Blast From the Past?
The Ur-Quan Masters

By Dave McLean - June 12th, 2010

UQM1

The universe is at war. The dreaded, innumerable, tentacular Ur-Quan are conquering species after species, enlisting each conquered group as a battle thrall in the Ur-Quan army, or trapping the unwilling under planetary slave shields. Adding to this menace are the Kohr-Ah, the bone-collecting, world annihilating cousin-species of the Ur-Quan—whose mandate is destroy (rather than enslave) every species it encounters. You play a human space captain who—after uncovering an extremely powerful space vessel of alien origin during an exploration mission—returns home to find Earth trapped under an Ur-Quan slave shield. Your goal is to explore the universe, gather resources and allies, improve your vessel, amass a battle armada, and rise up to defeat the Ur-Quan and the Kohr-Ah before it’s too late.

Gameplay for The Ur-Quan Masters boils down to four basic activities: exploring the galaxy, uncover resources during planetary exploration, fighting enemy ships, and interacting with alien species. It’s the latter two activities that make this game so very good. Let’s talk first about the various species. Throughout the game, you’ll make contact with twenty odd different alien species in your travels. There are: the cowardly, cowardly Spathi, who (spoiler) ally with the humans only to trap themselves under a slave shield almost immediately afterward; the Pkunk, psychics of dubious ability (and whose crazy eyes suggest they’re high pretty much all the time); the in-fighting, war-crazed Thraddash, who have no respect for humans under you, bust up at least a dozen of their ships; the blue-skinned, Slave-Princess-Leah-bikined Syreen are awesome for obvious reasons. Those are just four off the top of my head. First time through, it’s a thrill running into each species for the first time. With they try and kill me? (Probably.) Will they join with me against the Ur-Quan straight off, or will I have to perform some damn quest? (More than likely: damn quest.) Can I sleep with them? (Absolutely no— well… maybe the Syreen…) The dialogue is steadily entertaining. There’s touch of the absurd throughout it; it’s a little bit Monty Python, a little bit Hitchhiker’s Guide. Some choice quotes:

Spathi: ‘Peace’ as you call it, is an illusion. If you have ‘Peace,’ you simply haven’t yet seen the thing that’s trying to kill you.

Utwig: You disturb our routine of eternal grieving, yet we extend to you the courtesy of acknowledgment.

Shofixti: (after confusing your for an Ur-Quan ship) The Ur-Quan has returned! How unusually brave for a leprous, non-functional sex organ, like yourself.

(Quotes courtesy of The Sa-Matra)

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Now: battle. Again, like the gameplay overall, it’s pretty simple. Every ship has thrust and reverse, a primary weapon, and a secondary weapon; there’s still excellent variety to each ship. There’s butt-bombs, flame trails, automated point defence, heat-seeking rockets, launchable mini-fighters, tongues (yes, tongues), and more, more, more. The real fun is figuring out what ship is best equipped to take on what ship. In story mode, it takes a while to accrue halfway decent allies; the first friendly species you meet make pretty shoddy vessels. But even then, if it’s your first time through, it’s exciting every time you get a new ship and you take it out on its first fight. Shofixti Scout? Hmm, wonder what their secondary weapon does (oops)? If you can’t or won’t wait until you make better allies and earn better ships, you can play the game in super-melee mode and get your hands on any ship you want; either friends’ or foes’.

The Ur-Quan Masters is an open source port (in other words: available for free!), and it’s a flawless, lovingly created version of the original Star Control 2. If you’re a fan of things that are free and awesome, get yourself a copy today.

Get it here »

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    6 responses so far:
  2. This is one of those projects that’s a fantastic idea. Dave and I burned so much of our latter high school years (and probably after) playing this game.

    It’s certainly a worthy game to capture attention from those of us yearning for the old days.

  3. By LeCanard
    Posted on Jun 15, 2010

    Awesome! I look forward to checking this out!

  4. Posted on Jun 15, 2010

    Star Control 2 is an excellent game, and it’s so awesome to see it alive and well as Ur-Quan Masters. Anyone can try this classic game for free!

    Fun Toronto connections to Star Control:

    Toronto local Anthony Suarez runs a Star Controll fan site here:
    http://starcontroller.com/

    And yours truly contributed to another open source game set in the Star Control universe. Ours is called Star Control: Timewarp, or its spritual successor, TW-Light.

    These games are also available for free!

    http://tw-light.berlios.de/ (start here)

    http://timewarp.sourceforge.net/ (older version; more features and ships, but less stable)

    YouTube gameplay video:

  5. This (well, Star Control II) is my favourite game of all time. Between the original and this remake, I must have cleared it two dozen times. I can quote the locations of all the rainbow worlds, even when heavily intoxicated.

    If you like videogames, play this. It’s that simple.

  6. By Dave
    Posted on Jun 16, 2010

    Paul – Thanks for the links! I’ll check out TW-Light tonight.

    Richard – We’ll go for drinks and test out that claim some time.

  7. Posted on Jun 16, 2010

    Bless you. Loved Star Control 2. Now to find a side order of Masters Of Orion.

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