The RPG Scrollbars: Praise The Ur-Quan Masters

There aren’t enough SF RPGs, and of those, there aren’t enough that prioritise what I want from them – the feel of being in an impossible universe full of infinite possibilities, not simply being in a futuristic showroom with a lot of tech manuals. It’s why I loved Mass Effect so much, why I got on so well with Anachronox despite hating basically every actual mechanic it merely thought it understood from JRPGs, and why the likes of Eve and Elite Dangerous just aren’t my mug of Romulan Ale.

And then of course, there’s Star Control II. I’ve been playing it for a couple of reasons of late, partly for work and partly because it’s one of the few games that will run on the Macbook Air I’ve been travelling with over the last week, and…

…it really is a wonderful game universe, isn’t it?

I know that a lot of purists would prefer more attention go to Starflight, Star Control’s predecessor, and the game that’s not had the spotlight as much in recent years due to the fan-remake Star Control II. Fair enough. Starflight was a fascinating, pioneering game too, with a truly amazing plot twist light-years beyond anything that anyone could have expected back in 1986. Star Control was the game I played first though, and the one that stuck – a sprawling, wonderfully written adventure campaign on one side, a fantastic Spacewar upgrade featuring a whole armada of ships to duel with on the other.

The Spathi Eluder, armed with a rear-mounted cannon to dish out pain while still escaping. The Mycon Podship, crawling around space at slug-speed, but with a homing missile to respect. The inertialess UFOs of the Ariloulaee’lay, capable of confusing any opponent and harnessing the power of random luck for last minute escapes.

In the campaign, you only got to field what you’d persuaded people to give you. In Super Melee, all bets were off, as the great powers of the universe jousted and blasted away for hours and hours of shared-keyboard awesomeness. Star Control 2 was amazing. Such a shame they never made a third one. It didn’t happen.

Yes, you can agree to save the universe, but only if the new order is called The Empire of Me. I love this game. It’s full of great moments like that, such as setting yourself up as an alien god and changing your new peoples’ language just to screw with them, or travelling with an evil megalomaniac psychic who looks like Krang from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but with all its points thrown into the Dominate discipline, avoiding the need for a stupid robot body. It’s an entire galaxy to explore, with few barriers to get in your way and a ton of freedom in how you go about saving Earth, what ships you acquire, and how much of a dick you are to enemies and allies alike.

You can’t see me rubbing my hands together, but they’re rubbing. They are rubbing. Star Control 2 was the game I wanted to play since being disappointed by EGA Trek and captivated by Psi-5 Trading Company. Semi-related: gawd, I feel old.

It’s not just the game-y parts of the game that I’ve been replaying it for though, but the fantastic writing and universe design. Star Control has some of the most memorable aliens ever put in a game, and still some of the best written. It helps that most of them don’t actually do very much, consolidating most of their personality and quirks into one or two really big conversation tree driven dialogues. This inherently makes it easier for much of the odder stuff to be delivered in way that avoids dragging the jokes out too far, as with a race of pranksters or the sexy blue Syreen with their Penetrator spaceships.

In most cases, you meet the aliens, they say their piece and then you move on, so the designers don’t have to find ways to extend a nugget of personality into lots of individual quest designs and encounters or, worse, risk them becoming too human, as might occur if you were constantly hanging out with them. It means meetings can be infodump heavy, but that’s okay. They’re islands of plot that break up the much more solitary floating through space just often enough, and which find a perfect balance between being funny and silly, and presenting well thought out species by any SF standards. It’s no surprise that the universe was more inspired by the likes of Larry Niven than Star Trek. Not that they could resist a couple of Star Trek style aliens in there. Cough cough.

(Yes, that’s the genuine top response when meeting the Syreen.)

In particular, something I always forget after not playing Star Control II for a while is how fascinating its villains are. On the face of it, the titular Ur-Quan are your fairly stock ‘evil’ race. They’ve enslaved Earth, along with most of the other civilised species in the galaxy (your character escaping this fate due to being at the other end of the galaxy at the time, and returning in a powerful Precursor ship). Those who refuse to serve them are obliterated. They look like giant centipedes, in vivid green and black colour schemes to represent their two factions. They must be destroyed! At once!

