Stardock owns Star Control and is planning an "XCOM-like" reboot

I think the problem with the lander game is that neither one is any fun at all.

True, but the SC2’s lander game was very light and minor. The bigger problem in that game was navigating through the molasses of solar systems. Expanding on the lander game is clearly a mistake, though, if you can’t figure out how to make it fun.

I’m going to put out the controversial notion that almost every part of SC2 apart from the top-down space-jousting (if you enjoy twitchy spacewar fights) and the alien interactions was, at best, tepid. And those two parts don’t mesh especially well (apart from the relatively consistent quality of representing the races’ personality quirks through their combat mechanics, e.g., the Spathi’s B.U.T.T. missiles).

From what I can sense, most of SC2 was about delaying the gratification of progressing the storyline and interacting with the aliens. And I totally see the value of that! If you know how 90s puzzle-writer’s brains work (which, to be fair, is an art), you can breeze through the Monkey Island series over the course of a leisurely half-day, less if you can skip dialogue in whatever modern incarnation you’re playing. And SC2 (and especially 3) is totally an adventure game.

Game design’s come a long way since then, and RPGs – even the fetchquestiest of them! – have done a lot to expand on the adventure formula with extra mechanics in the decades since SC2 hit. But Stardock’s fairly slavish (and possibly infringing – huzzah settlements, though, right? :P) devotion to mimicking so much of the moment-to-moment experience of sludgily trudging through empty space between baddie-interception-caused fight sequences and tedious lander-skipping across valuable planet surfaces to build up enough RUs to upgrade your landers enough to skip them across more valuable planets in order to afford more lander upgrades. . . just ignores what has happened in gaming in all that time, to the game’s genuine detriment. My patience for the tedious padding is just absent.

So controversial, it’s wrong!

Just kidding. I can agree in as much as I don’t think any part of SC2 could stand on its own. I don’t even like ship combat that much as it appears in the main story mode because you’re usually fighting either irritating ships like the Slylandro or you’re either underpowered or overpowered for an encounter when you get there.

That said, when I replay the game, planet-scouring is probably the thing I enjoy the most next to pursuing the story (which I basically know by heart). It’s not that driving the lander around is revelatory; it’s the whole cycle of picking a star to go to, working through all the planets and moons systematically, deciding which risks you want to take, (saving and reloading when things don’t go your way), and hauling it back to earth, usually while hitting a plot point or two in the same part of space.

I think the demands the game puts on you to explore an enormous space mostly blind is not very compatible with contemporary tastes, but other than that, I personally think the many elements that make up the core gameplay of SC2 are seriously solid and could make the basis of a great modern game.

We’ll see if Paul & Fred manage to pull it off with Paul & Fred’s Totally Unnamed Completely Legal Spiritual Successor.

Well said!

Agreed on some counts.

I personally just love the combat. I got so good at it in the original Star Control, and then to be given just that one Spathi ship at the beginning of the story, I got really good in Star Control 2 with that one Spathi ship. The Slylandro probes were annoying but fairly easy if you’re just patient with the Spathi ship. Same with the Ur-quan and Kohr-Ah ships if you fly the Spathi ship. But with the Kohr-Ah you have to be reaaaaally careful not to run into any spinning mines.

The main reason I was disappointed in the combat in SC: Origins (and the main reason I couldn’t get into the game) is that it feels really stilted and old fashioned now, compared to Galak-Z, which is so much smoother in its physics based flight. Of course, Star Control 2 felt that smooth to me back in the day. But Galak-Z kind of set a new standard in my head to judge against, so SC: Origins just feels wrong and not fun at all.

Star Control 2 worked so well for me because it was a mixture of loving the gameplay and loving the story and universe. When it’s just the story I’m reaching for, it’s not as enjoyable.

In Origins towards the end I just abused the hell out of squid ships to finish the game.

New Star Control dev journal on what the dev teams has been working on! :)

Just wondering if you guys were still considering bringing the game to consoles?

It’s still something we’d like to do. :)

The epic space RPG, Star Control: Origins released part 3 of its 4 part expansion, Earth Rising today. The Syndicate introduces two warring factions: the Liberators and the Syndicate, both of whom want the assistance of humanity and won’t tolerate anyone working for their rival.

So I finally bought this, what with the settlement and the desire to support the development team and the recent sale price on Steam.

