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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 begins in the year 3013, with the player entering an Ascetic Aesthetic bank on the planet of New Boston to apply for a loan. After filling in your name and receiving your credits, you're off to the Used Future shipyard to buy your first ship and begin paying off your debt. However, shortly into your position as a starship captain, the galaxy begins to slip into war...

The game world consists of over 200 star systems, including Sol, interlinked via Hyperspace Lanes. There are three major political powers: The Republic, The Syndicate, and the newly seceded Free Worlds, with conflict threatening to rise between the Republic and the Free Worlds. Alongside the main factions, there are a spattering of pirate-controlled worlds across the galaxy, as well as a few alien species of varying technological prowess.


The game is foremost a Wide Open Sandbox. 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 the game is still under constant development. 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, in-flight gameplay is from a top-down perspective, with the only indication of a third dimension coming in the form of ships being able to overlap.
  • Absurdly High Level Cap: Combat rating is the game's equivalent of a level system, with the rating being increased by destroying other ships, and the gap between each rating increasing exponentially. The main campaign will usually get you to around Combat rating 7. The maximum Combat rating, 21, is equivalent to beating the main campaign over one million times.
  • Ace Custom: Aside from the obvious customization of the ships in your own fleet, Marauder ships are versions of ships that have had their hulls heavily modified to increase their stats.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot:
    • When the Builders were afraid of an attack through the wormholes in their region, they decided to create the Ka'het, which are ships controlled by an artifical organism. They quickly became rogue and began attacking the Builders. In response to the Ka'het attacks, the Builders decided to create more Ka'het, which also turned on them, resulting in their demise.
    • Subverted by the Kor Sestor and Kor Mereti, who still only follow what their creators wanted them to do, which is defeat the opposing side. Most of the devastation present on the ruined Korath planets are due to weapons developed and deployed by the Korath themselves.
  • Alien Non-Interference Clause: Played with. Most aliens are unable to even interact with each other due to the lack of connecting hyperlanes between the races, and most of the ones who aren't blocked by this generally do very little beyond surveillance. The Pug are much more willing to interfere with other species, though only on their own terms.
  • Alien Sky: Every object you can land on has an accompanying landscape image, with some of the images presenting features such as a different-colored atmosphere or the sight of a nearby planet.
  • All Planets Are Earth-Like: Subverted. While almost all systems in human space are inhabited in one form or another, a large amount of planets are far from perfect in terms of liveability, from constant earthquakes to thin atmospheres, in addition to the countless unvisitable planets in systems. In addition, many of the Earth-like planets are only that way due to Terraforming, with a major lore point being the disparity between the perfectly kept Paradise Planets and the run-down Dirt Belt.
  • Anarchy Is Chaos: A variant. The main inhabitants of pirate worlds, anarchists, rarely bear ill will and generally have mostly self-sufficient, functioning societies — but their lack of both large-scale organisation and the backing of a greater government means that the worlds also tend to be used as strongholds by pirates with only the thinnest anarchist veneer (or simply using the threat of armed force to extort compliance), with the anarchists either unable to do much about it or simply not caring what happens off-world.
  • Ancient Astronauts: It is implied that the Saryds of the Coalition are the inspiration for the centaurs of Earth myth, as they not only look like centaurs (to the point that the player character describes them as looking like they could have stepped out of the page of a story book from ancient Earth), but also had interstellar travel and access to a small number of jump drives at least around or before 4000 BCnote .
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • Making port or jumping to hyperspace both advance game time by a day, but this only applies to your ship. Your escorts can do this as much as they want in real time, which saves a lot of trouble when waiting for escorts in other systems to catch up with your fleet.
    • Unlike Escape Velocity, you can read and compare the marginal difference in commodity prices between the system you're in and your next destination, making it easier to spot optimal trades without having to rely on arbitrary "high" or "low" price descriptions as with EV.
  • Apocalypse How:
    • Korath space is riddled with examples of this, from Planetary Species Extinction to a singular case of a Stellar Physical Annihilation.
    • You are all but forcednote  to cause a potential Class 2 against Zenith to kill the Alphas there before the Navy is overwhelmed by the Sestor at Alnitak.
  • Apologetic Attacker: Hostile Navy ships usually respond to your hails in this manner.
