Friday, June 10, 2011
I only discovered the demo yesterday, despite it coming out in November 2010, so am definitely late to the party. But if I missed it, then did others no doubt. The demo is only about 30 minutes long, but it has tremendous potential and is easily one of the best pieces of fan-work that I’ve seen.
Official page is here.
Official UQM forum topic is here.
Started because the guy behind it was tired of waiting for a true SC2 sequel, this is touted as Star Control 2.5 and – if the demo is any indication – is probably one of the best fan homages I’ve come across. Set not long after the end of SC2, it takes place in a mostly new map, shifted to the South West of the old galaxy. There’s detailed explanations for what happened to each of the other races, from both the Chmmru and Earth base guy, and a mystery to solve. The Chmmr picked up a faint distress signal from a Shofixti scout vessel exploring uncharted space, but they can’t quite tell where, giving you only a general area. Speaking with the Shofixti at the Gorno stars reveals three scouts are on patrol – putting these two pieces of info together takes you to an area of space with a couple of solar systems to explore. On the outer planet of one you’ll come across the sinister Lurg and a squadron of Prawn ships (genetically altered lower organisms which the Lurg control for space flight). Take them out (the Chmmr ships work best) and you’re rewarded with a cut-scene.
All pretty simple, but it’s the perfect execution in this demo which impresses.
The freshly drawn graphics for the Earth communications screen, plus the Lurg and their ships, is impeccably done, and absolutely fitting with the SC2 universe. It reminds me why I love old DOS graphics – they can be quite beautiful! And it saddens me to think that modern companies totally don’t get this, choosing to redo things in HD and making them look ugly (Half Minute Hero on XBLA is the perfect example of a beautiful low-res game made hideous in HD).
Apart from the Lurg none of the other races have voice acting yet, but damn – the Lurg are PERFECT. Really great acting and some top notch voice modulation. Right away they grab your attention as being sinister creatures – possibly moreso than the Ur-Quan. And, for some great fan-service, can you guess what they were based on? Awesome. Their ships aren’t as scary as they make, farting a wall of paralysing bubbles and shooting semi-homing shots, but the design is good and I can see them proving to be interesting enemies. A couple of Chmmr should be able to take down five Prawns easily though.
In addition to the voice acting the script needs special mention. For something done by fans, it fits so well with the SC2 universe. It’s not overbaked, but it doesn’t feel like it was restricted by being too obsessed with canon – you’ll have to judge for yourselves, but for me it perfectly treads the line between respecting the source and taking it in a new direction. And it’s funny! Wait until you bump into the Slylandro, having been brought space-bound through a prank of the Umgah’s, and read their dialogue. The original SC2 was hilarious in places, and there’s some choice sci-fi references going on in this fan sequel.
Finally, I am really digging the puzzle design. There was a puzzle in SC2 where the Syreen mention that their ships must be a specific number of space units away from their current location, on a planet with a specific type of sun. Following the clues yields only about 3 possible systems, and by following this cookie trail and exploring the planets you’ll soon come across them. it was extremely satisfying solving this puzzle, and they’ve employed a similar one here. The fact that the clues also show up on your space chart is a bonus, and makes the game very user friendly. It’s not elaborate and so far it’s just one example of design - but I love it, and it bodes well. I hope they really think outside the box and come up with some great stuff.
Of course being a demo it's still lacking several things. You can land on planets but can't pick up any minerals (biological data is fine though) since you don't have a cargo bay, plus you can't buy additional modules for your new ship. There are fighter craft you can build though, and you do start with a generous amount of RU.
As of now they say the project is ticking along nicely, they’ve finalised the general story arc (even if they’ve not written the script), and things are looking good. So many fan projects fade away, especially the more ambitious ones, but I sincerely hope this team has the resolve to carry it through, because it’s looking ace so far.
Try it for yourself!