And, boy, out of the gate I really really liked it! The writing is good, often hilarious. The Star Control tone is very well captured. The tutorial sequence around Sol was a nice ease in to the gameplay. The UI provides a lot of quality-of-life improvements. And I got quickly hooked on scouting planets and hoovering up resources. I was just delighted as I went out into the rest of the galaxy to complete my objectives, and a lot of what I found there was similarly delightful.

But not entirely. To break down the various elements of the game:

Lander gameplay: For the most part, I think this works. I can see why the team forcused their innovation on this part of the game, and making it more moment-to-moment engaging through the use of physics was a pretty good move. I think it just could have used more time and attention, to polish it up so driving around was consistently fun. I can never quite shake the feeling that this game wants to have me driving a wheeled rover, not a weird hovering bounce-ship. I wonder if that’s what they started with, given how it plays. But maybe the complications of modeling wheels reacting to the ground just turned out to be not worth the work?

Combat: It’s a bit… toothless? Not to stereotype, but I think what’s in the game is sort of what I would expect from a studio that makes strategy games when they go to make an action game. No juice. No impact. No crunch. Or not enough, anyway. You need the feeling of powerful impacts and bone-jarring collisions, and the anticipation of those to give you the feeling of close calls and smart maneuvers.

My biggest overall complaint, I think, is about a few areas of the game that I would describe as RPG-y. I think they RPGed the core of SC2 too much. This includes ship designs, where the deeply characterized ships have been genericized for the sake of variety. Ships of several different races fire the same bullets, and I can equip the same weapon on my flagship. It’s also a problem for what I would call the “minor content.” I can appreciate that every system seems to have something special going on within it. But unfortunately, that content is less than the sum of its parts, never rising to the level of the compelling storylines of SC2 or the rest of SCO’s mainline content. It feels like filler, and that means I both feel compelled to do it but don’t enjoy the process much. I also don’t care much for the RPGesque ship components, which operate on percentages and can be stacked, etc.

Stardock described SCO as an RPG, and I think it’s a fair category to try to place the series in, if you must categorize. But I would have liked it if the team was more attentive to what makes it different from a typical RPG, and what benefits you get from less system and more story.

I’m going to keep playing the game, to see more of the main storyline, which I’m still really enjoying. Hope to encounter more pleasant surprises as I do!

Yep. These were my main issues with the game. I was so excited at first when the lander sequences let me find new types of ships on all these different planets! Wow! I had assumed that the ships would be like Star Control 2, where each one is unique. It will control differently, have a unique special ability and a unique weapon, and unique maneuverability and feel. But no, not really. They’re all essentially the same ship with a few stats tweaked, and none of them are fun to control and fight in. That lack of core gameplay in the combat portion is a real bummer. I wanted to continue, because I think they did a great job with the humor at the start of the game, but with every fight feeling generic and boring, I finally moved on.

I just hope they overhaul the combat at some point, that will draw me back.

There’s a standalone benchmark to download for those of us who like to look at e-peen scores.


Tests DX11, DX12 and Vulkan. Annoyingly, requires email activation.

The 4th and final part of the Earth Rising expansion for Star Control: Origins was announced today. I’ve got some screenshots shared below, but you can see more details over on Stardock’s forums.

Has anyone played any of Earth Rising yet? Any favorite moments so far?

When I bought it, the second part of Earth Rising had just come out, I kinda decided to wait for all the expansions to come out to start playing. :D

Have they improved the combat since the game launched, or does it feel about the same? That was my main reason for putting down the base game. I just didn’t enjoy the fights.

Then your time is approaching! ;)

Can I ask what it was about the fights you didn’t enjoy? I know there have been some adjustments to balance and how some weapons work over the time since release, but the combat method is still mostly the same.

There were a few factors.

  1. The generic ships. Early Star Control ships all had unique ships each having it’s own main weapon and special weapon that was unique to that ship. In Origins, I found all these ships I salvaged, excited to figure out what all their cool abilities would be, only to find out they were all basically the same.

  2. Galak-Z does it so much better. It’s like how I imagine Star Control 1 and 2 and 3 would be if they came out today. A lot of emphasis on momentum and turning and firing, same as Star Control, but done with a better physics feel and slowing down the action a little so you never die super quick. It was a weird shift going from that game to Star Control: Origins where the combat is over way too quickly even when you have a huge crew, and speed and momentum and turning speed and all that good physics stuff just doesn’t feel as good. To be fair, this is true of all the older Star Control games as well, now that I tried them after playing Galak-Z. It feels everything happens too fast, and the physics doesn’t feel as impactful. Hard to describe this I guess.