Star Control: Origins

Game review by
David Chapman, Common Sense Media
Star Control: Origins Game Poster Image
Fun arcade space adventure weighed down by empty adventure.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Among the cheesy dialogue and corny jokes, there are some strong themes dealing with the spirit of exploration, the need for diplomacy, and helping those in need.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Making first contact with the different alien races has a variety of results. Some end up being peaceful and helpful, some are simply curious or disinterested, and some are ruthless and aggressive. Throughout it all, players are encouraged to represent the human race in a positive (if not occasionally smart alecky) manner.

Ease of Play

Navigating the cosmos is a simple and straightforward process, as is investigating planets and gathering resources. The controls aren’t always the most precise though, and managing the resources you collect can be a chore.

Violence

Violence is limited to space combat, which plays a lot like a classic arcade game. There’s lots of maneuvering, shooting lasers and rockets, and dodging enemies, but ultimately it’s all just flashy effects and explosions, without blood or gore shown.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Star Control: Origins is a downloadable sci-fi action/role-playing game for Windows-based PCs. Players explore deep space, making first contact with aliens, collecting resources, and investigating various events while upgrading their ships and battling against enemy forces. The game has a lot of humor in its dialogue, filled with bad puns and cheesy one-liners, but it keeps the humor PG and relatively acceptable for all ages. Combat takes place in an arcade-style shooter experience with ships flying around and blasting each other with a range of weapons and abilities. Despite this action, the violence is pretty mild and consists mainly of flashy effect and explosions, without blood or gore shown.

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What's it about?

STAR CONTROL: ORIGINS marks a new beginning for the Star Control universe. It’s the year 2088 and, thanks to advancements in technology and the creation of Star Control, humanity has begun to expand its reach past the boundaries of Earth and to the outer reaches of our solar system and beyond. But when a distress call comes in from one of Neptune’s moons, we quickly learn we’re not alone in the universe. After eavesdropping on radio broadcasts, various alien races have decided there’s no time like the present to make first contact. As the captain of a Star Control’s prototype Vanguard class interstellar spaceship, it’s now up to you to play ambassador and carve out a place for humanity among the stars.

Is it any good?

They say that in space, no one can hear you scream -- but apparently, they can hear you laugh (or groan) along to corny jokes. At least, that seems to be part of the idea behind Star Control: Origins, Stardock’s reboot of the popular Star Control franchise from the ‘90s. There’s a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor, but eventually the jokes get a bit stale. Part of this is because the cutscenes are meant to add an role-playing game(RPG) element to the game, but the player’s choices don’t serve any real purpose or consequence. Only a few decisions matter, like choosing whether or not to ally with a particular race, but by and large, the branching dialogue is there simply to provide more fodder for cheesy one-liners. Other role-playing aspects fall equally flat, as players just collect items to either move the story along or upgrade their ships.

Things get better when Star Control: Origins leaves the RPG elements behind and takes to the stars. The space combat feels like a classic arcade game, with players dodging enemy fire and blasting away with their own arsenal of sci-fi weapons and abilities. These are the best moments in Star Control: Origins, though even these have their drawbacks. For starters, exploring the galaxies also means grinding for resources by dropping rovers onto planets and driving around searching for something you need. Since the universe is procedurally generated, you’ll need to rely on your personal map to make sure you don’t backtrack to planets you’ve already visited. Multiplayer Fleet Battle mode can be frustrating too, because you never know what sort of fleet you’re facing. On the rare occasion that opposing fleets are balanced, Fleet Battles are a lot of fun. But way too often, the balance is completely out of whack, so you’ll face off against overwhelming firepower, or you'll instantly mow down the opposition. Ultimately, it’s just one more frustration that keeps Star Control: Origins from reaching its interstellar potential.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about space exploration. What are some of the reasons we have for exploring beyond the boundaries of our planet? What are some of the possible benefits and dangers of deep space exploration?

  • What are some good ways to talk your way out of a conflict? What are some ways to find a compromise when dealing with others, and what are some other positive ways to deal with conflicts?

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