"The hull has been breached and the science is leaking out!"
— Unknown Scientist
Space Pirates And Zombies (And Bounty Hunters) is a top-down action/strategy/RPG game in the vein of Star Control II, Starscape and Escape Velocity, made by Minmax Games. It can be found on Steam, Impulse, and several other digital distribution platforms. In March 2012, it got a free Expansion Pack update that adds a Bounty Hunter faction to the fray, hence the new subtitle And Bounty Hunters.The plot follows Don Gibson, Elsa Young, and Dr. Carl Memford as they embark on a quest to the center of the galaxy in search of a mythical motherlode of Rez, setting out from the ruins of Earth That Was in their cobbled-together starship known as The Clockwork. Assembling a band of followers from outcasts, press-ganged prisoners of war, and anyone else who wanted to join them, they put together a small fleet of additional vessels and set forth on a voyage that will have consequences nobody could have foreseen.Humanity has spread all across the galaxy but is split into hundreds of unorganized factions, loosely classified as the United Terran Alliance and the Civilians. As mentioned above, there is also the new Bounty Hunter "faction" to contend with. They'll be after you as you rack up bounties for wrecking UTA and Civilian ships, clear gates, and complete certain missions. Compete in their arena matches, destroy zombies, and their ships, to earn Respect and lower your Bounty level - or hire them to help you in missions and clear particularly tough blockades.The cutscenes/intermissions were narrated by TotalBiscuit, aka The Cynical Brit. It has its own wikihere.
Absurdly High Level Cap: In order to research every single possible upgrade in the research table, you would need to reach tech level 261. To give an idea of how high this is, you can conquer the entire outer rim of the galaxy (set to maximum size) and only make it to 150 or so. Conquering the inner rim will get you to 190. It is possible, but you must be incredibly grindy.
Adam Smith Hates Your Guts: You have to be friendly with whatever faction has upgrade plans you need to buy. And if they don't already like you it can take a while to earn their trust via missions, or a whole lot of goons. Then again, if you're strong enough, or the base is a weaker one, you could always just attack the station, then steal the technology after destroying it.
Alliance Meter: One for the UTA and the Civilians. Due to the UTA guarding the gates and Civilians running the mining operations, Civilians will usually be the ones you're friendly with.
Averted once you hit Act 4. The humans are no longer fighting each other, since they now have a common enemy in the zombies. Instead of buying their loyalty, you now give them resources to increase their defenses, so that they can better withstand zombie attacks.
And Then John Was a Zombie: Will happen to your ships if too many zombies get onboard and kill off/zombify the remaining crew. You can attempt to flush them (and your remaining crew) out of an airlock, but if you don't pay attention to your ships, they will quickly join the zombie ranks and possibly overwhelm you if they takeover too many of your big ships.
Armor-Piercing Attack: Mass drivers bypass armor, but do so little damage to shields that they might as well do none at all.
Artificial Stupidity: Your AI wingmates are... not exactly the most intelligent pilots out there, to put it nicely.
Attack Drone: Several ships can use 'Drone Hives', which deploy around a dozen automated attack drones. They come in three main types, and each have a variant that can cloak at the expense of health.
Awesome, but Impractical: The Fixed Turret Mod lets you increase the mount size of a turret gun in exchange for locking it in the forward position. The impractical part comes in when you realize that unless the turret in question is mounted dead center, you've just insured that it will probably miss half the time.
Awesome yet Practical: You might think that the Titan Beam, used to power/open the special warpgates between the core and rim sectors, is little more than fancified door opener... but no! It also doubles as a mindbogglingly powerful Wave Motion Gun when the Clockwork comes under attack. You'll wish it didn't while trying to take down the Level 4 Bounty Hunter base for 100% Completion, which has one mounted on a turret.
Also, Particle Cannons. Rapid fire, low power consumption, good damage against all types of protection, and look awesome when unleashed in broadsides. Fit some on double and triple turret mounts and watch as your enemies disintegrate under an unending storm of fire.
Ballistic Discount: Any station with an upgrade for sale can be destroyed to get it for free. This is hardly as easy as it sounds, though, since stations are usually very well armed and summon other ships as backup. It can be made easier through certain missions, which let you downgrade the ranking of the local Civilian or UTA presence, thereby making their station weaker.
The Battlestar: The UTA Sunspot and Civilian Carrier both employ drones, but that doesn't stop them from packing in a respectable amount of firepower. On a larger scale, the Clockwork itself, as it can field up to four ships of varying sizes and capabilities as well as being very well armed, especially once it gains the Titan Beam.
Larger Starbases also have their own drones, and several other weapon systems to defend themselves.
