One of the rare games that was cursed from the start of it’s creation was Star Control 3. It’s not necessarily as bad as most people make it out to be; it’s loved by many people who haven’t played Star Control 2: The Ur-Quan Masters and hated by most of those who have.
Despite it’s many flaws, the game does have lot of clever aspects, but they are vastly surpassed by the many drawbacks and bugs, which is unfortunate. It strives to do too much and, as a result, falls short in practically every way. Even though I want to give it a thorough pasting in this review, I must say that I did like playing it – just not quite as much as the Ur-Quan Masters. I mean you cannot compete with such perfection easily!
The game is brought to life with the addition of some well designed new alien races – many of them have great dialog and personality and I found them quite unique. This helps to breathe new life into the Kessari quadrant, which is the game’s biggest plus. Sadly the races from the Ur-Quan Masters are left forgotten and barely function within the game, which is a huge shame.
To be honest, I didn’t like some of the new species that much. I really enjoy the Daktaklakpak, what little I’ve seen of the Ktang, and the Xchaggers. I simply feel bad for the Doog, and the Lk are only truly funny when they start talking about the Red Spiral Rail. Apart from that, everything else is dull and extremely boring, but I suppose the Ploxis are at least decently written, with some clever insight into manipulation, and what it means to truly rule behind the scenes.
The actual story is rather clever to be honest. Out there in space, there are some bad Aliens called the Eternal Ones who are looking to drain the sentience of the Galaxy… Though it should really be sapience as every single living thing has some sort of sentience. The idea is pretty clever and I hadn’t seen it before in the games I’ve played, so I really enjoyed the originality of the plot.
The game being far too static is one of it’s biggest problems. The AI makes no attempt to attack or engage with your allies except from pre-programmed events like the Vux assaulting the Mycon, star systems being destroyed by Interdimensional Fatigue, and the occasional preset fight (Some of these being overwhelmingly annoying thanks to combat bugs and huge fleets.)
This comes in stark contrast to The Ur-Quan Masters’ spheres of influence, which change depending on a variety of different events that occur based on actions taken and time passing. Your colonies in Star Control III, on the other hand, are not threatened in any manner, and the universe is unchanged except from predetermined story-based occurrences.
The largest conceptual error in my opinion with regard to the original races is that the Utwig, Ur-Quan, and Chmmr vessels and the overpowered Precursor ship make the game too easy to win – yet the Supox were eliminated before the game began. The Supox ships in The Ur-Quan Masters were a lot less powerful, and it would have increased the challenge if we’d lost the Ur-Quan instead.
Bad programming makes melee combat needlessly irritating. Penetrators and several other League ships are rendered nearly completely ineffective as a result of the Daktaklakpak ships’ attempts to avoid conflict against numerous vessels, which results in drawn-out fights that are frequently won by pure luck.
The game’s problems ultimately undermine all of its positive qualities. It’s annoying when your reliance on fuel keeps you stuck in allied systems for a very long time as you are forced to wait for more fuel to be produced. Thank the gods I never ran out in a system that wasn’t owned by my allies.
The most annoying bug is when you occasionally have to wait for ships to recognize you and approach before you can have the dialogue options you need to actually progress. I almost ran out of enemy ships in the quadrant and I worry that in such a case, it might be impossible to win. The colony mechanic in the game is merely adequate; it seems to be only 25% of what was intended. So there could have been better ways of creating fuel production, making crew and building ships.
In my opinion, the Map was a practical design for colonies that produce fuel over time as it allows you to build up what you need without your realising it because you spend so much time trying to figure out where systems are. This is probably unintentional – but a great help all the same.
I feel the development team really worked to try and give the player everything they could, and I firmly believe that the staff put in effort worthy of much more than the criticism they got. The character puppets were an excellent but largely despised design, and the 3D battlefield, albeit terrible to play in, was clearly the result of a lot of work.
The story, as I’ve already mentioned, is excellent, and I believe that with more time for development and the elimination of bugs, perhaps getting rid of the colony system and increasing fuel production to make up for it could have allowed them to create a better game.
Although Star Control III is playable and to a certain extent pleasant, it has an impossible challenge trying to live up to The Ur-Quan Masters. It’s far too buggy and underdeveloped to really warrant an excellent score. From 1 to 10, I give it a 3.5. But even so, I must stress I have very high standards.
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