    "We are agents of peace. We regret that it is our duty to destroy you."
  • Arc Villain: The Unfettered Hai are the antagonists of the first part of the Wanderer campaign.
  • Author Avatar: In similar style to Escape Velocity, there are several unique, sporadically appearing ships in the game that are based on some of the developers.
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • It is technically possible to capture a Korath World-Ship, but their huge crew and powerful hand-to-hand weapons (only outmatched by the extremely-illegal nerve gas) make it excedingly difficult. Even should you somehow succeed, their huge crew requirement would cost tens of thousands of credits per day, and they can only be captured under certain circumstances, alongside the cost of reducing reputation with the Quarg. If taken from the Korath Exiles, there are no friendly spaceports in their space, and taking them from the Kor Efreti would anger the only people in their space who can install a jump drive into the World-Ship, unless the Eye is open.
  • Beam Spam: All of the Wanderers' and Kor Mereti's primary weapons are beams.
  • Beef Gate: The usual way to acquire a jump drive is through the main questline, which gives a nice steady difficulty curve. However, there is an area of human space where Korath Raiders occasionally drop in. A player may at any point take a shot at stealing one of their jump drives, bypassing the storygate on galactic exploration, though some of the further story strings are locked behind completion of a human storyline.
  • Beelzebub: A pirate named after the figure acts as the Deep mini-campaign's Arc Villain.
  • BFG: The Korath Detainer, Ka'het Nullifier, and the Dragonflame Cannon are the three biggest single weapons in the game. The Dragonflame Cannon goes even further by requiring a specially designed gun port to mount it.
  • Big Bad: The pirate warlord Beelzebub is the villain of the first and final parts of the Deep campaign.
  • 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.
  • Boring, but Practical: Commodity Trading is one of the most absolutely basic things you will be doing in the game, but gives credits that will add up. Even if you aren't using it as your main revenue stream, you can increase your profits from doing jobs by using any leftover cargo space for trading.
  • 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."
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Tomek in Free Worlds Reconciliation. After he gets arrested for leading the attack on either Greenrock or Bloodsea, there are plenty of references to him and how the dynamic has changed in the Council since, which leads to you joining the Council yourself. After you chose to protect the defector however, Tomek is only mentioned once more by Katya when she catches up on events. Averted during Checkmate, where the Senate decides that Tomek's military prowess is too important to pass up.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The game has a shader-like system that changes a ships' colors to match the faction they belong to, even if it's not typically one of theirs. The Republic use orange ships. The Free Worlds use green. The Syndicate are blue on the map, and use purple ships. Merchants use blue ships. Test targets and Author ships use lime green. Pirates use red and black.

    When you start out, your ships are the same blue that merchants use (since you are one), but once you join a faction, all of your ships are repainted in your faction's colors. In the Free Worlds story, you're told that this is necessary in case you're captured by the Republic; a captain openly flying under the Free Worlds' colors has to be considered a POW, while pretending to still be a civilian would be a war crime.
  • Crapsack World: Played to varying degrees in different sectors of human space. The Deep is the most prosperous, but bar outsiders from probing too deep into their society and culture. The Paradise Worlds and the Syndicate have major income inequality problems, but most people can at least afford basic necessities. The parochial Dirt Belt is comparatively poor, but the absence of wage slavery means hard work can pay off. The South and the Rim are generally decent places to live, but are under constant threat by pirates. The pirate worlds have generally poor living conditions, and many of them are under a dictatorship or similar, but the ones not subject to this generally live in freedom. The biggest non-pirate crapsack world is probably Earth itself, where everyone except the social elite agrees that the best place to live is anywhere else.
  • Creator Cameo: A tradition in the Rim is to attempt to visit as many Rim planets as possible in a month, in honor of the first explorer of the area. That explorer's name? Han Sizer.
  • Creator Provincialism: The game's creator, Michael Zahniser, lives in Boston. The player character hails from the planet of New Boston.
  • Developers' Foresight:
    • The credit chip with cultural data costs 39.99 credits, and will take away that many credits when you buy it. If you don't have the money for it, the game will mock you for it.
      It only costs 40 credits, but because you have done a horrible job at managing your finances you do not have even that much cash on hand right now.
    • Collecting the cultural data from Alexandria Station for either of the missions that require it lets you auto-complete the other mission when you get offered it.
