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Video Game / Endless Sky

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Endless Sky is a free and open source 2-D Space trading and combat game written by independent game developer Michael Zahniser as a Spiritual Successor to the Escape Velocity series. Anyone familiar with EV will instantly recognize the same look and feel.

The game world consists of several dozen star systems, centered on Sol, interlinked via Hyperspace Lanes. There are three major political powers: The Republic, The Syndicate, and The Free Worlds, along with a spattering of neutral or pirate-controlled worlds and a few alien species of varying technological prowess.

The game is foremost a Wide Open Sandbox. The player is dropped into the game with a basic ship of their choice and a mortgage to pay off however they can. Players can trade, run missions, hunt pirates, or become a pirate themselves, all while exploring the galaxy, growing their fleet, and seeing what surprises are in store for them out there.


Currently there is only one main storyline, for the Free Worlds, though more may be added in the future as content is still being added by the author. There are several smaller subquests and secret locations scattered about that offer various rewards and sometimes extra insight into the game's backstory.

The game is available for free on GitHub and Steam.

Tropes Featured:

  • 2-D Space: Just like EV. The game has a sort of auto-aim to ensure your weapons don't hit non-hostile ships unless you have specifically targeted them.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: The Korath's civil war resulted in something that appears to be this. Twice. Subverted when The Kor Mereti's Hive Mind merge with a Wanderer AI to make them friendly. The Kor Sestor turn out to be ambiguous — they are controlled centrally, and circumstances conspire to ensure that you never find out if the original controller was a surviving Korath enclave, a master computer or something else, as Alphas break in and hijack control a month prior to you tracking down the first control facility.
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  • Alien Non-Interference Clause: Played with. The more advanced alien races (the Quarg and the Pug, in particular) ostensibly mind their own business where the younger species are concerned, but in fact most of them do interfere, just on their terms. There are some rather strong opinions in different parts of the galaxy over how benevolent (or not) they truly are.
  • Apologetic Attacker: Hostile Navy ships usually respond to your hails in this manner.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: Most of the alien races can be related to, particularly those who take the time to explain their way of thinking, but the Pug are particularly inscrutable. Though they say at one point that they meddle in human affairs for humanity's own benefit, accounts from other races suggest more complex motivations.
  • Boarding Party: The player can attempt to capture disabled ships by killing their crew in hand-to-hand combat. This pits your crew's attack rating against the victim's defense rating (determined by crew size plus any bonuses from ship gear) in a turn-based battle until one side is eliminated or both choose to withdraw.
  • But Thou Must!: At the end of the Kestrel sidequest, you are given the option to name the ship, but Atinoda will reject all your suggestions until you choose The Right One. Otherwise, it wouldn't be a proper homage to Escape Velocity's iconic ship.
    When you say the word 'Kestrel' he jerks as if he's just been electrocuted. "Yes," he says, "that's it! That's the name we'll go with."
  • Developers' Foresight: During the Wanderer storyline, there's a minor story branch if you somehow manage to fend off the Alpha-controlled Kor Sestor without resorting to Danforth's bomb. We say "somehow" because simply escaping the fleet around Farpoint is hard enough as it is (they can waste you while you're still taking off if you're really unlucky). Defeating them and then going on to defeat the main fleet over Zenith conventionally would pretty much require cheating, and yet there's story written for it if you accomplish it.
  • Easily Thwarted Alien Invasion: The Pug invasion isn't exactly easy to repulse, but if the player consults the Quarg, they explain that the Pug treat war like a game, and have a history of deliberately holding back just enough so that their opponents have a chance of winning.
  • Eldritch Starship Drak Archons are heavily implied to be this, and look the part as well.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: There are three types of FTL drive in the game.
    • The hyperdrive is the default for most ships, and allows you to jump between two systems connected via a hyperspace lane once you have brought your ship to a complete stop.
    • The scram drive is a larger and more fuel-hungry variant of the hyperdrive that works the same, except you can jump even if your ship still has some momentum. Useful for cumbersome ships that take a long time to decelerate, or anyone who needs to be able to jump while under fire.
    • The jump drive is an alien technology that becomes available late in the story. It allows you to jump to ANY system within a certain radius, even if it is not connected via hyperspace. Though it has the highest fuel consumption, in practice it is usually more efficient since it allows for shortcuts that would otherwise be unavailable. It is also required to visit parts of the galaxy that are not linked to human space.
    • Wormholes are a natural (at least, from the human perspective, it is implied that the Pug have the knowledge and technology to be able to manipulate and even create them) phenomenon that allows faster-than-light travel between linked wormholes (either in simple pairs, or in more complicated networks where turning around and re-entering a wormhole you just left puts you at a different wormhole opening than the one you originally entered through).
  • The Fettered:
