In my last posting, I said that I had a clue about ruins on the third planet of the home system, but I couldn't find any even though I'd strip-mined the planet for minerals. Well, it turned out I had miscounted. That was actually the fifth planet. When I realized my mistake, I went back to the third planet, and boy were there ruins.
I landed at six locations on the planet and found three or four ruins at each site and pulled artifacts from each one. More important, many of the ruins had endurium, the mineral that powers spacecraft. From around 15 units when I started, I had about 147 when I left the planet. Since endurium retails for 1000 credits each, this was a heck of a find.
Unfortunately, it cost one of my crew members his life. The planet was subject to hostile weather conditions, and Rigel was killed in an electrical storm. A lot of my other crew members took damage as I explored, too. But I returned to spaceport with a full hold and had more than enough money to train a new communications officer to a full skill level.
Alas, the artifacts turned out to be a disappointment. I had two existing artifacts that the Trade Depot assured me were useful, one having something to do with communications and the other providing a shield for my Terrain Vehicle. When I came back, I had 16 new artifacts, including:
- 3 quivering lumps
- 2 ticking spheres
- 2 oval objects
- 2 pretty pictures
- 1 strange cloth
- 1 glowing disc
- 1 metal ball
- 1 frightening apparatus
- 1 pyramid device
- 1 mobius device
Unfortunately, the Trade Depot told me that none of them were anything more than "historical curios" and offered me a slight amount of credits for each one. That was a lot of exploration for nothing. Is the Trade Depot shining me on, or are these things really worthless?
Anyway, with as much fuel as I had, I figured I was ready to start exploring the galaxy. I decided to head to the planet referenced in the "Tribble" clue from two days ago. On the way, though, I encountered my first aliens: the insectoid Veloxi. These aren't the same Veloxi from Arth, you understand, but distant cousins.
I didn't cotton to their demands for three of my hard-earned fuel cells, so I said no. They responded by cutting off communications and attacking me. While I tried to figure out the combat interface...
Well...bollocks. Starflight is a permanent death game. Not only does it kill you, but it corrupts the save files so you have to reinstall the game to play it again.
Faced with the choice of having to start all over (and, frankly, probably moving on to Swords of Glass instead) or restoring from a backup of my saves, I chose the latter, even though I technically regard it as "cheating." I mean, I could have done that with Wizardry or Rogue and just taken all the challenge away.
This time, I played the encounter a little smarter and gave up the fuel. As you speak to each alien race, the game gives you the choice to be hostile, friendly, or obsequious. You then have the options to make statements or ask a series of questions. As you speak, the game represents your dialog according to your disposition. Take a simple question like "tell us about your race." The variations might be:
- Obsequious: "Oh, please, mighty ones. Can you enlighten us as to the glories of your magnificent race?"
- Friendly: "We are interested in establishing contacts with other races. Can you tell us about yours?"
- Hostile: "Transmit data about your species or be destroyed."
These are, therefore, I believe, the first real "dialog options" in a CRPG (aside from being able to answer yes or no to a few questions in Ultima IV). I don't know when we see this level of immersion in dialog again, but it's not for a while.
I chose to be "friendly" with the Veloxi and found out some clues, including they have something called the "Prophecy of the Egg," live under the direction of a queen, and believe themselves descendants of the Ancients. They also gave me a set of coordinates where they said they had been receiving a distress call from the Old Empire.
Stopping off at my original goal, I picked up a new Old Empire message with yet another set of coordinates.
So far, so good. I then went to the coordinates given to me by the Veloxi and found the ruins of an Old Empire ship in space, and an abandoned camp from said ship on a nearby planet. A message indicated that the ship had been the Lasthope skippered by a Captain Shelenuf of the "Noah 9" expedition.
I assume, then, that Noah 2, which established Arth, was one of only many colonization missions around the same time. The cryptic message alludes to a sabotage of Noah 9 by the "Laytonites." There was also a reference I didn't understand to "mechans," which I took to mean androids.
After that, things got weird and went to hell, in that order. Heading back to Starport, I encountered this WTF ship with its equally WTF message:
I don't know binary off the top of my head, but I used an online converter and got a series of numbers: 1, 15, 0, 65, 3, 1, 28, 33, 24, 15, 31. No idea what these mean. The ship eventually left without telling me anything more useful.
Then, close to Starport, I ran into a ship of "mechans" right in the place where a message in Starport had told me that androids were destroying ships. I managed to screw up dialog with them twice. The first time, they asked if my ship was from Empire technology, and I said yes. Then they asked if I was Noah 9, and I truthfully said no. They attacked. I fled, returned to Starport, sold my goods, and repaired my ship.
Eager to solve the mystery of the androids, I returned to the same area and met them again. This time they asked me if I was a follower of Layton. Believing that Shelenuf's message indicated the mechans were in league with the Laytonites, I said yes. Big mistake.
So, now I'm faced with the prospect of cheating again to keep playing and work out these mysteries. Or maybe I'll be true to my rules and start completely over. I'll mull it over tonight and decide tomorrow. It remains a fun game, and I can tell there's some interesting lore to uncover along the path to the main quest.
In the meantime, I'd appreciate any confirmation of my binary!