Thursday, January 15, 2015

Game 34: Starflight (Genesis) - A Motley Crew Saving the Galaxy

Game 34

Title: Starflight
Released: May 1991
Platform: Genesis
Developer: Binary Systems (Ported by BlueSky Software)
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Genre: Simulation-RPG
Exploration - Top-down
Combat - Action
Series - Starflight (Standalone on console)

Unprepared for names, quick who's in chat!
I actually played this for 2 hours and decided it wasn't an RPG. Then, after calculating it on the RPG scale for the cut post, I found it scored a 12. What really counted in its favor was the open world, the deep story and lore, and just enough character development to push it over the edge. Characters stats are on the edge: bought instead practiced, and easily maxed out before the maiden voyage. The game expects the player to have read through all 140 pages of the manual (50 of which include a short story plus a walkthrough).
See? Not even an introduction! How can this game be an RPG? That's it, I'm calling it off... never mind, I already beat the game. Might as well complete the write-up. The game starts in the Arth Starport. Different bays doors lead to various options: the first is a message center, second personnel, third ship engineering, fourth market trading post, and lastly the airlock to leave. The message center had announcements and reports based on my activity; there was a welcome message that recapped some objectives from the manual.
Enterprise doesn't even fit in the ship name field
The welcome message served to point me towards a few coordinates, and a couple planets. Each solar system has galactic coordinates that never change. The home system is near the center of the map at 125,100. At 135,84 ships had been disappearing. Alien activity was said to be high near 175,94. In the nearby system, on the second planet at the planetary coordinates 17N x 162E, was said to lay some ruins of the old Earth empire. Lastly was a hint that minerals were readily available from the first planet in the home system. With a fair bit of locations to explore I entered the next door to hire a crew.
I made one crew member per position, but I later found I could assign multiple positions to the same person, so it might be better to make one person of each race
I followed the manual's suggestion and trained my crew (minus the android), and purchased the turbo charger for the terrain vehicle along with 3 cargo pods. I then named the ship "Its Ours" and headed to the mineral rich first planet. Ferrying mineral back to the star port I quickly bought up the best engines, armor, and terrain vehicle accessories. I also had enough for a couple of cheap weapons and a class 3 shield (class 5 is the best).
A sad start, I learned quickly to steer clear of water until I bought the pontoons
Beyond the normal minerals in the trading outpost, and fuel, I noticed a couple of odd items: a flat device and a whining orb. I purchased them since they seemed unique. My science officer examined them to find the flat device automatically teleports the terrain vehicle back to the ship once fuel ran out. The whining orb made the Spemin (an alien race I hadn't found) worship me as a superior being.
Collecting some surface minerals
I became mindful of the game date and time as it slowly ticked away while I toiled the land. After accumulating a small fortune and outfitting myself to the teeth, I checked the message center and found new postings. The main goal of the game was revealed as all able bodied crews were to investigate the unusually high solar flares and fluctuating radiation levels in the sun. In fact, as I venture into the galaxy I found all suns were reporting elevated radiation and imminent burnout. Find the cause and stop it; that was my mission. Secondary objectives were to locate fuel sources as well as planets suitable for colonization. Criteria for colonization was laid out in the manual. The other messages included a warning of androids attacking ships 20 sectors coreward, and a group of fluxes 40 sectors outward and downspin.
Really those are just fancy ways to say south (downspin), west (outward), east (coreward), and north (upspin)
Equipment in place, I made my way to the nearby system to begin my exploration. At the coordinates I had for the second planet I found some ruins. A message there led me to another set of coordinates (16S x 20W) on the fourth planet in the system at 118,146. When I returned to Arth another message was waiting. This one indicated ruins on the third planet in the home system were found; however, without coordinates I was blind in the snowy wasteland. So, I headed towards the flux nexus, and ran into my first alien.
Found the cause, that was fast
So, these crystal ones are causing all the trouble. First crystal aliens I find I'll have to ask them why they're blowing up suns. I then headed towards the other system location where alien activity was high. On the way I ran across a satellite, an old earth empire nomad scout ship that reported three planets viable for either minerals or colonization. I noted them and moved on. When I entered the star system at 175,94, I encountered a broken down starship. It was repeating a message left by the captain that was forced to take refuge on first planet.
Something's odd about that date
Following the coordinates in the second half of the message, I learned that the ship was called the Noah 9. It was headed to the colony world known as Heaven. The logs indicated that the Mechans were waiting for them to arrive where upon the Noah 9 would signal a change from code blue to red. The captain believed it was the Laytonites that sabotaged the ship, as they had a strong opposition to space expansion beyond Earth. I wasn't quite sure what to do with that information, so I returned to Arth to report my findings; however, there wasn't any way to do so. Instead I picked up a few locations for fluxes from the message center and headed towards the flux nexus.
I drink water, isn't that enough?
That squid faced alien is a Gazurtoid. No matter how I spoke with them I couldn't get past their proselytizing, so they're mostly around for window dressing. When speaking to aliens it's necessary to choose a tone (known as posture). Obsequious comes across as pleading or praising, friendly is peaceful, and hostile is aggressive or demanding. In most cases friendly was the best option, but the Spemin responded favorably to hostility (possibly because I had the whining orb). It takes a few encounters with the same aliens to get all the information out of them. To make things more complicated aliens remembered past transgressions, and even rewarded with favorable interactions when I attacked one of their enemies.
