Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Game 34: Starflight (Genesis) - It's Ancients! (Finished)

There's no final end screen, the ending sequence loops until a button is pressed, whereupon the game continues without a goal
I greatly enjoyed this game. The explorer in me has been neglected in these early games, and then Starflight takes it on a wild wide through an expansive game. Unlike Rings of Power, which also had a huge area to explore, every location was immediately available in Starflight. In fact, once I'd finished, I realized just how easy it was to beat the game with complete knowledge. With just three steps I ran through the game in seven minutes. There's a TAS that does it in less than 3 with perfect luck and execution (the very definition of a TAS).
Being best Veloxi buddy after providing stone of focus
I became besties with the Veloxi, but I still wasn't invited to the holy hexagon on the home planet. I learned of an old Phlegmak battle site, and found a black egg there. The star system was described as in the handle of the axe, which I determined was a constellation in the lower right portion of the galaxy. Most everything else the Veloxi spoke about centered around history of the first and second waves of fleeing aliens from the core. All waves were aggressive before moving on or being destroyed. The bad blood between Veloxi and the old empire stemmed from the first wave where after Veloxi helped defend, the old empire failed to return the favor as the wave hit Veloxi space. So, when the second wave hit, the Veloxi did not assist. The old empire was crushed.
What else do you have six of?
I noted the small egg was on the home planet, but unlike a FAQ I just read, I was never invited to visit. With the knowledge of the correct number, I went back to the planet guarded by a drone. I tried 'yes' for any number with a 6 in it, but that failed. The key was numbers that were a multiple of 6. There was a black egg on the planet. Everything with the Veloxi went haywire then. As soon as I entered the star system 163,119, they suddenly appeared. It was strange as that system was technically outside their territory. Even stranger they attacked immediately. I'm guessing they didn't take kindly to me landing on their planet and taking their egg. The Dodecahedron prevented me from arming my weapons, so I had no choice but to flee. I definitely need to sell that thing next chance I get.
I ran across the Elowan while exploring other alien territories since the Veloxi turned antagonistic
Of all the races, I think it was meeting the Elowan that really broke the game wide open. While the Mechan 9 set me on the right path, the key piece of information I gathered from the Elowan was the location of their home planet. They also told me Akerton (of which I was looking for the sixth planet) was in a nearby constellation called the seedling. The deep animosity between them and the Thrynn was due to the Elowan's seed producing heads (known as headfruit) being a delicacy. They revealed that the Uhlek act from a hive-mind that is buried deep within a cavern of one of their planets.
I only had a single encounter with the Thrynn where they answered my questions, and it wasn't very illuminating
The Elowan told me of the crystal planet, which according to the old earth empire institute was the source of the solar instability. The manual, outside the complete walkthru, had illustrated alien descriptions and locations for certain constellations and planetary locations (like the great hexagon). One of those was the seedling; one of those stars was Akteron, and there I found the remnants of the institute. Their logs described the items required to bring down the crystal planet: the crystal cone to locate the controls nexus, the crystal orb (known as the small egg to the Veloxi) to protect against the radiation, and a planet destroying black egg (described as anything capable of destroying a planet). The logs described an attempt to blow it up by teleporting someone to the planet.
Well, let's just go into Uhlek space to get that crystal cone and OH GOD WHY?
I knew the crystal orb was on the Veloxi home world. The crystal cone was said to be deep within Uhlek space. They didn't take kindly to my intrusion, even taking the suggested back way in described by the Spemin. I already had two black eggs, so more than enough. After the defeat at the hands of the Uhlek, I decided to outfit my ship with all the bells and whistles. Phasers, class 5 shields and armor (which doesn't repair on its own; I kept needing to sell and buy it again), and everything for my terrain vehicle. Having the advanced radar and second mineral detector I was able to find huge veins of expensive material. At that point though it wasn't really necessary.