Beam Spam: Ships equipped with lasers can do this.
Beef Gate: Every warp gate is blocked by UTA troops which you must defeat to progress. Alternatively, if you befriend the UTA, you may pay them a one-time transit fee, turning it into a Cash Gate.
He's more of a Mole, as his mind has been corrupted and is a puppet for the Zombies.
Boarding Party: Delivered either by the "Suicide Cannon" (which essentially fires a modified escape pod that drills into the enemy ship) or the Grunt Shuttle. Ships with enemies aboard move slower and their weapons fire more slowly. If there are no defenders, they take hull damage and eventually explode... or get turned into zombie ships, if the boarding party are zombies.
Boring, but Practical: In Act 4, plain old vanilla missiles. Missiles are strong against hulls, but weak against armor and shields. Since zombie ships (the majority of what you'll be facing in Act 4) have no armor or shields but very high hull strength, this makes missiles fantastic zombie exterminators. It doesn't hurt that they consume almost no power, have very long range, and can track targets.
Broken Bridge: Once you hit Act 4, the entire outer rim is rendered inaccessible.
Conflict Killer: The zombies change the entire ally system, making the UTA and Civilian factions permanent allies that are immune to friendly fire.
Crippling Overspecialization: While the game supports many different build types, some are better than others in the last chapter fighting against the zombie horde. For example, a stealth build will cause lots of problems for you due to lack of shields preventing zombies from infesting your ships should they catch wind of where you are.
Critical Existence Failure: Mostly averted; after taking enough damage, ships and stations incur hull breaches that vent crew and rez (the former not in pods, so you can't steal them or get them back if they're yours) in great plumes. Crew loss will have a serious impact on the ship's self-repair abilities if it did have any crew beforehand. Shields never let damage through until they fail completely, although armour does. Ships close to destruction or being invaded also get slowed considerably, to a crawl when about to be destroyed.
Cutscene Power to the Max: Admiral Jamison and his mothership are immune to damage when retreating, something no other ship in the game can do. This is because the ship has to be intact for a later cutscene, during which it is destroyed then you salvage it to replace your own busted mothership.
Death Cry Echo: The ship you are controlling will often have the crew scream right before it dies, and later, gets zombified.
Deflector Shields: One of the two lines of defense. As mentioned above, they block all incoming damage until broken, at which point they require some time to recover. Variants offer faster recharge time at the cost of lower overall capacity and vice versa.
Can be switched for a cloaking device, which acts as a much weaker shield that hides the ship from view until depleted.
Earth That Was/Earth That Used to Be Better: Earth is now a highly toxic backwater planet, all but forgotten. The situation is never explained in detail, but the system itself is pretty much abandoned, save for a small mining base and a tiny UTA outpost.
Sort of justified in that Rez is much more plentiful the closer you get to the galactic core, so most of humanity migrated closer to it.
Enemy Civil War: Can be invoked prior to Act 4 should you end up being hated by both the civilians and the UTA in a star system, then enter an area where they're fighting each other.
Enemy Mine: In Act 4, the UTA and the Civilians band together against the Zombie invasion.
Escort Mission: A category of civilian missions. You either have to escort them to a warp gate or through minefields to pick up cargo. They can be annoying early on, when you don't have the raw firepower to keep the UTA forces from destroying the ship, not to mention the fact that friendly fire is still a problem. It gets easier later on, but it can be annoying if the escort ship comes with a cloaking device and thus you can't see it.
Evil Mentor: Don's motivation for reaching the galactic core was not for the rez, but to unleash the zombie hordes. Didn't seem so eager to betray his comrades, though. He lampshades this when called on it by Elsa, pointing out that a pirate keeping the company of a man who has committed crimes against humanity should have been a giant red flag for her.
Friendly Fire Proof: Played straight with your ships and the faction ships in the last Act. Averted in the first three Acts of the game with the other factions, such as the UTA and Civilians; if you fire on them too long, your relationship with them will go down, and when it goes below neutral, they'll start attacking you. This can be especially problematic during escort missions or when allied ships decide they want to help you.
From Bad to Worse: Implied in the ending. With no more zombies, there's no more Rez being created. With Rez suddenly finite and limited, humanity is going to become much worse than the zombies ever were.
Goons taken by one of your ships that refuse cooperation get tossed out without hesitation.
Gang Up on the Human: The zombies seem particularly fond of this, and will often attack whichever ship you're controlling at the time.
TURBO DEFENDER 9000-EX actively targets the player ship in his second mission.
