D)rop and (E)xamine on the left. (A)ttack, (U)se, (T)alk, (I)nventory on the right.
      If you click the right mouse button these will be replace with two new palletes. (C)ombat mode, (M)ap short-range, (alt -Q)uit, and (shift-M)ap long-range on the left. (ctl-S)ave, (W)ield/wear weapon/armor, (ctl-L)oad saved game and (B)eam up/down on the right.
      I'm thinking you may have to click the right mouse button to get the pallete with the (C)ombat mode icon on it and then the "C" key might work (or at the very least you should be able to click the icon at that point and go into combat mode).

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  10. P.S.S Accidentally sent the previous post before it was finished.
    Since you sided with the Princess, you may have been attacked by one of the assassins hired by the conspirators. If you took his ID and showed it to one of the conspirators, you could have convinced him you were the assassin and he would let you help yourself to their stock of munitions.

    I should also mention that the episodes themselves are pretty non-linear. For example, on Subra 2, I explored in a different direction than you, came across "He Who Speaks" first and did everything in the opposite order that you did. It all worked out fine.

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    1. I'm starting to get a bit of that non-linearity in subsequent missions, but the areas are really too small and the quests too short for me to give a lot of credit for that.

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  11. I'm enjoying this write-up of Planet's Edge. I enjoyed it as a young teen, and it's curious to me that it has slipped into obscurity over time. One note on your musings about optional ways to complete quests: This game, to my recollection, has a lot of that. In some cases, rather than completing a quest for someone to give you the item, you can just kill the person who gives you the quest and take the item from their corpse. I didn't appreciate it when I first played, but in retrospect, it does allow for different role-playing approaches: are you the kind earthlings going around helping everyone, or mercenaries bent on saving the Earth no matter the cost of life to everyone else?

    Just thought I'd offer a couple of notes about a few game glitches. ROT13 for those who really want to avoid spoilers:

    1) A glitch that will crash the game: Qba'g ornz qbja gb Npnzne 2. Lbh'yy trg n fpranevb qrfpevcgvba (jvgu n tyvgpurq vzntr) vs lbh fpna gur cynarg, ohg ornzvat qbja jvyy penfu gur tnzr.

    2) A helpful glitch regarding planetary resource gathering: Vs V erpnyy pbeerpgyl, jura lbh tb gb gur pnetb zrah ba gur fuvc orpnhfr lbh jnag gb oevat zvarenyf baobneq, lbh pna tb gb "Ybnq Pnetb" be "Qhzc Pnetb." Vs lbh hfr "Ybnq Pnetb," gur zvarenyf ba gur cynarg qvfnccrne. Ohg vs lbh tb gb "Qhzc Pnetb," naq gura oevat gur zvarenyf baobneq, gur zvarenyf ner fgvyy gurer... fb lbh pna qb vg ntnva, naq ntnva, naq ntnva gb trg n ovt ybnq. Cnegvphyneyl urycshy sbe ener zvarenyf.

    3) A quest glitch in Zaurak Sector: Va gur Mnhenx frpgbe, ba cynarg Mnhenx VV, gurer'f n dhrfg ba gur cynarg gung lbh'er fhccbfrq gb pbzcyrgr va beqre gb cynpr n teni ohbl. Jurarire V qvq vg nf n xvq, gubhtu, gur rirag jbhyqa'g gevttre rira gubhtu V unq pbzcyrgrq gur dhrfg. Whfg xvyyvat gur thl jub tvirf lbh gur dhrfg ranoyrf lbh gb trg npprff gb gur ybpngvba sbe cynpvat gur teni ohbl, gubhtu.

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  12. Does anyone here know if Planet's Edge ever got a patch? The last time I played it, which,admittedly, was nearly 20 years ago, I noticed a bug that your weapons wouldn't run out of ammo, as long as you had a single magazine in your inventory. Or, more precisely, the ammo clip just wouldn't be used up on reloading. As a kid, I played the German version, and I don't think it had that problem.

    Also, Chet, you really should experiment with sequence breaking and going off to random story planets. You can pick up a lot of great gear that way. The only real gatekeeping is that (not really a spoiler)rnpu frpgbe jvyy unir ng yrnfg bar fgbel cynarg thneqrq ol n fcnpr fgngvba, naq lbh'yy arrq vapernfvatyl ynetre fuvcf gb rvgure oybj gurz hc be unir n ynetr rabhtu pnetb ubyq gb oevor gurz sbe npprff.

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    1. My guess is that random exploration will get you "really great gear" if you use a walkthrough and already know where you're going. I am breaking the suggested sequence, but I'm going to deal with each quest as I find it.

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