And yes, yes, they must. But part of Star Control II is slowly learning that the Ur-Quan aren’t actually as bad as they seem. For starters, if they conquer you, you get a free choice of being returned to your homeworld and serving them as slaves, or becoming battle thralls who fight on their behalf. The former deal is sweetened by the fact that the slave shield that keeps you there also keeps the rest of the galaxy out, with the Ur-Quan quick to warn everybody that there are far worse threats than them out there. They’re also, generally, reasonable. Go against them and you face the consequences, but they accept ignorance as a defence, as well as being willing to take the time to explain what they’re doing and why they see it as a good thing.

They can even be generous overlords at times, with even the commander of Earth’s slave starbase outright saying that they’ll probably reward you for helping them gather essential radioactives to power the place. Things don’t always go so well for their slaves though (just ask the cowardly Spathi, though even they got three warnings not to be cowardly custard pots before being threatened with a many-booted centipede stomping their faces for insubordination), and they have some intensely dickish moments like destroying planets’ cultures for little better reason than because they can. Still, things could definitely be worse! And they’re certainly more interesting than the Reapers and their Inception Horns™.

As with games like Ultima – yep, Richard mentioned Ultima, take a shot – I love this attention to detail. “Evil” is usually a boring start point for any character or fictional race, largely because it’s hard to write as anything other than ultimately self-destructive. The Ur-Quan don’t simply own the galaxy because they have the best toys, though that was how they conquered it, they own the galaxy because they’re smart enough to at least make the status quo tolerable.

Even the more genocidal faction, the Kohr-Ah, have both reasons and justifications for wanting to purge the galaxy, including their belief that anyone they kill has a chance of being reborn as Ur-Quan, and a desperate belief to prevent the rise of anything like their former masters, the psychic Dnyarri. The two sides even have the perspective to accept that they might be wrong, with Star Control 2 taking place during the “Second Doctrinal Conflict” – the time when both factions fight to determine which of them has the moral superiority to reshape the galaxy.

This is a game from 1992, and it does a better and more thoughtful galactic scale threat than Mass Effect, even if we ignore That Ending. Indeed, it does galactic threat better than basically any SF RPG that came after. You can take that as a slight on those games, sure, but it’s far more fitting to appreciate just how brilliant Star Control 2 was. It didn’t hurt that it also came from a time where games would put their foot down. Take too long to finish it and the Second Doctrinal Conflict will end, beginning an outright curb-stomping of the entire galaxy. But even that’s not necessarily Game Over if you know what you’re doing, as seen in this Minimalist playthrough. Bit of a shame the ending doesn’t really acknowledge that accomplishment, but hey, it beats a Fallout style “Game Over” any day.

The main problem with Ur-Quan Masters, original or remake, is that it’s one of those games that pretends to be a lot more freeform than it actually is. You get a good amount of freedom, but there are key plot points that you have to hit in a particular order and what they are can often be vague. Get ’em wrong, or simply run out of resources due to distractions or failed battles, and the whole game putters to a disappointing stop. It’s also worth snagging the space maps rather than simply zooming off into space and trying to wing it. Here’s an even handier online version, complete with search, though it does contain spoilers too.

Alternatively, if you just want to see the funny dialogue, try this video Let’s Play, or this text based version. Other player mods include a HD version that, sorry, I find much uglier than the original, and a full music remix that slots right into the Ur-Quan Masters version of the game.

It’s worth taking a look in some form though, because it really does still deserve it. Fingers crossed Stardock’s upcoming Star Control reboot will handle it better than the third game that, as hitherto mentioned, never bloody happened, especially as the GalCiv series is one of the few that’s managed to carry the games’ sense of humour and wit into space over the years. Especially against players who are totally asking for it. That’s absolutely the StarCon spirit, albeit in a very different kind of game.

And, y’know, that reboot isn’t the only game coming out that still carries a torch for this series. But more on that another week. For now, go play it, and find out why its fans are so rabidly insistent that you do. There’s no point buying the GOG version instead of the approved Ur-Quan Masters remake (Star Control 1 doesn’t offer anything essential any more), though if you want to step back further, they do have both Starflights.

55 Comments

  1. rocketman71 says:

    How I wish there were games today half as good as this one.

    • mouton says:

      There are. Star Control 2 was truly wonderful but let us not fall into a nostalgia hyperbole.

      • Mr_Blastman says:

        Alas, there are not.

      • peterako1989 says:

        I can tell you, this is not nostalgia. Star control 2 is trully a great game better than much of the macho crap they make nowadays, and I say this having experinced it from the ur-quan masters remake.

        • Treymoney says:

          I first got SC2 for free on some PC magazine CD Sampler in 1998. I’ve played through it every few years since, so I can say with some authority that it isn’t just nostalgia that makes this game great.

