Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Star Control - Part 5

Even if you're not interested in the (superb) strategy/adventure elements in the Star Control games, there's still a huge amount of fun to be had from the Melee mode which sees two ships engage in one-on-one combat... to the death! The first game featured two sides of seven ships each - the Alliance and the Hierarchy. The second game added a lot including eleven diverse new races, complete with their own ships, whose allegiances could be determined by your actions in-game. In the last post in this series I looked at six of them so this is the last five:

Slylandro Probe

These pesky things will be one of the first types of ship you encounter in the main game and they're a pain in the arse! Their inclusion in the Super Melee mode is probably for the sake of completion as they do serve a purpose in the main game, but actually trying to use one in battle is a haphazard affair to say the least! They're very fast-moving things which 'tumble' through space at their maximum speed automatically, so pressing the 'thrust' button simply reverses its course rather than increasing its speed. They turn at very sharp angles as well so piloting one takes a lot of practise, especially as their only weapon is a short-range one!

For this it discharges bolts of lightning which don't fire particularly quickly, and when the Probe's meagre fuel supply is gone it needs to hunt out any nearby asteroids which it can 'break down' and convert to fuel by way of its secondary ability. It's a very unusual ship whose existence is better explained in the main game, but trying to use it in battle takes a lot of practise. It's a nuisance rather than a real danger to fight against one and even if you get the hang of using it, there's plenty of better ships around.

Ship Rating: 2/5

Supox Blade

The Supox are a race of sentient plants so it figures that their ships look (and sound) rather organic too! As well as being suitably leafy, the Blade is among the most manoeuvrable ships in the entire game. It's fast to begin with and has a very tight turning circle, but on top of this it also has something called 'Lateral Thrust Control'. This allows the ship to move backwards or sideways at the same speed at it moves forward. What this basically means is it can be moving away from an enemy while facing it, firing its own weapons whilst dodging the shots of its opponent! The weapon in question, a 'Sprout Gun', is as weedy as it sounds, but it fires very rapidly and doesn' take long to recharge. This, along with its amazing manoeuvrability, makes the Blade a unique ship that can hold its own against many bigger and more powerful ships. Once you learn how to use it properly of course!

Ship Rating: 4/5

Thraddash Torch

If you meet the Thraddash in the main game before you see their ships, you'd surely expect them to have huge, devastatingly powerful vessels that can lay waste to anything in the paths. They are after all a violent, aggressive, combat-obssessed race who even look like big, tough rhinos. However, it soon becomes apparent that in spite of their appearance and demeanour, the only ship the Thraddash apparently have is small, weak, and rather crap! It's quite nippy, admittedly, but its main weapon is a teeny little 'missile' which does minimal damage and can't even be fired very rapidly.

Luckily, the Torch does have one trick up its sleeve - a plasma afterburner. If used as intended, this thing can propel the craft at super-speed across space or away from an opponent, but its fiery residue can also be used as a weapon. If you boost while in the path of an oncoming ship, the plasma will remain in space for a short while and cause damage to any ship it comes into contact with. This was apparently a recent modification to the Torch and it turns it from a pathetic annoyance into a formidable opponent which is actually more effective against the larger and more powerful ships. In fact, the Thraddash's little vessel is one of the few ships in the game that can take down an Avatar without even taking any damage! Torch pilots still have to be careful though as it's very easily destroyed, but still - it can be an invaluable ship.

Ship Rating: 4/5

Utwig Jugger

Best friends with the Supox, the eternally morose Utwig are an amusing people and they have a fairly interesting ship too. It's a very nimble ship for its size, for one thing. It's almost the same size as the Dreadnought but it's much faster and has a superb turning speed, although it does take a while to get going. It also has a pretty decent main weapon. The Jugger is adorned by six forward-facing guns which each fire an 'energy spear' simultaneously. Each one of these isn't very powerful by itself but since they are grouped quite closely together it's very likely more than one will hit even a small opponent so quite a bit of damage can be caused quickly. Even better, it has unlimited use as it doesn't even use up fuel!

For its secondary weapon, or I suppose I should say 'special feature' since many of them aren't actually weapons, is an energy shield. It's a bit fancier than the one the Yehat use on their Terminator vessels too - the Utwig variety absorbs the impact or energy from enemy weapons and converts it to fuel, and since the shield uses up fuel, this is not only helpful but it's actually necessary as well! It also means, however, that if you use the shield too inefficiently you could run out of fuel for good. Perfecting use of the shield effectively means Jugger pilots can defeat nearly any other vessel without taking any damage but it takes quite a bit of practise!

Ship Rating: 4/5

Zoq-Fot-Pik Stinger

The Zoq-Fot-Pik are a triumvirate of three races who evolved sentience on the same planet and their ship is an odd one, presumably incorporating characteristics from all three of them. Like most small ships it's quick and manoeuvrable but lacking in pretty much every other area. Its main weapon is an anti-matter spray which has a poor range and does little damage so it's hardly even worth using it unless you're facing a similarly small and weak ship.

Its ace in the hole, however, comes in the form of its special attack - a super-short-range 'tongue' attack which cause huge damage to any ship it strikes. It extends only about another ship-length from its host craft so you pretty much have to be touching an enemy for it to have any effect but it doesn't use a full load of fuel and recharge speed is great. Given the ship's speed and turning rate, this basically means you'll have to try and sneak up on an enemy, and even then only one that doesn't have a suitable defence, but patient and tactical use of this peculiar ship can make it very effective against some much larger and more powerful enemies.

Ship Rating: 3/5

So, pending a potential look at Star Control 3 (which I've not played yet due to its unofficial nature), this post is the last of those looking at the spacecraft from the immensely superb first two Star Control games. The next post in the series may well be an actual review of SC2, amazingly! But we'll see... hope you enjoyed reading! :)

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