Days 180 & 181

I’m doing two days at once here as Day 180 turned out to be a complete washout where I struggled with technical problems with this game and didn’t actually get anywhere. To cut a long story short, I had to turn off the video transitions in Dosbox to make the game stable enough to play. There are real problems in Dosbox when you swap out from video and by losing the transitions I’m only getting FMV when I expect it. I’m still having issues which I’ll go into later.

I start out today by exploring the planets closest to me and trying to get a bit of trading done between them. I’m so short on cash that I can’t buy as much as I’d like to so I’m really restricted here. The first planet I stop at is Anhur. I pop into the bar here but nothing much is happening at the moment.

I get a bit of a trading route worked out going between Crius, Anhur and Hermes all of which are pretty close together. This is all fairly profitable, or would be if I had to cash to buy as much in one go as I would like. I’m getting more of a feel again for the game now. There are several factions as in Privateer 1, the difference here seems to be that as far as I can tell they all have the same feelings towards me when I start out no matter what has gone before. If I accidentally hit a military craft with a few shots it might turn on me but I’ll be on their good side again once I’ve landed.

This is a bit weak if you ask me and a real step back from P1 where you could decide how to play the game and develop allegiances accordingly. It’s especially annoying just how easily these people turn hostile with stray laser fire and I remember this problem now from playing the game in the past. You get in the midst of some huge battle and a couple of stray shots and all your allies turn on you. This means I can’t tail someone making an attacking run on a ship I’m supposed to protect for example as a couple of stray shots are bound to get through.

After a few cargo runs I get an email asking me to go to the bar on Crius.

Leaning on a bar shaped like a giant mouth I meet Xavier who wants me to run some guns for him. This is exceptionally well paid at 8000 up front + the same again after.

I have to escort this cargo ship. Escort missions consist of waiting for the cargo ship to jump at each point then following it. It’s potentially easy to get separated from it unlike your typical Wing Commander style escort mission as it can get left behind or carry on going depending what the situation is.

I manage to get the ship to its destination. I have to wait for it to fly all the way to the planet to land which is a little tedious. Speaking of which I have to fly all the way there myself every time I want to dock anywhere. It’s mind numbing as it must take 1-2 minutes each time with nothing to do in the meanwhile. It will improve when I can afford a faster ship of course.

When I take off I get another email from Dr. Loomis. He gives me the serial number of the Canera.

I go on the public database and look this up.

This leads me onto Hal Taffin who bought the salvage from the ship.

I look up his company and find out its on Crius.

Hal Taffin does not want to talk to me about the ship. I get a few choices of ways to proceed, some of which will cost me money but if I choose to rough Taffin up I can pressure the information out of him for free. He sold my pod to Angus Santana at Interplanetary Aid.

I head off to see Mr Santana. I get a choice of how to play this again but go for honesty this time around. He gives me the serial number for my pod.

I look this up in the database again and find the manufacturer.

This is another company on Crius.

By playing it patient I talk the receptionist on Crius into telling me who ordered the pod in the first place. She points me towards Janus IV.

By this time I’m getting the option of missions on the bulletin board as well as the usual wingmen and cargo ships for hire. These missions tend to have plots to them and are a bit less random than the Privateer 1 equivalent. They don’t all pay very well though.

I decide its time to buy a new ship by now and have a go at a mission. I’ve been doing some cargo runs and got a bit of money together. I can’t afford anything special but its got a few more lasers. There is no penalty in P2 for reselling so I may as well spend the money as I get it rather than hanging on like I did in Privateer 1.

Its a defense mission of a new prototype ship but I fail miserably. I could do with a better ship before I attempt this sort of mission again.

So I give in on missions and head for Janus IV which is one of the richer planets in the system.

My contact does not want to see me so I blast through the door. He knows who I am but dies before I learn too much. He does point me in the direction of Kappa Labs which is right on the edge of the system.

I start heading out here and play around with the functions on my ship on the way out. One of these is a radar receiver which picks up emergency calls. I get one of these and decide to respond. It doesn’t pay much in the end though.

I’m distracted again by an email asking me to go to the bar on Anhur.

In here I meet a deaf guy who wants me to escort military memorabilia for him. It’s a basic escort mission despite the video introduction. I fly the mission and collect my 6000 but this has nothing to do with the plot.

I pick up another mission which I spend hours on. This pays about 14,000 which sounded good when I took it but given the time I spent on it, I think I’m getting the equivalent of minimum wage. I have to fly around the system trying to rescue a Senators daughter. I pick up pods with clues that lead me to nav points like this one, which is guarded by laser sattellites.