      • horrorgasm says:

        It’s a broken analogy though. No, there isn’t anything out today that compares to Star Control 2, but there wasn’t anything that compared to it back in 1992 either. Even its own sequel couldn’t recreate the unique greatness that set 2 apart from just about every other game ever made in any time.

    • TheAngriestHobo says:

      1992-3 was really a golden age of creativity in video games. It was the period when the technology to produce relatively complex, nonlinear, GUI-driven games was first emerging (assisted by widescale adoption of the computer mouse), and since it was virgin territory, devs dreamed big and didn’t feel constrained by established systems or best practices. They set about creating the worlds they wanted to explore, in the ways that they wanted to explore them, with the only real restrictions being the limitations of the technology.

      There are other reasons for the stifling of creativity in gaming in recent years (the consolidation of smaller studios into gaming giants like Valve and EA, for instance), but largely I think that the reason we haven’t seen many idealistic games like SC2 anymore is simply that there hasn’t been a technological revolution in gaming on the scale of 1992-3. Instead, we’ve seen incremental advances in particular fields, focusing on making things faster, brighter, shinier, rather than opening up a fundamental new gaming experience. Procedural generation came close to being a game changer, but showed its limitations fairly quickly. Maybe VR will finally introduce a new revolution in game design, but I expect that the prices being projected may be too significant an obstacle to overcome. And so we wait…

  2. BobbyDylan says:

    My greatest game of all time. Loved Starcon2, though I remember a great deal of frustration trying to get past the bloody piracy protection every time the game luanched.

    Got to the point I’d just remember 2 or 3 co-ordinates and just re-launch the game till these came up. It was faster than searching the frikken map.

  3. Electricfox says:

    Priority override, new behaviour dictated, must break target into component materials.

  4. Laurentius says:

    I am going to check that freeware version because I am actually baffled by this as I remember Star Control 2 when it came in 1992. It had terrible reviews and I remember it being luaghing stock back then. I was completely unawere it became cult classic.

    • Arren says:

      There’s not enough eyeroll in the whole wide world for this comment.

    • Mandrake42 says:

      Wait, what? It got great reviews, even winning game of the year with some publications. Are you sure you aren’t thinking of Star Control 1? It’s reviews were not outstand but the sequel was very well received. I don’t know where you get your information from, but it’s wrong.

  5. Infinitron says:

    It’s been said that the Ur-Quan were inspired by D&D’s Githyanki and Githzerai (which predate the Planescape setting by many years). I’m not sure if the developers ever stated that, though.

    • mouton says:

      In general, ancient forces defying the trite good/bad division tend to be quite interesting. Bonus points for humanity not being the center of everything.

      Regarding the latter point, this is where the atmosphere in Mass Effect 2 took a major hit. In ME1, humanity was an aspiring assistant to much more powerful civilizations. In ME2, they were suddenly the top dog, which culminated in ME3 them being the saviors of all intelligent life.

      • ZippyLemon says:

        I never picked up on this but it’s so true. Combined with BioWare’s signature game design, under which everything can be fixed with enough bullets and persuasive words, the sensation that there were incomprehensible depths to the galaxy was really undermined.

        Still pretty good though.

  6. jakedrake says:

    I wanted to love this game when I got it running many years ago but I found the combat much too difficult! I even tried to train on the melee mode to skill up but to no avail. Couldn’t get past the random encounters in warp space. Was I just young and noob back then?

    The world seemed like so much fun but was too unforgiving for a casul like me.

    • malkav11 says:

      This was also my reaction. It’s always sounded like an amazing game but I can’t deal with the combat.

      • Richard Cobbett says:

        You can flick an option called ‘Cyborg’ and the game will play the combat for you. Then it’s pretty much just making sure you have enough of the right ships. Which can be trickier than it sounds, since even the Slylandro Probes can kick the crap out of you early on.

        • Retrofrank says:

          Not reall a good choice, as the cyborg-pilot was nearly as bad at fighting, as I was.
          Yes, the sylandro probes where a real pest and you had to travel across the whole galaxy to meet their makers and convince them to reprogramm the probes.

          • Richard Cobbett says:

            Well, it depends how bad you are. Though generally it’s down to ship choice as much if not more than piloting skill – the wrong one is going to get crushed regardless of how well you fly.

