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Another time sink

2003-12-19 , ,

I haven’t blogged in a while. This explains why.

In the early 1980’s there was a game named Sundog where you took the role of a trader working the galactic spaceways, hopping from planet to planet, learning your way around the cities and the galaxy, looking to make a buck anyway you could and trying not to get yourself killed. The idea had been done a few times before and a number of times since but Sundog was unique in the freedom of action and the complexity laid out for the player. It was a great and captivating game and I spent many late night hours in front of my Apple ][e playing it.

Some of those ideas- in a much slicker package- are present in Ambrosia Software’s game Escape Velocity: Nova which they released in early-2002 and recently updated. I stumbled across it while looking for their superb asteriods game from 1993, Maelstrom, tried it and popped for the shareware registration within a week.

The genre is familiar. Again you take the helm of a spacecraft and again there are trade imbalances to exploit and missions to complete and a catalog of aliens and ships to understand but it’s not a dull rehash. The graphics are gorgeous and the sound effects are good without being annoying. It lacks the on-planet depth and expansive cities but introduces long and fairly complex mission threads and shorter subplots and it has a realistic handling of galactic affilliation and citizenship which has a direct effect on play- wanna be a freebooter pirate? Expect to get shot… by everyone. Snuggled up to the Federation? Don’t expect the Aurorans or Polariis to treat you nicely. The controls are easier- though I might be better at this after nearly twenty years- and the galaxy map is the most expansive since VGA Planets (one of my all time favorite games). Also interesting is the plugin system that allows you to alter and extend the game which I expect I’ll do when I complete a few of the original missions.

So if you wonder why I’m suddenly not replying to email, why my eyes are dark and bloodshot or why I’m not updating the blog, it’s because I’ve been playing the one of the best space-themed action/strategy games ever written.

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