Escape Velocity Nova is the third game in the Escape Velocity franchise.
You play the captain of a spaceship, who flies from planet to planet and star system to star system, trading goods, completing missions, and fighting other spaceships.
Nova takes place around star systems in the Milky Way viewed from a top-down two dimensional view, many of the systems have planets or space stations that the player can land on. These locations are aligned with factions and react differently based on the player's actions. The player can move between the systems by hyper-jumping through a web-like star map.
The player starts as a freelance space pilot in a shuttlecraft, out to make a penny in the vast and unforgiving galaxy. There are many ways to play Nova; for example, a starting player seeking funds can become a trader or courier, delivering cargo between worlds; become a pirate or bounty hunter, attacking and disabling ships to steal their money, cargo, or the ships themselves; become involved in one of the main story-lines; or even conquer the galaxy by subjugating worlds.
Ships and technology
Starting with a simple shuttlecraft, the player obtains new ships, weapons, and other technology, such as cloaking devices, beam weapons, and fighter bays, by purchase or as the result of completing certain missions. Throughout the course of the game, the player can choose to pilot bigger and better ships — ultimately leading to powerful capital ships with alien technology — that can also carry more cargo, and can also obtain controllable escort ships.
Setting, plot, and major story-lines
The main story-lines are the bulk of the game. Each storyline is a long and involved set of plot-filled missions which are like "playing" a short story written in second person.
The game takes place in the Milky Way in 1177 NC of several human civilizations broken away from the Colonial Council and developed independent of each other. There are three main governments: Federation, Auroran, and Polaris, and several smaller factions. Back-story and other roleplaying information can be gathered from several "preambles" that come as documentation with the game.
The Federation is the latest in a line of Earth based governments, succeeding the Colonial Council. The council originally settled the habitable planets and star systems surrounding Earth. They made first contact with the Vell-os, a group of telepathic humans who had left Earth centuries earlier. Eventually a group of humans settled the planets beyond the star Polaris, taking that name for their people. When contacted by the Council, it became clear that the Polaris would not tolerate any interference. Soon the Council declared war, but their fleet was destroyed by the Vell-os, who opposed the war. The Council then fought the Vell-os for fifty years before the telepaths gave in to avoid further bloodshed and were enslaved. Another large group of humans seceded from the Council, forming the Auroran Empire to the south. A terrorist group of Aurorans destroyed the prized Hypergate system of the Council, effectively crippling and breaking the government. In order to reestablish control, the Earth-based humans formed the Federation.
The Federation also created an investigative body called the Bureau which has become powerful and subversive. They use illegal and unconstitutional means, as well as Vell-os slaves, to accomplish their goals of Federation dominion.
The Rebellion is in the middle of a war against the Federation, particularly the Bureau. The Rebellion claims that the Bureau has committed heinous crimes, and controls the Federation itself and that the Bureau should be removed from power. The Rebellion is vital in all of the major storylines, and the outcomes of all of them affect the Rebellion, and their war against the Bureau in one way or another.
By and large, the Rebellion is made up of older pilots and a great deal of their funding comes from the Association of Free Traders. Although they have managed to acquire some Polaron technology and steal a few of the less powerful Federation warships, their sparse numbers prevent them from fighting anything other than minor battles. As a result, the majority of the war between the Rebel and the Bureau is fought as a "spy-war".
The Auroran Empire is one of the main political blocs in the game. They are the most populous of the blocs, but they remain largely uninterested in technology.
The Auroran population is approximately 100 trillion, according to ATMOS - most planets have at least one arcology that can house tens of millions of people, and the "homeworlds" of the six different Auroran factions each average a population of around 175 billion. As a result, many Auroran worlds suffer from severe pollution and overcrowding problems.
The Auroran Empire consists of five "Families" or "Houses" (Moash, Heraan, Tekel, Dani and Vella). Each of the five families fight with each other constantly. Additionally, there are systems governed by the "Auroran Empire". These systems do not belong to any family, but are instead governed by the central Auroran government. Auroran warriors love to tattoo themselves and engage in "honorable" combat, and their ships have very heavy armor. The Auroran weapons are very heavy but they deal a lot of damage.
