Part 1: Mission of MercyPart 1: Mission of Mercy
Here's the official story for Solaris straight from the manual:
So. Our real goal is to murder basically everyone we meet, but our stated goal is to find some lost planet somewhere. Finding the lost planet ends the game in triumph, but we are actually scored on the thoroughness of our slaughtering. Also, hunting down the foeman and murdering the crap out of them all the time will pass without notice if our Federation paperwork says we're on a mission of mercy. Space Law is awesome.
The Zylons are backthose spaceway sneaks, villains of Venus, Saturnian scoundrels! They're swarming through the galaxy in huge forces, attempting another takeover. They've got to go! And we need YOU to go get 'em.
But it's a hush-hush mission. If the Zylons guess you're onto them, you're a goner. So the official report says you're out to find the lost planet Solaris and rescue the Atarian Federation Pioneers stranded there. But if the Zylons reach Solaris before you do, they'll destroy it.
We'll be defying the spirit of our orders and thus actually have a go at carrying out that mission of mercy. We start out on a nameless Federation planet, and blast off dramatically:
That accomplished, we find ourselves at the map screen, which shows our current quadrant:
We can't enter starfield sectors. We're the X next to the big star that means "Federation planet". Various enemy groups are scattered about the quadrant:
Generic attack groups...
Kogalon Star Pirates...
There's also a JUMP counter at the bottom of the screen. That counts down in realtime, continuously. Every time it hits zero, mobile enemy fleets change their position. They generally will move to attack Federation planets, and if they manage to stay a full cycle there, they will destroy it. That's bad, for reasons that will soon become apparent.
But still, we're on a mission of mercy here. It wouldn't do to go murder dudes right away. Let's fly to an empty sector of space and see if we somehow left the lost planet of Solaris under a couch cushion or something.
This cues a HyperWarp sequence! These are actually kind of neat.
Your engines start revving up, and then while that happens, your ship shifts in and out of focus. You need to adjust your flight so that the ship stays "in focus"the more in focus your ship is at the point your warp takes, the better your fuel economy and the less downtime you'll have once you reach wherever you're going.
What's actually happening is that it's drawing your ship in two different places every other frame. This becomes more obvious if I deliberately mess with the focus along the way:
I've had to slow this down to 50Hz, because animated GIFs seem to not work right faster than that, so the in-game image looks a bit cleaner than this, but this gives the general flavor.
If you're unlucky you can also crash into planets, which makes them explode and costs you a little fuel. I hope that wasn't the Lost Planet of Solaris, or we will never hear the end of it back at Federation HQ. (You can also blast planets, which one-shots them.)
OK, we've done what we need to to keep up appearances. Let's go murder some dudes. We warp off to take on the generic attack group.
Most of the game will be spent fighting enemies in these sorts of sequences. We fly around and get buzzed by various types of enemies, hoping to get the drop on them before they do the same to us. The pink guy is a "Mechanoid", and it's good to fight them first because they get meaner as an engagement goes on longer. The TIE-fighter looking guys are "Kogalon Star Pirates" and they're basically Mechanoids that start out as assholes. On the plus side, they're just as likely to blast other enemies as they are to blast you. Everyone else is better at staying on target.
Once we clear out the basic enemies, a Flagship appears. Taking him out will generally end the combat. It launches those little red diamond guys ("Distractors") that zip around, interfere with our shots, and can eat our fuel if they ram us. They're annoying but mostly ignoreable.
Our radar kind of shows where some of the enemies are, and the numbers on the left and right estimate distance and direction. I've never found these particularly reliable in a combat situation.
After cleaning up that generic attack group, we go hunt down the Flagship group too. It's moved a step towards the Federation planet because we've spent enough time that a Jump has happened. This attack group is basically the same deal, but there are more flagships in the group.
I was just on a peaceful reconnaissance mission of mercy, your Honor, and that planet was coming right for me. I had no choice.
While we're at it, checking at the bottom of the screen, it seems we're at half fuel. If we run out of fuel, we explode, and exploding is bad. (The flags over to the left of the fuel are our lives count.) Let's go refuel. To do that, we chart a course back to a Federation planet.
The citizens of the planet wave jauntily at us as we go past. Our radar is showing a docking station ahead and this is quite a bit more accurate than our radar display was in combat.
We're good to go, and we've eliminated all actual threats in the first sector. (The remaining enemy groups are sentries guarding quadrant bottlenecks or exits and will never move.)
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We've just had a ton of exposition, but the game is actually pretty fast-paced. CLICK THE LINK ABOVE to see all this play out in realtime. ALSO NOTE that you must set the quality to 720p60 OR THE HYPERWARP ANIMATIONS WILL NOT LOOK RIGHT. One disadvantage of shifting the display every other frame is that when video encoders drop to 30FPS, half the objects disappear.
NEXT TIME: We explore the adjacent quadrants, and maybe find some new enemy and mission types!