Are you one who gives out friendly hugs to people or are you more a battle-hardened veteran hell-bent on destroying everything? Regardless, Star Control: Origins has a little bit of everything for everyone. It's a game that will not only please fans of the Star Control universe, but also welcome newcomers.
Star Control is back
Star Control III was released in 1996. That's how long fans have been waiting patiently for a new game in the series. Developed by Stardock after acquiring the IP, Star Control: Origins is a story-driven game, but it won't bore you or make you wish you were playing something else. You could even go as far as to compare it with RPGs.
I'm a noob when it comes to Star Control. I've not played the previous games, but I happen to be a massive space, strategy and RPG fan, which makes this game right up my street. Once you're ready to get cracking, it's a big place out there so it's best not to delay, especially with the looming threat of extinction. If you've yet to play Star Control: Origins, fear not as you'll not find any spoilers in this review.
Explore the unknown to make friends
You can think of Star Control: Origins as a game made up of different elements. You have the storytelling, combat, resource gathering, planet exploration, questing, fleet management, and ship upgrades, as well as trading and diplomacy. Starting off in the Sol system, which strangely enough is where humanity resides, you're tasked with taking the fastest ship and exploring everything beyond.
The first thing you should do is fire up the galactic map, which shows just how huge this game is. There are thousands of planets to visit, and you can land on each and every one. You may not make it back safely, though, since landing on the more dangerous spheres may prove challenging. To get down to ground level, you need to take one of the landers and you don't have an infinite amount of them.
Planets may contain different weather effects, enemies to take down, artifacts to discover, and resources to collect. These resources are valuable and can result in you acquiring wealth to purchase upgrades to your ship and replace other ships lost in battle. Both space exploration and battles are handled in a top-down view, while planet excavation is done in third-person.
Resources and fancy kitted-out ships aren't going to be all we need to save humanity, which is where alien races come in. Throughout your travels, you'll encounter new races that can either become close allies in the wars to come or refuse to see reason and attack you on sight. That, or you can choose to become an exterminator.
That's the base of the game. You will rinse and repeat the space exploration, resource gathering, fleet engagement, and ship management to reach a point where you can further the story and get to the endgame. Is it an unendurable grind fest? Not at all, though I could see how someone could view it that way and simply not enjoy what's on offer. I believe Stardock has worked out a solid balance, aside from the planet lander section.
Out of this world performance
One aspect I absolutely love about Star Control: Origins is how the game refuses to hold your hand. Sometimes you may see a helpful pointer to where you need to go but largely you'll be running around trying to figure out what to do for quests. This makes it feel much more natural, requiring you to pay attention to dialog, utilize your Captain's log and objective panels interchangeably, and explore.
An interesting feature of Star Control: Origins is how the AI continues to go about its business while you're off doing something else. Each ship has a task it needs to do, which makes the universe feel alive as you pass by friendly and not-so-friendly vessels in outer space. And venturing into enemy territory will quickly turn from a pleasant journey to a dash to safety.
The graphical style of Star Control: Origins is cartoon-like. It works well in the space setting and overall theme, especially when compared to older Star Control titles. The dialog is voiced and the music is excellent. Stardock has refined its UI-creating capabilities over recent years and the interface in Star Control: Origins is very easy to get along with.
Performance is rock solid. I used an early pre-release version of the game for the majority of this review, which had some bugs here and there, but I have since checked to see if these have been addressed in the most recent pre-launch patch, and everything checks out. No performance hits were experienced and the added benefit of controller support allows for a more relaxed couch experience.
I would have liked to have seen a mechanic included that allowed for territories to expand and contract depending on universe events, as well as player input. The map clearly shows boundaries, and I immediately assumed this to be what it represents, but the game simply shows you areas where you're likely going to have a bad time with enemy encounters. It's a missed opportunity that wouldn't add too much complexity to the overall experience.
Well worth the wait
Star Control: Origins offers a vast amount of hours of entertainment. It's a game that doesn't take itself too seriously but offers enough to keep you hooked.
- Massive universe to explore.
- Solid gameplay, in and out of combat.
- Great dialog with unique races.
- Fun battles with additional game modes.
- Mod support will lead to replay-ability.
- Some may find it a little repetitive.
- Ground content.
If you enjoy space games, exploring the unknown, establishing communications with potential allies and enemies, as well as shooting stuff out of space, you'll enjoy Star Control: Origins. If you're a fan of the previous games in the series, you need to check it out. It's a very polished, well-rounded title.
It's also priced well at about $40 on both GOG and Steam.
This review was conducted on a PC with an overclocked AMD Ryzen 5 2600 CPU, NVIDIA GTX 1070 GPU, 16GB of RAM, running Windows 10 with a copy provided by the publisher.
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Rich Edmonds was formerly a Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.
$39.99 seems closer to about $40 than about $35 to me.....
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