See Rexor the alien. See Rexor fly his happy, little ship. Fly, Rexor, fly! See Jimmy the alien. See Jimmy fly his huge, carbon alloy armored, death-ray toting star cruiser. See Jimmy center his crosshairs on Rexor. Hear Jimmy say, “Die, Rexor, die!” See Jimmy pull the trigger. I don’t see Rexor any more. Space is a cold, cruel place, and unless you stand up for yourself and your friends, the first mob of heavily armed cyber-goons that comes your way is going to walk all over you. Stand up for freedom in Star Control 3. Here’s my review.
It is the end of the horrible Ur-Quan war known as the Battle Thralls. You (Leader of the human race) and your gang of galactic sentience-lovers have just witnessed a phenomenal site – the destruction of the ultimate spacecraft ever designed, the Su Matra. After setting your own Precursor vessel’s autopilot to collide with the enemy ship, you quickly ejected in a small escape pod. You try to escape the massive wave of energy released from the explosion, but to no avail. The fabric of time is torn asunder, and you are dragged into the near future. You witness a horrendous battle in which every race in the galaxy is pitted against a horrible, energy-based foe, and one by one, the defenders die as their life is sucked out of them. You pass out.
Your ship returns to reality and is greeted with a welcome due to an oncoming hero, but things have quickly turned grim. Due to abnormal levels of stress, the fabric of space-time is falling apart. All space travel through hyperspace is now disabled, and only you and your new Precursor ship (Which uses the eco-friendly warp bubble transport technology) can move at all. You hastily organize an alliance with your allies in the previous war and the now humbled enemy and rush off into the heart of the galaxy to find the source of the problem and nuke, ‘nnihilate, or negotiate it away. Just remember this – you are a representative of a PEACEFUL group. Don’t go all Jimmy on me.
Star Control 3 is a game in which you colonize planets, manage resources, discuss politics with various extraterrestrials, and even exchange blows should the need arise through five menus (Star map, System map, Surface map, Colony map, and the View screen that they stole from Star Trek). Most of the game is spent searching for freaky space critters and trying to ally with them.
Each race has their own set of personality traits, and if you know a little bit about them before you come, you have a much smaller chance of offending them into an all-out war. Always look through your list of things to say carefully before saying anything, or else you may wind up having to load very often. You should not consider the other characters enemies. Think of them as really stupid friends who occasionally try to kill you, but who is borrowing twenty credits from you. Although they deserve a little Jimmy, you should forgive and forget whenever you can. Racial genocide can get you in whole heaps of trouble, so play nice.
The resource management section of the game is very light compared to other games of its kind. Each colony can have anywhere from one to two hundred fifty (I think that’s the limit… If anybody knows if that’s wrong, give me a buzz) cheerful, productive citizens who do almost nothing except for working and breeding. The closer the colony planet is to their ideal survival requirements, the faster the colony grows. Different parts of the planet have higher temperatures, different plant life, and may be under water, so always look for the best part of a planet before putting down the colony.
Each citizen, regardless of age, can work in the mines (gains ore for building everything), the fuel refinery (turns ore into fuel), the refinery (turns ore into credits), the spaceport (build Jimmy ships from ore), the colony pod factory (turns ore into colony pods), the lab (research artifacts), or the factory (builds all the previously mentioned facilities). Although this may sound confusing, it is actually very simple and not important to the game in the least. You can ignore your colonies for years without worrying. Just pick up the fuel and the credits that they pump out whenever you drop in.
The exploration element of the game is my second favorite part of all. You can only travel as far as your fuel allows you to. Whenever you go to the Star map, you are shown all the different systems you can go to. When you drag the mouse over a system, it will either show up green (You have enough gas for a round trip), red (Unless you find gas there, you’re not coming back), or purple (You aren’t getting there without more fuel). When you get there, you will see all the planets there and any anomalies, colonies, or loose aliens that are hanging around. Although finding a lousy two-planet system without a single resource is annoying, it’s nice when you find someone there who you never expected to see.
