The gameplay switches between exploration, conversation-tree interaction with the various alien species, and real-time arcade-style combat. You fly through a red-tinted Hyperspace Overworld map to the various star systems, which you then scour for minerals to bring back to Earth's Starbase to convert into fuel, crew, starships for your fleet, and even additional modules for your flagship. If the star you are visiting lies within a race's “sphere of influence”, you may discover small fleets of ships orbiting the planets, or be followed by dark patches representing ships in hyperspace. These encounters can either be avoided (if you're fast), fought and sold for scrap (if you're strong, or just plain good at the combat game), or talked to and potentially allied with, but in the case of the less friendly species, you're likely to end up in a fight regardless. Like any good open-world sandbox the galaxy contains many secrets to be found, such as artifacts, anomalies, indigenous life forms and so on. The scope is vast, and the associated minigames engaging enough that exploration never gets old, but make no mistake, disaster is looming on the horizon, and you have a mission to complete.
Combat is one-on-one, with each side selecting a ship from their fleet one at a time. There are five controls – thrust, rotate left/right, fire and special weapon – each race's ship having a different weapon, power, speed and maneuvering capacity. The field of battle is an arena centered around a planet, which has its' own gravity, and can be quite nasty if crashed into, but potentially useful if you can slingshot yourself past it for a burst of speed. The challenge and variety inherent in the different combinations of ships and tactics are are such that I can't even count the number of hours I personally lost to combat with my friends in “Super Mêlée” the built-in versus mode, each of us building a custom fleet to kill the heck out of one another.
However, all is not entirely lost - Reiche and Ford continue to express interest in developing a true Star Control 3, and in 2002 even released the source code for StarCon2 onto the Internet, where it was picked up immediately by the game's fans and developed into “The Ur-Quan Masters”, and re-released for free to the Internet at large. A few new extras were even modded into this new release, such as the Voice-acting tracks from the game's somewhat inexplicable 3DO release, as well as remixed versions of the original music tracks – some of which were arranged by the game's original composers.
A true classic, and a giant of PC Gaming, Star Control 2 is truly one of the finest games ever released, and my personal favourite game of all time ever. It is legally available free for download at www.sc2.sourceforge.net, and is an absolute must-play for any gamer. Good luck against the Hierarchy, Captain! GC, signing off.
- Strong contender for best PC game ever made.
- So brilliantly written, Babylon 5 stole all its good ideas.
- Fantastic Soundtrack
- Did I mention legally available for free at www.sc2.sourceforge.net?
- The crushing despair of knowing that a true sequel will likely never be produced.