    • The Republic Navy is shown as a dutiful and honorable institution, filled with upstanding leaders who keep their word and treat their enemies with respect. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for their government.
    • The Free Worlds military, more of a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits, nevertheless fits this trope as well. They use only as much force as necessary against the Navy, whom they see less as enemies as fellow soldiers honor-bound to oppose them.
    • The Hai are this by default, as their Evil Counterpart Race splinter race is literally called 'The Unfettered Hai'.
  • Flavor Text: Planets, space ports, ships, and outfits all have their own descriptions to add context to the universe.
  • Flowery Insults: Pilots have a dizzying array of creative invectives that they will hurl at you if you try to talk to them after disabling their ship.
    "Go rot in hell, you gorbellied clapper-clawed dewberry!"
  • Fragile Speedster:
    • The Flivver, a very small, very fast ship that isn't good for much else. Essentially a sports car for wealthy space travelers.
    • Lionheart-designed ships follow this design philosophy, opting for lightweight construction materials that sacrifice durability for agility.
  • Frickin' Laser Beams: Averted. Laser and Heavy Laser weapons are considered beam weapons that hit instantly so long as the target is close, compared to "blaster" and particle weapons which are traditional projectiles.
  • Higher-Tech Species: There are many species in the game, and some are clearly higher on the food chain than others. What little is seen of the Drak clearly puts them at the top, with the Quarg and the Pug tied for second (although the Pug are implied to possibly have access to more advanced technology but deliberately limit themselves). Most other aliens are somewhere in the middle, with humans at the bottom. All that said, even the more primitive races have certain qualities in their technology that can make it useful given the right niche. Humans have excellent engines and lots of overall variety. The Korath have phenomenal cooling systems. The Wanderers have multi-purpose outfits. The list goes on.
  • Hit-and-Run Tactics: The "Monty Python Maneuver" from Escape Velocity also works in this game due to the lack of Space Friction. It's slightly less effective because, unlike EV, projectiles share momentum with their parent ship, so you can't simply stay at the edge your opponent's firing range while your own weapons of the same kind can still hit them. You have to use long-range weapons like the Particle Cannon to really exploit it.
  • Infinity +1 Sword: The Quarg skylance, far and away the most powerful weapon in the game, and it's a turret to boot. It also consumes titanic amounts of energy, but you only need a couple to make yourself a match for almost any human fleet. Of course, the only way to acquire them is to defeat the very ships that carry them, because they sure aren't going to just give them away.
  • Jack-of-All-Stats: Some ships are built on this principle, most notably the Bactrian, an expensive but popular flagship choice for its flexibility. It has a roomy cargo hold, plenty of outfit space, 3 fighter bays, good all-around stats, and excellent crew capacity. There is also the Mule, made by the same manufacturer, which is essentially a fun-sized version of the Bactrian (and thus is more a Master of None by comparison).
  • Klingons Love Shakespeare: For one quest, the Hai ask you to bring them a copy of all human knowledge and culture from a repository in the Deep for their enjoyment. Though it's implied you may have trouble getting your hands on it, it turns out they sell overpriced copies of it at the gift shop.
  • Lightning Bruiser:
    • The Republic's two largest ships, the Cruiser and the Carrier, are the strongest human ships and also astonishingly fast for their size, such that they can chase down just about any ship that's not a fighter.
    • Quarg ships are by far the most powerful currently in the game. They can be defeated through sheer numbers, but will completely dominate any player-controllable ship in single combat. Fortunately, they are non-hostile. In fact, even doing enough damage to elicit a reaction is a minor challenge in itself.
  • Long-Range Fighter: Most militaries field ships equipped entirely with long-range homing missiles, such as the Republic's Rainmaker. They will keep their distance from the enemy, so capital ships must rely on their own support fighters to take them down or else weather the attack with shields or point defenses.
  • Mighty Glacier: Most heavy warships fall into this category, but the Syndicate Protector most of all, with a ponderously slow turning speed but plenty of turrets to compensate.
  • My Country, Right or Wrong: The Republic Navy has this in spades. They are honorable almost to a fault, but make it clear during the war with the Free Worlds that, as much as they desire peace, they will fight as ordered by their government, without hesitation, for as long as they are able.
  • Nuclear Weapons Taboo: While nuclear reactors are legal and can even be purchased by civilian spaceship captains, nuclear weapons have been banned for at least 500 years by the time the game starts, and a nuclear device destroying a major Republic starport is what sets off the Republic/Free Worlds conflict. It ultimately turns out that the bomb was made and used by the Syndicate... and they've since come up with spaceborne nukes. On the Free Worlds Reconciliation branch, you discover the latter the hard way while you're escaping with evidence about the former. The Checkmate branch lets you use them yourself and ultimately end the war by threatening to nuke Earth.
  • Opening the Sandbox: Acquiring a jump drive gives access to entire new areas of the map. Completing a tier 1 storylinenote  unlocks more missions in the jump drive-reachable areas, and is the most likely way to get a jump drive.