    • During the Wanderer storyline, there's a minor story branch if you somehow manage to defeat the Alpha-controlled Kor Sestor without resorting to escaping to use Danforth's bomb on Zenith, which is a nigh-impossible task, to the point that the four Quarg Wardragons you are provided with don't even make a dent in the assailant's fleet.
  • Didn't Think This Through: The assault by Tomek (and you, if you choose to join him) on the pirate worlds during Free Worlds. Freya and JJ point out all the flaws in the occupation: The Free Worlds can't afford to station a fleet to keep the peace on the planet, and they don't have any form of ground army, unlike the Republic. The only feasible option is to bombard the planet into submission, which would cripple the Free Worlds' reputation.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The secession of the Free Worlds is followed by a terrorist attack on humanity's largest stock exchange and a vital military base.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: If you get offered the mission to bring There Might Be Riots to Midgard, you get to meet Garrison, Pierre, Hannah, and Laura before their appearance in Project Hawking, as well as Ivan's assistant Rayna.
  • Easter Egg:
    • Some of the textures used for the more exotic ships named after birds (Kestrel, Albatross, Starling) contain images of their respective birds.
    • Flying around instead of jumping after starting a new game will cause you to receive messages that repeat advice about navigation and jumping, before transitioning to realising the insignificance of everything in the game compared to the vast nothingness between stars.
  • Easy Level Trick: Non-escort ships are unable to spawn outside the system that the player is in. This means that escort jobs can be beaten by rushing to their destination, with the abandonment of your escort counterintuitively making them safer.
  • Eldritch Starship: The Archons are heavily implied to be this, and look the part as well.
  • Escort Mission: A stock type of mission offered at job boards is an escort mission. Escort missions are timed like rush deliveries and you'll be harassed by pirates the whole time, but they're usually pretty short trips, and the escorted ship will always catch up to you if you out-speed it.
  • The Empath: The Republic Questioners display an extremely acute understanding of people, letting them act as a lie detector.
  • Energy Ball: The Ka'het Nullifier shoots a ball-shaped Painfully Slow Projectile made of electricity.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Downplayed. During the Free Worlds campaign, you come across Jerkass Senator Arianna Huygens, who generally speaks down to you. Should you attack one of the pirate planets, she is the first Senate member to ask a question about your involvement in the assault, and, along with the rest of the Senate, is appalled by your actions.
  • Expy:
    • The Kor Mereti are a gestalt AI very similar to the Geth, especially after assimilating the Wanderer AI and achieving sentience. They even take up restoring war-ravaged worlds like the Geth did for Rannoch.
    • The Hai are similar to the Miranu from Escape Velocity Override, as a peaceful alien species just North of human space. Correspondingly, the Unfettered are a deconstruction of the Zachit; a more militant faction of that peaceful race that instead of taking the battle to pirates, have effectively become pirates themselves.
    • Korath Exile and Kor Sestor ships are similar to the Voinians, also from Override; massive, slow, stacked with guns and favoring hull over shields.
    • The Remnant have similar Living Ship designs to the Polaris from Escape Velocity Nova, though they're not nearly as powerful.
  • 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. Only the Pug, Korath Exiles, and Quarg possess the ability to build jump drives, but most other factions have captured a few jump drives from those who can make them.
  • The Fettered:
  • Fixed Forward-Facing Weapon: The Particle cannon, Ion cannon, Korath Detainer, Ka'het Nullifier, and Dragonflame Cannon all lack a turreted version.
  • 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.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation:
    • Despite taxation being cited as one of the the main reasons that the Free Worlds split off from the Republic, and there being many pilots and people in the spaceport who decry the high taxes, you yourself never encounter such problems, with prices being the same inside and out of the Republic and Free Worlds.
    • In lore, most pirates are treated as Tragic Villains Forced into Evil, with many pirate crews being comprised of teenager slaves, and only a minority actually bringing any ill will. In game, pirates are the faction that you get to shoot at and loot without any consequences, and the other factions treat them as such.
  • Generation Ships: Alpha Centauri was colonised by a fleet of generation ships. The Bactrian is the last of the generation ships still in service, and has been modified over the centuries to act more like every other starship.
