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Entry updated 8 May 2015. Tagged: Game.

Videogame (1986). Binary Systems (BS). Platforms: DOS (1986); Amiga, C64 (1989); AtariST, Mac (1990); MegaDrive (1991).

Starflight is perhaps best described as a two-dimensional Computer Role Playing Game set on a starship. The game begins on a planet known as Arth, which is inhabited by a mix of species, including humans. A spacecraft of unknown origin has recently been discovered during an archaeological dig, and a company has reverse engineered the ship's Faster Than Light drive to create their own starships. The player begins the game by selecting a crew and equipping their vessel. The ship is then launched into space on a voyage of exploration, with the proviso that it must make a profit by mining rare resources and selling any alien artefacts the adventurers might find. As the game progresses, the player can upgrade their starship and train the crew to higher levels of proficiency.

Starflight's universe is heavily influenced by the television series Star Trek (1966-1969), and the game's mixture of exploration, diplomacy with quirky alien races and occasional combat is strikingly successful at enabling imaginative players to experience stories similar to those of its model. The most interesting aspect of Starflight, however, is the embedded backstory (see Interactive Narrative) which is gradually revealed as the player moves deeper into the game. Conversations with alien races will eventually reveal that Arth is a lost colony of a Galactic Empire, and that the enemy which destroyed that empire is still at large. Eventually, players find themselves responsible for saving Arth itself from destruction, a mission which requires them to learn the secret history of the galaxy.

Related works: Starflight 2: Trade Routes of the Cloud Nebula (1989 BS, Amiga; 1991 DOS, Mac) is a sequel, set in another galaxy reached via a Wormhole. It adds the ability to trade with alien races and some new weapons and technology, but is otherwise broadly similar in gameplay. The complex plot involves travel to several different time periods. [NT]


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