I'm going to be frank, I've yet to play the original Star Control games. Not that they don't appeal to me — I am a big space game fan — I've just never got round to them. When I heard that Stardock was developing a sequel, I wanted to hold out toying around with the older titles and see what the developer had planned for the series in 2018. After spending around three hours playing through the small preview twice, I came away impressed. Here's why.
Blast from the past
The essence of Star Control is the same. Sporting a combination of space battles, hyperspace travel, resource gathering, diplomacy, ship management and upgrades, and planetary exploration, Star Control: Origins takes place in our universe in the year 2088, when you're the captain of humanity's first true starship. Things quickly go south and you're tasked with leading the charge in forming alliances, dealing with enemies, and everything else in between.
A hostile alien race known as the Scryve has carved out a nice slice of the universe and deems humanity as existing without authorization. The punishment is extermination, which quickly turns this exploration mission into one of desperation and survival. Luckily, we're not alone out there, and other races aren't too fond of the Scryve. It's our job to explore the universe, uncover artifacts and secrets, upgrade and recruit ships, and halt the Scryve plans.
How you go about that is up to you. Think of Star Control: Origins much like a blank sheet of paper, and you play as Bob Ross. It's time to paint a wonderful picture, hopefully depicting the human race flourishing.
Graduating space school
After spending a few hours in the Fleet Battles beta, which opened the section of the game dedicated to ship combat that is set to be managed with a ranked system and more, I fired up the main game preview with no prior Star Control experience. From the get-go, it's clear that this is a Stardock game. The familiar user interface and humor are present, allowing you to lose yourself in the massive universe while having a blast.
You're introduced to some excellent music and the ability to name your character and ship. All dialog is voiced, and in true RPG style, there are various options available in conversations that can lead to uncovering more information and taking on quests. The presentation is solid with animated hand-crafted backgrounds. Ships look brilliant, as you'd expect from Stardock and its long history with Galactic Civilizations.
After being given your ship (the first starship humanity has created), you're tasked with finding out what happened to the Lexites. This mission is halted dead in its tracks when you discover a crashed alien ship. I'll not spoil too much here since the venture into unknown space is part of the Star Control: Origins experience, but you quickly discover the Scryve. During all this, you need to somehow not kill off all your landers as you hit planets for resources and any unknown POIs.
Landing on a planet is a challenge (and a mini-game of sorts), requiring you to keep within the safe trajectory. Venturing out will damage or destroy a lander. How everything works together results in some rather addictive gameplay, especially if you're fond of resource gathering, exploration and getting the most out of locations. And you're going to be doing a lot of this in Star Control: Origins.
The map is huge. Each system is populated by planets that can be scanned and potentially explored on the surface. It's of paramount importance you keep your kit up to par with upgrades and whatnot to handle more challenging environments. Some planets will outright kill your crew if you go unprepared.
The two quests you're handed in this preview show just how blind you really are in the universe. In some instances, the game will point you in the right direction, while in other instances a character will provide some hints as to where you should look. The Tywom you aid in the Sol system, for instance, said that some parts he needs to repair his ship landed on planets nearer to the Sun. It narrows down the search, but still leaves you to figure it out.
And that about sums up all I could do in the preview. One positive of this preview was that it left me wanting much more, after getting into the groove.
Launching from the preview
Ahead of the release, I expect the development team to continue ironing out bugs and other issues with the game. There were a few that I encountered in the two playthroughs, including some lip-sync glitches, and long load times. There wasn't much unlocked to play around with, being restricted to just the Sol system, but it did allow for testing of major mechanics, including exploration and combat.
If you've been waiting for this game, it's going to be well worth it. Star Controls: Origin is set to be released on September 20 for $39.99 (price is $34.99 during pre-order) on PC. Stardock plans to roll out a console version of the game in 2019.
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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.
I may be slow, but where do you find said preview? I can get the fleet battles beta, but no sign of any preview...
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