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Capt. Sage's Star Control 3 Review

Simply mentioning "Star Control 3" can inflame passions. Many fans of the previous games in the series claim that this game is terrible in relation to its forbears. The game is good in its own right, but quite possibly cursed in its heritage to some of the most adored games on the gaming scene. In any case, it is quite possible to want to play this game for the sheer pleasure of flying the incredibly powerful Ur-Quan Kzer-Za Dreadnought on the side of good- an experience not to be missed.

The interface for the game begins at the main menu, where you choose either to play the gameís combat minigame, HyperMelee, or you choose to play a game involving the full storyline and related elements. The action-based HyperMelee game has minimal and efficient keyboard controls. The story part of the game also has a good interface. You move about the galaxy with great ease by going to a star map and ordering your spaceship to move to a distant star by clicking once on the map, then clicking on the destination star. The interface will tell you by use of colored areas what stars are in range of your spaceship. Conversations, another major part of the interface, involve choosing from several options of things to say, clicking on them, and listening to the aliens respond. The third major part of the interface is moving around star systems and planets, where you can also colonize planets and perform archaeological digs by clicking on a planet, clicking on the orbital screen, and then clicking on the planet. The interface itself is therefore good.

The colonization and digs are not all that great. All of the planets look and play out the same. The colonization swings between being too customizable and too controlled by the computer. The fact that the Factory, which builds all of your buildings, permanently shuts down on the computerís decision and not my own is really frustrating. The colonies each have barns or warehouses, so to speak, for all of the things that it can make, because extra production is lost if the warehouses are full. I always want the colony to have the maximum amount of warehouses, but the fact that the Factory shuts down means that this is a tricky thing to do. The Factory often shuts down long before it has built the maximum number of warehouses, because it assumes the maximum amount of warehouses are unnecessary unless the current warehouses are full. This makes sense, but I want the maximum number of warehouses anyways. I really wish it were all handled differently.

The digs are more interesting than the colonies, because one either will learn something about the plot, or get an upgrade for your combat ships, although sometimes you get an item that will only be useful for the plot in the future. Still, itís a drag having to wait around while the archaeologists excavate. Perhaps the archaeology couldíve involved the player more, perhaps in a minigame. Fortunately, you can go somewhere else and return once the artifact has been excavated. On my Mac version of the game, however, this would often produce a bug which made the star map always claim that the item was excavated and ready to be claimed long after I had actually claimed and retrieved it.

There was also a bug involving an Ur-Quan plot development. Fortunately, it wasnít game-breaking. No bugs that I encountered were game-breaking.

Too much of the time, youíre either required to wait around for long periods of time or click endlessly to reveal the story. On the other hand, the story is good.

One of the best ways that you get to enhance the story is through combat. Each race produces a unique type of vessel with certain powers, attacks, and defenses. Combat occurs when you encounter an opposing fleet, and you go to the HyperMelee minigame. Your fleet and the enemy fleet pick ships for a duel to the death. This minigame is spiced up by the fact that the arena always contains a planet, and the use of its gravity well for acceleration or to trap and destroy your opponent is quite fun. The other good thing is that your ships are very powerful and fun to use: for example, the Ur-Quan Kzer-Za Dreadnought that I mentioned above. The Dreadnought can blow up most other ships with its unguided missiles alone, but is balanced by its disadvantageous need for a huge crew.

Some people claim that most of the new ships are bad and only a few are good. I myself am not going to care to make that claim. I myself am not terribly effective with, for example, the Xchagger Xclave, but I still like the actual Xchaggers a lot, so I donít care too much; I just donít use their spaceship. Perhaps someone does have good tactics for the Xclave that I donít know of, or perhaps someone just finds it fun to fly it. I havenít really got any conviction that it is a bad ship, especially when gamers and their styles of play are so different.

The plot and combat minigame, are good, and so is the dialogue. During conversations, you interact with representatives of alien races, who might do anything from attack you to ally with you. The aliens are represented by sophisticated puppets and voice actors, and they are done excellently. There are many funny lines, and well-done gestures by the creatures. The conversations also are a major way of furthering the plot, which is compelling. Several subplots are eerily similar to, or stolen outright from, subplots in the previous game, "Star Control 2," but there are plenty of original subplots as well, many of which involve moral dilemmas that you must ponder to solve. There will also be revelations about many of the series' mysteries. Those two qualities, as well as the humor, and the aliens' fascinating characters and tragic histories, are a great deal of the story's appeal.

In the final analysis, enough of the game is fun to make the whole game fun, but the colony and archaeology parts are irksome enough to hurt the overall experience. "Star Control 3" is a relatively good game in its own right with some shortcomings.

SPOILERS

On my Mac version, when the Ur-Quan civil war occurred, the Kohr-Ah and their Kzer-Za allies (who paint themselves black) would take over every world except the homeworld, even though the hint book claims there is supposed to be about an even split- 50% of the worlds rebel while 50% remain loyal. Obviously, every world except the homeworld rebelling is not a 50-50 split, so I'm going to assume it's a bug and not a last-minute change.

As you'll probably notice quickly, without HyperDrive, there really isn't a war going on. Without hyperdrives, everyone is dependent on rare Precursor vessels for interstellar travel, so there aren't really many battles. You can of course, visit Crux planets and attack them at any time, but the Crux won't do the same to you. There are times when a Crux fleet will visit or attack you, but always for the sake of the plot. There will never be a time when the Crux will spontaneously act against you just for the sake of prosecuting the war.

There's also a bit of an oddity: the Ploxis don't have to send their Precursor vessel with their combat fleets like you do. You lose if you lose the Precursor vessel because it is needed to send fleets against the enemy, and vice-versa for the Crux. Therefore, the Crux ship can't appear, for example, on the first time you battle the Crux fleet, or else the Crux would lose the war in your first battle when you destroyed their Precursor vessel. I would've appreciated at least a few lines of explanation, or even a few lines of "They have technology which doesn't require their Precursor vessel to move with the fleet! How shall we ever find their Precursor vessel?" or something like that. Perhaps the enemy Precursor vessel would travel with the enemy ships and run away when the battle went sour. Someone then could've said, "Rats, the enemy Precursor vessel has retreated."

An annoyance I had far too often was warping into a system that had nothing. The systems with nothing had 0 resources on every planet, and not a single planet had an interesting artifact. Nothing could be done in that system at all. It was enough to make me wonder why someone wasted memory putting that system into the game. Unfortunately, there are many of them.