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Since the announcement of its development in 1995, the third title in the Star Control series has quickly risen on top of the most awaited sequels among other hype titles such as Falcon 4.0, Lands of Lore 2 and Privateer 2: The Darkening. Not only were people anxiously looking forward to this first collaboration between Legend Entertainment (the developer) and Accolade, but also the series' aficionados who were eager to fling themselves into new perilous adventures across the galaxy. But let's reassure them both, Star Control 3 is worth the wait, and once again, it will draw you into its epic universe.
Star Control 3's story occurs twenty years after you defeated the Ur-Quan Kzer-Za Empire, the Hierarchy of Battle Thralls. The sacrifice of your Precursor vessel was necessary to destroy the Ur-Quan battle platform, and consequently save the recently formed New Alliance of Free Stars from being annihilated by the mighty Ur-Quan armies. Curiously, at the very same moment of the destruction, you experienced a vision of the future where all sentient beings of the galaxy were suddenly dying. The vision was so unbearable that your mind shut them out. During the twelve years that followed the end of the war, several incidents happened between the races from the Alliance which had for effect to weaken it and seed internal divisions. Then, in 2170, Hyper Space travel brutally collapsed due to an inter-dimensional fatigue. Many of the Precursor technologies also ceased to function, leaving most of the races with the impossibility to travel between stars. That same year, you regained your memory and started studying the vision you had to prevent a possible destruction of all leaving beings in the galaxy. Using a Precursor artifact on your home colony, the Unzervalt planet, you managed to build the Warp Bubble Transport system which doesn't need Hyper Space to travel. Aboard your new Precursor vessel, you contacted races of the Alliance (that were no longer existing since Hyper Space travel collapsed), trying to persuade them that a grave danger was upon them. In 2178, the colonization group was finally ready to head towards its final destination, the Kessary Quadrant, near the galactic core where studies had showed the vision occurred. In one supercharged thrust mode, the Precursor ship with its colonization vessels embarked, reached the far away quadrant. However, because of the instability of this travel mode, colony groups were scattered over distant star systems on arrival in the Kessari quadrant...
Star Control 3's interface is divided into four different views: Quadrant, System, Orbit and Colony. The Quadrant view shows a map representing all the planetary systems, and can be rotated as it is displayed in three dimensions. There are several options available to make it easier to navigate through the quadrant. You can select to display stars by known colonies, artifacts, ships or fuel sources. Of course, with over 1,000 planets in the quadrant, it might be time consuming to look after a specific star. That's why you can type a name one letter at a time to filter the star names. Once you locate your destination, you must verify that you have enough fuel. If you click on your current location on the map, you will see two imbricated circular zones on the screen. The green inner zone indicates stars where you can go and return, while the red one means you have enough fuel for only a one-way trip. Purple stars located outside the red zone are not accessible with your current fuel reserve. Notice that there might be red stars in the green zone, but this is due to the map being in 3D and the view in 2D. The color line that connects your location to your destination will confirm whether or not you have enough fuel.
Travels between stars are no longer like Star Control 2 where you could be attacked by other vessels while heading towards your destination. Here, the new Warp Bubble Transport system instantly brings you to the star system you selected. On the System view, the screen is split into three areas: the System window, the System radar and the Fleet window. The various planets will be shown in the System view along with other data such as name, amount of resources, temperature, and chemical concentrations in oxygen, ammonia, nitrogen and methane. These elements will determine which races will be able to colonize a planet. For example, if you find one with ammonia and methane exclusively, Humans and similar races won't be able to live on such a planet. If there are any other vessels present around the planets, the System radar will immediately indicate their number and position, and tell you by a color code if they are enemies (red), friends (green) or neutrals (blue), the same color code equally applying for colonies. The last window will let you check out how many ships you have in your fleet or see which vessel needs additional crew members. You can also join another fleet by clicking on it in the System radar, but there is a maximum fleet size of 25 ships.
It is on the planets' surface that you will find colonies and artifacts. The Orbit view will give you a sensor scan of the planet and indicate the presence of a colony and/or an artifact. Also in the Orbit view are your inventory, the races you have aboard, ships in your fleet and other information such as Resource Units, Colony Pods and fuel reserve. Objects are placed in the inventory window which can scroll to the left and right when it becomes full exactly like the inventory of Mission Critical, Legend Entertainment's latest adventure game. From this view, you can also transfer crew members from the colony ship to individual ships, with the only limitation being the race that built the ship is allowed to maneuver it. The planet's surface is represented by the Sensor scan, and if you move the cursor on the scan, you will notice the colored bars below each alien race in your ship. The more bars you have for a race, the more productive the colony will be if it is colonized by this specific race. There are three different colors: red, orange and green, and the best productivity is achieved with five green bars. However, the number of bars also depends where you place the colony on the surface, so be sure to check the whole surface before placing the colony pod. Then, you must decide how many resource units you will allocate to the new colony, and how many people you will transfer from your ship. Once the colony is created, you can switch to the Colony view to modify production.