The clues are all maths puzzles. The answer is a number representing a nav point. I have to work it out then fly to that point.

There are a load of these skull shaped craft flying around by this point in the game which cause me a lot of grief as they are very quick and tricky to hit.

After following too many clues I track down a disgruntled wingman and kill him. I could have done this mission about 90 mins quicker but everything that could go wrong did, including crashing near the end. stray shots setting the military on me, etc…

I don’t even mange to save the girl as she’s already dead but I still get paid. If I’ve learnt anything from this its don’t bother flying missions in this game if you want to earn money. If I’d spent this long flying cargo runs I’d have earned about 100,000.

I start heading for Kappa labs only to be distracted by another email from another damsell in distress.

I fly halfway across the galaxy to save her and get invited to join her in the bar on Hephastus.

This requires the use of a shortcut – these jump rings shortcut you across bits of the system for a small toll.

I meet up with Melissa, played by Mathilda May. She is the love interest for this game although she isn’t going to be in it long. Her brother died some time back and since she started looking into it she is being ambushed in space. She wants me to help escort her out of system which I agree to do.

I fly the mission but I don’t get a financial reward for it.

So I head off to try to reach Kappa labs again and this time get as far as the station before it. These space stations are just like planets with fewer facilities. I can only repair my ship here and there is nothing else to do.

I have a look around Kappa labs. Its full of bodies and a big empty space where my pod used to be. It looks like someone forced there way in are stole my pod but that doesn’t help me out much.

I get another email when I take off – the meeting point is on my way back anyway.

There are Kindred ships everywhere when I get to the point and I have to fight them off to save my contact. The Kindred are some sort of organised crime outfit who are enough of a threat to have double the bounty on all their ships. When the point is clear I get another email asking me to go a see David Hassan at the military HQ.

I’ve spent hours on this game today – there doesn’t look to be that much progress but I’ve been bogged down by the one mission + a few bugs here and there. This is by far the most difficult game in the blog to get running on a modern PC. I’ve had problems with the joystick calibration requiring a constant machine speed in Dosbox which means I need to set the cycles to a fixed number. This shouldn’t be a problem but the demands of the game are less than constant so it means that I’m ending up with problems with stuttering sound.

Finding a balance with the right speed is not easy. On a fast machine the game goes into fast forward and the enemy ships move around way too quickly, yet you need this sort of speed for it to play smoothly near planets or ships. If I get close to an enemy, which is standard technique for fighting in this game, then things slow to a crawl . It’s really poor how this works and I remember it being a problem playing it on a real DOS machine years back. It’s got to be the only 3D engine I’ve ever seen that didn’t just drop or add frames as required.

I think I made the right decision to cheat playing it all those years back. The missions are more trouble than they are worth. As a rule I have to fly half way across the galaxy to attempt each one and the pay is then pitiful. The combat itself isn’t too bad – its usually quick and easy while not being quite as much fun as in Wing Commander. There are a few tactical parts to it, such as having to attack shuttles on the side without any turrets but on the whole its just a case of getting on someones tail and holding down fire. Collisions don’t cause much damage in this game so bumping into someone while shooting them works well too.

The engine does still look nice. If I could get it running how I’d like, it would probably be better than WC4 graphically.  There is no question which game I prefered to play though. There is barely any variety at all in the gameplay to this. Fighting one ship is much like fighting any other and all my ships from the inside are more or less the same to fly as well.

The sound is less impressive than the graphics with the same bland music used throughout the flight and all the explosions and laser fire sounding a bit weedy. The best you can say about the music is that it’s inoffensive so it doesn’t get on your nerves despite hearing nothing else for the many hours of gameplay.

I’m enjoying following the story along a lot more than the actual privateering part of this game. I do like the way I can do both at the same time as this was a major complaint I had with P1. I’m probably going to go back to flying cargo again before I follow the story too much more. I don’t think my ship quite cuts it – as soon I can afford something a bit faster and afterburn straight to all the planets I should be able to get some money together very quickly. So far I’ve amassed about 140,000 credits so I’m almost halfway there but I remember needing a load of money for one of the plot missions also.

All in all, this is a mixed game with good and bad aspects. It really does feel like it wasn’t quite finished and needed a bit more work to iron out bugs and add things like damage feedback. Given a choice I’d rather play Privateer 1 which was a more complex and varied game but this isn’t the worst space sim I’ve ever played. It’s just lacking a bit of spark somewhere & is being dragged down by the technical issues.

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