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Ur-Quan Masters, The

From the Database of Home of the Underdogs

GAME DESIGNER:Paul Reiche III & Fred Ford

GAME DEVELOPER:Toys for Bob

GAME PUBLISHER:Freeware

Copyright 2005, Toys for Bob

Arguably the best PC game ever made, Toys for Bob’s Star Control 2 is an epic “space adventure” that combines the best elements of action, adventure, and RPG genres to create a thoroughly compelling game that remains a blast to play more than a decade after its release. After acquiring copyrights to the game (everything but the “Star Control” name) from the now-defunct publisher Accolade, Toys for Bob generously released the partially ported source code of the game’s 3DO version to the fan community (largely because much of the PC source has been lost) in 2002. After years of work by a number of dedicated fans, the game, re-christened “The Ur-Quan Masters,” is now available for download free of charge from the official website. Despite the low version number (0.4.0 as of June 2005), The Ur-Quan Masters is already a very stable, 100%-complete game that is even better than either the official PC or 3DO release of the original game, thanks to the ingenious combination of hilarious voice-overs and excellent graphics from the 3DO version with the cleaner and more intuitive user interface of the PC version.

If you have never played the original Star Control 2 (and you’d have to either be living under a rock or start gaming quite recently for that), let me try to convince you why this is a must-play computer game no matter what your genre preferences are. Consider some statistics for starters: over 30 unique alien races to interact with, 19 different ships to control and customize, virtually countless star systems based on real astronomical data – each containing planets that can be explored, hyperspace and quasispace travel, plenty of non-linear quests, attractive VGA graphics that look great even 10 years later, and a cool soundtrack. Add to that a well-crafted plot and backstory (the “big foozle” in the game, the Ur-Quans, consistently win votes as all-time best computer game villains), hilarious dialogues, and a truly ‘epic’ length, and you will begin to realize there is nothing wrong with this gem. Your goal as captain of the mighty Precursor vessel is to rescue the entire universe from the Ur-quan and inevitable enslavement. You have to do this in four years in game time – a very long time in real life that you will enjoy every minute of.

What makes Star Control 2 so endearing to gamers across all camps is its unprecedented success of melding different genres by offering several different “modes” that are tightly integrated. In exploration mode, you travel among the planets of a star system. When you touch a planet with your ship, you go into planet mode, where you scan for minerals, life, and so on. You can launch a planet lander onto the surface of the planet if your scan turns up anything of value. Planets have different hostile elements in the form of flora and fauna, intense heat, earthquakes and lightning. In the dialogue mode – most people’s favorite – you get to talk to a wide range of unique and funny aliens with names like Umgah, Druuge, Spathi and so on. This often leads to the combat mode, which is one of the most fun parts of the game – especially after you amass a huge fleet in the course of the game.

In combat, the game puts your ships and your enemy’s ships in random places on the screen, simulating a hyperjump into the ring of battle. You only have to fight one ship at a time: other ships wait their turn. Blowing up enemy ships get you RUs, or Resource Units (the unit of money in the game), and sometimes vital plot-related clues. If you don’t feel like to play the whole game just to get to combat, you can choose “Super Melee” option from the game’s main menu: a two-player melee mode offering a quick combat fix.

Technologically, the game was years ahead of its time: it featured very smooth VGA graphics and digitized music (in the form of MOD files)…. on a 12-mhz 286 computer.

To summarize, The Ur-Quan Masters is the best version of one of the the best games ever created. I would have gladly paid for this version that is now being distributed for free thanks to the generosity of Toys for Bob and dedication of die-hard fans. If you have played Star Control 2 before, the funny voices and cool beginning and ending sequences from the 3DO version make it all worthwhile to jump back into the Precursor’s captain chair and experience the addiction all over again. A must-have.



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