  • Ghost City: Kaeyin is a planet in the Graveyard which hosts a single, empty city.
  • Giant Space Flea from Nowhere: The Pug in the Free Worlds campaign. Whether you or the Syndicate are about to use the Nuclear Option on Earth, they show up in the nick of time to invade humanity and force force humanity to unite.
  • Godzilla Threshold:
    • In order to stand up to the full force of the Republic Navy during Free Worlds Checkmate, you have to side with a group of pirates that use nukes, who in turn get said nukes from a Pirate warlord.
    • During the Sestor assault on Farpoint, Danforth orders you to use a device even more powerful than a nuke to destroy the Alpha enclave that controls the fleet.
  • Gray Goo: Deep in space and outside of any hyperspace network is a system full of self-replicating nanomachines made by the Korath before their exile. If the system is visited, an Archon will explain the danger to you and that they are preserving the swarm rather than wiping it out because it will outlast its makers and any of their other automata, and, as their greatest creation, will be their memorial should the they go extinct.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The Alphas show up in this role in several otherwise-separate storylines.
    • They indirectly convinced the Syndicate to start the war between the Republic and the Free Worlds.
    • Before the start of the game, another group of Alphas set up an outpost in the Host system where they started funneling Jump Drives to the Unfettered Hai and raiding the Korath automata for their technology.
    • Later in the Wanderer story they become an Arc Villain, taking over a massive Kor Sestor fleet, bringing it through the Eye and into Wanderer space (destroying an outpost but thankfully leaving the rest of the Wanderers alone), then launching an invasion of northern Republic space, starting with Farpoint.
  • Heart Is an Awesome Power: The Wanderers' ecological skills end up being surprisingly useful against the conflicts they face:
    • The Kor Mereti are pacified by feeding them a package of Wanderer culture, which assimilates them into thinking they're Wanderers.
    • The Wanderers manage to narrow down the cause of a Sestor war bunker being broken open by noticing that if it had occurred earlier in history, groundwater would've crept into the cracks.
  • 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 latter 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 velocity 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.
  • Holy Ground: Far'en Lai is the only place that the otherwise Always Chaotic Evil Korath Exiles will not fight upon. It's rumored that its destruction will result in the Exiles being exterminated by the Archons.
  • Humans Are Average: While humanity is on the whole on the bottom of the technological food chain, their technology is diverse where most other species have specialized their technology, such that even though alien outfits are more advanced, human outfits may be superior in ways outside of a particular other species' specialization.
  • Human Furniture Is a Pain in the Tail: The fact that this doesn't happen in the Pug city is what makes Freya realise that the Pug's motivations aren't exactly straight forward.
    Freya: It's an ordinary, human style electrical outlet. Human. In an alien city. And the steps we came up to get here: the Pug have legs half again as long as ours. But the tread spacing was at the normal human height.
  • Humanity Is Young: Most species are from 40,000 years older than humanity to 10,000 years older, but the Hai are 120,000 years old, and the Wanderers, Quarg, Pug, and Drak are all implied to be older than that.
  • Hyperspace Lanes: Much like Escape Velocity before it, systems are connected by a network of hyperspace lanes that can make astronomically nearby systems several jumps of travel away. Unlike Escape Velocity, there are actually several mostly-separate networks (broadly one per species/faction), but the only ways to get from one network to another are wormholes or jump drives, and only some are connected to the human network by wormholes.
  • Hypocrite: The Heliarchs claim that the Quarg are keeping each species isolated to prevent the creation of a combined, stronger union, alongside other, more subtle limitations. Meanwhile, the Heliarchs themselves restrict their own species' methods of communication and what technologies they can use.
  • I Let You Win: The Quarg say that the Pug do this on a regular basis, which is why you are even able to repel their invasion in the main storyline.
  • Infinity +1 Sword:
    • The Quarg Skylance is far and away the most powerful obtainable 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.
    • The Pug Arfecta, which has absurd regeneration, cloaking, and sweltering damage output that also pierces. However, the only way to get one is to capture it, which means you're going to have to survive its ridiculous firepower yourself. Specifically it means taking one of the ships that protect the Wanderers, or to anger the Pug at Pug Iyik so that they send one after you.
  • Infinity -1 Sword:
  • Interface Spoiler: If you look closely in the controls menu, you'll find that cloaking is bound to 'c'.