Fighting the zombies requires a vastly different technique than fighting against non-zombie opponents. With non-zombie ships, you only have to worry about their shots. With zombie ships, or zombie-infested areas, the zombies in space that aren't shot first can hang around outside the ship, and if there's enough of them, they'll eventually overwhelm your ship and take it over. And if this happens too quickly, you'll end up fighting against too many ships at once.
It might not be apparent at first glance that the mining beam stations use to break open large asteroids is available to you. You just need a ship with a huge gun mount to attach a mining beam to.
The Bounty Hunter Arenas, in addition to forcing you into ships that are at best awkward and at worst outright terrible, often sticks you into puzzle-like situations where you have to exploit little-used game mechanics to survive. This includes knowing how to jettison armor to gain speed and turning off energy-draining beams so cannons will work better.
Holiday Mode: 2011 saw the addition of a Halloween and a Christmas mode. Both can be played outside the actual holiday, but they were the default for them. Both modes modified the three main character portraits and the graphics for rez, asteroids and other objects to suit the theme. Halloween also lets you "Trick or Treat" friendly starbases, which can cause various effects. The Christmas mode spawns milk and cookie pickups from destroyed ships, which in turn summon Santa to drop a bunch of presents (and a Specialist elf, if you're lucky).
Human Resources: It is implied that Goons who are recruited get equipped with an exploding collar and are freely used as payment for various tech and favors. 'Retiring' a specialist is shown to be ejecting them out the airlock.
Hyperspeed Ambush: When travelling out of regions with bounty hunters, a message box might pop up demanding payment if you want to leave. If you decline, you're attacked by a sizable bounty hunter force instead. Later in the game, zombies will routinely ambush you after a set number of system to system jumps, forcing you to fight them off until the drive charges up.
Invisibility Flicker: Cloaking devices do this when the ship using it fires its weapons or is hit by an opponent's weapons.
Jack-of-All-Stats: The Big Brother and Carrier do a little bit of everything in terms of loadout and their stats are fairly average.
Leeroy Jenkins: Your own ships's AI, with a "Charge at whatever I am targetting" setting and a "Charge at whatever you want" setting. They won't run halfway across the map, though, not unless you deliberately tell them to target an enemy.
Level Grinding: There's a reason the game has galaxies with up to 300 solar systems to explore. If you try to bulldoze your way to the endgame, you're going to meet a quick and messy end long before you get there. A lot of time has to be spent grinding through one system after another, building up data for research points and blueprints for better ships. You also have to buy the blueprints for weapons and subsystems. It's one of the most common criticisms of the game, because the grinding is so tedious.
Lightning Bruiser: The Hammerhead is fast and packs a lot of firepower, but lacks crew capacity and has relatively low hull strength. The Manta Ray has more firepower, is still reasonably mobile, and is more durable than the Hammerhead; its trade-off is having so many gun mounts that it easily drains its capacitor.
The Volley is a dedicated missile ship. It has no other slots than missiles mounts. Combined with micro-missiles, this lead to a lot of missiles in a single volley.
Metaphorgotten: "In space, no one can hear you scream... unless you're broadcasting on the right frequency."
MacGuffin Delivery Service: In several missions, you might find yourself releasing a Plot Coupon from an asteroid or ship, only for a rival ship to warp in and snatch the item before you do, forcing you to destroy that ship as well before it flees.
The Particle Cannon. Especially if combined with Cannon Boosters.
Ship-wise, the Claw is this for the Tiny-sized hulls, the Cyclops is this for Small-sized hulls, and the Manta Ray is this, period.
The Dual Turret mod doubles the amount of slots on a turret in exchange for downgrading the mount size by one level. In short, you get more firepower but less range. The Triple Turret mod turns a huge turret mount into three large ones.
Mystery Meat: Some optional missions have the crew pick up some supplies for a burger meat company; such as toxic waste and zombies. Dr. Memford reasons that the material is safe to eat given proper preparation, but cautions against drinking the smoothies.
Number of the Beast: The Brute, one of the strongest ships in the Bounty Hunters' arsenal, has 666 base health.
Our Zombies Are Different: The zombies themselves are the Parasite type, while their ships are the Constructed type, as they cobble together wrecks and infest human ships.
Piñata Enemy: Comets, which drop a ridiculous amount of data.
The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: The amount of pirating you choose to do is entirely up to you. If you want to, you can go around bribing everyone and essentially trading and mining your way through a lot of the game.
Then again, trading is largely based on slavery in this game.
Punny Name: In many sidequests, a UTA officer by the name of Major Dickens warps in to stop you from doing various things, such as picking up alien artifacts, or violating UTA health codes.
Pungeon Master: Every time Admiral Jamison shows up, Dr. Carl Memford has to poke fun at the fact he's missing an eye.
