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Star Control 3 (PC) artwork

Star Control 3 (PC) review

"In a Bargain Bin somewhere I cannot remember, a copy of 'Star Control 3' was sitting idly. The box looked nice and the price was cheap, so I bought it even though I had never heard of it. "

In a Bargain Bin somewhere I cannot remember, a copy of 'Star Control 3' was sitting idly. The box looked nice and the price was cheap, so I bought it even though I had never heard of it.

This little fact makes all the difference in the act of reviewing this game, as you shall discover soon by the end of the review.

Anyway, this is how I perceived the game:


The galaxy is in peril! Hyperspace has ceased to function, and furthermore scientists project that soon, due to the phenomenon of 'interstellar fatigue', all the galaxy shall collapse! You, as the 'captain', a man raised in a colony world settled first by an ancient race of super-intelligent beings (who disappeared suddenly) and later by humans, happen to be the only one with a working faster-than-light craft and therefore the one who must lead a coalition of races into the 'Kessari Quadrant' to prevent the end of the universe.

Upon arriving into the 'Kessari Quadrant', each race's colonists get scattered to different star systems. Your first task is to find each of the newly-founded colonies, and from there you must solve the riddle that plagues the existence of the galaxy. Obviously, several undiscovered alien races will soon makes themselves known and hamper your efforts (or maybe help you for the right price or the right inventory item).

'Star Control 3' calls itself, in the box, a 'strategy game', yet it gives out the first impression of being a RPG when you start it. It is in essence neither: it is an adventure game. It's developed by Legend, maker of adventure games such as 'Death Gate', so it does have some 'pedigree' in this genre.

You see, supposedly you should spend much of your time in the game creating new colonies for both humans and aliens to live in. These colonies would provide you with resources, fuel and ships to fight battles with. However, even though the 'colony management' aspect is well-implemented, the colonies you start from scratch will take time to get going and become truly useful. So, in the end, it's better to just rely on the colonies you find ready for you at various points in the game. They have large populations and ships ready to fight alongside you.

Therefore, most of the time you'll wander the galaxy either looking for the next aliens you must talk with to gather precious info or traveling around searching for precious inventory items that either solve a puzzle or were requested by race X. Of course, there'll sometimes be a little fighting when diplomacy doesn't work (and you chose the wrong phrase to utter in dialogues).

Battles in the game don't give you experience or 'spoils', they are just barriers in your way to the next inventory item or crucial dialog. But they use a fine system of 'super-melee' to play out. This 'super-melee' makes for a fine mini-game that is easy to learn, but harder to master. It can also be played by 2 players if you have a friend by your side.

Battle difficulty can changed up or down, so if you hate fighting in adventure games you can reduce the enemy AI's skill to that of a hearing-impaired bat.

Not needing to 'grind' for experience and building up your forces, you'll basically just have to pay attention to the encounters with aliens, listen to what they have to say, and then either solve the troubles that puzzle their existences or use their data to solve another trouble that plagues someone else's existence (probably involving the clever use of some weird inventory item). To me, the need to explore many places for the correct items and dialog options makes for the very definition of adventure gaming!

So, being an adventure game, it has the obligation to fail to disappoint us in two aspects. The first is the storyline. The second is the quality of the puzzles you shall face.

I'd say I was not disappointed much in either of these aspects. The many dialogues with aliens in the game are fun and non-boring. According to Wikipedia, some fans of the series regard the story of this game as 'non-canon'. I don't see the point: the story is mighty fine and amusing. I liked it! Surely this is not one of the points deserving hate in this game, aye?!

As for the puzzles, the game gives you a controversial tool to balance their difficulty: ICOM.

ICOM is a sort of robot who gives you clues for you to solve the puzzles. Said clues, sometimes, are the downright answers to the puzzles. ICOM pretty much never talks unless asked to first, so it's existence won't spoil the game by itself. However, several puzzles can only be solved if you consult ICOM's clues. Therefore, when you consult it, how will you know beforehand that what you will get shall turn out to be an interesting useful clue or a non-fun cheap spoiler? You pretty much won't, and therein lies the controversy.

Anyway, 'Star Control 3' may not be 'stellar' (pun intended), yet it is solid enough. If you enjoy adventure games, you could do worse than giving this game a spin. Then again, if you want a Space-RPG, Starflight 1 or 2 may strike more your fancy.


All right. So it sounds like a fairly fine game, eh? But why mentioning that this review is written by someone who has not played 'Star Control 2' is so important, after all?!

The reason for that is the fact that, according to ALL sources I have found, 'Star Control 2' is a HELLUVA GREAT GAME! It's the kind of game I see in every list of 'best games ever' I look into.

Since 'Star Control 3' is such a run-of-the-mill title, I can understand the frustration of the fans. They would not stand for 'fine', they NEEDED 'f***in' awesome'! It's pretty much what we will need from titles like 'Fallout 3': if it isn't awesome and up to par with 'Fallout 2', it will be horrid.


There any many games labeled 'for fans only'. This one receives a rather odd label: 'for NON-fans only'!

I'll finish this review now with a 5/10 score and search for 'Ur-Quan Masters', the public-licensed fan-made carbon-copy free version of 'Star Control 2'. If all that I've been reading about 'Ur-Quan Masters' is true, playing it before submitting my review will make 'Star Control 3's score suffer!

zanzard's avatar
Community review by zanzard (March 15, 2008)

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