  • Jack-of-All-Stats:
    • The Bactrian, a potent 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, which is a fun-sized version of the Bactrian (and thus is more a Master of None by comparison).
    • The Argosy is one of the more flexible ships to customise, which is reflected in lore. Though technically a light freighter, there are many privately owned variants that function as passenger transports, deep-space explorers, or several types of warship.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: In full effect during Free Worlds Checkmate. You quickly go from a fledgling faction that is being unfairly accused of two nuclear bombings, just trying to hold back against the Republic and only going on the offensive to take systems that have chosen to defect, to siding with a group of pirates willing to destroy freighters of food just to gain the slightest advantage, and fielding your own nuclear weaponry as you pave a path towards Earth.
  • Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better:
  • Klingons Love Shakespeare: For one quest, Eruk, a Hai, asks you to bring him a copy of all human knowledge and culture from a repository in the Deep for his enjoyment.
  • Lethal Joke Item: A non-offensive example in the form of the Quantum Keystone, which is sold in Hai space as a good luck charm, but actually lets ships use the red wormholes of the Ember Wastes.
  • Lightning Bruiser:
    • The Republic's two largest ships, the Cruiser and the Carrier, are the strongest human ships and are astonishingly fast for their size when in their Mark II variant, such that they can chase down just about any ship that's not a fighter.
    • Marauder Falcons and Leviathans pack all the considerable firepower and armor of the already-enhanced Marauder modified models and combine with with such massive engines that they can zip around like interceptors.
    • Quarg ships are by far the most powerful in the game. They can be defeated through sheer numbers, but will completely dominate any player-controllable ship in single combat. They're also only the size of a light warship, and are correspondingly speedy. Fortunately, the Quarg are non-hostile by default, to the point that even doing enough damage to elicit a reaction is a minor challenge in itself.
  • Lightning Gun: The Pug Zapper shoots out a beam of lightning.
  • Living Ship: Remnant ships, the Ka'het, and Archons are these.
  • Long-Range Fighter: Most militaries and some pirates 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 have to weather the attack with shields or point defenses, if they aren't fast enough to catch up or deploy anything with similar range.
  • Luck-Based Mission:
    • Getting certain spaceport missions offered partially relies on random chance.
    • The Kor Automata don't have any crew on them, so to make them harder to capture, they have a high chance of self destructing on boarding.
  • Meaningful Name: The Checkmate path of the Free Worlds campaign involves cornering the 'King' of the Republic, Earth, in order to force a peace treaty.
  • The Men in Black: Should you choose to aid Albert Foster in investigating the Deep, Deep Security will question you on what you uncovered.
  • 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.
  • Multiple Endings: During the Free Worlds campaign, you can either choose to always fight against the Republic, or to attempt diplomacy to put the Free Worlds in the clear. Each path gives out a reward fitting for whatever action you took: taking the side of war grants you the Nuclear Option alongside some of the exclusive outfits of the Syndicate, whereas siding with peace grants you a Cloaking Device.
  • 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.
  • My Grandson Myself: Elias tries to do this. Republic Intelligence see right through it.
  • No Such Thing as Space Jesus: The Saryds are implied to have landed on Earth in the distant past, inspiring the myth of centaurs.
  • No Man Should Have This Power: Used by Nguyen to justify the abortion of several women who have been inseminated with children with Alpha genetics. Not that it makes it any easier for him to order the act.
  • Now What?: JJ says this as part of his What the Hell, Hero? speech after you follow Tomek's orders and attack the pirates directly, due to having no method of holding onto your gains.
    JJ: Congratulations, you're a goddamn hero. Now, what exactly were you planning on doing next?
  • 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 two nuclear devices destroying the centre of the Galactic Stock Exchange and the Navy's main shipyard 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 case. The Checkmate branch lets you use them yourself to aid your conquest towards Earth.
  • Opening the Sandbox: Acquiring a jump drive gives access to entire new areas of the map. Completing one of the main human faction storylinesnote  unlocks more missions in the jump drive-reachable areas, and is the most likely way to get a jump drive.