          • udat says:

            The Sylandro probes were a nuisance early on for sure, although the Human Cruiser you start with is a better ship than most for fighting them. By the time you get a few upgrades on the Precursor ship, or a few free Yehat Terminators they are simply free credits flying around waiting to be harvested :)

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            Skabooga says:

            The only way I was ever able to deal with the Sylandro probes in the early stages of the game was with my lone Spathi ship that you get before leaving Sol. If that ship ever was destroyed, I essentially had to reload because I couldn’t face them otherwise.

    • DrazharLn says:

      Coming at it for the first time, I’m really struggling with the combat, too.

      Especially the probes. The wiki suggests that just running away with the spathi ship firing BUTTs is enough to defeat most enemies, but I don’t seem to be good enough at the flying for that.

      I’m also not that enamored of the ground exploration. It seems a bit grindy – feels like there should be more locations of interest about or that the grind for resources should be a bit less severe – maybe if I was better at fighting I’d need less, though?

      I think the places mentioned in dialogues should be a bit easier to find, too. I didn’t realise I could replay communications before responding, so I missed a few of the coordinates and instructions I was given.

      Would be nice to have the dialogues saved somewhere.

  7. Infinitron says:

    What bothered me about Star Control 2 is that there’s basically no interstellar colonization. Every race generally has one home planet, and a bunch of ships flying around in a “sphere of influence”. But there’s nothing there other than the home planet.

    For the races that were defeated by the Ur-Quan this makes sense, and maybe for the minor ones like the Zoq-Fot-Pik, but for everybody else? And the fact that you, the protagonist, actually originate from a colonized planet (which you can return to in the game, try it) makes the omission stand out even more.

    • Arren says:

      Nicely retrospected, Mr Cobbett. I especially appreciate your elucidating the Mass Effect series’ portrayal of humanity becoming more hubristic with each successive sequel. For me, that made the universe successively less mysterious, less alien — and less wondrous as a result.

      Star Control 2 was a poly-genre masterpiece. The Starflights may’ve blazed the trail, but Reiche & Ford outdid them in spades. A twitch-based combat phase so well-designed and polished that it stands on its own as one of the best shared-keyboard local-MP games; an honest-to-Thoth science fiction gameworld, replete with genuine ideas unlike so much game SF; and a deftly playful comedic tone — in an era where tripe like Leisure Suit Larry was considered the high point of comedic games, no less.

      Ah shit, this comment is basically just a recap of Cobbett’s article. So be it. Just paying my respects.

  8. Infinitron says:

    Another fun fact: According to Tim Cain, Star Control 2’s model of non-linearity directly inspired Fallout.

  9. fishlore says:

    Star Control is one of my all-time favorite series of games. In SC2 you can get infinite money by selling your lunar lander. Sell the first one you get, you’ll gain an infinite number of them, then sell them as you need cash.

    I wrote an “homage” to this game. I’d love feedback on it. It’s multiplayer only so bring a friend if you do play. Embers of Humanity. Available to play for free with no signups or strings attached at the website of the same name.

  10. Richard Parker says:

    Thank you for the detailed write-up. What a nostalgia trip.

    I remember seeing (and then even being allowed to play!) this game on my friend’s older brother’s PC when I was in grade three. I came home telling my dad how it was just like playing an episode of Star Trek. Mind bottling.

  11. Sin Vega says:

    Bah. Guess I can scrap my notes on this one then. Bastard. You’re just lucky Star Control 2/UQM is too brilliant to fight over. You can play it for free too, so there’s really no reason not to. The setting is fantastic, and even though I found the combat frustrating I loved playing it. Great plot and writing, really imaginative and sometimes chilling, but somehow also full of silly, funny jokes, too. I particularly like how some of the subplots have nothing to do with the main villains/story at all, but still feel urgent and important.

  12. Heretic7 says:

    “Macbook Air”…..why?

  13. animal says:

    Centipedes, what the? OBVIOUSLY they must be space spiders.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      You’re thinking of the Ilwrath.

      • animal says:

        Haha I was just watching an UrQuan let’s play video and saw the Ilwrath again. Now they are obvious space spiders, but for some reason I always thought of the Ur-Quan as the same.

      • Raoul Duke says:

        The Ur-Quan also look like spiders?

  14. udat says:

    Still my favourite game of all time. I remember going to a PC Zone stand at some show at the NEC circa 1994? and meeting David McCandless and Mr Cursor and talking about nothing else but SC2. I fancied I could beat them at Super Melee but we didn’t have a copy to hand to test the theory.

  15. geldonyetich says:

    Mentions of both Star Control 2 and Psi-5 Trading Company? What a pleasant surprise!