The best part of the game is (as always) the fighting part. Whenever you get a race on your side, all of their ships become yours. Each ship has its own set of moves, crew limit, ammo limit, and speed, and the best part is that each ship is very unique. For instance, the Spathi Eluder has a weak front gun and a Backwards Utilized Tracking Torpedo (Or B.U.T.T.) allowing them a great escape maneuver and almost no head to head offense. Meanwhile, the Daktaklakpak can grab onto the opponent or drop space mines, requiring a very mobile offense. There are many races to choose from, so try them all out.
I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that you are not supposed to wipe out people left and right, even if they deserve it. You are only supposed to fight them when you are attacked. The good news is that there is a secondary mode of play called the Hyper Melee in which you can create your own pair of fleets and crash them together. There is man vs. machine mode, man vs. man mode, and for the extremely bored, machine vs. machine mode. Perhaps the last one was made for gambling purposes. They knew we’d want to fight a lot more than we were supposed to and they came prepared. Due to the fine mix of nuclear alien war and chats with Alf, Gameplay gets an 88%.
The graphics of SC3 are very nice. The game starts with a little movie that isn’t quite great, but it’ll do (The explosion looks just like the one in Final Fantasy Tactics when Teta dies). Right after that, you are shown the huge cluster of stars that make up the Kesari Quadrant (I should have mentioned that that’s where you are), and you are instantly filled with a message. That message is, “Wow. That’s a lot of stars.” Soon after that, you get to talk with a human who is surprisingly well animated with facial expressions and all that jazz, and soon after that, you’ll meet other wacky races along the way who look much cooler and more original than soldier boy over there. Finally, you stumble across an angry unintelligible creature covered in techno-tentacles that engages you in battle. As you lob missile after missile at it, it charges at you, only to explode when blasted with your death ray of Jimmy-like proportions. At that point, you will realize why the Graphics get a 94%, although slightly dated.
The music of SC3 is almost non-existent. There is a corny song in the opening, a cornier song for the credits, and an inaudible background song for each race. Seriously, you would have to have these aliens screaming at you at maximum volume if you want to hear the songs with your head at a safe distance from the speaker. The sounds fared far better. Each special battle technique produces its own zap or blast noise, but it doesn’t end there. The Doogs can be heard opening and closing the doors to their cloning chambers as they desperately restock their crew. The Ur-Quans bellow their demonic war cries when sent into battle. The Pkunk actually call their opponents wusses, boogers, jerks, losers, and other such childish names in an attempt to build up their hostile psychic powers. Finally, the voiceovers are almost flawless, with the exception of a few races who don’t exactly say the lines that they are given. That really doesn’t matter when you can hear a giant lizard beast swallow a hamster whole. Sound/Music gets an 85% in spite of the terrible music.
The storyline was the metaphorical bump in this review’s road. First off, I’d like to mention that the way that each race told their histories to you was a much needed boost to the game that really made it much more worthwhile. Now that I’ve said that, I can say the following. The plot stinks! The galaxy has collapsed, everyone’s trapped, and you need to move around for everyone and fix the problems that have been caused. There are multiple plot twists and betrayals, and each race has an interesting story behind it, but there is just one problem. Your hero’s an idiot. Although he does pull off the occasional cool stunt on the bargaining table, the list of things to say often includes anything intelligent. Also, the ending was very disappointing. And when you find out about the Precursors, you realize that according to their logic, they can’t possibly exist. And… that’s it for my complaints. Fine, the plot’s not bad. Jerk. Storyline gets an (extremely reluctant) 87%, even if I didn’t like it.
Next up, we have controls. The mouse is the main thing that you will use in the game for everything except saving and battle. In battle, you use the arrow keys to move and Alt and Ctrl for weapons. Saving requires the keyboard. There are no real defects in the Controls, so I have to give it a 90% for a job well done.
Although it isn’t spectacular by today’s standards, Star Control 3 is a good game in all categories, even if I didn’t want to give it that. However, it earned its score in all of them, despite my cries to give it otherwise. Overall, SC3 gets an (Uhmmm… think, think…) 86%. Yeah, that’ll do.
Gameplay – Try calling the K’tang “dolts”. 88%
Graphics – The Heralds look cool. Case closed. 94%
Sound/Music – Remember that you can say whatever you want to these guys if you load afterwards. 85%
Storyline – I can’t believe I’m doing this… 87% (I feel dirty)
Controls – No problem. 90%
Overall – (Insert witty line here). 86%