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Sentinel Worlds

Entry updated 2 April 2015. Tagged: Game.

Videogame series (from 1988). Designed by Karl Buiter.

Sentinel Worlds is the name used by this encyclopedia to refer to a sequence of two Computer Role Playing Games set in similar, though probably not identical, Space Opera milieux. Both borrow design elements from Space Sims, as do several other contemporary games including Starflight (1986) and Space Rogue (1989). The gameplay of the Sentinel Worlds series thus combines exploration, conversation and combat on planetary surfaces and in ship boarding actions, displayed in both three-dimensional and two-dimensional overhead views, with real-time space battles and other activities such as asteroid mining (in the first game) and interplanetary smuggling (in the second). Much of the games' shared background appears to be derived from Traveller (1977), with some aspects drawn from the Star Trek TV series and E E Smith's Lensman books.

Sentinel Worlds I: Future Magic (1988 Electronic Arts, DOS; 1989 C64) designed by Karl Buiter, the first game in the sequence, allows the player to control a military team sent to a remote star system and ordered to hunt down the mysterious spacecraft which appear, apparently from nowhere, to destroy harmless merchant vessels. While the setting is somewhat generic and the game's interface can be awkward, the partially modular plot is ingeniously constructed (see Interactive Narrative). After a slow start, players can become involved in a range war on a frontier world, scientific research in a frozen wasteland, and disputes between tribes of primitive humans. Eventually, the titular Secret Masters of the system are revealed, and the game ends with a literal battle of minds.

While Hard Nova (1990 Malibu Interactive, DOS; 1991 Amiga, AtariST) designed by Karl Buiter, Eric Lindstrom, Jeff Haas does not appear to share a setting with Sentinel Worlds I, there are many similarities, notably in Weapons technology. Players adopt the role of the eponymous character, a mercenary who is by default female, and somewhat suggestive of many of the protagonists of C J Cherryh's Merchanters books. In this identity, a player can recruit other mercenaries to crew their ship, in which they can participate in conflicts between the various factions occupying a group of newly settled star systems. The gameplay is similar to that of the first game, but the presentation is generally superior, with greater use made of three-dimensional displays. Various missions can be completed by the mercenaries, including an assassination and the prevention of a hijacking, but players are likely to rapidly become involved in a largely linear plot which deals with an alien invasion mounted through an unexplored Wormhole. This story, the major narrative of the game, ends with the first use of a sun igniting superweapon; the player must choose whether this device is employed to kindle a new sun (thus reviving the invaders' dying homeworld and removing the reason for their invasion) or to convert the aliens' old, dying star into a supernova, rendering them extinct. [NT]

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