Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Star Saga: Two - The Clathran Menace - Introduction and Back to Basics

Clathran Bird of Prey (Source: What is the Apple IIGS?)
My history with the series is covered in my early posts on the first game. The short of it is, my dad had these games when they were new, and my brother and I discovered them while looking for something new to play. The first game stuck out in my mind more than the second. I can't remember if I started playing and lost interest, or if my brother played through and didn't want to play again. In any case, I'm coming to this fresh.

Once again I have to thank Home of the Underdogs for piecing together the materials for this game in a playable package on the PC. Without their efforts, this game would most likely be lost to further obscurity. Unfortunately, the packages for this game seem to have some trouble running under newer OS's (64-bit Windows 7 and Vista throw an error I didn't investigate), so your best bet is to run this in 32-bit XP.
Part of me wishes I'd kept the disks (Source: MobyGames)
The year is now 2821 A.D., six years after the events of the first game. The timeline suggests we spent 4 years in the first game (about 200 turns), and 2 years afterwards refitting our ship to reduce the hodgepodge of equipment retrofitted on the fly throughout our adventures. Each of the six playable characters now has a sleeker ship build and reduced load. The characters remain the same, although their goals are slightly altered:

  • Jean G. Clerc - Clerc pursued the dream of building the ultimate spaceship. Compared to the Clathrans though, the ship is no match. The pursuit for greater technology calls.
  • Professor Lee Dambroke - Proposed and proved that humans can learn alien abilities, the professor takes the research one step further to discover why this was possible.
  • Laran Darkwatch - Violated church dogma and chased truth beyond the Boundary, Laran discovered a message to continue that pursuit by retracing the founder's steps that lead them to create the Final Church of Man.
  • Valentine Stewart - Heir to the Stewart Family business, Valentine threw it all away to become a smuggler. Having gained a renewed confidence from his family, he now has a contract to discover a source for a rare and powerful material.
  • Corin Stoneseeker - The Stoneseeker line seeks a legend wrapped up in the Core Stone. Bearing the full weight of his destiny, Corin pushes into the galactic arm to discover the stone's true nature.
  • M. J. Turner - Excommunicated from the Space Patrol, he was in truth set on a secret mission to capture the space pirate Silverbeard. With that task is complete, he leads the effort to push the Clathran survey line to the core.
This is the order I plan to play them in. Once again I'll play through each character, with the first providing the most depth on discoveries, and follow up with the others to fill in bits and pieces of their respective arcs. A final wrap up and comments on multi-player will bookend this coverage.
Who needs colorful graphics?
The text passages number 979, which should mean there's even more to the game, or at least greater alternative texts. The manual boasts 60 hours of playing, and I may reach it when I'm done with everything; I'm 15 hours in and through over half the planets. The Clathran Survey line suggests a time limit as it moves across the map towards the fringe.

I've always disliked games that impose a time limit to finishing, especially an ambiguous one. More so, I've hated when I had to start a game over from the beginning after investing many hours. A time limit suggests there's not enough time to fully explore and finish, and I have the unnerving feeling that I'll reach the limit before I figure out what to do. Time to push past those fears and move on. I'm documenting all aspects of the game, so subsequent playthroughs will be faster at least.
Instead of importing we "recreate" our characters.
Most of the basics for playing the game remain the same, and I'll point you towards my posting on the subject for the first game if you need a refresher. This game begins with the option to continue old characters. This consists of answering a few questions, which can lead to gaming:
  • What was the final score? - Any answer will do, but if you answer max score (5000) you get all equipment (except the Immature Riallan), max drones, and max bays.
  • How many cargo and drone bays? Select 10 - 14 cargo bays, and a drone of 3, 4, 5, or 8 bays. More than one character can have the 8-bay drone in this way.
  • A list of questions about specific equipment - There's only one possible choice for each of the equipment categories (Hand-To-Hand - Attack - Contact, etc.), so it's rather limited. The Immature Riallan is a choice as well, so I'm hoping there's a nice tie-in later on.
Star Saga: Two claims there isn't a great disadvantage to starting with fresh characters, and I tend to agree.
Testing out a new character starting in Star Saga: Two.
The equipment that an old character can start out with is either freely given with new equipment discoveries or purchased for a single basic commodity. The only catch is needing to reach the new planets. The starting abilities are more than enough for beginning encounters, so really the only benefit are a drone and cargo bays.