If there are any artifacts on the planet, you must send a team to dig them out. The time taken by the process will be directly influenced by the habitability parameter, so it is wise to choose your team within a race that is adapted to this environment. When the dig is completed, your team will return to the ship with the artifact. Some objects will need to be researched before you can exploit them, while others of a lesser importance will be examined by your Tech team who will report any new information they discover about the object.
On the planets, colonies will extract ore and transform it into resource units and fuel. With the Colony screen, you can monitor what is being produced by the colony, and also adjust its priorities. There are seven facilities in each colony: Fuel Refinery, Refinery, Mines, Factory, Star Base, Landing Pod Factory and Research. When you start a new colony, only a few structures will be available, but as it grows, new facilities will appear and others will expand. You can assign manpower through sliders to regulate the quantity of manufactured goods (ships, colony pods, resource units and crew members), or simply leave priorities unchanged for an evenly distributed production. One facility in particular has a great importance, the Research Center. Indeed, most of the artifacts you will find throughout the Quadrant will need to be searched in a Research facility before you know exactly what you have uncovered.
The fate of a thousand worlds is in your hands...AGAIN
Your first priority is to locate all the colonies of the League in the Kessari quadrant. At the start of the game, your ship is in the vicinity of the Earthling colony, and if you stop by, you will be given more information about your mission. Upon your arrival on a colony, a dialogue screen will appear with an animated image of your interlocutor. In Star Control 3, characters no longer consist of hand-drawn animation, but in life-like aliens sculpted as animatronics by Hollywood special effects artists. The computer controlled animated creatures are shown in various science-fiction sets ranging from the ship's interior to homeworld surface. Voices in Star Control 2 were sometimes difficult to distinguish as the sound quality was not exactly crystal clear. Fortunately, this is not the case in this sequel, and the professional voice actors did a wonderful job in bringing these aliens to life. Here too, you have the choice between several sentences during dialogues. If you are careful with your questions and answers, you will usually avoid direct confrontations, if not, be prepared for battle!
Battles are handled the same way as in Star Control 2. After selecting which ship you want to fight with in your fleet, you will battle in space against your opponent. The view from above of the battlefield is still available, but a new option turns it into an isometric view with 3D graphics. There are 24 different warships brilliantly rendered, each with two sorts of weapons embarked. The controls are easy and intuitive, but if you prefer your on-board computer to take over the controls during battles, you can select three levels of intelligence ranging from standard to awesome. Combats are sometimes necessary, but remember that one of the League rules states that "Sentients should never attack other sentients without cause". Failing to follow this statement will oblige you to resign from your position. Warnings will of course be issued before this ultimate decision is taken by the League Ethics Council, but in general, it is best not to attack another race without any good reasons.
If you want to fight just for the pleasure of it, I strongly recommend you to try out the Hyper Melee game rather than engulfing yourself into the Adventure game. New to the sequel is the possibility to play with a friend over a serial link, modem connection or even a LAN. Several options will let you configure your fleet so that both forces are equal in strength terms. Finally, two players can still play on one machine using one keyboard, and although it doesn't leave much space for arms, it is a lot of fun!
Additionally, many mysteries of the two previous episodes will be finally explained, and this makes Star Control 3 an absolute must have for any Star Control fan.
Written by Frederick Claude
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IBM-PC compatible computer with a 486-66 Mhz or faster processor,
Min 8Mb memory,
Windows 95, or DOS 5.0 or higher,
Hard drive required with at least 5Mb free,
Double speed CD-ROM drive faster,
SVGA VESA compatible video card,
Microsoft compatible mouse.
100% Sound Blaster compatible sound card, General MIDI Compatibles.
Web site: Legend Entertainment
5300 Stevens Creek Blvd., Suite 500,
San Jose, CA 95129.
Internet Support: Accolade Technical
Web site: Accolade
No. 2 Carriage Row,
183 Eversholt St,
London NW1 1BU.
26 Boulevard Malesherbes,
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