Mento's May Madness: #14 - Starscape

01/05/12 - Amnesia: The Dark Descent12/05/12 - Nimbus24/05/12 - Chime
02/05/12 - Blocks That Matter13/05/12 - Puzzle Bots25/05/12 - Diamond Dan
03/05/12 - Capsized14/05/12 - Rhythm Zone27/05/12 - Doc Clock: The Toasted Sandwich of Time
04/05/12 - Delve Deeper15/05/12 - Starscape28/05/12 - The Misadventures of PB Winterbottom
05/05/12 - Eufloria17/05/12 - Tobe's Vertical Adventure30/05/12 - Gemini Rue
06/05/12 - Frozen Synapse18/05/12 - Uplink: Hacker Elite
07/05/12 - Greed: Black Border19/05/12 - Zen Bound 2
08/05/12 - Hammerfight20/05/12 - Max Payne 2
10/05/12 - Lume21/05/12 - A.R.E.S.: Extinction Agenda
11/05/12 - Machinarium23/05/12 - Avadon: The Black Fortress

15/05/12 - Game #14

The game: Moonpod's Starscape

The source: GB user (via 's giveaway). Thank you!

The pre-amble: Starscape is a shoot-em-up in space-sim packaging, similar to something like Star Control or WarpSpeed. Players need to balance their sim aspects, such as mining for ore, researching and developing new technology and outfitting their spacecraft and mothership while simultaneously mowing down hordes of hostile "Archnid" (though they're more Borg than spider aliens) ships.

The playthrough: I really didn't know what to expect of Starscape. From the first impressions, it looks budgety as hell. All the illustrations appear to have been done by the designer's DeviantArt user girlfriend, the text is rarely capitalized correctly, instructions are often poorly conveyed and the controls confusingly mapped and it's not really doing anything to set itself apart from the other, better-funded games in this recent wave of space-sim/shoot-em-ups. That said, it was an enjoyable enough diversion: The combat's relatively simple to get to grips with, without ever being too difficult unless you're foolish enough to let yourself get utterly overwhelmed; the new technologies are distributed at appropriate times to maintain a level of challenge and there's plenty of mining and side-stuff to do once the chores (taking out the enemy-generating mothership of each "zone") are done. Careful exploration nets all sorts of boons, such as recovering lost crew members and finding the friendly aliens who will share technology with you. It's not a deeply complex game, but it's enough to grab one's interest for a few hours.

But guess what? This game costs $10. The Ur-Quan Masters is a free download. And really, Star Control II blows this game out of the airlock and then some. Starscape's quite clearly an homage to the Toys for Bob classic, presumably from a place of "SCII was awesome, people should make more games like that. We should make more games like that." So in that respect, I'll give Starscape credit for trying to follow in the footsteps and put their own spin on a truly worthy game. But yeah, play Ur-Quan Masters instead if you never have before, and maybe only give this one a spin if you've played SCII to death and always thought it needed an art style straight from the Beginner's Guide to Drawing Manga.

The verdict: Probably not.

(I clearly have no business casting aspersions on someone else's artistic ability...)

5 Comments
5 Comments
Posted by Mento
01/05/12 - Amnesia: The Dark Descent12/05/12 - Nimbus24/05/12 - Chime
02/05/12 - Blocks That Matter13/05/12 - Puzzle Bots25/05/12 - Diamond Dan
03/05/12 - Capsized14/05/12 - Rhythm Zone27/05/12 - Doc Clock: The Toasted Sandwich of Time
04/05/12 - Delve Deeper15/05/12 - Starscape28/05/12 - The Misadventures of PB Winterbottom
05/05/12 - Eufloria17/05/12 - Tobe's Vertical Adventure30/05/12 - Gemini Rue
06/05/12 - Frozen Synapse18/05/12 - Uplink: Hacker Elite
07/05/12 - Greed: Black Border19/05/12 - Zen Bound 2
08/05/12 - Hammerfight20/05/12 - Max Payne 2
10/05/12 - Lume21/05/12 - A.R.E.S.: Extinction Agenda
11/05/12 - Machinarium23/05/12 - Avadon: The Black Fortress

15/05/12 - Game #14

The game: Moonpod's Starscape

The source: GB user (via 's giveaway). Thank you!