In hindsight I might have gotten more information speaking to them with an Obsequious posture
The Veloxi, pictured above, idolized themselves above all others. I had to pay some fuel (referred to as energy crystals; they have funny names for everything) to appease them of my trespass. They held a deep hatred for the old empire. I didn't learn much from them, but a friendly interaction is a successful one. I ran into their space as I followed up on the location from the message I found in the old empire ruins. In the spot indicated I found the dodecahedron, and another message: the auto-scan device was lost to the Gazurtoid, but it was tracked to the star at 68,66. At the time I didn't analyze it, but the dodecahedron prevented me from arming weapons (not that I was doing that very often).
A small example of what an imperfect communication score produces
The Spemin were most friendly, although I have a feeling it was due solely to the whining orb. Despite hearing I should use hostility, I opted for a friendly tone. From my short conversation I learned of an ancient city near the Spemin home world, and a back way into Uhlek space. The Uhleks are an unforgiving enemy to all other aliens, and reside in the remote areas of the galaxy. They also spilled the location of a Veloxi focusing stone @ 81,98. Without planet coordinates there's too much ground to cover to reasonably find anything, unless you get lucky.
Resistance is futile
The Mechan 9 were guarding a single star system. They refused to answer any questions, but interrogated me endlessly to determine if I was the Noah 9 expedition. With the knowledge I'd gained from the logs, I passed myself off as the ship they were expecting. Yes, I'm part of the old empire; yes, I know about the Noah project; no, I'm not a Layton. Initiate code red please, and start talking. This didn't happen right away though. The Mechan 9, like all aliens, had a bad habit of ending communications and leaving just as it was getting juicy. I didn't catch on to how the dialogue system worked right away though, so I kept traveling around hoping to find something useful.
Random nonsensical messages appeared more often than helpful ones
It took some time to explore some planets I'd heard about without exact planet locations to find the items. I got lucky and ran across the ellipsoid (Veloxi focusing stone mentioned earlier) and the shimmering orb. The first I returned to the Veloxi for a favorable response, and the second auto-scans alien ships. While looking around more I found some alien ruins that pointed me to the location of the shimmering orb.
I didn't realize how lucky this find was until I tried to reproduce it on another planet
I returned to the Mechans, and noticed they continued their interrogation with different questions. It took three different conversations before they concluded I must be who they were waiting for, and they opened their data banks (for the next time we spoke... terminating communications). I learned a great deal of the history of the old empire including the two great wars, the first endurium discovered on Mars, and the scientific institute that discovered solar instability in Earth's sun was stationed on Akteron 6. Earth lay in the Pythagoras constellation, which I figured was the triangular set of stars coreward. The Phlegmak (part of the first war) were known for their planet destroying black eggs, something I'd probably need eventually. I also noted the location of the Spemin home planet.
The Mechan were a wealth of information
After pumping the Mechan for all they had, I had a number of more locations to explore. I stopped at the frozen planet in Heaven's star system to find an ancient ruin, which resembled a pyramid, and a bit of endurium laying nearby. The ruin itself didn't have any decipherable message. The nearby system had a planet guarded by a Veloxi drone. It prevented me from landing unless I properly answered yes or no to a number value. 72? Maybe... I tested prime numbers, but neither always yes or no proved correct. While I wrote down some hints about the Mardan system, I failed to note that it was in the same constellation as Sol. So, when I landed on Earth and Mars to gather information, I missed everything about Mardan at the time.
oh, 75 class shields, is that all?
While traveling to Earth I ran into an odd spacecraft. It belted out some 0s and 1s before leaving. I have no idea what any of it meant. From Earth I picked up the hypercube, and from Mars I retrieved the ring device. One marked nearby encounters while the other marked nearby fluxes. Earth had a lot of abandoned structures that served as an outlet for the developers' humor. One example, "In primitive societies it became popular for a short time to sit countless hours in front of 2-dimensional phosphor screens and live out fantasies. Many historians believe this activity marked the downfall of civilization." Indeed.
It's really hard to take these guys seriously
Before I stopped for the night I encountered the Thrynn. They were an aggressive bunch. For every artifact in my possession they asked to purchase it for an insultingly small fee. At the end of a string of noes, they suggested I buy a black box said to make me invulnerable. Curious, I bought it. It did nothing.
It's very black in its inky blackness
I returned to starport to end the night and found a message warning me against dealing with the Thrynn. It seemed every time I said no it angered them. I didn't think I was going to get anywhere with them. I also received the coordinates 192,152 where ships were disappearing. Endurium increased in price due to the increase in demand from fleeing people. At this point I was having a lot of fun with Starflight. As is the case lately, I've already beaten the game, and should wrap things up shortly. Might and Magic II is going to be a long one, so I should be able to get a post out on that before I finish it.
I do wonder what would happen if I sold this to them and then attacked
Elapsed Time: 7h25m (Total Time: 7h25m)


