Ads are gone. We're using Patreon to raise funds so we can grow. Please pledge support today!
Google+   Facebook button  Twitter button 
3DS | DS | PS3 | PS4 | PSP | VITA | WII | WIIU | X360 | XB1 | All
Starflight (PC) artwork

Starflight (PC) review


"When Binary Systems' space exploration adventure Starflight hit store shelves in 1986, it boasted some impressive features. I could recruit and train my crew, selecting among five different species. I could explore planets and harvest minerals or capture wild beasts. I could communicate with alien races in friendly, hostile, or obsequious tones, or I could communicate with high-powered weaponry."



When Binary Systems' space exploration adventure Starflight hit store shelves in 1986, it boasted some impressive features. I could recruit and train my crew, selecting among five different species. I could explore planets and harvest minerals or capture wild beasts. I could communicate with alien races in friendly, hostile, or obsequious tones, or I could communicate with high-powered weaponry. Hundreds of solar systems housed a thousand planets. Starflight was the pioneer of sci-fi sandbox, pre-dating Star Quest and Star Control 2 . . . and it all fit on two 360K floppy disks.

That still sounds impressive.

My vague orders were to explore the universe and gather information. A warning accompanied those orders -- spaceport lost contact with two ships at coordinates 135,84. That sounded dangerous. Dangerous but exciting! I immediately set about training my crew and equipping my newly-christened ship (the I.S.S. TARDIS) with cargo pods. Lasers, missile launchers, and better engines would have to wait until I earned more money. As CAPTAIN ZIG, I ordered my ship's navigator to begin the launch sequence. Adventure awaits -- I'll explore new worlds! Capture non-sentients! Gather minerals! And keep from getting brutally killed!

I also decided that I would discover the lost planet: Earth.

Finding Earth proved difficult, but recommending other inhabitable planets for colonization proved lucrative. Of course, I had to be sensible. Even though Starflight doesn't show images of intergalactic buses imploding upon entering a 12G atmosphere, the hefty fines imply some severity for making stupid recommendations.

One evening, while harvesting minerals from a tropical planet, I stumbled across some ruins. Starflight's universe is not a young one; many others swam through the sea of stars before I even dipped my toes. Ancient artifacts lie within pyramids, waiting to be discovered; a notorious space pirate's trail leads to some surprising booty.

Other beings also thirst for knowledge. When alarms sound, it means aliens are approaching! Some will shoot first. Others wish to speak and share wisdom. And some just want to boast.

"Superior Veloxi majestic are oldest empire. 100,000 years the long time. Assuredly you is barbarian upstart infidel."

As much as I wanted to blast their insectoid spleens, I had to contain myself and speak of "our children someday playing together, calling one another brother". In Starflight, death is permanent. And the Veloxi had guns.

I bought some guns of my own. When the spineless Spemin -- a race of sentient blobs -- began kow-towing before my might, I knew I had become a powerful being. I demonstrated this by attacking their homeworld. It was easy to justify slaughtering the Spemin fleets; they're a thoroughly unlikable species of sycophants who stab others in the back.

It was tougher to justify conquering the Veloxi homeworld. They're braggarts, but they aren't evil. By then, my cruelty was beyond justification. I just wanted more Endurium fuel. After all, he who controls the fuel controls the universe! So I landed on the Veloxi homeworld and ransacked "the most magnificent hexagon", an area marked by a hexagonal assemblage of Endurium.

After obliterating a couple planets with rare black egg bombs, I felt invincible. But stars were flaring, annihilating entire solar systems. My empire's final days were approaching. I finally discovered the source of this peril, and I intended to stop them. After all, what is the point in conquest if there's no one left to rule?

Harvest minerals. Discover lost civilizations. Meet powerful alien races. Craft an uber-ship capable of fighting their fleets. Conquer lesser species' homeworlds. Abandon conquest to defend all that you've seized. Put all of this together and Starflight was a ridiculously ambitious project. Even today, few games have approached its planet-hopping scope. Grand Theft Auto IV provides a lot of freedom, but you're still bound by Nikolai's life -- his personality, his ambitions, his missions. Starflight was my story!

With the advent of the internet age and online gaming, when sandbox games became so common that the term "sandbox" was coined, Starflight could have faded from memory. But that's not what happened. Instead, I discovered others who had been touched by Binary Systems' classic. Comparing memories, we had all followed the same path -- from intrepid explorer, to studious anthropologist, to obsequious diplomat, to diabolical conqueror, and finally to universe's savior. I thought Starflight was my story -- but all along, it was our story.

//Zig

Rating: 10/10

zigfried's avatar
Staff review by Zigfried (March 20, 2009)

Zigfried likes writing about whales and angry seamen, and often does so at the local pub.

More Reviews by Zigfried
One Chance (PC) artwork
One Chance (PC)

One Chance is a bad game for obvious reasons. The graphics are poor, the music is repetitive, the guy walks slowly, the story is silly, player interaction is minimal, and victory is achieved through repetition instead of mastery. Its claim to fame is that you only have one chance unless you game the syst...
Canabalt (PC) artwork
Canabalt (PC)

I view people who subscribe to the holy book of Canabalt the same way that Orson Scott Card intended readers to view Xenocide's Qing-Jao: as obsessive and deranged failures, compulsively tracing lines in wood until they realize they've accomplished nothing. Then they die.
Splatterhouse (PlayStation 3) artwork
Splatterhouse (PlayStation 3)

Once upon a time, all this blood and nudity would have been daring. I remember gasping in awe when playing the originals . . . of course, those were marketed towards pre-teens who couldn't even get into R-rated flicks. In today's world, hacking up misshapen beasts and grabbing softcore pics just isn't enough.

