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The Ur-Quan Masters

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Star Control II: The Ur-Quan Masters is a critically acclaimed sci-fi, action, role-playing game developed by Toys for Bob and was originally published by Accolade for the PC in 1992. It was later ported to the 3DO for enhanced features (such as voice over talent) and the original creators, Fred Ford and Paul Reiche III, released the 3DO version's source code as open source in 2002. Thanks to the efforts of the UQM project, this classic has been ported to modern operating systems and is available for you to play.

Story:

There were many great battles...Earth and her partners in the Alliance of Free Stars...Against the evil Ur-Quan Masters and it's Hierarchy of Battle Thralls...and the Ur-Quan were winning...Meanwhile, on the edge of the known frontier, an amazing discovery was made...Far beneath the surface of an unexplored, alien world...A huge underground city...Filled with the technological wonders of an advanced alien race, the Precursors...Who vanished a thousand centuries ago.

But then the main Ur-Quan fleet broke through the Alliances defensive line...Isolating the planet, stranding the scientists a hundred light years away from Earth. They waited hopefully for a rescue vehicle...Which never came.'

In the game, you play the commander of a Precursor starship; which is not fully complete and is running on a skeleton crew. You have been sent on a mission to make contact with Earth and bring back aid for your people who are stranded on the alien world. However, when you reach Earth, you discover that it has been placed under a slave shield by the Ur-Quan. It is now up to you to seek out Earth's original allies, discover new friends and bring the battle back to the Ur-Quan.

Game play:

For the most part, you will be navigating your vessel through star systems and hyperspace. At first, you will find the mothership to be quite sluggish and rather unfit for battle, but by gathering resources and unloading them at Earth's newly independent star base, you can purchase new modifications. You are also able to install crew compartments, thrusters, fuel cells, weaponry and so on.

Another integral part of the game is the building and strengthening of your fleet. Your flagship has a limited capacity however and at the beginning you will only have plans available for building the Earthling Cruiser. To gain additional plans you will need to search out other races and negotiate for use of their starships.

Every starship has it's own unique weaponry and form of combat, for example: scout classes have the advantage of speed and are useful for hit and run tactics. Their short crew does not permit them for full on assaults as they will often end up decimated. All ships have a primary and secondary attack which drains your battery. The status of your ship is indicated by the number of crew you have left.

You can engage in combat by encountering hostile fleets in either hyperspace or in star systems. Before you start the battle, a screen will show how many units you are facing and you have to choose either your flagship or a starship from your fleet for battle. Combat is only ever one on one and the victor is decided by whoever has the remaining fleet. Sometimes it's possible to avoid combat by diplomatically talking your way out of it. Diplomacy, however, can also get you into a fight if you do not choose your words carefully. Your flagship also has the ability to retreat from a battle in progress, but this costs fuel cells.

Resources are gained either by salvaging your opponents wasted vessels or by scouring planet surfaces for minerals. It's also possible to collect biological data and trade it for credits. Some species in the game will be willing to barter technology or information with you, which can help strengthen your resolve against the Ur-Quan plight.

A very nice feature in this game, is the cause and effect feeling of the universe and it's atmosphere. Actions you take (or do not) can affect the balance of the universe and this is often visible on your star chart. You are able to view the expansion of enemy and ally territory alike. I found the flow of the game's universe really helped to submerge me in it's story.

The two player Melee mode now has the option of online multiplayer and various modifications to the melee have been released by fans. In Melee mode, you can also battle your friends with starships from the first game which may not have been available in the single player mode.

Graphics:

For it's time, the graphics were of excellent quality. The designs of the races and their starships were very unique and original. Of course, nowadays, they do look dated. But I still think the aliens look very detailed on the view screen when you communicate with them. The Ur-Quan and the Kohr-Rah's multiple eyes blinking still look pretty disgusting even today.

Sound:

The Ur-Quan Masters soundtrack was one of my favourite things about the game. Every race has its own distinct tune which you will learn to associate with them and their songs range from menacing to playful and just simply bizarre. A group of semi-professional musicians, the Precursors, have provided new tracks and remixes of the originals. This is one of the optional packages available for download during the game's installation. In my opinion, they have done great work in revitalizing the original soundtrack and I would recommend the download.

The voice acting is also one of the optional packages. I had played the original PC version, so this was very new to me and I have mixed feelings of the voice talent. Some races were portrayed quite well by the voice actors (The Shofixti, the Ur-Quan, the Yehat and Kohr-Ah) while others are bordering on absolutely irritating, such as the Utwig for example. I would definitely urge you to play the game without the voice talent for the first time.

Conclusion:

The Ur-Quan Masters is a game of high caliber. The engaging storyline, in-depth universe, excellent combat and hours of great dialogue will see you coming back to this game again and again. I would also like to thank the boys from the UQM project and the game's original creators; may your roots always be well watered.