  1. It's intriguing to compare & contrast your Starflight experience with the CRPG Addict's (he played the computer version, of course).

    I'm looking forward to Might & Magic II. I loved that game on the PC, back in the day. I've heard of the console port but don't know how good of an adaptation it was.

    One thing I remember about MM2 is that it introduced the Ninja and Barbarian classes. They were both nonessential. I think hirelings of every class can be found.

    MM2 is set on Cron, a different world from MM1's Varn. MM2 does have a connection to the overall MM plot, but it's not emphasized, and if the player doesn't have a Cleric in the main party then they may not see a key part of it.

    On the PC version of MM2, the player could adjust the difficulty level of random encounters on the fly. The meanest random encounter monsters could be fought only when the difficulty was on the hardest level, while the party adventured in the most dangerous areas of the game.

    1. Oh, that reminds me. I should read and comment on the differences for Chet, for both games (when I'm done with M&M2). So far I'm enjoying the game, but it's been a rough start. This is the first time I'm seriously playing the series. I think I've tried the first one before, but didn't get very far. I've already got the encounter rate set to the lowest (default setting), which seems to mostly eliminate random encounters. it does nothing to the difficulty as far as I can tell.

  2. I take it the Genesis version is not only nicer looking, but also easier since it took CRPG over a week of posts to beat it?

    And odd there'd still be obvious typos after they remade it ("hour gr judgement"). Unless that's on purpose?

    1. Either easier, or I got lucky. I haven't read through his posts yet.

      The typos come from an imperfect communication score: 250. I have a human in that position and they can only train up to 200. Spemin seem to be the most susceptible to bad translations.

    2. Ah, I should have picked up on that from one of your JPG's subtext. Interesting system that could definitely be used in interesting ways - has any other game done something like that?

    3. Not to my knowledge. None in the ones I've played on the blog, and I can't think of any that scaled the % of words translated based on a stat.