Review: Spacer Rangers Quest19 Sep 2016 0
Review: Spacer Rangers Quest
Released 31 Aug 2016
Ah, Space Rangers 2. For the uninitiated, beginning to describe this Vladivostokian kitchen sink is as daunting as starting out cold in Elemental Games' 2004 sandbox spacer. It's not just the size and scope of the universe, with its plethora of systems, nor the vast catalogue of knick-knacks to trade or use. And no, not even the feeling of a living, breathing dynamic space. It was the oddball presentation and the massive tracts of often hilarious world building, served as text adventure.
Some had you bluffing your way through a galactic pizza cook-off. Others, smuggling. Music groups need forming for a show to end all shows. Fish will not catch themselves. The breadth of Space Rangers 2's text adventures spanned from the reasonable to the ridiculous, and they were intricate and often lethal.
Space Rangers Quest, a curious but welcome spin-off, continues the established formula of a weird, wild universe, but places the text adventure element at the heart of the game. It wraps a relatively open-ended sandbox of exploration around these deep and complex Choose Your Own Adventure modules.
While Space Rangers 2, now an elder statesman of twelve years, was very much Starflight first and Steve Jackson second, Space Rangers Quest is far closer to the likes of 80 Days. Superfluities like jump distances, fuel and upgrade offer a variable means to explore and expend credits, but players looking for David Braben might be a trifle sad to find R.A. Montgomery in his place.
Players appear inside a digital copy of the Space Rangers universe, their predicament the product of a Dominator hack on the galactic Internet. Rather than excise Mr Robot's backdoor business, the Space Ranger council decide to learn more about their old foe and jack a team of internauts into the incursion.
The team, known as Messengers, go missing and its up to you -- yes, YOU, Dan Dare -- to seek them out among the virtual stars. Are they victims of digital Dominators? Had life inside the simulacra enticed them to abscond? Why are Peleng art show judges the hardest to please? Only you can answer these questions.
Players jump from system to system in search of Messenger signals, visiting planets and taking on either simple location-based tasks -- ferrying someone from here to there -- or indulging in meaty text adventure quests. Both usually offer up some monetary compensation for a player's troubles, but the latter in much greater amount, and possibly offering different items as well.
What's most striking is the depth of each quest, particularly their varying complexity. One mission had you arriving at a jet pack testing range, where the player is tasked with surviving the rigours of a rather difficult course. Consisting of a largely barren number of randomly positioned platforms, some with refuelling stations or offering a gratis restart, you have to manage range based on fuel consumption. It sounds easy, but it's a gruelling and often lethal knife edge event. One mis-remembered element and you'll be staring at your obit screen.
Another has you deploy onto a podunk world to rescue whoever from a loan-shark gang. At least, that’s what I remember. This encounter sported a swathe of locations, including encounters when traveling between the settlements. It was hard to parse at first, but with a few helpful Post-Its and a biro, I only just managed to die as the event was wrapping up. Hot tip - don’t fight, particularly if you don’t know where the medical centre is and you’ve not eaten since planetfall.
But that's Space Rangers Quest. It bristles with multitudinous opportunities for a wrong turn, every misstep slapping a bumbling Perry Rhodan upside the chin.
But is it fun?
Given a text adventure lives and dies on the strength of its writing, Space Rangers Quest falters, however freeform the delivery of of its pockets of adventure. In an era dominated by Tinman and the likes of 80 Days, Space Rangers Quest feels somewhat simplistic. Perhaps it's a workmanlike translation carry over, or maybe the less-than-florid exposition helps to keep the reader afloat during the heavier scenarios.
Whatever the reason, stripped from its forebear's freeform starship trawling, tousling and trading, Space Rangers Quest reveals itself to fall short of top-shelf text adventuring.
In saying that, there's merit on show. Ship upkeep and upgrading offers a tidy goal amid punching through blocks of text. Seeking out the ghosts of messengers offers decent impetus to purchase new sector-expanding charts and plumb the periphery for greater secrets. And heck, there's even the option to install high-resolution textures and music from the old titles. A welcome addition.
As it randomly scattered its set cache of adventures around the galaxy on my third or fourth resurrection, I found that despite being utterly complete, Space Rangers Quest is merely okay. But that’s a very unique okay, serving as an admirable series primer for the unblooded.
If you have played Space Rangers 2, keep playing. If you haven't, play Space Rangers 2. If you want to sample the weirdness wholly via text, to peer at this Russian space oddity from the comfort of your own pocket, Space Rangers Quest is a reluctant but not unrewarding recommendation.