Glutbloop? Glut nuh? Ngahdeng? Fekblunk? That's it, you're fired communications officer
The Spemin told me the key bit of information for taking out the Uhlek. Since they're controlled by a single mind, destroying the planet that mind lived on would disable them until a new mind was established. Trouble was the first time I saw this message it wasn't clear what planet I should attack. This happens when the communications officer doesn't have a perfect 250, which is only available to Thrynn or Elowan. Due to the animosity between the races I settled on a Human with only a max of 200. Luckily repeating the dialogue produced a different translation.
An alternate translation by the same person; you'd think he'd learn from his mistakes
Anyway, I got a bit off track there while I explored all the dialogue options for the other races. I returned to the Elowan and Thrynn space to explore the old Elowan homeworld. I hoped to find some lost knowledge. I got really lucky with my landing point and found the one structure that led me to the best artifact in the game: the red cylinder, an artifact locator device.
Here's where the end of the game started to happen
The planet where the red cylinder was located was outside any alien territory, so I easily picked it up. Once I had it I visited all the other planets I'd heard about having ancient ruins, and swiped all the artifacts I could get my hands on. The crystal pearl was described as a device that would save my ship when in immediate peril; the tesseract improved my ship's efficiency; and the rod device increased my laser's power.
Plus marks the spot
With those items in hand I felt I could take on the Uhlek. It didn't turn out well taking them head on even outfitted, so I took the information I gathered from the Spemin and blew up the life-bearing planet at the specified coordinates. Uhlek ships disappeared entirely, and I was free to pick up the crystal cylinder. I was a bit torn on the next step. I had just started making amends with the Veloxi and was accepted again as a friend right when I needed the small egg. Using the red cylinder I didn't even need to land on the planet to see if the crystal orb was present. I was stopped by the Veloxi as I absconded with the artifact. Seriously, I was just borrowing it. They demanded; I refused. Then they tried to blow me up.
The cone pointed me to the control nexus
With all the eggs I needed in one basket, I found my way to the control nexus on the crystal planet. Here I learned the fate or Commander McConnell described in the institutes files. They had the idea to teleport the commander to the planet to plant a bomb. Unfortunately they lost all communication due to the heavy radiation of the planet. The explosion was not large enough to destroy the planet, so the plan was ultimately a failure. Many years later I was now going to follow through on that plan as I armed the black egg.
What's this? The ancients!
McConnell had made an amazing discovery. The ancients were still alive, and on this very planet. They were in fact the ones responsible for destroying the suns because the ancients were actually the Endurium crystals I'd been burning for fuel all along. Blowing up the suns was a defense against all the carbon based life-forms stealing their people, and incinerating them. In the end McConnell said it best, it's either us or them at this point. Due to the slow metabolic rate of the ancients, communication with them was impossible. It's only because of the long exposure the commander received that he could understand them; however, there's still no mention of him being able to communicate. I armed the egg, and left the planet.
If you weren't trying to blow us up, then maybe we could have been friends
A sad tale all told. A fun game nonetheless. Space, virtual anyway, is a lot of fun to explore; there was so much to learn, and so much to find. After the credits rolled I played around with the game. I returned the small egg to the Veloxi, and made friends again. With the time constraint gone I could probably explore the 150 other planetary systems I didn't stop at. I'm left wondering about that mysterious alien orb. Also, how in the world was I actually supposed to manage to get through the game? I felt like I jumped certain points, but maybe not. Does the game have a path through the dialogue that doesn't make you guess where the next point of exploration lies? If I had more time I might just try to find those answers, but let's move on.

