Starscape PC Review

We’ve all been there at least once, haven’t we? Working under a manager who hasn’t got a clue how to do their job, so they constantly rely on you – the guy who’s probably earning little above the minimum wage – to tell them what they should do next. I mean, you’re flying your little spacecraft around, doing your part for the team – and you are only a pilot, after all – and you get back to your space station, only to find that that it had been attacked and almost destroyed in your absence. And yet the captain decided she’d rather sit around eating pies instead of bothering to get the place repaired. You give the necessary orders, and the place is repaired within moments. But does the captain learn, despite being on ten times your wages? Does she balls.

This isn’t any kind of genuine criticism, of course. I’m just being ‘funny’.

Starscape is one of those games that most people can’t write about without describing it with words like ‘retro’ or ‘old-school’ in a semi-apologetic manner, mainly because it’s not 3D, and that just isn’t done these days, darling. I’m not saying it isn’t ‘retro’ or whatever, I’m just not sure it matters – personally, I’m more concerned with explaining why Starscape is such a stupidly fun and worryingly addictive video game before my 1,000 words are up.

The plot of the game is pretty simple – a space station capable of interstellar travel gets lost in an unknown region of space and the bits of it needed to get home again have been stolen by an evil alien race, so it’s up to you to fly around and get them and a bunch of missing crew members back. As a result, the bulk of your time is obviously spent flying your ship around nodes (little areas of space), shooting at asteroids or other spaceships. Nothing that’ll blow your mind, obviously, but it all feels comfortable and familiar, and controlling the momentum of your ship as it slides around becomes a bit of a skill. The bit where it gets interesting is the fact that you can totally customise your ship from the ground up. Obviously it insists on the inclusion of a couple of things like an engine and a power source, but beyond that you can customise it as much as you like, within the limitations of the kit you’ve attained and the size of the ship you’re customising. As if that wasn’t enough, the game features a research and manufacture system for you to manage in-between battles, allowing you to get hold of more impressive weapons and the like as you progress through the game. It’s this system that makes Starscape so bloody addictive – you genuinely won’t mind spending ages mining materials from asteroids, because you know you’ll get a new power generator that’s smaller than the last and produces more power so now you can afford to fit your ship with two new ion cannons and you’ll have room for more cargo and missile bays and a new shield and… well, you get the idea. The game is also kind enough to give you three docking bays in which you can build three different ships – and the ship customisation has enough depth that you’ll want to take advantage of those empty bays. Whether you simply create three identical ships in case you lose some, or you customise them for different purposes (for example, fitting a ship with basic lasers, a tractor beam and an obscene amount of cargo bays just for mining purposes), you’ll find yourself messing with your ships for hours on end. It doesn’t treat you like an idiot, either – you can massively overload your ship with guns and such if you really want to, and the game will warn you if you’ve gone too far, but it won’t stop you taking the ship out for a spin. You’ll just have to put up with an embarrassingly large turning circle. If you think that’s worth the extra firepower (and to be honest, it often is), then that’s your call.

Of course, the game doesn’t let you sit in the first area and research stuff until you’ve created MURDERSHIP 9000. If you want to get better equipment, you need to progress through the game, and help out a friendly alien race you come across from time to time, who give you access to their swanky technologies in return. Not only does this prevent you making the game too easy for yourself, but it provides a nice little diversion from just wading through seemingly endless bits of space to find the next evil alien mothership.

Bad points? Yeah, there are a couple. For one, I thought the music was bloody awful, but that’s just personal taste, and it’s easily switched off. Secondly, the highest resolution I was able to run the game in was 800*600. Not because my PC was rubbish – the game just won’t go any higher. Presumably a result of the (admittedly really nicely drawn) 2D spaceship interiors you’ll find amongst all the menus, it’s not something you’ll lose sleep over, but with most people owning monitors spanning 19 inches or larger, and many of them being widescreen, it’s going to make things look a bit blurry and stretched for most of you. But if you can live with that (or just run it in windowed mode), you’ll find there’s a wonderful little game hiding underneath. As for that whiny opening paragraph – don’t worry about that. It does strike you as being a little odd that the lowly fighter pilot basically has to manage the entire bloody space station, but you’ll soon be glad of it.

All in all, Starscape is an absolute beauty that gets its claws into you, and utterly refuses to let go. The constant promise of new stuff to research makes an already decent game fiendishly addictive, and I’ve just managed to praise the hell out of it for the last few paragraphs without even mentioning the fact that it’s only fifteen quid, and you could be playing it in twenty minutes if you wanted to. You’ve got no excuse not to have a look, man.

A game so addictive it’ll have you resenting yourself for having to do things like ‘eat’ and ‘go for a wee,’ occasionally.

8 out of 10