Starfighter: D'Yammen's Reign


Title           Starfighter: D'Yammen's Reign
Game Type       3D Action
Publisher       Epic Marketing
Players         1
Compatibility   ECS/AGA
HD Installable  Yes
Submission      Eric Haines (ehaines@mint.net)

Review
    My first encounter with Starfighter was some years ago, when it
appeared as a shareware game that I downloaded onto a bunch of disks. It
attempted a Star Wars-type space battle experience and in some ways was
almost successful. At least I remembered it when the commercial version
appeared a year or two ago (there are both 1998 and 1999 copyrights), to
no particular signifigance.

    As it turns out, that's understandable. Starfighter is by no means a
great game. There's a lot more to it than the shareware version, but in
the end it's not improved by much. It's still a little rough around the
edges, and it still is no more than "almost successful" in its goals. More
polishing could have turned it into a respectable effort, because most of
the elements are in place.

    My first problems came with the installation procedure. It's possible
to play directly from CD, but that didn't work too well for me. The hard
disk installation comes to around 130 MB, though it took me a while to
figure that out because the install script...er, crashed. Not too
professional. Fortunately, it turned out to be just as easy to drag all
the drawers over to my hard drive.

    The next problem was launching the game. It uses up lots of Chip
RAM - you need 2 MB as a matter of fact. The procedure to get as much free
Chip RAM as possible involves running from a RAD: drive, but I had
problems with SetPatch and software resets and so on, so that didn't work
at all. Once again my PicassoIV saved the day: Normally I have almost all
my Chip RAM free anyway. So I did away with the included game-launching
programs, and just made a script that switches to the "Starfighter"
directory and runs the "executeable" program. Presto, the game finally
worked.

     Now, some effort was obviously put into the presentation, but it
still looks like an early '90's game. It runs on ECS machines, so we're
talking low-res, 32 color graphics here with no AGA enhancements. Gameplay
is executed with simple flat-shaded polygons. There's mention of Lightwave
used to render the (many, though short) cutscenes, but don't expect
Babylon 5 quality. Frankly I've done almost as well using POV-Ray. There's
lots of digitized speech, which is of low quality, but that actually works
in this context and is a nice touch. Starfighter spools music from disk
like OnEscapee, but unlike that game it only uses one channel so it comes
out of one speaker, which sounds odd. But it's not too bad music.

    The game involves flying missions, the goal of which is to blow stuff
up - mostly enemy ships. You can play 1 mission, 3 missions, training
missions, or the full campaign. Also there's an "arcade mode", which is
similar to a very old Atari space battle game, the name of which escapes
me at the moment. It's better to start with the training missions and
refer to the (tiny) included keyboard chart, because the AmigaGuide
documentation isn't very well written or organized. It's not a terribly
complicated game anyway.

    You get to choose from a number of ships, and side with the good guys,
the bad guys, or just be a neutral pirate. I've done pretty well so far
with a Star Wars B-Wing style ship, though it's not much different from
the training mission craft. If you win missions, you can repair or upgrade
your ship. If you fail mission objectives but survive, the next mission
will reflect that, so the game isn't linear, which is a good thing.

    What's not such a good thing is the actual flying around and shooting.
The set-up is promising, if fairly standard, but the execution doesn't
quite work. I found it difficult to use the radar to find enemy ships,
though practice alleviates that a little. The collision detection is way
off - either there is none (you can fly right through cargo ships and space
stations), or I found my shields getting depleted for no apparent reason
even though I wasn't near anything. It seems better to aim at the edge of
objects instead of right at them.

    So, the gameplay could objectively be called seriously flawed. But
despite this, and the slightly glitchy quality of the game (like when you
quit, you're presented with a screen that says "yes" and "no" - choosing
"yes" puts you back in the game, "no" actually quits, hmm...) - despite
that, it's actually kind of fun in a simplistic sort of way. I don't
regret buying it, probably because it only cost me $20 and there's just
enough good stuff in there to make it worthwhile. When it works - and it
does come together sometimes - it is almost like taking place in a Star
Wars space battle. Too bad it couldn't work well all the time, but if
you've got a little spare cash, it's a way to spend a few hours while
waiting, endlessly, for Explorer2260.






Category list.

Alphabetical list.