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Star Control: Origins Review

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Gameplay:

My quick description for the gameplay would be fun and enjoyable, but in some aspects lacking. The fun and enjoyment is definitely present for me when exploring as it triggers 'just one more turn,' keeping me going for longer than I intended. Of course this is not a turn-based game, but you get the idea. Travelling to different star systems to at least survey the planets, if not land and collect things, is fun to me, because I want to see what else I can find. Some planets have crashed ships on them that can be added to your fleet and others have special structures on them. Sometimes the structures give you information and other times you get resources or upgrade modules. I am not sure where I got it, but it was from a planet I got the Black Hole gun, a rather powerful, if not always easy to use weapon.

Combat can be enjoyable, but it depends. I still have not quite gotten a grip on ship movement, as ships slide around and only provide thrust from the rear, so if you want to stop, and there will be times you want to, you need to spin the ship around and lay on the thruster, hoping you will stop soon. Of course this also means you can face in one direction while your momentum carries you in another, which can be desirable.

Something else that makes combat interesting is the number of other objects in the arena, and how they can influence the fight. For example, the planets of the system you are in might be present, along with their gravity wells that will pull in ships and cause some attacks to turn. If a ship collides with a planet, they will just bounce off, which proved rather useful for me once, as a planet pulled my enemy into the black hole I fired, then bounced it right back into the damage zone. There are also fleet-wide upgrades around the arena you can pick up, but one is not really that valuable. Increased speed, acceleration, and energy recharge are definitely useful, but the one to increase the ship's maximum crew size, which is also its HP, does not help if your ships cannot repair/heal themselves. Perhaps there is a module that can be equipped on your personal ship, the Vindicator, to enable healing, but otherwise it is only the Greegrox that have this capability, so it is only those ships that can benefit from it. Collecting these upgrades can be difficult, because of how the controls work, and every ship moves differently, but they do carry over to the next ship you use, assuming the current one is destroyed.

 

 

It is worth noting that the only way to transition from one ship to another is for the first to be destroyed. You cannot swap out ships during combat, and considering how poorly equipped a number of the ships you can have in your fleet are, you can expect to lose a number of them. This is one example of where the game is lacking as you have no ability to manipulate the ships in your fleet. You cannot change out weapons, upgrade modules, or even destroy, sell, or salvage those you do not want, and there are definitely some ships I have collected I wish I could get rid of. Now I can understand not being allowed to change weapons, as these ships should stand as examples of the species they came from, but I do feel other modules should be open to being upgraded, for improving movement and health. Even though losing the Vindicator means you have lost and need to load a save, it is by far the best ship you have to the point that it is almost pointless to use any others if you expect a moderate challenge in a fight. This really weakens the purpose of having a fleet.

Also I want to mention that you can get and equip a module that will have an AI control the combat for you, and you should never use this. Sell it, sell it, sell it the moment you get it and never equip it. This AI I found to be incompetent to the point I was pushed past frustration to laughter as my ships would not even engage enemies, routinely fire attacks obviously behind their target, and run directly down the line of powerful attacks. The AI will also decide what ships go into combat, so it will throw the Vindicator into a battle immediately, instead of trying to use one of the other ships you have first. I know I stated above that the Vindicator is the best ship you have, but in theory this AI should be able to use the other ships to better effect than me. There is no way to take manual control from this AI and you still have to watch the battle play out, unless you choose to surrender and lose. It is entirely, and hopefully, likely this AI will be improved in the future, but for the version I experienced, avoid it.

Another weakness is the inventory system which has a near-total absence of management. I do not have a count of all the different types of materials you can find, but I think I can safely say there are dozens. I feel I can also safely say there is no purpose to have this many. As I recall there were only five specific materials I needed for anything. (Uranium to activate something on the Moon; Neutronium for a ship I found at Artemis; Francium for humanity to construct more ships, though this need spontaneously ended; and then Polonium and Argon to build a hospital.) Nothing else has proven necessary for anything, which means it just collects in your limited cargo space until you sell it. When you arrive somewhere that you can sell it, you will find you can only sell entire stacks of items at a time, so even though you only need 10 of something for a mission, but have 40, you need to keep the difference until you collect the rest of what you need to turn it all in. Of course it was only the one mission that required a number of two different materials, but it still demonstrates a weakness in being only able to sell entire stacks at a time.

 

There were times it seemed that the materials would be used to feed into some crafting system, but if such a system is present, it is completely hidden from the player, except as occasional references. At times you find schematics when investigating planets, but what happens with them I do not know. It seems whatever these schematics are for are just instantly produced, and if they are using resources, I am unaware of this as there is never a prompt indicating the materials have been used. There is also never an option to decide not to construct whatever it is and you cannot revisit a schematic to make more of something either. The most clear evidence that a crafting system is perhaps supposed to exist is when your contact for humanity states it may be cheaper and easier for you to build the modules you want from the materials you collect, rather than converting the materials into Resource Units (RU), the game's currency. Perhaps this is a reference to the schematics you find being easier than purchasing, but as I said, I am completely unaware of them taking resources to build and it is not as though you can apply a schematic later. Once found, the module is made.