  • Piñata Enemy: Korath Exile ships become this in the mid-late game, especially Korath Raiders (which is a bit ironic considering the Korath use them to loot other people's stuff). Their plasma cores sell for up to 5 million credits apiece, they have powerful weapons and the best cooling tech in the game, and they're the most reliable karma-free source of Jump Drives once other sources like the Pug, Unfettered, and Kor Mereti dry up. By the end of the Wanderer storyline they also gain Kor Mereti and Kor Sestor ships which you can loot without angering the now-friendly main Kor Mereti.
  • Plug 'n' Play Technology: Any outfit can be installed on any ship without difficulty, even if they are made by entirely different species. This is important for players looking to design the perfect ship, as it requires combining the best equipment from each race.
  • Shout-Out: The entire game is a shout-out to Escape Velocity, though there is one direct reference in a subquest that adds the Kestrel to the game, a sleek black capital ship that looks very similar to the EV ship of the same name. The designer (who happens to share a name with the company making the Kestrel in EV) says he glimpsed it in an alternate dimension (implied to have been the EV universe) while entranced in a sweat lodge.
  • Silent Treatment: Even after the Pug depart after the war, there is a lone planet far to the North that they still inhabit. You can land, but the inhabitants will completely ignore you. The right mission lets you bug an answer out of them. They're on the 'team' handling the Wanderers rather than the ones handling humans, so they don't particularly care for you.
    • If you attack them, leave, then come back later, they will send a (currently) unique and especially powerful Pug ship after you: the Arfecta.
  • Space Is an Ocean: All the more noticeable, since the game is 2-D. Characters sometimes even use cardinal directions in reference to the galaxy map.
  • Strange-Syntax Speaker: The aliens who understand English are each distinguished by their unique quality of speech, as outlined in the game's style guide. The Pug use a floral and poetic Purple Prose; the Hai speak more or less normally but have trouble with articles; the ancient Quarg sometimes use obsolete speech patterns, as though they "learned to talk to humans thousands of years ago and haven't kept their grammar books up to date since then".
  • Take That!: One of the Author Ships is "Cap'n Pester," an obvious parody of Cap'n Hector, the parrot captain from Escape Velocity who would steal your credits and/or attack you if you didn't register the game within 30 days. Since this game is freeware and open-source, the worst Pester will do is ask you to contribute to the game's source code.
  • Technology Uplift: Some of the backstory hints that the reason the humans of the Deep are so much more developed and technologically advanced than the rest of humanity is because the Pug have been secretly supporting them over the centuries. The fact that the Pug use the same atomic engines produced in the Deep (which are superior even to other alien engines) is further evidence.
    • Their only rivals in the 'much more developed and technologically advanced than the rest of humanity' category is the Remnant — who happened to stumble upon multiple caches of alien technology when they fled the Alpha Wars, have made a habit of scavenging alien technology, and also are implied to have had some other force meddling behind the scenes (the player captain observes that the Remnant culture seems to have diverged much more rapidly than it reasonably should have).
  • Timed Mission: Rush deliveries pay more money per ton, but have a deadline that must be met to receive your reward. A few story missions have deadlines as well.
  • Tim Taylor Technology: The Korath take this to a level Tim Taylor himself would think is a bit much.
  • Transhuman: The Alphas are genetically enhanced humans who tried and nearly succeeded in taking over human society, but were driven into exile prior to the start of the game. Some still fear their return, though it has been long enough that most are no longer concerned. This is partly because Alphas have extremely low fertility rates, making it difficult for them to maintain their already small population. The Betas appear to be a superior 'second model', combining apparent Alpha-tier abilities with the appearance of an unmodified human, and replacing the downscaled empathy (intended to make them serve better as warriors) of the Alphas with strengthened empathy, to make the Betas feel connected to mainstream humanity and therefore inclined to help them.
  • War for Fun and Profit: The Syndicate is revealed to have instigated the war between the Republic and the Free Worlds, though they believed it to be justified because their economic models predicted it to be the only way to forestall an impending galaxy-wide economic collapse.
  • White and Grey Morality: It is difficult to find any true villains in the main quest. The Free Worlds are honorable and violence-averse, as is the Republic Navy. Their government is more self-interested but still reasonable. The pirate factions, despite a few bloodthirsty warlords, are mostly just people who want to live free of government (in the story, at least), and even the Syndicate has enough of a conscience to feel ashamed when the war they started spirals out of control.
  • Worthy Opponent: The Free Worlds military and the Republic Navy have a mutual respect for each other, particularly since both of them agree that War Is Hell and it would be better if everyone could just get along. So great is their respect that the Free Worlds chooses to release captured Navy crew rather than keep them prisoner, with only their word that they will no longer participate in the war. And yes, they keep their word. The Navy sets up a special division for these men and women, the "Oathkeepers", who patrol the Republic's northern border against pirates.
  • You Are Too Late: No matter how long it takes you to track down the Kor Sestor's control facility, you always arrive a month after the Alphas broke in, hijacked control of the Kor Sestor and fled with the control equipment and a massive Kor Sestor fleet.

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