The Let's Play Archive

Protostar: War on the Frontier

by Samovar

Part 2: The most important place in the galaxy

Before we go off to do the mission, I'm wanting to go through a bit of basic navigation and conversation options in this game - that way I won't be dropping you all in the deep end come actually interacting with the aliens, like.

First off, announcements from the Newfront com-terminal:

: From: Newfront Security Re: Home Sector Update; The Skeetch fleet now control the borders to Gaea sector. We urge you NOT to attempt passage into Human space.

: From: Newfront Security Re: General Caution; There are a number of hostile forces at work in Thule. Be prepared for attacks by Kaynik, pirates and Skeetch.

That's the main reason why in my current state I'll be trying to avoid contact with the Kaynik (or indeed anyone potentially dangerous). Our ship cannae take more than a light exposure to UV-light from a star fifteen parsecs away before it explodes, so until we manage to upgrade our ship's defensive systems and engines before we can start taking the fight to them.

And finally, most importantly of all...

And with those important notices out of the way; it's time to go back on the ship and get travelling. But first I think I could use a bit more, i.e. better, context for who we are and what exactly we are doing here, in the Thule sector and how our ship actually works, so before we go anywhere, let's call in with ABE for a wee second.

: Just ABE, remember?

: Of course, Commander.

: What can you tell me about yourself ABE?

: Director Hawking acquired me to support Protostar agents. You are my first assignment.

: Let's make certain I'm not your last.

Wow; we've got self-confidence in abundance here.

: I am in agreement, Commander. Is there some way I can assist you at this time?

Now here is how the game handles interacting with people; you have three options - you can choose a selection of topics to talk about - some subjects are unique to certain characters, and each species have unique responses to certain topics which change over time.

Alternatively you can choose to try and butter the other person up - an entirely futile thing to do; since it rarely makes things turn out better, there are more sure-fire ways to get people to like you and it can occasionally make things worse (more on those two later when they become relevant). Hey, at least it isn't... quite... as creepy as Mass Effect could be. And occasionally it has some amusing responses.

Finally you can choose what type of a farewell you leave people with.

But we called up ABE to get a vague idea of how FTL is handled in this game, as well as a bit more explanation of what Protostar is, so...

: Modern engines are fueled by stabilium. Higher rated models not only provide a faster speed threshold, but they consume fuel more efficiently. We should travel with the highest rated engines available.

And there we have why we are going to invest in engines ASAFP. The current engine model this ship has, Level I, is shit. REALLY shit. You move like shit in ship encounters, you use up more fuel travelling from star system to star system, it takes ages to traverse INSIDE star systems and stabilium is one of the most expensive resources in the entire game. Engines are what you need most of all. Then it become much easier to get everything else.

: What can you tell me about the HDC?

: The Human Defense Coalition is comprised of impartial forces, and is funded from a corporate pool.

Oh goody. PMCs are what defend mankind from the alien menace.

: The HDC currently engages the Skeetch at sites of tactical importance.

: What can you tell me about Protostar?

Very funny, ABE

: The Protostar Directive is analogous to this natural phenomenon. In the event that threats to Humanity grow to a critical concentration, the HDC is empowered to deploy any individuals to contend with that menace.

So, no pressure eh?

: What can you tell me about Hawking?

: Estevan Hawking is the Director of HDC Special Operations. He is also the founder of the Protostar Directive. Director Hawking is currently entrenched with defence forces on Earth.

After you talk about three subjects, most people will brush you off, and you have to wait a while before you can talk with them again, e.g. jumping from one star system to another and letting time pass. This is irritating if you are wanting to speak about certain topics but everyone (of the same species) in the vicinity tells you to fuck off (effectively).

With that in mind, since I went through the topics of conversation that ABE can talk about, you guys can tell me what you'd like to hear from ABE, or indeed anyone, in bold, and I'll include it in the next update.

Now that that's all over we need, I repeat, NEED to upgrade our engines to the highest grade ASAP. At the same time, I'll be showing off how planet-landing etc. works before heading off to the first species the thread wants. With that in mind, there are a couple of places I'll be heading to.

We'll be heading to this star system. Now, you see how going even that relatively short distance takes up 34.7m3 of stabilium? You start out with 100 m3 of it. 1m3 costs 100 credits, and we start out with 15000 credits. That may sound a lot, at the beginning, but considering that a Level III engine costs 25000 (and is, in fact the most expensive thing in the game you HAVE to buy if you want to complete the game; there's no other way you can acquire one), we need to make savings.

So - you might reasonably ask - why this star system? Well, pipe down already! Jesus, I was getting to that!

And if any of you start saying 'are we there yet?' I'll kick you out of the goddamned airlock.

So, here's how a typical star system looks; you'll have a central star with a collection of planets (or in some cases, none at all) that don't orbit around the star - they're all static. Each planet is colour-coded with respect to its size. Smallest planets are grey. Next up is turquoise , then pink, blue and purple roughly. I say those last three roughly, because our landing craft has a maximum gravity threshold. Any planets with a G-value of ~8 or more, if memory serves; you cannae land on.

But there's one planet in particular that we are interested in, the left-most one.

We have GOT to get some better engines on this ship.

So, when you enter a planet's orbit, you get treated to this kind of a screen, you see the mass, the gravity, the orbit from the sun and the name of the planet in question. Performing a subjective scan through Science station, you get a bit more information.