Something else you may find on a planet are crashed ships, and always, without exception is your crew able to repair them to be fully functional, without any resource cost, and without any time passing. This makes the statement of, "We'll see if we can get it working again," or whatever similar statement your first officer makes rather pointless. It is also why you may end up with a great many ships in your fleet, though they cannot all be present with you on your journey, and makes me want the ability to destroy these ships all the more desirable. Even to just claim one module from them, it could be worth it.

 

 

Another odd point about the ships you can find is that freighters are among them, and they really do not seem to have any use in combat. There is also no freighting capability for you, so it is not as though you could send one loaded with cargo you want to sell, or have one leave to get fuel for you either. Also, there is only one type of ship you can get from each species. You are able to request your allies give you a ship, and while you can see they have a variety, with some likely being quite powerful, you always and only get one specific ship. This comes back to the issue of the Vindicator really being the best ship you have. At one point I did gain another ship that is definitely powerful and has a good amount of health to it, but I am unable to restore its health, so I do not use it for fear of losing it. The ship appears to be unique, so I want to keep it in case fleet management ever gains the depth I want it to have.

That is enough of that, so I will move onto an issue I have when landing on a world to explore with the lander. Sometimes there are threats on the world you land on, whether that is aggressive species not wanting you there or drones, so your lander eventually needs a weapon to defend itself. The way this thing fires can be very frustrating, as you can be directly facing an enemy, only for the shot to be aimed well above it. All you can control is the direction the lander faces, and therefore the cannon mounted on it, but the elevation angle is controlled by the game, and it occasionally decides to shoot at the sky instead of the enemy waiting to destroy you. There were a number of planets I landed on to find it had drones and immediately left because of this and that without armor, the drones will one-shot you.

 

Coming back to the ship, as you gain allies, you may have representatives join your ship as officers, but the actual purpose of them is questionable. The engineer you get is pretty nice, as they get you a discount in all shops, but the others appear to be pointless. They may spit out a comment at times, like that there is something special about the system you just entered, but this is apparently only for certain systems. You can enter a system full of crashed ships and structures to investigate, but nothing will be said. I guess it is fair to point out only one officer besides the engineer is stating as providing a benefit, but then this is not really a benefit. The medical officer is supposed to heal crew members who are sick after visiting a planet, but all crew only exist as being either alive or dead, and not in some in-between unhealthy state, so this benefit has no function. The UI suggests it may be possible to swap between different officers, perhaps so you could get different bonuses, but I have only gotten one of each, so this appears to be a presently unused feature. Perhaps the user-created galaxies can take advantage of this.

While I did start off this section stating I enjoy exploring the galaxy, unfortunately there are a number of criticisms I have for how this is handled. For one thing, the scale of the mini-map you get when in hyperspace is rather small, especially when compared to the gigantic range of your sensors. If you pull up the large map you can see a circle marking the extent of your sensor range, and it can practically cover the entire map. Why such a range would be practical is lost on me, as you cannot see ship movements on this map, nor the starbases that, until discovered, will only appear on the mini-map. Now if the sensors actually allowed you to find the starbases more easily, then I would be quite happy, as finding them unlocks more modules you can purchase, they have shops you can sell to and purchase fuel from, but perhaps most importantly, you can fast travel between them. It would also be nice if the mini-map were present within star systems, to make it easier to identify where planets are. You can use the orbit lines to help inform you if you may have missed one, but these are not always easy to see against the background.

The criticisms do not stop there as there is currently no viewable record of the planets you have visited. I revisited multiple planets by accident, just because I was not aware I had already been there. It would also be nice if a record were kept of what resources were found on a planet, so when you need to find something specific (most likely Francium) you could look to see if you encountered it before, and return there. You are able to mark entire systems, and then look through the list of these marks, but some aspects of this function should be automatic. For example, the homeworlds of the different species should be marked for me. It is not necessarily hard to place a mark for each, but this is not something I feel the player should need to do. Also the location of traders would be valuable to have automatically marked, but this is a lower priority.

 

 

There are probably a few other points I could make, but they would be less important than these and I feel like getting to the wrap up. My review playthrough lasted some 26 hours and 45 minutes, according to the game save, and all of it is on YouTube in case you are curious or very, very bored. (I would not want to watch me play a complete game like this for that long.)

Overall, the game is still fun and enjoyable, even if I can layout as many criticisms as I have. I hope patches and updates will see changes made that will directly or indirectly address my criticisms, but even without, there is still plenty here to enjoy. Also when the ability to build custom galaxies and adventures are added the game could gain a whole new life to it, but they are not present in the pre-release build I have been playing.

 

 



  1. Star Control: Origins Review - Introduction
  2. Star Control: Origins Review - Graphics
  3. Star Control: Origins Review - Story
  4. Star Control: Origins Review - Gameplay
  5. Star Control: Origins Review - Additional Gameplay Media
  6. Star Control: Origins Review - Conclusion
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