    I remember picking up a rental copy of SC2 when I was a teen and being floored: this was a VERY special game, I felt almost a religious reverence towards it, and eagerly anticipated this as being a sign of awesome PC games to come. Alas, it was but a singularity, a diamond in the rough of clones of Diablo, Dune 2, Doom, and Everquest.

    There was never another game that married solid gameplay, open-ended movement, lovable characters, and laugh-out-loud dialogue like Star Control 2… but Undertale came close.

  16. Detocroix says:

    “…if they conquer you, you get a free choice of being returned to your homeworld and serving them as slaves, or becoming battle thralls who fight on their behalf…”

    Must intercept a slight bit. Slave shield is a “go back home and live like nothing happened” -ticket, if you agree that things of your cultural heritage will be demolished and you never go technologically beyond nuclear age again. Then you get a shield + can upkeep one orbital station that can over see your race for the lords.

    Also, Stardock only owns rights to the words “Star Control”, they don’t have rights to use any of the races of concepts (?) used in Star Control, so… yeah they can make a Star Control kind of game, but it won’t have Ur-Quan, Alliance of the Free Stars, etc.

    Aaaaalso, Daedalic is making “Project Daedalus – The Long Journey Home” which is Star Control 2 inspired game with art design by Pascal Blanche (so very very beautiful color use and designs) and I have much much much higher hopes for it than the Star Control named game that has nothing to do with Star Control by a studio that doesn’t really do anything story related.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      “Must intercept a slight bit. Slave shield is a “go back home and live like nothing happened” -ticket, if you agree that things of your cultural heritage will be demolished and you never go technologically beyond nuclear age again. Then you get a shield + can upkeep one orbital station that can over see your race for the lords.”

      My reading of it was that the Ur-Quan could still come and demand stuff if they wanted (in the same way they demand an Oath of Fealty and starbases have to refuel and service Hierarchy ships that show up) – it just wasn’t likely you’d actually have anything they needed, and so you’d be left alone.

      • Detocroix says:

        I think that bit of the clause was related to the starbase you were allowed to have, but it was basically just a small crew that was forced to still work for the “freedom” of others :)

  17. totem42 says:

    Currently working through an UQM run myself, met the Orz last night (poor Bukowski). Truly a superlative game, from the writing to the gameplay to the music (amazing). While I could read 10000 words about almost any aspect of the game (history of its development, its influence on game designers, what’s really happening behind the planetary lander mining/alien species research abstraction), I think it would be interesting to get a review from someone who doesn’t have SC2 sitting in the hot radioactive core of their teenage nostalgia. I don’t know if RPS gives out “assignments”, but could you recruit one of the younger members of your collective to play through it and grace us with what they’re thinking?

    • Sin Vega says:

      For what it’s worth, I only played it for the first time a few years ago (hence thinking of it as UQM) and I couldn’t have put it any better than this article. I’m not young though; I just always look that bewildered.

    • Butts says:

      Well, I’m not a writer here, but after hearing so many good things about the game from so many sources, I gave the Ur-Quan masters a shot and could tell you what I thought.

      First off, I hated the combat. I’m guessing I’d feel differently if I’d spent many youthful hours gleefully attempting to space-murder my friend while sharing a keyboard, but despite many, many hours of Asteroids under my belt I never grew to like its interpretation of momentum-based space combat. Even knowing the best ship to use to counter an attacking enemy, most fights were just me being quickly shot to death as I careened in circles too slowly to ever effectively target my opponent. And I couldn’t agree more with the other comment about the AI pilot being largely useless.

      And the writing is…okay, look. It came out in 1992. I get that it’s got a certain style to it. But that being said, it’s just such a product of the time, so derivative of what I’ve seen elsewhere, so wrapped up in the tropes of 90s sci-fi (and the 90s in general) that if you’re NOT a fan of the specific works of that genre from that time period I can’t see how anyone could enjoy it earnestly today without the aid of nostalgia.

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s awful. I can see why people love it, and why it’s considered a classic. If had owned it at just the right point in my life, I’d probably feel the same. But to a new player, coming into it as a fresh experience, it does not hold up all that well. It’s too much a product of its time, and lacking too much mechanically, to really engage me.

      But if someone who reads this hasn’t played it? Well, it’s free. Try it out. But know you might not find the amazing experience you’d heard about here or elsewhere.