You'll notice from this screenshot two new statistics, Personal Health and Ship Condition. This brings the previous game's suggestion of character death closer to a reality for this game. Given the darker tone of impending doom I have more apprehension diving into the unknown. Each combat is no longer taken on a whim.

The manual suggests that beyond these two mortality meters counting down to my demise, they also factor into combat. The lower these values are, the worse I'll perform in a fight. 50 personal health means I'm at 50% effectiveness. I hope it's as accurate as the fabled E.C.M. from the first game.
Even with 90 Personal Health, I get 100's
The glossary remains a wealth of information. Here are some highlights:
  • Archigenitors - A race of advanced beings who have left their mark throughout the galaxy.
  • Dodecahedron - twelve-sided polyhedron (why is this in the glossary?)
  • Interactive Literature - Artistic constructs which incorporate the free will of the reader into a pre-existing scenario. The seductive appeal of this sort of game-playing posed such a threat to scientific progress in the latter half of the 20th century that it was eventually banned worldwide.
  • Masters - A common term found on many planets referring to a mysterious race of beings who disappeared long ago.
  • Message - Something you leave on an answering machine, or a weird psychic call heard by several humans relating to a waking dragon.
  • Sudden Adjustment Psychosis Syndrome (a.k.a. SAPS) - An illness beginning to appear in the Home Worlds which is proving to be deadly in its effect on people.
Lastly, before we embark on another adventure, I want to thank all those involved in the creation of these games. I appreciate all the hard work you've done, and hope one day, however unlikely, to play the third.


  1. I have created maps for Star Sage 1 and 2 which can be used within Photoshop (or probably any imaging program which supports layers) to play these games. They simply have token images for each player on a separate layer which you move using the move tool. All in all, it seems much easier to use than the old program on HotU.

    If you'd like to get them, let me know and I'll send 'em to you.

    1. Sure. I wouldn't mind taking a look at them. Do you have them hosted somewhere?

  2. Well I seem to have misplaced the map for SS1, but here's my SS2 map. Dropbox is the only means to host it that I have. So let me know when you've gotten it, and I'll delete this post.


  3. I added the SS1 map and threw in my SS1 PDF books which are much better scans than the old stuff from HotU. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find decent scans of SS2 anywhere, and unfortunately I lost my physical copy long ago. If I had it, I'd scan it and upload it for you.

    The SS1 PDFs are ones that I got from http://mocagh.org/ and cleaned up a bit. I sent an email to them requesting that they also scan SS2. Even if they do so, I wouldn't expect it any time soon.

  4. Thanks Brian for the links. I don't think I'll get back to SS1 again (I don't know anyone interested in playing through it anymore). I've downloaded the SS2 map and will check it out soon.

    For those wondering (very few of you as I can tell from the page views), yes I've slowed down my playing quite a bit, but I should wrap up in a few months. I'm planning some time in November to write up everything on Star Saga Two into a cohesive presentation of the full game rather than have a play session review or journal. In the meantime, I'll post the games I've been playing along with Trickster soon, starting with Colonel's Bequest.

    1. Hi! Have you finished the second game?

      After two years since finishing the Star Saga One we started the part two today with 4 players. It was very fun I am looking forward to the next session already.

      I wonder, given the game's past tendencies, if the 'time limit' imposed by Clathrans is an another ruse (similar to the threats of character death which turned out impossible) added for the sake of immersion. At least the fleet progress has to be scripted to players actions, otherwise it would be possible to lose without doing anything wrong.

  5. We finished Star Saga Two with Laran, Professor and J. Clerk. It was somewhat fun, but definitely inferior to the first game. Some of the scripting is ambitious with moving Survey line, planets changing under the occupation and other reactivity. But it made the game more linear and gated by gear checks. Ending was underwhelming - no climactic struggle, with a single command you just bomb the entire star system (nonchalantly killing every living soul there). I still want some kind of conclusion, so I'm going to look into tabletop space rpgs to write my own story for and finish the saga.

    1. The endings have definitely been a bit underwhelming. I've finished three characters, and hope to come back to this some day (maybe this'll be the year). It might be worth it to reach out to the creators to see if they still have notes on the third game. I read somewhere they had most of it written up, but MasterPlay went under before they could publish.