Thursday, 20 October 2011

Star Control - Part 4

Well, it's been a while since I've had a look at anything Star Control-related so I think I'm well overdue for another more detailed look at the splendid series. The first game was a great little strategy game which I played repeatedly over many years on my trusty MegaDrive but it's more keenly remembered these days for the Melee one-on-one starship battle mode that accompanied it. This saw two opposing groups of seven alien races pitted against one another - the heroic Alliance of Free Stars and the evil Ur-Quan Hierarchy. The last two posts in this Red Parsley series have taken a detailed look at the seven ships available to each side but the amazing and far more detailed sequel to Star Control introduced a varied selection of new races with ships of their own as well as the new Super Melee mode to use them in. In this two-part post I'll take a look at these additions to the series.

Chmmr Avatar

After the events of the first Star Control, the Chenjesu and the Mmrnmhrm - two fairly similar races who were long-time friends and allies and who also shared the same region of space - decided to genetically merge their two species into one new race - the Chmmr. Rather than continuing to use the awesome Broodhome and respectable Transformer ships, however, this new hybrid species created a brand new warship, and the result is one of the finest ships in the entire game - the Avatar.

This fearsome craft is a little cumbersome to move around, in part due to its large size, but it's quite fast and has also has a few tricks up its sleeve. The main weapon is its devastating Terawatt 'Heavy X-Ray' Laser which is immensely powerful but, like the other laser-equipped craft, has a limited range. To combat this, however, the Chmmr also fitted their new ship with a strong tractor beam which can pull any faster or more manoeuvrable ships into range.

Both the laser and the tractor beam do of course eat up the Avatar's fuel reserves pretty quickly but it also has among the fastest fuel regeneration speeds around. As if all this wasn't enough, the ship is also circled by three ZapSat escorts which fire their own homing lasers at anything within range as well. An awesome ship which is so good it's almost a 'cheat' ship!

Ship Rating: 5/5

Druuge Mauler

As you can probably tell from the picture, the ship used by the vile Druuge is basically just a giant flying cannon! It's a very slow craft which isn't easy to accurately pilot but its main weapon is powerful and has a long range. Using it produces a recoil-like effect which causes the ship to move backwards but if you fire several shots in succession, the ship will go flying backwards many times faster than it's capable of moving forwards under the power of its engine. As you might imagine, this can be a very handy way of escaping an approaching vessel whilst simultaneously causing it some pretty hefty damage!

Most ships have a downside though and the Mauler is not different - it doesn't take long for the cannon to use up the ship's fuel reserves and it suffers from a cripplingly slow recharge speed. It does have one way around this though - using the ship's 'secondary weapon' actually sees a member of the crew thrown in the furnace (accompanied by a horrified scream) which replenishes a chunk of the fuel supply! As we learn in Star Control 2's main game, it's one of the ship's Human 'guests' who unwillingly make this sacrifice too. An unusual ship which is great against some enemies, near-useless against others. An acquired taste.

Ship Rating: 3/5

Kohr-Ah Marauder

I'm sure everyone remembers the cruel, oppressive Ur-Quan from the first game, mainly thanks to their superb Dreadnought vessel, and introduced here for the sequel are their opposite number, the even crueler, even more oppressive Kohr-Ah! Despite their desire to destroy all sentient life, however, their ships are not as impressive as their green-skinned relatives.

Like the Dreadnought, it's speed and manoeuvrability is thoroughly average, but unlike the Dreadnought its main weapon requires a little more thought. The Marauder fires spinning metal blades which have a long range but cause less damage than the Dreadnought's fusion blast. They do, however, have a limited homing ability and can remain floating in space for some time after their launch. Liberal distribution of them can therefore effectively create a minefield for opposing ships to try and navigate.

