Planet’s Edge: One Line in Three Dimensions

From The CRPG Addict


One of several stitched-together mini-quests that I encountered this session.

         

Planet’s Edge is not shaping up to be what I thought it was going to be, which was a New World take on Starflight. I think that the developers perhaps started with an intention to imitate Starflight; certain similarities between the games are too stark to be coincidences. But they removed one of Starflight‘s most attractive traits–the joy of exploration in an open universe–and replaced it with something that I’m not convinced is better. Specifically, there’s a lot more emphasis on axonometric exploration of the planets’ surfaces, which could have been done well, but so far is a bit silly and trite.
When we left off, I was headed for Sector Algieba, as I had a couple of hints that it would be the best place to start. The sector consists of seven star systems–Subra, Talitha, Regulus, Algieba, Alphard, Koo-She, and Miaplacidus–any of which would also serve as the next Nissan model. Talitha was the closest to where I was coming in, so I explored it first. The system had six planets. As with all the systems with multiple planets, it’s hard to keep track of which ones you’ve already visited since they don’t stop whipping around their suns, fast enough that a year might pass while you take a sip from a soda bottle.
            

The stars of Sector Algieba.

          
In Starflight and Star Control, there was a certain joy to exploring even random planets because you might find useful and valuable elements. That’s sort-of true in Planet’s Edge except that it’s very rare to find a planet that has them, you can mine them near-instantly when you do, and at the beginning of the game you can only carry 5 units of any cargo at a time. If you get rid of all your weapons, you can carry 8. So clearly element recovery isn’t going to be a big thing until I can build a ship with more room. I’m not 100% sure if I could do that now or if I need to find some plans.

Each planet has a nice textual description (when you “scan”) regardless of whether it has any utility. I was enjoying these a lot for a while, but then they started repeating. Ultimately, it turns out there are only about 9 common descriptions:
          

  • A molten, superheated surface giving off toxic fumes.
  • Lots of organic life but no intelligent life, “a nice place to have a picnic.”
  • A small rock with a thick layer of gases.
  • Incredibly hot, unstable, with constant volcanic activity. 
  • A “jelly world” with large crystal formations. 
  • A surface only recently cooling down from volcanic activity, no vegetation or atmosphere.

             

One of the “generic” planet descriptions.

           

  • A desert planet.
  • A planet of grasses and plains with no intelligent life.
  • A snow and ice planet.

              
All but one of Talitha’s planets were one of these. On Talitha II, however, my scan revealed a castle, “the seat of Avian government.” Oddly, the scan screen was titled “If Love Be True,” which made no sense at the time but later turned out to be related to the mini-quest that I found on the planet. Thus, it seems that if you scan a planet that has such a quest, you know it immediately because you get a title.
           

I’m not sure that the game needed to be so explicit about each quest.

         
We found ourselves in an Earthlike castle with guards stationed at just about every intersection. The game repeatedly referred to them as “avian,” so I guess they were bird-like. We never got a close-up portrait. Most ignored us, but a guard at a section of the castle that was clearly an arena told us that the queen had canceled all spectator sports for a few weeks. We would later meet the queen, and her two princess daughters, but let’s pause for a moment to note that these aliens are the first non-human sentient life forms that my characters–perhaps humanity as a whole–have ever encountered in-person. They apparently look like birds and live in castles and have the same type of social structure as a past Earth society. And we’re able to speak their language I guess because of information from the crashed Centauri Device? In any event, my characters managed to jump right in to palace intrigue while in real life they probably would have still be staring open-mouthed at the alien guards. For their part, the aliens didn’t react to us at all despite presumably never having seen humans before.
               

Exploring the castle.

       
From dialogue with NPCs, it transpired that Princes Jhenna was being forced to marry a reptilian alien from another sector. She naturally didn’t want to do this and was hoping to escape Talitha II to find her true love, a former palace servant who came from the planet Henresia, also known as Subra II. Meanwhile, some faction was planning a coup and had placed a bomb in a fountain near the wedding site, intending to kill both the queen and the princess.
   
