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|Release date(s)||29 June 2004|
Starscape is a 2D space combat shoot 'em up game developed by Moonpod games and published in 2003 as shareware. The plot provides a framework for the action: The player is the sole remaining fighter pilot on the space station Aegis after its warp drive is influenced by aliens, ripping it into another dimension. The objective is naturally to survive and to return.
Starscape also features a plotless skirmish mode and a difficulty level where save games are automatically updated to reflect the loss of ships. Though the asteroid mining has been criticized as too tedious and time-consuming, the battle sequences and graphics have received praise.
In Russian speaking territories, Starscape is named 'Космическая одиссея' (literal translation: 'Cosmic Odyssey') and features Russian voice acting. It was published by Snowball.ru .
The game is set in the 23rd century, and starts with the crew of an exploration vessel called the Aegis testing a new machine called a dimensional drive. The experiment, however, goes horribly wrong because a malevolent bio-mechanical race called the Archnid somehow tampered with the machine, resulting in the Aegis and its crew being sent into another dimension.
The pilot of a small ship that was on the Aegis (controlled the player) meets up with the ship. At this point, it's revealed that the Aegis was attacked by the Archnid, heavily damaged, and the dimension drive has been stolen. The player must then mine resources to repair the Aegis, their own ship, and recover the dimension drive, which the Archnid broke into five pieces, hoping to reverse engineer the technology and use it to escape.
Though optional, the player can do some side quests with a race of machines called the Xenarch. After completing missions for them, they Xenarch will gradually reveal information about themselves and the Archnid. The Xenarch reveal that, the Archnid were once an organic race that was trapped in the dimension. Realizing they would die because they couldn't escape, most of them fused with machines to become immortal, leading to insanity. The Xenarch were created by the few that didn't fused with the machine to kill the Archnid, but the Xenarch failed in their task. Doing this reveals to the crew of the Aegis how dangerous the Archnid are, and further motivates them to get the pieces of their dimension drive so they can make sure the Archnid cannot threaten the normal universe.
Most of the game time is spent in a top-down view as the player's ship fights off attackers and collects resources from asteroids and from some of the destroyed enemy vessels. The setting is divided into areas of varying sizes, and the fighter can freely maneuver in one but not cross the boundaries.
While in essence quite simple, the addition of the space station enriches gameplay considerably. The Aegis is present in all non-boss battles and while it's quite durable, its destruction loses the game. Docking with it is necessary to unload resources, perform repairs on either the ship or the station and to travel between areas. In addition to the aforementioned repairs, the Aegis can spend acquired resources on both researching and constructing new tools and weaponry, which require allotments of the station's limited manpower that in turn can be increased by finding and rescuing rare survivors in the action sequences. The player also designs the fighters, balancing attack and defense with power, maneuverability, available size and costs. The station can maintain up to three craft, though only one can be flown at a time. Over time, the Aegis can be outfitted with turrets and a cannon, while the fighters go from - essentially - airtight bathtubs to pocket battleships.
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Rin Fubuki - Captain of The Aegis Graduated top of her class in training, Rin was the only academy trainee ever to beat the infamous Feathersone-Griffiths, impossible battle simulation. A gifted navigator and pilot, her leadership abilities were only realized during conflict, when after the entire command crew of her ship were killed in a trap, the captain's seat fell to her. Leading a reduced crew, she managed to hold off an attack force of five destroyer ships until help arrived. Not one to make snap judgments, Rin often errs on the side of caution, and tries to avoid sending her ship and crew into battle by all means necessary. Once she does make the decision however, she is a force to be reckoned with, and will use any means available to secure victory. She deeply values life, and at one point even tries to reason with Archnid about how pointless it is for them to fight. At the end of the game she dies sacrificing herself to keep the Archnid from escaping. Rin's second name was inspired by Japanese AV model Akira Fubuki. .