The Marauder can also deploy a defensive weapon - the F.R.I.E.D, or 'Fiery Ring of Inevitable and Eternal Destruction' (fiery ring - snigger). This is a short range weapon which emits super-heated gas from all sides of the ship and can easily enable a Marauder pilot to turn the tables on an attacking foe. Overall, it's a big, formidable, and intimidating ship which is rarely troubled, it's just not as much fun to use as the other large ships.

Ship Rating: 4/5

Melnorme Trader

The Melnorme are an amusing race with whom you'll have a lot of contact in the main game but their ship is one that can only be used in the Super Melee mode. It's a slightly odd ship too. It looks almost spherical and was designed for travel and trading missions rather than war. Consequently, it can move at a pretty decent speed but it's not especially agile whilst doing so.

The main weapon is a pretty good one though - it's a 'charge' cannon which means the longer you hold down the fire button, the more powerful the shot will be when you release it. Quickly-released shots do small to average damage, depending on the charge, but at maximum charge it's among the most powerful weapons in the game! Not only that, but maintaining the charge without releasing it also allows the front of the Trader (where the weapon is charged) to absorb the impact from almost any enemy weapon.

The secondary weapon employed by the Trader is also a good one. It's known as the 'Confusion Ray' and is an electromagnetic cannon which does no physical damage but disrupts the control system of any vessel it hits, rendering them almost helpless for a while until the effects wear off. A slightly unusual ship but great to use when you get used to it.

Ship Rating: 4/5

Orz Nemesis

The Orz are a very strange bunch who emerged suddenly from another dimension at the expense of the Androsynth, and probably as a result of this they are nonsensical and unpredictable. Their Nemesis ships, on the other hand, are not only unexpectedly normal but also rather good too! They aren't blessed with the greatest of crew complements or fuel reserves but they're nippy little things with very tight turning circles which makes them ultra-manoeuvrable. For their main weapon they have a tank-like rotating 'Howitzer' turret which can of course just as easily be fired from the side or behind while keeping out of the way of enemy ships as it can from a frontal assault. It doesn't do a huge amount of damage and it can't fire too many shots in succession but it doesn't take long for the ship to regain its fuel either.

As well as this handy cannon, the Nemesis can also deploy Space Marines which exit the ship in special armoured suits and travel across space to the enemy ship. Upon entering it they travel through it killing any crew member they encounter! They're not indestructible of course, and each one sent depletes your own crew complement by one, but you can send as many as you like providing you have at least one crew member left and they are a very handy way to rid an enemy ship of its crew with a bare minimum of effort, and combined with the versatile cannon, they make the Nemesis one of my favourite ships in the game.

Ship Rating: 4/5

Pkunk Fury

Considering how amusingly peculiar the Pkunk are, I suppose it's only natural that their ship would also be rather 'unique' too. One of the few characteristics you can't really apply to the Fury, however, is that it's... furious! It's a small, light, and super-quick ship which must surely be the fastest and most manoeuvrable in the whole game. Accordingly, however, like most of the small, fast ships, it suffers in almost every other area.

It's main weapon is a weak and short-range gun which fires molten-metal pellets in three directions. It can fire them very rapidly but it also has small fuel tanks so a volley lasts less than a second and must be deployed when close to an enemy ship. This combination spells trouble and even a ship as agile as this one doesn't often last very long. In addition to this, the Fury has an unusual way of regaining lost fuel. Rather than slowly building back up automatically like most ships, the captain of any given Fury hurls insults at his opponent. The 'psychic emanations' resulting from this then recharge the ship, one unit per insult!

The strangeness of this nippy little ship doesn't stop there either. Thanks to the divine, spiritual nature of the Pkunk, roughly half of the times a Fury is destroyed it will be immediately reincarnated, fully crewed and fuelled! As you might expect, this can be an extremely useful, if somewhat unpredictable feature. Regardless of how you might feel about its strengths and weaknesses though, the Fury can be a really handy ship in the right hands and is absolutely invaluable in the main game of Star Control 2.

Ship Rating: 3/5

That's it for now! I'll take a look at the remaining newbies in a post coming soon :)

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