  • Our Centaurs Are Different: The Saryds are described as being exactly like the centaurs of ancient Earth. They are a nature-loving species that managed to reach their moon in the steam age, and are the oldest member of the Coalition.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Skymoot in the Hadar system is home to a species of non-sentient dragons that are a major tourist attraction. It was also the homeworld of the Sheragi, a space-faring dragon race that had technology comparable to present-day humanity (though with a specialisation on warfare over everything else), but destroyed themselves from civil war thousands of years ago. The present-day Skymoot dragons are to them what chimpanzees are to humans.
  • Our Wormholes Are Different: 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). Some wormholes can be entered simply as is, while others require special items to be usable. Specifically, Quantum Keystones, which the Hai sell as good luck charms.
  • Permanently Missable Content:
    • There is a short string of missions that you can be offered from the Southern Defense Pact, which is the precursor to the Free Worlds. After the Free Worlds' formation, the missions become inaccessable.
    • If you transport There Might Be Riots to Hai space, you can be offered a mission to bring the band back to Midgard for a performance. You can only be offered this mission before doing Project Hawking or the Remnant Deep missions, however.
  • Piñata Enemy: Beyond the general fact that you can take anything not bolted down on any ship, Korath Raiders are one of the most notable examples. They can be found on the eastern edges of Syndicate space, and in a cluster of systems to the east only accessible by jump drive. Ignoring just stealing the whole ship, the loot you can plunder from them include lucrative outfits, the best cooling tech in the game, and Jump Drives, amongst other rewards. To defeat a Raider, a tricked-out human heavy warship is usually all you need.
  • Planetville: Planetary interactions are abstracted down to just a select few functionalities.
  • Plug 'n' Play Technology: Any outfit can be installed on any ship without difficulty, even if they are made by entirely different species.
  • The Power of the Sun: Human reactors come in many shapes and sizes, most of them based on thermal decay or nuclear fission, but the largest ones are true fusion plants. The Wanderers field "Sun Reactors", though how they actually work is unknown.
  • Puny Earthlings: Once jump drives are acquired, it becomes apparent that humanity is by far the least advanced spacefaring species in the galaxy, with only the Hai, the Remnant (if you consider them to be a different species from humans) and the deliberately-restrained Pug not significantly outmatching them.
  • Ram Scoop: Every ship has an inbuilt one that can harvest hyperspace fuel from any star. Dedicated ramscoop outfits significantly speed up the process, and certain stars produce more fuel than others.
  • Red Sky, Take Warning: The Ember Wastes have a red background haze colour, as opposed to the usual blue. The haze even carries over to the main menu.
  • The Remnant:
    • The Korath Exiles are the remnants of the once-great Korath. In the past, a brutal war waged between the Kor Mereti and the Kor Sestor, with each side producing increasingly deadlier weapons until they reached destruction levels on the scale of planets and stars. After this point, the Archons and Quarg stepped in and offered an ultimatum: give up the secret of jump drives and join the relatively peaceful Kor Efreti, or be banished to the core. The ones who chose to be banished became the Exiles.
    • The faction actually called the Remnant... is not this, but believed themselves to be it early in their history, hence the name. They are descended from a group of humans that fled human space at the height of the Alpha War, believing, not unreasonably, that the Alphas were headed for victory. By the time they found out the Alphas lost the War and they weren't actually the last remnant of free humanity, they were already established as a separate, militarised (in an odd scientifically focused way) culture with no interest in risking Alpha infiltration by revealing themselves to the rest of humanity. Their modern-day ideology is partly based on them wanting to be ready to be this if something devastates main human space, hence their inclination to secrecy and survival.
  • Repressive, but Efficient: The Coalition controls its citizens with an iron grip, restricting interspecies translators and the sale of their more efficient outfits. It's also one of the most pleasant and peaceful portions of the galaxy.
  • Security Cling: After the pirate attack on Project Hawking, Lieutenant Paris and Laura embrace each other.
  • Shout-Out:
    • There is one direct reference to Escape Velocity 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), alongside a blade made of light, a blue sun, and... a corgi hacking a computer, while entranced in a sweat lodge. Alongside this, one of the starting ships is a shuttle, with a heavy shuttle as a marginal upgrade, there's an armed freighter called the Argosy, and one of the author ships is a Krypt Pod.
    • One of the mission chains in the game involves transporting a band named "There Might Be Riots".
    • The various possible hails by other captains contain a variety of references to other pieces of media.