The Polaris are a race of technologically, and in some cases telepathically, advanced humans who broke away from the Colonial Council in 480 NC. Over the next century, the Polaris encountered the Wraith, a space dwelling race of creatures that can utilize hyperspace. Nearly all encounters the Polaris had with the Wraith ended in bloodshed, which is what initially fostered the Polaris' isolationist ideology.
The isolationism of the Polaris, in turn, caused problems when the Colonial Council attempted to re-establish contact with them by sending in a diplomatic fleet. The Polaris misinterpreted this as an act of war, and destroyed the fleet. Outraged, the Colonial Council sent out an invasion fleet, which was stopped by the Vell-os — a cousin race of humanity with advanced telepathic abilities, who have always supported the Polaris. This sparked the Vell-os/Colonial Council war, which did not affect the Polaris.
After the destruction of the Council hypergate system, the Polaris hypergates were still operational, allowing the Polaris to advance technologically (Oddly enough, none of the hypergates in Polaris space are operational in the game, even though they were never destroyed). Just over 500 years later, the Federation (successor to the Colonial Council) sent a military task force into Polaris space, which the Polaris destroyed quickly.
The Polaris have six separate castes, set up so that the skills of an individual can be best utilized by the caste he or she becomes a member of.
In the 500 years after the hypergate system's destruction, the Polaris advanced towards more organic technology. Much of their biotechnological knowledge was gained by reverse engineering the Wraith. Polaris scientists discovered how to utilize polarons (a type of high-energy particle) to create practically massless torpedoes which cause great damage. They have also harnessed nuclear fusion and antimatter annihilation as reliable, high-yield power sources. Polaris ships are much more difficult to defeat in-game, compared to Auroran or Federation ships, as their shields are the most powerful in the game, and their capital ships heavily utilize the Polaron Torpedo, arguably the most deadly missile weapon in the game. Their ships also utilize powerful beams for close range combat.
The Vell-os are a telepathic race. They were led out to space, united by their telepathic powers by the Indian prince Vell-os in around A.D. 980. The Vell-os do not pilot true ships; the objects they use are simply psychic projections made by the Vell-os inside. They classify humans and Vell-os who have telepathic abilities into six ranks, or "T"s. The lowest rank possible is T6 (all normal humans are at this level with no actual telepathic ability), and starting with actual telepathic powers at T5, continues downward until T0, the highest rank a telepath can ever achieve. No Vell-os in recorded history has reached the rank of T0.
Following a devastating war with the Colonial Council, they were enslaved by the Bureau of Internal Investigation, a shadowy group which effectively runs the Federation.
The Federation later evacuated the enslaved Vell-os to Federation space and proceeded to raze every inhabited Vell-os world via intense orbital bombardment, leaving dead planets with dangerously high radiation that will endure for millennia. The leaders of the Vell-os ruling council, the Krypt-tokh, escaped enslavement by fusing their bodies with their nanite-producing organs, becoming immense, immortal, telepathic space-roaming beings which ply the ruins of Vell-os space. The Krypt await the liberation of the Vell-os race as foretold in the so-called "Korell Prophecy."
Pirates represent the criminal side of the universe. There are many different branches of the common Pirates that mercilessly plunder and kill ships. In the game, they can disable and steal the player's goods and money and leave the player stranded in open space.
There are the more common Pirates, who are strong and dangerous raiders who either wish to kill traders, or to disable them and steal their money and goods. They are most prominent in the north of Federation space, which is policed little.
• Association of Free Traders
A proud but dwindling organization, who are not necessarily classified as pirates, the Association guards Federation space and mainly battles the similarly name Guild of Free Traders. The Bureau worked with the Guild of Free Traders to undermine the Association, assassinate their leader and eliminate their flagship, the "Unrelenting".
• Guild of Free Traders
The Guild is the most dangerous group of pirates, led by McGowan. They are well organized, and frequently smuggle illicit substances and other goods. Although they are enemies of the Federation, the Guild has ties to the Bureau.
Small raiders and pirates who plunder in a small scale, using slightly upgraded civilian ships.
• Houseless Warriors
Aurorans who have embraced a pirate life and broken ties to their houses make up the Houseless Warriors. They function mostly in Auroran space, based out of a hidden base in an asteroid field.