Star Raiders, pre Quick-Look

I'll watch the Star Raiders reboot quicklook, but I get the feeling already that I won't be happy with what our intrepid explorers find. I've already received warning, and if the change in starbase status here is indication, chances are there might be some disappointment:

Since I know the ins and outs of the oldest version of this game, I'm pretty sure that something great could come from that formula, and I don't see many games, if any, really getting into the territory that Star Raiders and programs like it have touched on, at least not lately. 

Star Raiders basically came as an action version of games like EGA Trek (and older), where you had a ship with systems that could be damaged, and you had to rush from place to place to defend soft targets and eliminate the badguys, while keeping an eye on your resources.

In Star Raiders, resources are paramount. The amount you spend in a game is one of the major ways you score, warping from sector to sector costs energy, and doing it wrong costs a ton more. Also shooting stuff and absorbing damage costs energy, and you'll be doing a lot of both as you hurry to stop a starbase from being surrounded; once it is, you've got a little more time before it's wiped out. Starbases aren't just point bombs, they're also where you get your resources replenished, so losing them means creeping a bit closer to death, but the increase in difficulty isn't as bad as you might think, since it's easier to tell which starbase enemies are swarming around when there are fewer of them to defend.

When you get hit, assuming your shields are on, you survive, but you a good chunk of energy, and the game randomly determines if a ship's system has been damaged or destroyed. This could be the engines, making it hard to navigate a sector (although hyperspace is always possible, even within a sector), sensors, the attack computer (which can give nearly auto-hit lock-on shots), even your shields (one hit one kill if your shields happen to be down when you're hit again) or your weaponry could be affected. What's cool is that as long as you aren't hit with your shields off and you have at least one working cannon, you can still do your job.  The game is at its most fun when your heavily damaged ship leaves hyperspace into a sector filled with bad guys, racing to kill them off before the starbase is killed. The risk-reward of seeing if you can bring the game to a quick end even though your ship's shields are randomly flickering on and off is what games are all about for me.

So, you've got different places to run to, a random map, a bit of resource management, different types and behaviors of enemies, and a damage system. All of this is in the first person ship view, with an aft view when ships fly behind you, a pseudo-3D navigation system with scanners to track down patrolling craft, and other complications that work with you once you master them.

Since I've managed to get top rank on the hardest difficulty (after warming up several times) since I was a kid, I know the game isn't impossible, and I know when you get into the groove it can be a lot of fun.  This system still has potential, I think. No doubt I'll be talking more about it after I watch the Quick Look.

Does this sort of game remind anyone of anything recent? One game that comes to mind, distantly, is X-Com, where you have to manage resources, keep people alive, keep your bases from getting wiped out, fighting different enemies with different behaviors.  Hm. Maybe that's why I like X-Com so much.
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2 Comments
Posted by ahoodedfigure

I'll watch the Star Raiders reboot quicklook, but I get the feeling already that I won't be happy with what our intrepid explorers find. I've already received warning, and if the change in starbase status here is indication, chances are there might be some disappointment:

Since I know the ins and outs of the oldest version of this game, I'm pretty sure that something great could come from that formula, and I don't see many games, if any, really getting into the territory that Star Raiders and programs like it have touched on, at least not lately. 

Star Raiders basically came as an action version of games like EGA Trek (and older), where you had a ship with systems that could be damaged, and you had to rush from place to place to defend soft targets and eliminate the badguys, while keeping an eye on your resources.

In Star Raiders, resources are paramount. The amount you spend in a game is one of the major ways you score, warping from sector to sector costs energy, and doing it wrong costs a ton more. Also shooting stuff and absorbing damage costs energy, and you'll be doing a lot of both as you hurry to stop a starbase from being surrounded; once it is, you've got a little more time before it's wiped out. Starbases aren't just point bombs, they're also where you get your resources replenished, so losing them means creeping a bit closer to death, but the increase in difficulty isn't as bad as you might think, since it's easier to tell which starbase enemies are swarming around when there are fewer of them to defend.

When you get hit, assuming your shields are on, you survive, but you a good chunk of energy, and the game randomly determines if a ship's system has been damaged or destroyed. This could be the engines, making it hard to navigate a sector (although hyperspace is always possible, even within a sector), sensors, the attack computer (which can give nearly auto-hit lock-on shots), even your shields (one hit one kill if your shields happen to be down when you're hit again) or your weaponry could be affected. What's cool is that as long as you aren't hit with your shields off and you have at least one working cannon, you can still do your job.  The game is at its most fun when your heavily damaged ship leaves hyperspace into a sector filled with bad guys, racing to kill them off before the starbase is killed. The risk-reward of seeing if you can bring the game to a quick end even though your ship's shields are randomly flickering on and off is what games are all about for me.

So, you've got different places to run to, a random map, a bit of resource management, different types and behaviors of enemies, and a damage system. All of this is in the first person ship view, with an aft view when ships fly behind you, a pseudo-3D navigation system with scanners to track down patrolling craft, and other complications that work with you once you master them.

Since I've managed to get top rank on the hardest difficulty (after warming up several times) since I was a kid, I know the game isn't impossible, and I know when you get into the groove it can be a lot of fun.  This system still has potential, I think. No doubt I'll be talking more about it after I watch the Quick Look.

Does this sort of game remind anyone of anything recent? One game that comes to mind, distantly, is X-Com, where you have to manage resources, keep people alive, keep your bases from getting wiped out, fighting different enemies with different behaviors.  Hm. Maybe that's why I like X-Com so much.
Posted by Brackynews

As I said, a bad case of the Yar's. ;)
I'm working on a list of memorable Star ____ game names in "honour" of the re-release.
 
Star Raiders is a good genesis point for so many space sims. Modern ones like X-Com can focus very much on the sim side, but the Atari market demanded SR have plenty of dodge-and-shoot rather than just watching numbers (probably the only reason it was ported to 2600. Ugh. >_< ). 
Wing Commander, Privateer, Freelancer, Freespace, hell even Tie Fighter et al. have elements from SR. All the best space games do. It's a touchstone.