Feedback

If you enjoyed this Starflight review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!

board icon
pickhut posted March 21, 2009:

I was actually surprised to find out this was a review from Zig. When I noticed there was a new review on the front page, looked at the name of the title, and saw the image, I assumed it was either from EmP or maybe Overdrive.

Pretty good review, and very descriptive. Sounds really impressive for a game of its time. Since there were no screenshots to go along with the review, I really did have to along with your detailed descriptions of the game. This may be just me, a minor nitpick, but even after all of that, I'm still a little lost on how the game plays. Is it text heavy?

---

Off topic, I just noticed this at the bottom of all the staff reviews:

If you disagree with the contents of this review, you may click to leave feedback on our dedicated forum! Thank you!

Wha?
board icon
zigfried posted March 21, 2009:

Screenshots will be forthcoming. I wasn't able to upload those from Panera's parking lot (they were closed and I didn't want anyone to drive up and ask why I was using my laptop in an empty parking lot).

It's a graphical game, pretty low on text except during conversations.

//Zig
board icon
zigfried posted March 21, 2009:

Screenshots will be forthcoming. I wasn't able to upload those from Panera's parking lot (they were closed and I didn't want anyone to drive up and ask why I was using my laptop in an empty parking lot).

It's a graphical game, pretty low on text except during conversations.

EDIT: my responses are so good I have to post them twice

EDIT^2: screens added, hopefully that helps

//Zig
board icon
pickhut posted March 21, 2009:

Yup, thanks.
board icon
JANUS2 posted March 22, 2009:

I really enjoyed reading this review. It actually didn't bother me that there were no screenshots. Starflight sounds like the sort of game that is best explained by sharing your experience of the adventure and not through standard descriptions and images of the gameplay and visuals. But it does help when the reviewer's experiences are so interesting and eloquently worded! I suppose the point is that adventures like Starflight transcend their technical limitations through their creativity and imagination. That's definitely the impression I got after reading this review anyway.
board icon
zippdementia posted March 24, 2009:

I'm with pick that some brief mention of how it plays, worked into the descriptive story telling (such as "... so I typed in "fire all missiles" and watched the ships destroy each other) could've been helpful. Other than that, it's a great little review. The ending is slightly over-dramatic and requires Lord of the Rings music to play while reading for full effect, but I'll let it slide.
board icon
zigfried posted March 24, 2009:

Well, you play it pretty much like you'd expect to play any sci-fi RPG. Meaning, you press the directional buttons to move, pick commands from a menu to perform actions, etc. Same things you'd do with a modern sci-fi RPG.

Considering the game's age, I suppose it's a fair assumption that it might be a text adventure. But it's not.

So I guess I'm in a bit of a quandary. Some people assume the game's more primitive than it is... but for other people, including such details could result in confusion or stifled laughter. Example:

"King's Quest II is an imaginative adventure game. While wandering the countryside by pressing arrow keys, I stumbled across a cave, but not just any cave -- this was the abode of a nefarious, hook-nosed witch!"

The reader's likely response to such a passage would be, "why did he have to point out that he pressed the arrow keys?" To me, that kind of detail would come across as rather jolting (especially if screenshots are attached to the review, which they weren't when Pickhut posted his initial reaction).

Keep in mind, that doesn't mean I won't go back and make adjustments later. Just pointing out the other side of the coin. I do appreciate the feedback and will store it in my brain.

EDIT: In retrospect, The Bard's Tale would have been a better analogy since you actually do type out commands in the King's Quest games >_>

//Zig
board icon
zippdementia posted March 25, 2009:

It's a tough one, definitely. I struggle a lot lately with balancing technicalities with description. I like description better, I think it reads better, and an instruction manual can tell you how to play a game, but I also know that when looking to buy/play a game, I want to have some idea of how it plays before I jump in, and it's good for reviews to have that kind of information.
board icon
humorguy posted November 22, 2010:

Excellent game and excellent review! Kudos! Now you need to
check Star Control 2 or the freeware Ur-Quan Masters,
Protostar: War on the Frontier and even Reunion and Alien Legacy.
board icon
WilltheGreat posted November 23, 2010:

I fucking love this game.

You must be signed into an HonestGamers user account to leave feedback on this review.

Info | Help | Privacy Policy | Contact | Links

eXTReMe Tracker
© 1998-2014 HonestGamers
None of the material contained within this site may be reproduced in any conceivable fashion without permission from the author(s) of said material. This site is not sponsored or endorsed by Nintendo, Sega, Sony, Microsoft, or any other such party. Starflight is a registered trademark of its copyright holder. This site makes no claim to Starflight, its characters, screenshots, artwork, music, or any intellectual property contained within. Opinions expressed on this site do not necessarily represent the opinion of site staff or sponsors.