    • Almost all of the hails made by robotic test dummies are quotes by other computers in fiction.
    • Possible pirate ship names include Cheeki Breeki, Guybrush Threepwood, Teignmouth Electron, Ourang Medan, and Joyita.
    • The Sheragi heavy warship and accompanying fighters are named the Emerald Sword and the Black Diamond, respectively.
    • Looting Pug Arfectas will net you the Gridfire Turret.
  • Show Within a Show: There's a mission in Hai space that involves going to a convention for a game called 'Boundless Frontiers'.
  • 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.
  • Slow Laser: Laser and Heavy Laser weapons are considered beam weapons that hit instantly so long as the target is in range, compared to "blaster" and particle weapons which are sublight projectiles.
  • 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.
  • Space Pirates: Various pirates are a ubiquitous nuisance in and around human space. Normally, they only venture a few jumps from their bases, but if you're running an escort mission, you'll be constantly harassed by pirates from beginning to end of the mission. If you bribe your way onto their bases, they'll sell illegal outfits like nerve gas grenades, and their job board will be full of criminal missions that are more lucrative than similar normal cargo hauls, but will incur significant fees if government patrols successfully scan your cargo hold. Fortunately for their illegal missions, pirate bases also usually sell outfits that make it harder for government forces to scan you and make their scans more likely to fail if they do manage to scan you. Conversely, non-pirate systems may offer jobs to hunt down pirates.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Escape Velocity.
  • Standard Human Spaceship: Present, but varies by manufacturer. In particular the Syndicate, Southbound Shipyards, and the Republic Navy Shipyards specialize in blocky, geometric ships. On the other hand, Lionheart Industries (aside from the Bactrian and Mule), Megaparsec, Betelgeuse Shipyards, and Tarazed generally prefer more sleeker and/or more graceful designs).
  • Static Stun Gun: The Ion cannon, Railgun, Ion Hail, EMP Torpedo, and Ka'het Nullifier apply ionization to whatever they hit, crippling the target's energy generation.
  • Strange-Syntax Speaker: The aliens who understand English are each distinguished by a unique quality of speech. 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"; The Coalition speak in Yoda speech; and The Remnant don't use any contractions which is particularily notable due to them being a faction of humans.
  • 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 and maybe scan your outfits and cargo in areas where there aren't normally patrols that will do so and levy fines accordingly.
  • Technology Levels: Species are (design-wise) split into four tiers. Very broadly, a heavy warship from a given tier will be roughly evenly matched with a light warship from the next tier up:
    • Humans are on the bottom at Tier 1.
    • The Hai are only slightly better at roughly Tier 1.2.
    • The Korath Exiles, the Kor Efreti, the Coalition and the Remnant are all Tier 1.5. Of most notability are the Exiles, who created the Automata, and thus used to be of a higher tier, and the Remnant, whose tier is more variable due to the gap between their strongest equipment and their weakest.
    • The Wanderers, Ka'het, Kor Sestor, and Kor Mereti are Tier 2.
    • The Heliarchs, who lead the Coalition but hold back much of their technology from general use are Tier 2.5.
    • The Quarg are Tier 3.
    • The Archons are Tier 4.
    • The Pug are unknown due to their tendency to hold back and only ever slightly outmatch their opponents to give them a chance. It is however implied that their full capabilities are at least as good as the Quarg, giving them a speculative Tier 3.
  • 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 Remnant experienced this, having stumbled upon multiple caches of alien technology when they fled the Alpha Wars. In addition, it's 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).
  • Theme Naming:
    • Ship model names:
      • The dedicated carriers are named after places birds stay (Aerie, Nest, Roost, Skein).
      • Tarazed ships are named after birds (Falcon, Hawk, Kestrel).
      • Navy ships (save for the Auxiliary, Rainmaker, and Lance) all have the names of types of ships (Carrier, Cruiser, Frigate, Gunboat).
      • The two Jack-of-All-Stats Lionheart ships (Mule and Bactrian) are named after beasts of burden.
      • Hai ships are named after bugs (Shield Beetle, Centipede, Solifuge).
      • Remnant ships are named after birds, with a preference towards seabirds (Pelican, Albatross, Petrel).