  18. Premium User Badge

    Skabooga says:

    Ah, really one of my favorite games. Building off some of the other comments, I especially enjoyed the underlying theme of building consensus and alliance with all these other alien races, and learning how to circumvent the ones who you could not get to join you. It really did feel like humans were not that special, but even the more advanced races needed the help of the others to challenge the Ur-Quan sovereignty.

  19. disorder says:

    I’ve not experienced all that many moments in games that just feel like they completely swept you away under the relentless flow of narrative. It’s not quite real, of course; but the depth of its back story, the three dimensional (in complexity, of motivations) of your so-deigned enemies, weighing up decisions of your own, and non-completely aligned allies and the sense of forboding, and threat that you discover in a barren, mysterious universe that you feel, with that wonderful music – it all did combine into a perfect storm. A storm you didn’t realise was raging, but you have to stop.

    Not about collecting quest flags, or vermin pelts (well..) ; it’s about the exploration you’re launched upon, and it’s so masterfully laid down, you’re seduced into feeling you’re the agent behind your own story.

    I can remember the day/s I played starcon2 from the 90’s, the first time – it’s the way I read novels – those few, with seemingly infinite depth, so that I just can’t put them down they’re completely captivating, with moments of amusement, and gravity. And star control 2 was one game that showed what a game, in the 1990’s should be. There’s definitely been amazing games other than this, but it offered so much in one package, it’s never really had a like equal.

  20. BooleanBob says:

    One of the all time greats, without a doubt. Thanks for the great write-up Rich.

  21. Raoul Duke says:

    *Extra sick fish* need *special training* for extra *fun*.
    We will have a *happy party* now.

    This entire article should be about the Orz!

  22. SherlockHomie says:

    Have you replayed Star Control 3 recently? I’ve played both through to completion for the first time in a decade, and I strongly believe Star Control 3 is the superior game. It’s easier to get into without a guide, and more importantly doesn’t punish you for taking your time to colonize and explore the galaxy instead of frantically searching for the next quest trigger.

    Pros of SC3 vs. SC2:

    – “Colonization”
    – New interesting races
    – Wonderful voice acting with animations and story
    – Better galaxy exploration

    Cons of SC3 vs. SC2:

    – Inferior/less balanced combat
    – Steals entire subplots and other elements from the 2nd game

    “Blasphemous” I know, but regardless of the internet’s general opinion for the 3rd game, it still holds a special place as my favorite sci fi game.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Yeah, replayed it a couple of months ago. Hated it. The puppets are so terrible, the basic flow of the game is nowhere near as good, the combat is a mess, colonisation is boring, the main story is really bland and the writing is a lot more immature. (Not that SC2 doesn’t have its moments of that.)

      • Mandrake42 says:

        I still didn’t think it wasn’t a bad game. It wasn’t a patch on 2 but it was still an ok. I think the writing definitely felt the lack of Paul Reiche and Fred Ford but it wasn’t totally awful, it had its moments. I think it helped that due to the fact that it was a different developer I didn’t go in expecting another game of Star Control 2’s calibre, my expectations weren’t set that high. In the interests of full disclosure though, I’ve never replayed it, while Ur Quan Masters is still on my hard drive even now.

  23. Shaun Green says:

    Great retrospective of what is still my favourite game. I confess I only played it in about 1997 when I found a copy in a bargain bin – the best £3 I ever spent.

    I’m glad you highlighted the Ur-Quan as the game’s antagonists. Their story is a tragedy, really: a history of domination and subjugation so long and so terrible that it is indelibly burned into their cultural memory. And I love that the Second Doctrinal Conflict, occurring some 20,000 years after the first, occurs when the two Ur-Quan castes meet again, each having pursued their doctrinal response to Dnyarri domination in a different direction around the galactic axis. Star Control 2 is fantastic at these little moments that let your imagination do the work of building the scale and horror of what that means.

    Outside the game’s own lore, my favourite thing about it was probably Reiche III & Ford’s response to Accolade insisting on releasing the game in an unfinished state (there was no music and all dialogue was placeholder). They refused, self-funded the game’s ongoing development – for the subsequent… at least six months, I think? – and pursued creative solutions to having no money for music, namely approaching the internet’s .mod music community and holding a competition. A real labour of love that could very easily have never seen the light of day.

  24. bipaular says:

    Somehow I missed this article and my post is a week late so I’m guessing nobody will catch this. :(

    They did a Classic Games Postmortem on Star Control 2 in GDC 2015. Video here:

    • totem42 says:

      Caught, and looking forward to not being at work so i can watch this. Thanks!