The pre-amble: Starscape is a shoot-em-up in space-sim packaging, similar to something like Star Control or WarpSpeed. Players need to balance their sim aspects, such as mining for ore, researching and developing new technology and outfitting their spacecraft and mothership while simultaneously mowing down hordes of hostile "Archnid" (though they're more Borg than spider aliens) ships.

The playthrough: I really didn't know what to expect of Starscape. From the first impressions, it looks budgety as hell. All the illustrations appear to have been done by the designer's DeviantArt user girlfriend, the text is rarely capitalized correctly, instructions are often poorly conveyed and the controls confusingly mapped and it's not really doing anything to set itself apart from the other, better-funded games in this recent wave of space-sim/shoot-em-ups. That said, it was an enjoyable enough diversion: The combat's relatively simple to get to grips with, without ever being too difficult unless you're foolish enough to let yourself get utterly overwhelmed; the new technologies are distributed at appropriate times to maintain a level of challenge and there's plenty of mining and side-stuff to do once the chores (taking out the enemy-generating mothership of each "zone") are done. Careful exploration nets all sorts of boons, such as recovering lost crew members and finding the friendly aliens who will share technology with you. It's not a deeply complex game, but it's enough to grab one's interest for a few hours.

But guess what? This game costs $10. The Ur-Quan Masters is a free download. And really, Star Control II blows this game out of the airlock and then some. Starscape's quite clearly an homage to the Toys for Bob classic, presumably from a place of "SCII was awesome, people should make more games like that. We should make more games like that." So in that respect, I'll give Starscape credit for trying to follow in the footsteps and put their own spin on a truly worthy game. But yeah, play Ur-Quan Masters instead if you never have before, and maybe only give this one a spin if you've played SCII to death and always thought it needed an art style straight from the Beginner's Guide to Drawing Manga.

The verdict: Probably not.

(I clearly have no business casting aspersions on someone else's artistic ability...)

Moderator
Posted by ZombiePie
Moderator
Posted by Brackynews

Best. Starscape. Fanart. Evar. (Rare company to keep, to be sure.)

Can't disagree with ya. If someone likes the kind of gameplay Starscape has, they are definitely better off with UQM, SPAZ, and I'm pretty impressed with Fusion:Genesis too. But that's a hindsight/retro issue, Starscape predates (2003) all those, from a point in time where retail copies of SC2 weren't really practical. (The UQM project began from the code release in 2002, and the first few years were pretty rough.) As a result I see more of Starscape's mechanics in games like SPAZ and Fusion than I would say they cribbed from Star Control. So from that standpoint I champion it as a seminal title. I'm pretty sure the first decade of Elder Scrolls games would make me physically ill to play for the first time now, but they clearly mattered to get where we are.

Anyway, becoming the foremost Starscape expert on the wiki is tops of my editing list. ;)

Posted by Mento

@Brackynews: With that added context, it's definitely a more impressive game. I knew it was old enough that it was deriving its core gameplay components (mostly the combat and ship outfitting, if little else) from SC directly and not simply copying the recent trend of similar space-sim games, like SPAZ, but I probably should've checked to see whether it pre-dated the Ur-Quan Masters release (or at least a version of it that was playable). In 2003, it would've been a pretty decent buy given how little there was like it commercially available.

But man, that presentation could use some work. I'm not generally the type that would care about that sort of thing if the core gameplay was any good (and it is, really) but developers should take some pride in making their project look professional. It's like having typos in your menus - it just gives the worst first impression that you don't give a shit.

Though, like in the Elder Scrolls example you pointed out, a game that's utterly broken mechanically is perhaps not the best indication that proper care and attention have been taken either.

Moderator
Edited by Brackynews

@Mento: Oh yeah. I mean they still sell the game straight from the company site, and I bet they haven't patched any of the text and UI issues. (As you played from Steam I expect it's exactly the same codebase.) The fact that it's resolution locked at 800x600 tells you everything you need to know about where it came from. That's 2003 indie. Today, that's an iOS port. Today, that's a few DigiPen graduates looking to find a publisher. The Moonpod guys made Judge Dredd on the PS1. That is some campy nonsense right there. ;)

It's neat to think about where Moonpod could've gone with a sequel... circa 2007 maybe. But once I got a feel for SPAZ I thought, "yeah close enough." :)