Star General



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After the heroic-fantasy universe on which the great Fantasy General was based, it's now science-fiction's turn to make its entrance into the Five Stars Series with Star General. Developed by Catware, the latest S.S.I. title takes war to new heights, offering players memorable galactic battles and planetary conquests. Star General, however, doesn't simply feature brand new graphics with different sounds as you would expect, but contain additional possibilities such as limited resource management, a two-level combat system, diplomacy and last but not least, multi-player support.

The first thing that strikes when you play with Star General (SG) is the apparent complexity. Although SG is built on an enhanced version of the Panzer General game engine, you won't find the same simplicity as in the first episode, hence explaining the presence of a tutorial. On the other hand, this doesn't mean the game is difficult to play, but compared to the other titles from the series, it is certainly less intuitive. As a result, series' fans might be slightly disappointed, but no doubt, strategy hardcore gamers will rejoice!

Among the new features offered in SG is the resource management. Unlike precedent titles where you would only receive resource points (RP) according to your valor in combats, you can now collect them with several methods. The most important is through cities and production units on the surfaces of planets, with production centers including bio-domes, mines, factories and plants. The quantity produced varies with the planet's type, Earth-like environments being the most productive and frozen worlds the least. You can also destroy enemy units, trade with other planets using merchant ships or explore asteroids to collect RP's, but your main source will remain the production centers and cities. The more planets you own, the more RP's you will be able to produce, which will allow you to expand your facilities, and build ground and space units.

However, the resource management is quite limited. You can't create new cities other than those which already exist on the planet, and the number of production centers can't exceed two per city. The same limitations apply to the number of facilities. Once you have built the four basic production centers, you can only add a military complex, build a space dock, or construct a tech center (only one every four turns). The colonization process is done the same way for all planets, and although there are four different types of planets (Earth, Mars, Venus and Frozen) with typical maps for each, it doesn't offer enough variety, and renders this phase very repetitive. Fortunately, it only represents a minor part of the game.

For the essential, SG plays like the other titles of the Five Stars Series, except that this time it is on two levels, one in space and another on the planet's surface. In the space level, you will find planets, asteroids, starships, and special areas that will affect your movements or weapons effectiveness such as black holes, nebulas and galactic rifts. The only hazard you can encounter in space, besides an enemy ship, is the ion storm that can inflict severe damage to your ships. There is nothing you can do to avoid it, you can only wish that it won't stay too long in the vicinity. The space level is replaced by the ground level when one of your transport ships land on a planet. If the planet already belongs to another race, the ground units you disembarked can launch an attack to gain control of the cities. On the ground, the battle will be similar to what you may know in Panzer General or Allied General, with artillery, infantry and armored units, and also aerial forces such as bombers. As each of the seven races of SG has its own set of icons for both, ground units and space vessels, it is very unlikely that you will mistake them during the game.

Even though it appears there are no differences between the two levels, except for the maps and units, there is one, the time scale. Indeed, a space turn isn't equivalent to a ground turn in terms of duration, and by default, one space turn is equivalent to ten ground turns. In other words, if a battle last ten turns on a planet, only one space turn has elapsed in the meantime. During a battle, you can only try to land more ships if they are next to the planet, otherwise you will need to wait until the end of the ten turns, before you can move your transport ships closer and land them.

Invading another planet will certainly not improve your relations with the race to which it belongs. The diplomacy screen will indicate other races' concerns towards your empire, as well as its status in other races' eyes ranging from peaceful to enemy through neutral and even ally. Giving out RP's to another race may change your status, going for example from neutral to peaceful, but the cost is proportional to the level of concern and size of the empire. So be prepared to make sacrifices if you want to favorably influence the opinions of your neighbors.

Diplomacy, however, is only available in the war mode. If you play alone, you can decide how many computer opponents you want to play against with a maximum of six, and if you have access to a LAN network, you can play with up to six other players. Only two races are involved in the scenarios included with the game rendering diplomacy everything but useless, which explains why it is only available in the multi-player mode. In fact, the war mode is similar to the scenario builder of the previous games. Through a selection of parameters (size of the universe, planet's density, etc...), you can set up battles that range from a spatial skirmish to a galactic war of epic proportion.

Regarding graphics, Star General features the same sharp graphics found in SSI's previous titles. Each of the over 90 starships of the game were fully rendered in 3D and can be watched at any time during the game, although it doesn't present much interest once you have seen them all. If sounds are also of the same quality, I have to disagree for the music which is not as agreeable to listen to as the one from Fantasy General for example. The science-fiction like style didn't really appeal for my tastes, but it doesn't mean it won't for you. In any case, the CD audio quality is top notch, and whether it is to your liking or not, you can always turn it off.


The fourth episode in the Five Stars Series is yet another success for SSI. Both, the multi-player support and the two-levels combat system are tremendous additions that will continue to place this series above others. The only regret concerns the resource management, which is not developed enough, and turns what could have been an exciting phase into a tedious chore. Still, there is plenty of material in Star General to please occasional strategists as well as the most demanding.

Written by Frederick Claude

Click here for screen shots.



System Requirements:

DOS Requirements

IBM PC 486/66 or 100% compatible (Pentium recommended),
MS-DOS 6.0 or higer,
Min 16MB memory,
Hard disk with 30Mb free,
Double speed CD-ROM drive or faster (Quadruple speed recommended),
1Mb SVGA video graphic card,
Logitech Mouse version 6.3 or higher or Microsoft mouse version 9.01 or higher required,
Sound Blaster family or 100% compatible sound card required.

Windows 95 Requirements

Pentium 90 or greater,
Min 16MB memory,
Hard disk with 30Mb free,
Double speed CD-ROM drive or faster (Quadruple speed recommended),
1Mb SVGA video graphic card,
Mouse required,
Windows 95 compatible sound card.

Multiplayer Options: Network play via IPX, Direct connect via TCP/IP.



Web site: Catware


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BBS in Canada:403-473-9131 or 408-472-0178 (2400 - 14.4K baud modems)

Internet Support: S.S.I. Technical Support
Web site: S.S.I.

For race descriptions, history of Star General, unit listings and complete Hot Key listings, check out Star General's web site.


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Technical Support:415-897-9900
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