Jenna Johnson (JJ)- Deputy Engineer Orphaned at an early age, JJ grew up on a poverty stricken backwater colony planet. Still very young, she managed to find work at the planet's Stardock, and quickly learned everything there was to know about repairing starship engines. Her abnormally high IQ and burgeoning mechanical prowess would have gone unnoticed if a ship carrying Maya Rendon hadn't stopped at the planet for refueling. Immediately recognizing JJ's potential, she offered her training at the Stardrive Research Institute. On the long journey to Earth, the two fast became great friends, and Maya decided JJ should not train at the Institute, and instead should become her apprentice. JJ ends becoming the chief engineer, as Rendon is killed by the Archnid shortly after arriving in the other dimension. JJ's pink hair and iris color is due to multiple generations of poverty on her home planet where the poor predominantly consume a krill/plankton hybrid grown in vats which is high in alpha and beta carotene (the same mechanism behind the pink coloring of flamingo feathers and salmon flesh). .
Bud Weisman - Head Of Security
A veteran officer of many campaigns, Bud's courage and tactical genius quickly earned him great respect amongst his men and fellow officers. Unfortunately his disrespect for the antiquated military protocols employed by the Earth Security Force high command, caused his career to be sidelined. For this reason he was assigned as sole security officer on the Aegis research mission, a token post he considers to be a caretaker role. Whilst bitter about his position, Bud still applies the same strict ideals to his work, he is proud of what he does, and always tries to give his best.
Max Von Braun - Head Of Research / Dimension Drive Inventor Max has led a life secluded from human contact. After winning a Nobel prize for his inter-dimensional space travel theories, he disappeared for more than ten years. During this time he became obsessed with proving his theories worked (many in the scientific community doubted there were any practical uses). There were many problems for him to overcome, but he eventually unveiled his designs for the Dimension Drive to the world. Often finding it difficult to relate to people, Max is only ever at home in his own world of multidimensional physics. Nevertheless he is without peer, possessing an intellect that cannot be measured on any existing scale.
Maya Rendon - Head Of Engineering As daughter of two of the most influential starcraft designers, Maya Rendon was always destined to follow in her parents footsteps and become a great engineer. Rather than joining one of the big industry giants, Maya started her own small starship building company. No one believed it could be able to compete, but they were quickly proved wrong. The company brought a string of innovations to the industry and quickly took the biggest share of the market. Maya used her success, and her own money to build the Stardrive Research Institute, pushing forward the limits of science.
- The forenames of 'Max' Von Braun and 'Maya' Rendon were inspired by 3d modeling packages 3D Studio Max and Alias Maya. .
Races of The Grid
The Xenarch Ancient machine servants of a long dead ship trapped in the grid, they are true machines, but sentient and strangely sad, tired and defeated. Long ago, they were created by the race that the Archnid once were to try for the purpose of killing the insane race, but they failed. Throughout the game, the player has the option of doing missions for the Xenarch in exchange for new technologies to aid them.
The main antagonists of the game. At a point in the distant past, an advanced race was trapped in the warp. Realizing they had no way of escaping, they turned to bonding their bodies to machines to make themselves immortal, a horrible crime among their race due to the side effects. Those that were fused with machines became the Archnid. After absorbing so many other life forms and changing themselves so drastically the Archnid have lost their identity and embraced madness. Totally isolated they even fear their own kind and surround themselves with mindless drones. Taking pleasure in cruelty and driven by the need for power they are quite mad. Some of the species knew of the dangers and avoided fusing with machines. They created the Xenarch to kill the Archnid, but the Xenarch failed in their task. The Archnid somehow found a means to manipulate the man-made dimension in the normal universe, causing the crew of the Aegis to end up in the warp. After stealing it, the Archnid continue to attack the Aegis for their own amusement, with the ultimate goal of absorbing them as well.
- Scored 80% in PC Gamer UK magazine.
- 10/10 in Gametunnel's review and also won two awards in the end of year awards: Adventure Game of the Year, and Independent Game of the Year.
- 9.2/10 Editor's Choice awarded at Netjak.
- 9/10 and Editor's Choice awarded by Game Chronicles Magazine, who said it was "one of the best little known titles I’ve run across".
- Starscape was inducted into the Home of the Underdogs hall of belated fame in June 2005.
- Awarded 5/5 by FRAGtopia, with the comment that "I haven't been this entertained by a game in a long time."
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- FRAGtopia Review/Interview - Review with developer interview on page 3.