Elapsed Time: 8h29m (Total Time: 15h54m)

It looks so flat
Combatant - As an action based, and completely removed from stat based combat, it's no surprise the rating here is low. While combat was challenging throughout the game, there's little benefit to fighting. Most ship spoils weren't worth the fuel expense for firing weapons (variable for each weapon) and running shields. So, don't play this game for the privateer one-man (ship) army feeling.
Rating: 3

Admirer - What guys? The crew was ancillary window dressing; set 'em and forget 'em for the most part. While each position had its own menu of options, it felt more like one ship's options. There's very little to customize, and maxing out stats was trivial. Ship control was decent, but entering orbit was too difficult. Names were about the only option for personalization.
Rating: 2
Is that the planet the space station is orbiting?
Puzzler - Figuring out where to go and what to do was fairly straightforward. It's easy to get lost though, and finding the one bit of dialogue throughout all the races grew tiresome. I felt engaged enough to continue discovering solutions to problems. I'm going to assume I missed bits of the game as the trail from one point in the story to the next was often missing, but I enjoyed the multiple ways at arriving at the end. Maybe I was meant to explore entire planets blindly.
Rating: 5

Instigator - The story is where the game really shines. It's slow to develop, but the depth of history and lore packed into the game is astonishing. Figuring out how to speak to each alien and what questions would lead to good information provided good feedback. My only complaint was the looping dialogue through the whole script rather than highlighting key information. Player actions actually meant something with a kind of faction based loyalty (e.g. fight the Elowan, and the Thrynn were suddenly friendlier).
Rating: 7
It's funny that I can make this flight back even if I was completely out of fuel on the crystal planet
Collector - There's an assortment of weapons, TV upgrades, and artifacts, but no real sense of collection. It's difficult to judge one weapon's strength against another, and I only hoped the higher fuel cost meant more damage. At least cargo space was plentiful, so I never had to forgo any unique item. The variety was nice, and I eagerly checked each artifact as I picked it up.
Rating: 3

Explorer - The galaxy felt well populated while not overly crowded. The music and sound was a bit off-putting, and would sometimes drop until the next scene change. Star systems are populated with worlds filled with ancient ruins, mountainous valleys to mine, and an artifact if you're lucky. Some planets bear life that can be collected, cataloged (manually), and sold. Finding colonies for Arth kept me hopping from one planet to the next. The best part about the game is that everything is open, from beginning to end.
Rating: 7
Sorry I took your egg, you can have it back now
Final Rating: 25 [42%]

In addition to my own experience with the console game, I invite you to check out CRPG Addict who played through the DOS version. There are some differences, and I always find it interesting to compare. I'll stop by there and comment soon.

I've already been playing through Might and Magic: Gates to Another World (the II is dropped on console), but I should be able to get a post out before I'm done. I still hold out hope I can catch up my blog posts to my play state. Maybe this is the weekend.

This is my first Might and Magic game, and I've been a bit overwhelmed by it so far. In some ways the difficult even rivals Wizardry, but at least it's possible to save the game. Still, it's a lot fun, and I'm finally feel like I'm making progress. Strap yourselves in because this is a long one.
Extra special thanks to Brent Allard


  1. Congratulations on finishing Starflight!

    Hmm. Might & Magic 2, difficult? Maybe somewhat, depending on party composition.

    Rivaling Wizardry? I find that very hard to believe.

    Perhaps the console version is somehow more challenging than the PC version? The only hard part I remember from the PC version is the puzzles. It wasn't always clear what the party had to do, and writing down clues was essential.

    Also, the very final puzzle in MM2 is a doozy. I had to write it down and do a little library research to solve it.

    1. The difference in difficulty comes from encounter locations. On floor 1, there are level 1 - 2 enemies. Once you're level 5 you'd have to really try to lose a battle. In Might and Magic, I'm still losing characters (and even the whole party on occasion) at level 6 - 7 in the first town. My last session ended with a full party wipe as I walked into the wrong room in the cavern below the first town. It'd be nice to find some puzzles to solve at this point, but the one I found and solved leads to a dark well that has traps that damage the entire party every other step.

      I think the game might be easier if I had a second cleric. I have a knight, barbarian, cleric, archer, robber, sorcerer. Hopefully I can adequately describe the difficulty in my first post.