We agreed to help the princess. I don’t think this was a role-playing choice so much as something that you have to do to as part of the main plot. She said that she could escape through a hidden door if we could move a heavy piece of furniture. This required us to find a “levitator,” which was on the other side of a navigation puzzle so annoying that whoever designed it should be hunted down 30 years later and forced to make it through a real-life version.
            

The princess’s sister, who I guess is also a princess, explains the situation.

          
The puzzle required the party to wend our way through a roughly 6 x 10 matrix of bushes, only some of which could be walked upon, and some of them had mines planted within them that would damage the party members for about half their health if they were within the one-square explosion radius. Unless I missed something, there was no way to tell which bushes had bombs without setting them off.

You can S)earch for them, which is the subject of its own annoyance. The reference card that comes with the game doesn’t mention “search” as a function when exploring on land; it only mentions “look.” (It does mention “search” later in a master list of commands, but not in the list specifically within the ground movement section.) For most of this session, I didn’t even realize that “search” existed, which means that I missed a lot of loot in various chests and barrels in the palace and probably on the Centauri outpost, too. But even when I reloaded and checked, “search” just caused the bombs to go off.

Thus, through trial and error, I had to make a map of the safe route through the bushes (this reminded me unfavorably of a level in Wizardry IV), only to discover that it still wasn’t safe. You only really control the movement of your lead character. The others do their best to follow, but they often go blundering off in their own directions, get trapped behind closed doors, get lost in mazes, and so forth. Even when I had the right path mapped, I couldn’t necessarily stop my trailing characters from wandering off it. I eventually just had to accept the damage and move on.
            

My moron party members set off a bomb despite my best efforts.

         
In due course, we found the levitation device, used it on the bureau, and hustled the princess through the secret door. The passage led to a courtyard where one of her friends waited with a spaceship. As she rushed aboard, she tossed something at us and told us to take it to “He Who Speaks” on Henresia, presumably her lover. The item was a “trinket.”
           

Man, this would have come in handy in the Bolingbroke household over the last month.

         
I tried to explore more, but the palace guards all turned hostile at this point, and without any experience gain or any place to sell looted equipment, you’re basically fighting for no reason. We ultimately beamed back to the Ulysses and moved on.
           

The crew has a Star Trek-like transporter chamber for beaming up and down.

        
The closest next star was Subra, presumably home of the Subra II that we had to visit to find “He Who Speaks.” We warped to the system and scouted a few planets before we were contacted by a ship. It had the same thuggish-looking alien who’d defeated us in combat before, demanding 3 “units of cargo.” I hadn’t saved in a while and wasn’t confident in my ability to win in combat anyway, so I offloaded 3 units of heavy metals we’d brought from Earth.
              

Transferring cargo.

       
The transfer screen above comes up at the warehouse on Earth, while you’re in orbit around planets, and when you’re trading with aliens. You hit + or – to add or subtract cargo from your ship. It’s not quite as fun as taking a lander down to the surface and looking for signs of ore deposits.
             

The next quest begins.

          
On Subra II, we hit the next quest, titled “Gift of the Magin.” The planet was far more imaginative and alien than Tanitha, covered with swamps, ferns, mushrooms, tall trees with sprawling root systems, and biting insects. We were attacked several times by some kind of bear-looking beast which left meat behind when we killed it.
           

Firing at, and killing, a beast.

        
The intelligent species was a fungus-based biped with no eyes or mouth. To communicate with them, we had to first find a writing tool called an “imastyl” which the aliens could use to write messages in the muck. One of them wanted the meat we’d collected from a beast to allow us to cross a bridge.
            

The party approaches the Magin on the weird planet of Subra II.

          
Living in the hollow of a dead tree, we found a woman named “She Whose Steps Are Wise,” otherwise called “The Magin.” She asked us to kill a mutant named “He Who Speaks” who lives on the other side of the river and apparently sets traps for his fellow Subraites. We fell victim to more than one of them.

We found “He Who Speaks” in a cave. He was so-named because of a genetic mutation that allows him to talk with a mouth, and he claimed that the deformity left him persecuted by his people. We declined to kill him (again, I don’t know if we had any other real option). He thanked us and asked us to go rescue Princess Jhenna. When we gave him the trinket instead, he thanked us and suggested that if we took the Magin the Talking Stick that he previously stole, she’d prize it more than his death. Jhenna hadn’t arrived yet, but he seemed confident she’d be along. I’m not sure how an anthropomorphic bird mates with a talking mushroom, but I guess that’s for them to figure out.
              