Schmuck Bait: A cache of survivors is discovered from the original Clockwork. Dr. Memford immediately points this out. Don even lampshades it.
An early optional mission offers great rewards for responding to a distress call. Turns out the message comes from a bunch of spam satellites.
Self-Destruct Mechanism: Handy for those truly desperate situations, such as your ships being full of zombies and with nothing to stop them from 'turning'. One mission has an angry AI send waves of Tugs at you that self-destruct if the player-controlled ship gets too close.
"In space no one can hear you scream, unless you're broadcasting on the right frequency."
Space Mines: A fairly effective support weapon if you invest in them, but a little too situational for most players to use seriously.
Space Police: The UTA was formed to help control the flow of traffic and minimize the risks of potential disease outbreaks... supposedly.
Stealth in Space: Cloaking devices hide ships from view and allow them to deal as much as three times their normal attack damage with proper research investments, but reduce movement speed and maneuverability. They can also absorb damage like shields, but are much weaker. Until you get to a fairly high research level, of course. Then the speed negatives are removed and your 'shield' strength is enough to survive most enemy assaults.
For some reason, cargo containers with cloaking devices are fairly common.
Some missions require a stealthed ship in order to successfully complete it. Thankfully they're optional (except for one story mission), so you can skip them if you so choose. It is technically possible to beat them without a cloak, just absurdly difficult.
Stern Chase: After Admiral Jamison catches wind of/figures out what you're trying to do. It's more of an Informed Chase though, since you aren't harassed by the UTA any more than normal apart from a couple of optional missions. His reaction to you tearing his new Clockwork-esque super-capital ship a new super-sized exhaust port is priceless.
Suicidal Overconfidence: It doesn't matter if you're flying a piddly fighter or a heavily-armed behemoth. Any enemies you're assigned to kill will rush you even if you can literally kill an entire wave with a single volley.
Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors: Beam weapons are good against shields, but weak against hull armor. Cannons, on the other hand, are weak against shields, but tear through armor pretty quickly. Most other weapon types are a mix of the two, neither good nor bad.
Terminally Dependent Society: Since Rez is so vital for space travel and construction, there is a 'gold-rush' of richer and richer deposits of it. The zombies create Rez as a lure for sentient species across the galaxy.
This Cannot Be!: Jamison's reaction when you defeat the UTA's version of the Clockwork in a sidequest.
Unobtainium: Rez, an element which can be transformed into virtually any other element.
Video Game Cruelty Potential: You automatically throw out the airlock about half of the crew you pick up until your people skills improve, and are treated with pretty quotes like "All noncooperative hostages will be thrown away with the rest of the trash". And then you play laser skeet shooting with them. You may also find yourself shooting your former friends in the back for rez, crew, or more importantly, ship blueprints.
Villain Protagonist: Let's see, Don is extremely ruthless and is actually The Dragon to the zombie hordes, Memford is basically Space Mengele, and even Elsa, who is by far the most moral of the trio, has a Hair-Trigger Temper when it comes to men flirting with her. Even after the zombies overrun the galaxy, its made pretty clear that the "heroes" are motivated purely by self-preservation.
We Have Rezerves: So long as you have enough Rez and crew, you can keep building new ships as your current ones are destroyed. Notable with the smaller hulls which are built and deployed in seconds.
Welcome to Corneria: The random radio squabbles might be a funny joke or [[Foreshadowing hinting about the zombie threat you'll eventually meet]]. You'll hear them all. Over and over. For the rest of the time.
Wham Episode: "Opening Pandora's Box". The Rez Motherlode turns to be a trap by the Zombie Essence, Don reveals that he's been a Zombie sleeper agent all along, and has been for centuries, the Zombies pretty much overrun the galactic core, and the Clockwork is destroyed, stranding the protagonists on a backwater planet for five years. When they're finally able to build a new ship and escape, they find that both the UTA and the Civilians are in tatters and the Zombies pretty much control everything. This all occurs in the span of a few minutes.
Jamison has shades of this. He actually compliments you after you destroy his Hammerhead in "Big Fish".
The Bounty Hunter threat level is essentially this trope as a game mechanic. The threat level rises for doing attack missions and killing enemies, and is lowered by doing helpful missions like escorts. If the bounty hunters show up to kill you, killing them brings the level down, since you've shown you're a badass.
You Kill It, You Bought It: Hull upgrades are done this way. And yes, usually you have to kill "it" multiple times to get its hull.
Zombies are also pretty fond of this tactic, minus the self-destruction.
Because the Short Bus has zero construction costs, a surprisingly effective tactic is to keep pumping as many of them as possible to draw enemy fire while your Glass Cannon ship fires away from a safe distance.