Star Control 3 was one of those rare games that was cursed from the beginning of development. Enjoyed by people who have never experienced Star Control 2: The Ur Quan Masters, and loathed by those who have, it’s not necessarily as terrible as most people make it out.
There are quite a few positives to the game, but they are vastly outweighed by the negatives, which is a shame . It tries to do too much – and because of this fails in almost every regard. I must admit, for all the battering I intend to give this game, I did enjoy playing it, though not nearly as much as the Ur Quan Masters.
The main positive of the game is the development of the new Alien races, several which are rather well written and very unique, which helps to bring new life to the Kessari quadrant. This is let down by some poor decisions and neglect of the races many people knew and loved in The Ur Quan Masters.
I especially like the Daktaklakpak, what little I saw of the Ktang and the Xchaggers, though I could take or leave the rest of them to be honest. The Lk are only really amusing when they start talking about the Red Spiral Rail, and I just feel sorry for the Doog. Asides from that though, everything else is lackluster, and thoroughly unenjoyable, though I guess the Ploxis, are well written if nothing else.
The story is actually extremely good. The idea of the Eternal Ones coming to drain the galaxy of sentience, though it should really be sapience as every freakin’ living thing has some form of sentience – is a good one. The writing for species is generally very intelligent, and the Exquivian idea of nothingness of mind fits in very well, though they’re far too irritating to talk to and look far too much like me to really be enjoyable.
One of the main issues is that the game is far too stagnant. Asides from preprogrammed events such as the Vux attacking the Mycon, star systems being destroyed by Interdimensional Fatigue and the odd conflict here and there, the AI does not attempt to attack or engage with your allies. This comes in sharp contrast to the spheres of influence in The Ur Quan Masters, which shift based on a number of varying factors. By contrast, there is nothing in the way of threats when it comes to your colonies, and asides from pre-ordained story based events, the universe is unchanging.
Conceptually there are some huge flaws when it comes to the original races, the biggest for me being that the Supox are the ones wiped out from the League of Sentient Races, whilst allowing the immense power of the Utwig, the Ur Quan and the Chmmr to carry the player along with the busted Precursor vessel. Taking out the Ur Quan would have made for a better story, as their ships are utterly horrifying and totally busted in the game’s battle design.
The battles themselves are made unnecessarily annoying by bad programming. The Daktaklakpak ships try and avoid combat against a lot of ships which means long drawn out battles won by sheer luck most of the time, so Penetrators and several other League vessels are made almost completely useless because of these issues.
The game itself is wracked with bugs, which ultimately let down every good aspect of it. Your reliance on fuel sometimes results in you being trapped in allied systems for ages as time ticks by which is frustrating. You also have to wait sometimes for ships to identify you and move in or you won’t get necessary dialog which is the most infuriating in game bug. The game’s colony mechanic is passable, but feels like it’s 25% of what was intended to be.
I think the Map was actually a useful design when it comes to colonies producing fuel. As you spend so much time trying to figure out where systems are, it does allow you to build up what you need without realising it.
It saddens me that there is a clear yearning to deliver a lot to the player, and I really feel that the development team tried incredibly hard and don’t deserve the flack they receive. They delivered an exceptional though universally hated design with character puppets which for the time was pretty decent, and the 3d battlefield – whilst horrible to play in clearly took a lot of time and effort.
The story as I have mentioned is very good and for the most part, I think with more development time and sorting out bugs, maybe removing the colony system and speeding up fuel production to compensate could have allowed them to build a better game. The concepts are great. Systems being destroyed by Interdimensional Fatigue, an evil alien race that eats the intelligence of beings, even the ideas which revolved around the precursors I didn’t mind. So what if they’re giant space cows, I don’t really care. We didn’t really need to meet them but they weren’t a bad concept which fit the story well.
I’ve played Star Control 3 through several times, and whilst it’s playable and to a point enjoyable, it’s got an impossible task trying to live up to The Ur Quan Masters. I rate it a 3.5 out of 10.