Of all the things I’ve had the privilege of doing here at eXplorminate, nothing would have excited my twelve-year old self more than this: I’ve gotten a sneak preview of the upcoming Star Control game from Stardock!
The fine folks at Stardock gave me a chance to play the first chapter of their new game, Star Control: Origins and I have to say, it’s looking pretty good. I’ll stay away from spoilers here, but I got to take my brand-spanking new spaceship out for a spin around the solar system, meet some new aliens both nice and… Not so nice, and get a feel for the gameplay.
The main game mode in SC:O is a narrative adventure through the galaxy. Stardock describes this as a role-playing game and I’m not sure that’s really accurate. You’re not building stats and, to this point anyway, your choices don’t seem to matter all that much in the game. Choosing a smart-aleck response over a serious one might give you a slightly different reaction, but it won’t change the overall narrative. This is not Mass Effect.
That’s most of what I got to do in the early going: talk to my human counterparts and then speak to some aliens. The writing is really good. Not just videogame good, but good good. It’s funny stuff and it fits the voice I expect from a Star Control game. Here’s hoping it continues moving forward.
The voice acting is also solid, though some characters are better than others. SC:O is going to rely a lot on personality, so getting the VO right is a very good sign. I’ll note that several sections of dialogue were unvoiced, but it’s unclear whether that was intentional or just content that will be filled in later.
The other thing I got to do was explore some planets. Your spaceship is outfitted with landers that you can drop down on the surface of planets and explore, if they survive the landing that is. There are resources to find that you can collect and then sell to buy new modules to customize your main ship with. There are also other, hidden secrets that I’ll leave for you to discover on your own.
The lander sections are beautiful and it’s fun to drive around. But I worry that these may get tiresome after awhile. Going back to our old friend Mass Effect, there’s a reason they cut the driving missions out of the series after the original. There’s not a lot of lasting gameplay in driving around, sightseeing. Even if the sights are so nice.
Finally, I got to take my ship into a couple of combat sessions. Controls are simple: WASD to move you around, with mouse clicks or keyboard shortcuts for weapons. Your early Earth ship drives like a cement truck with three flat tires, so unfortunately this is not the best way to evaluate combat. Graphics look good, though.
Fortunately, the preview build of SC:O also allowed me to take the combat mode for a test run. This is a variant outside the main game that lets players throw together a bunch of ships and fight for glory. Here, I got a better feel for the controls and the battle gameplay and it’s pretty good. Each ship really feels unique and I can already begin to suss which ones will be my favorites. The controls, however, still feel a little bit imprecise, but I’m told that there is controller support. I may need a little more practice to get them down, but right now this feels less tight than, say, the original Space Pirates and Zombies.
The combat mode is where I think a lot of the replayability will come for SC:O. There’s potential for solid multiplayer and I could see a competitive community grow up around this game. Especially if Stardock stays committed and adds new ships as time goes on.
Since my initial playtime with the game, Stardock has added new features as they ramp up to launch. The latest addition is a set of very useful menu options including a starmap, a fleet manager, a quest log, and a codex. These are all necessary quality of life additions that I didn’t realize I desperately needed until they showed up, so bravo to them.
Overall, I was extremely pleased with Star Control: Origins. My only real frustration with the game was when I had to stop playing because the preview was over. That’s a very good sign. SC:O is scheduled for release September 20th (2018) and I’ll be waiting impatiently until then. If what I’ve seen so far is any indication of what’s to come, my 12-year old self may be very pleased, indeed.