Still being actively developed
Still being actively developed
If you liked games like Wing Commander: Privateer and Elite then Vega Strike is probably the game for you. Vega Strike starts in the traditional manner of giving you a small ship, some starting cash and a vast universe to try and make your fortune in.
If you've played any Wing Commander game, especially Privateer, you'll quickly feel at home in Vega Strike, but regardless of your prior gaming experience I can't stress enough that you spend some time reading the manual. Flight controls are the same as in WC: up/down, left/right, roll left/right. VS adds one new maneuver: the "Shelton Slide", which allows you to change your facing without changing your direction of travel. Combat controls are about the same as well, with one trigger for guns and one for missiles plus keys to cycle through the weapon groups. Personally I find the Cap Ships to be more difficult to deal with than the ones in WC, mainly because VS has Point Defense or PD turrets which can destroy incoming missiles. So, to effectively attack a Cap Ship with missiles you need to destroy its PD turrets first.
One noticeable difference from WC is the SPEC Drive. The SPEC is in effect a "warp engine" that's used almost exclusively for insystem travel. The SPEC's speed is affected by gravity wells such as planets or other ships so it's not a magic panic button that lets you flee any encounter. For system to system travel you need to install a Jump Drive and use it at a jump point. Each jump point is labelled by it's destination and will take you there instaneously.
Interacting with bases/planets is pretty painless, simply request docking by hitting "0"(zero) and close til you get a green square. Maneuver until the green square fills most of your screen, hit "d" and you're docked. Just be careful not to hit the base since that's treated the same as shooting them. Once you're docked you'll find yourself in the landing bay and from there you can start exploring the station. Moving is done the same as in WC; you have a static image and as you move your mouse the various options will light up and when the mouse goes from green to orange just click to be taken to that area. In general, every base has a mission computer (more on that later), trade center, shipyard and ship upgrade center. At each of the terminals you can also check up on the news and your status with the other factions. It's a nice touch that anything of note you accomplish, such as destroying pirates, will show up in the news.
Of course the main goal of these type of games is making money to buy bigger and badder ships. VS is no different and there's quite a few ways to do it. Money can be made in a relatively safe way by trading using the classic buy low/sell high strategy. The best money maker early on is running food and booze to mining bases and refineries. The humorous item descriptions alone make browsing through trade items worthwhile. When you get tired of running cargo and have a decent vessel you can try tackling some of the missions. Each planet and base has a mission computer (aka Mission BBS) that lists a variety of missions, what they require and how much they pay. Missions can be of the Cargo, Rescue, Bounty, Defend, Escort and Patrol type. Cargo simply requires you move goods from point A to point B, although it gets alot more interesting if the goods are Contraband. Rescue requires you defend then tractor and transport a stranded pilot. Escort requires you to travel with a vessel to a specified location dealing with any hostilities along the way. Defend consists of protecting a specific vessel from hostilities as it travels to a set location. Patrol involves flying a preset course, scanning certain objects and dealing with any hostilities. Besides the missions offered by the mission computer you can also get some riskier (and better paying) missions from the "fixers" you'll meet in the starport bars. Be sure to save before taking on a mission since you can run into some nasty surprises.
One other option that will show up on the Mission BBS is Hire Wingmen. For a set fee you can hire additional AI ships to fight on your side. The limitation is that they will only fly with you until your next dock. IMHO they just aren't worth it at this stage of the game's development. The cost of the wingmen vs. what missions pay doesn't make them very economical. Add to that some glitches with the AI and, in my limited experience with them, they don't use their SPEC drive so it's easy to leave them behind. Perhaps later on when the game has more fleshed out campaign they may prove useful in getting you through a tough mission.
Once you've made some cash you'll find a large variety of items to spend it on. Most factions manufacture their own vessels and weapons so you should be able to find something that suits your needs. Vessels come in 4 basic sizes: Light, Medium, Heavy and Capital Ships. Once you have your shiny new ship you can customize it to your heart's content. You can add/replace a large variety of weapons, boost speed and maneuvering, improve shields and armor, improve radar, automated repair systems, ECM, more fuel and cargo, etc., etc...
Don't think you have to take a mission to see combat, though, since the universe of Vega Strike consists of a wide variety of races and factions. Keeping all the factions happy is of course impossible, although killing pirates improves your standing with almost everyone. The three main races are:
The Human Confederation, Confed for short, is the most fragmented, consisting of a variety of client races, like the Klkk, and conflicting factions. The majority of factions are based on a single philosophical/ethical view being "the one true way". For example the Purists believe in keeping the human body free of any modifications while striving to reach your full potential. The Mechanists believe the exact opposite and that the only way to free the mind is to rid it of the weak flesh. Others like the Merchants are just out to make a buck. Add to the mix of conflicting factions some fun folks like Pirates, Luddites (extreme right wing Purist wackos) and ISO (Marxists) terrorists and you'll find plenty of excitement as you just try to go about your bussiness.