      • Kimek ships are named after sharp structures (Thorn, Briar, Thisle, Spire). Saryd ships have a name motif of travelling (Runabout, Visitor, Traveler, Sojourner). Arach ships (except for the Arach Spindle) have a theme of ship types (Courier, Transport, Freighter, Hulk).
      • Wanderer ships tend to have a nature motif (Riptide, Deep River), with warships being named after weather phenomena (Tempest, Derecho, Hurricane).
      • Kor Mereti ships start with the Model 8 as the smallest ship then go up in powers of 2 as they get bigger.
      • The Emerald Sword and the Black Diamond are named after songs.
    • Ship given names:
  • Those Were Only Their Scouts:
    • Korath Raiders are large ships, more powerful than any single human ship and easily able to escape larger human fleets with their jump drives. As they only ever raid alone and have a relatively low spawn rate, it would seem that they're rare and powerful units, but once you can actually visit Korath Space, they in fact have tons of them. On top of this, they also have large numbers of much more powerful world-ships that, fortunately for humanity, don't take part in raids due to them also being Colony Ships.
    • The Pug invasion of human space plays with this - their invasion fleet is much weaker than their real capability, but it isn't followed up with a full-on invasion once stopped because they were deliberately holding back and once humanity beats the forces that were allotted, the defeat is accepted, rather than followed with overwhelming force.
  • 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. Their vessels generate massive amounts of power and solve nearly everything by throwing huge amounts of power into their systems, at significant expense to thermal efficiency (though also significant benefit to mass efficiency). This is most exemplified by their Triple Plasma Core, which is both the most powerful reactor in the game and the most space-efficient, but also the second least heat-efficient.
  • Title Drop:
    • If you fly around instead of jumping when you start a new character, one of the messages you'll receive mentions the endless sky you're flying in.
      Out here in the endless sky, you have the freedom to do whatever you want in your tiny new spaceship.
    • Should you take drugs, your logbook will note that, "The sky truly is endless."
    • The Checkmate path of the Free Worlds campaign is namedropped half-way through the route. It refers to the plan of an all-out assault on Earth.
      Alondo: Our very last contingency plan. We call it the 'checkmate' option.
  • 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.
  • Translator Microbes:
  • War for Fun and Profit: The Syndicate is revealed to have instigated the war between the Republic and the Free Worlds because their economic models predicted it to be the only way to forestall an impending galaxy-wide economic collapse.
  • Wave-Motion Gun: The Dragonflame Cannon converts the power of a thermonuclear explosion into a single beam.
  • We Will Meet Again: After defeating Beelzebub's Bactrian, you are hailed by an electronically distorted voice.
    "Well done, Captain. Well done at being a thorn in my side. You will pay for this. One day."
  • Wham Line:
    There is a warning light on your ship's main control panel that has never turned on. It is a relic of the dark age of galactic travel, part of a sensor system that is built into every starship, to detect incoming nuclear warheads. You had almost forgotten it even existed, because you have never seen it flash.
    It begins flashing now.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: After the main campaign, you can go to Winter, Bourne, Farpoint, Rust, and Pugglemug to meet up with some of your friends you gained during the war.
  • 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. The Republic Parliament 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.
  • Who Watches the Watchmen?: The reason Navy Intelligence exists is to give the Navy a direct source of precise information instead of relying on Republic Intelligence.
    Raven: I assume your real question is, why does Navy Intelligence exist at all, since the Republic already has a very powerful, well-funded, and nearly omniscient Department of Intelligence that exists independent of the Navy? The short answer is, we don't trust them.
  • With This Herring: The first few Remnant Void Sprite missions are this. You are restricted to using the shuttle-sized Puffin in order to have the capability to enter a gas giant, which is where the Void Sprites dwell. Problem is, the Remnant pissed off the Archon guarding the Void Sprites, meaning that you'll have to dodge its deadly blasts in order to complete the missions.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • You Are What You Hate: During Free Worlds Checkmate, you end up fielding nuclear weaponry, the very technology the Free Worlds was incorrectly accused of using, and which lead to the civil war.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Picking a side in the Free Worlds/Republic conflict causes the other side to turn hostile, which in the case of choosing the Free Worlds includes your character's homeworld of New Boston. When you finish the storyline, you get back in good standing with the other side, but finishing it is a hefty challenge in and of itself.


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