I guess maybe this is a real choice, and I could have killed him to solve the quest.

        
We found the Talking Stick in a cavern nearby. There was some creature called the Bladderclaw–an underground beast whose bladed tentacles came bursting out of holes and attacked us. We tried to fight it for a while, died, reloaded, then remembered we had no reason to keep fighting once we had the stick. (Perhaps there was a cache of better weapons and armor past him or something.) We left Bladderclaw in the cavern and returned the Talking Stick to the Magin. She said that since she had it back, she would be “too busy to deal with the Algiebian issue” and thus appointed us as her envoys to . . . something.

The crew wastes time trying to fight a monster.

             
The next star was Koo-She. It had only one planet, Koo-She Prime, where a scan promised a quest called “Solitaire.” We beamed down into some structure beneath the surface of the planet. That’s as far as we got. We were blocked at the first door with a message that “only envoys of the President are allowed in the facility.” I guess the Magin isn’t the president because that didn’t do us any good.
           

I swear to you, Sy Sterling sent us!

           
The Miaplacidus system also only had one planet, and it was guarded by two ships and an orbital platform. When we communicated with them, they turned out to be staffed by the same species of goon who had previously extorted us for cargo. Here, he just demanded that we leave on pain of death. I decided I was sick of being pushed around and chose to attack.

Space combat in the game is disappointing. Basically, you just maneuver around the enemy, point your nose at him, and shoot. You can even turn on automatic firing if you want the game to shoot for you, which makes it almost just like Starflight. I assume that once I have a ship with cannons and missiles on the wings and such, I’ll have more things to shoot, but nothing really will change. Numbers show the status of your shields and your opponents. I honestly found it easiest to stay in one place and just rotate to face the foes. In the first combat, I destroyed both alien ships but then got killed by the orbital platform. I figured that was close enough to try again, and I achieved victory on my second attempt. My ship was repaired automatically afterwards, requiring no inventory of elements to do so.
           

Destroying the alien ship. I have no idea why the GIF is so slow in the beginning. I have issues with GIFs.

            
Miaplacidus Prime turned out to be uninhabited, but the planet had 27 units of “alien metals” to mine. Of course, after jettisoning the heavy metals we’d brought from Earth, we could still only take 5.

The Alphard system had mostly generic planets. One of them, Alphard Six, had 107 units of inert gases available.
           

Those gases do not look inert.

             
That left the Algiebian system. It had several generic planets and something called Ishtro Station. As we approached we were contacted by an alien who said that the world is “under the Great Protection Treaty signed by affiliates of the Galactic Enclave,” and that I would have to pay a fee of 6 cargo units before being allowed to contact the world. I tried giving him just 5, but he wouldn’t take it.
          

What would you say he look like? A horse?

           
Random notes:
             

  • One denizen of Talitha II did recognize us as “humans” and said that he hadn’t seen any of us “since the Concierge locked up the Izor system.” This suggests that humans live in the Izor system and perhaps that its ruler even is one.
  • There is no consideration of fuel in this game, nor does there seem to be any kind of timer.
  • The inability to move diagonally is really annoying.
  • I didn’t talk much about ground combat, but it has so few options that the game might as well have offered autocombat. 
  • I got stuck in He Who Speaks’s cave for a while because although there was an obvious ladder, apparently the command needed to climb it was “search.” The game has a lot of weird interface quirks like that.

            
Since my ship is only capable of carrying 5 units of cargo, I leave you heading back to Earth to either build a new space ship or remove my only weapon from my current one to make more space.

My suspicion is that I’ll find some quest that leads me to the first artifact and that the other seven systems will have other batches of extremely linear, named, interrelated quests. But with no open exploration and no good RPG mechanics (there’s no character development and combat tactics are minimal), everything is going to hinge on the quality of the stories that make up those quests, and I find their quality mixed so far.

Time so far: 8 hours



Original URL: http://crpgaddict.blogspot.com/2020/03/planets-edge-one-line-in-three.html