Monday, December 03, 2012

Endless ... Beyond

What do those have in common ? Space !

I've always dreamed of being an astronaut. I've probably been born maybe 20-30 years too early, although we should really have been having colonies on the Moon or even Mars by now if we'd followed the essential dream instead of being held back by election chasing politicians.

Why do I say "essential" dream ?

We have an awesome planet to live on. But we have to recognise that it's limited. Sooner or later, the resources will run out. One of those idiot politicians will press the wrong button and unleash something. An asteroid could come our way. All doom & gloom stuff like that.

The answer to the first point is - there's huge amounts of resources out in space. We just have to go out and get them. A single asteroid can have more minerals than the average continent plus it's easier to extract them. And colonies out there remove the "All Our Eggs In One Basket" factor where we could survive as a species even if that global killer asteroid came along.

But it's not just that which fed my astronaut dream. It was the potential to get out there and do something new. Go places no one else had been. Be part of something bigger. Escape the surly existence on Earth.

So I've always been interested in space and everything associated with it.

I've indulged that twice over the last couple of days. Firstly by checking out a game called Endless Space. I was addicted to the space strategy game Master Of Orion 2 (Moo2) for years (still am) but it's very dated now.

I've been hoping for a modern equivalent for donkeys years now and being consistently frustrated by what comes out on sale. They're either too fixed in scope (Imperium Galactica 1 and 2), too rigid in what they offer or just plain broken (Moo3). The latest off the line is called Endless Space, which has a lot going for it. There seems to be some decent mechanics in there. It's got decent depth. I get the feeling it's a game I could get very interested in. However ...

The documentation is appalling. There are game concepts which are barely touched on in the tutorials and the appalling excuse for a manual. With Moo2, there was a full description of the technology tree in the manual and in game. You find out how to exploit game concepts purely by accident here.
Combat happens too quickly and there's that finding things out by accident factor again. In the early days, you need time to evaluate your options, even just to figure out what they are. Endless Space doesn't allow that, which is a sin compounded by that awful documentation.

Combat doesn't need to be on an insanely fast timer, especially when the rest of the game is at chilled out "wait til I'm done" turn based.

There's lack of variation here. I was bored after just a few hours of essentially watching the game play itself.

Yeah. I guess I'm still looking for that Moo2 replacement. Pax Imperia got close but that game was an incredible grind ...

What was tonight's entertainment ? One of those series that was way too shortlived for what it deserved was a bit of magic called Space Above And Beyond.

This was space scifi set in a near future Earth where we'd just started going out to the stars to colonise the planets. Just as a powerful and very hostile alien race figured out we were there ... The series is centred around the US Marine Corps 58th squadron aka the Wild Cards and the pilots which make up that squadron. The series was blessed with characters that worked very well with each other. The characters made it interesting.

The effects were pretty decent too. It was made in the era of models and cheap effects but it looked great. It easily beat the expensive effects on show in Star Trek Next Generation and didn't have the canned repetition of the original Battlestar Galactica. I think the space sequences were probably better than the CGI effects in the newest Battlestar series. I'll get back to you on that one.

I watched the pilot again tonight (after waiting a decade for a Region 2 dvd release) and it instantly reminded me of why I'd been eagerly waiting to watch this one again. It was originally shown late on a Friday night on BBC2 and I can remember trying to get home from uni or whichever work placement I was on to watch it. It definitely had me caught and this was when sci fi was in its telly Golden Age where it was up against shows like the Star Treks, Babylon 5, Farscape with Stargate coming too.

One funny thing though. I thought the battle at the end of the pilot was much longer ...

Must be some weird time dilation thing.

Anyway - Endless Space = bit pants. Space Above And Beyond = timeless classic (although it suffered from bad scripts).


  1. Space: Above & Beyond had a lot of potential. It's a real shame that they canned it so early on. That could've run for quite some time i think if it had been given a chance.

    Oh, and I agree with you on the need to get off this rock - though the pessimist in me thinks that its already too late.

  2. Yeah - it definitely had the production quality behind it and had a lot more going for it than Next Gen. I think it suffered though due to the scripts - there wasn't enough filler to keep it going between the big arcy storyline episodes.


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