The Aera are O-N breathing Centaur-like creatures with a short lifespan that fill the role of the alien invaders in the VS universe. Technologically they are more advanced than either the Confed or Rlaan, but not enough to enjoy an overwhelming advantage. Currently they are at war with both the Confed and Rlaan but seem to be approaching a ceasefire with the Rlaan, which would bring their full weight to bear on the Confed. Just because they are enemies of the Confed's doesn't mean they have to be yours too, if you play your cards right. Might not be a bad idea to be nice to them since they have some good ships and weapons, at least long enough to get a few.
The Rlaan are a long-lived race of methane breathers that I would associate with insects. The Rlaan are highly advanced in chemistry and genetic manipulation. They produce the best armor to be found. The species has evolved into two separate races consisting of Defenders and Workers. The two races can interbreed and produce sterile offspring. The Rlaan are on good diplomatic terms with the Confederation, but that doesn't mean they wouldn't mind seeing them get taken a notch or two if it would benefit them. Then again, the Confed probably feel the same way.
Install, Setup and Bugs
Install under Windows was without any problems. Let me mention again that you should take the time to read the manual before playing. At the very least go over the controls section as it will make your virtual life in VS alot easier.
After installing you need to run the Vega Strike setup utility. The VS setup utility lets you set the level of graphics, how much memory you have, sound options and difficulty level. For memory I first tried the 512Mb RAM + 1Mb cache setting but caching was taking a minute or more and proved quite distracting when preparing for combat. The 512Mb+256Mb cache needed to cache a little more often but only took a few seconds each time. The games music is original but, most of it just didn't appeal much to me personally, of course your tastes are probably different than mine. Difficulty in VS is set by adjusting the games speed, the higher difficulty the faster the game runs. What this means is that you'll have less time to react and the faster moving targets will be harder to hit.
I've encountered a few bugs and the occasional non-repeatable fluke but so far no game killers or crashes. In version 4.3 a few items like ECM are broken when purchased new and some items seem way overpriced like the Shroedinger fighter. Check the Vega Strike forums for a list of bugs or log any new ones you find. Unlike commercial games, most software bugs actually get fixed.
Note on graphics
As of 4.3 the graphics range from professional quality to some art, such as the oceanic planet interior you start on and mining and fighter bases, to some dating way back like the interior used in Shrmm Commerce Center. Like almost every other aspect of the game the graphics and 3D models are constantly being updated. That being said the graphics ran smooth as silk with all settings maxed out on my aging system (1GHz Athalon, 512Mb PC133, MSI(GeForce4) MX440-T8X)
Still under active development. This is both good and bad.
On the good side bugs get fixed and new features added while old ones get tweaked and expanded on. Sometime in the future the fixer missions/campaigns will be expanded. For a small taste talk to the Hauler that can't pay in the Oceanic: Atlantis bar in the starting system.
On the bad side, new bugs get added and your favorite feature may get axed or changed. Right now, the most frustrating thing for me is ship spawning. Spawning in 4.3 was changed to make ships appear closer to the player but now occurs way too close, resulting in near instant death if an enemy capship suddenly appears at 2km and opens fire. It also makes it very easy to collide with another ship, especially when they literally spawn directly in front or on top of you. Since collisions do damage it's regarded as a hostile act, so even a friendly ship can go instantly hostile over a little bump. This annoyance is already on the fix list, so until then just save often and fly carefully.
No ingame key reconfiguration yet.
Call me lazy or spoiled but I've gotten used to reconfiguring my keys ingame. This feature is on the to do list somewhere but in the meantime if you don't like the default key setup you'll have to manually edit the Vegastrike.config file.
Thanks to Vega Strike being open source it's attracting a growing mod community. Currently the one getting most attention is the Wing Commander Universe: Privateer Remake. Seems more people know about Privateer than about VS. There is also Vega Trek, a Star Trek mod which has a few releases. Babylon 5 and Vega Wars, a Star Wars mod, and possibly several others are still in the works.
Review by: LCJr
Safe for ages: 13+
Windows, Mac or Linux;
Pentium 1 200MHz/Apple G3 400MHz;
OpenGl videocard, 16Mb Ram;
16bit Color depth;
Says 512Mb RAM but Setup Utility has setting for 256Mb and less than 256Mb.