Now, the most important piece of information - that is, if you're wanting to get as much money as you possibly can, is the Lithosphere section, particularly 'Generous materials'.

You see, to get money in this game (non-violently) you need to harvest materials. These materials can be either metals/elements. You want to be able to get the most stuff in the least amount of time, so you want to find a place that has a LOT of stuff to mine.

The second most important piece of information from the analysis was under Atmosphere, particularly 'Non-habitable'. This doesn't mean that a planet will be uninhabited, of course. You can get people wandering around the planets on ships, etc. A habitable atmosphere will give you an indication of a chance of unknown life on the planet's surface.

Right now, though, if we perform a bioscan of Galothia, we get the following screen:

So, we can see from the start that there'll be some humans on this planet. Since we're not at war with ourselves, there's no risk if we jump down there for a little bit of freelance mining, as it were.

From this screen we can choose where on the planet we can land on. Though, I cannot think any reason why you need to make this decision. You can't tell from this screen where the largest deposits of minerals are; you can't find a ship of the inhabitants of the planet you land on from this screen, all you can do is decide whether you want the surrounding scenery to be mountainous, hilly or oceanic.

So, without further ado...

Here we are in a Newfront Explorer-class landing craft. Now to how to actually move around in this game. The purple, nine-boxed grid in the centre of the screen with the 'M' on it is the directional pad. You click on it, and you start moving around with a turning speed dictated by how fast your engines are.

Engine speed is indicated by the little, three-tier vertical bar to the left of the directional pad, just right to the radar. Right now, since we only have Level I engines, we only have the ability to put one section into that bar. Or take one out, and stop completely.


FINALLY, to the bottom left of the screen is the radar. Four things can be detected by the radar. Minerals are indicated by a grey 'X', life-forms are indicated by a grey, inverted 'Y', cities by a grey, inverted 'u' and other landing craft, which are indicated by a bright green dot. As you can see, South-South East of us is a mineral. So, without further ado, let's get this ship to it and try and pick it up.

Oh yeah, did I forget to mention we'll need to buy a Level III engine for both THIS ship and our space-ship? No? I could have sworn I had.

Also, in that .gif, you'll notice my cursor changing to some kind of yellow symbol. That is the device used to extract minerals from a planet's surface. Is there any type of indication in the game, or by talking to people that that is how you get minerals from a planet's surface? Pfft - what did you want, a game for babies?

But THIS is the reason I'm at this particular planet right now. This is THE only planet in the ENTIRE system which has stabilium as a native mineral. You can save so much money if you know about this place, especially at the beginning when you need to make as much money as you can at the start.

Yeah, if you're playing this game? Get used to that animation. And THIS is what I mean by the game being boring; you think there could be some more stuff to planetary exploration than just this, but there really isn't. It is very, very repetitive. And considering that it is accompanied by THIS music, ALL the time... well, let's just say as a kid I must have had a very high threshold for being bored.

Hello there; who's this?

Anytime you encounter a ship you don't know, you can perform a simple Science and Biotech Scan:

And while we're here; might as well see what the Newfront's finest are like - intiating contact!

Our reputation proceeds us! Somehow. Let's be reciprocal in our greeting:

: It is my pleasure to be speaking with you.

: I understand the truth in this.

Uh... OK?

In that list, there is one special option - 'Trade'; that's not really useful with humans, but it will come into serious play later. In the meantime, let's ask a few general questions before we get out of this place and get some faster engines.

: I would be grateful for information about Hyperpath travel.

: It's unfeasible to travel between solar systems without Hyperpath technology, although the idea of tunneling through fifth-dimensional space can be disorientating.

: I would be grateful for information about fuel.

: Stabilium-powered engines are standard on all NewFront vessels.


: The commander that registered that find must be in management by now.

And here we have a small failing in the dialogue options. People'll say the same things all the time, despite location. This is one of the more amusing... bugs? As it were?

: I would be grateful for information about yourself.

:My name is Commander Wedeen... seek out new lifeforms and alien civilizations...

Now you see the choice of thread title.

: Well, that's all the time I can spare for now. I look forward to our next encounter.

And off he pops, leaving us on our lonesome. (spoiler: We'll never see him again. Though we'll encounter a vast number of his identical siblings through this trip. I wonder why?)

And so, now I have to go over this god-forsaken planet at a snail's-pace to get enough money so as to buy a Type III engine. This will take a very long time for me but for you, lucky readers, it will require for you guys to flit your eyes to the next update. Thank God for Radio 4's history programmes is all I'm saying.

Also, Biotech has information on two more species at the very start - the last two who's home-systems we cannot visit in this game, namely humans:

: ..primary sense are visual and audio... bipedal locomotion... distinct skin and fur coloration... adapts readily to new challenges... frequent mating between sexes produces occasional offspring.

Hmmm. I get the distinct feeling we're being mocked somehow.

And finally, our primary antagonists for this game, the Skeetch:

: ..primary sense are visual, audio and taste... swings body using forelimbs when travelling... darted, tubular tongue collects food... singular mating sessions between sexes produces numerous offspring.

Charming-looking fellows, they are. But believe you me, they are NOT the ugliest thing to be seen in this game. Not by a long shot.

Next update we'll be getting new engines, and starting our mission proper.