Millennia: Altered Destinies is a 1995 simulation game by Take-Two Interactive with Time Travel as the central premise. The Player Character is a human freighter captain named McDonald who is abducted by a race of beings called Hoods (guess what they're wearing?), given a time-traveling ship called XTM, and assigned the task of traveling to the Echelon Galaxy and nurturing four alien races for a period of 10,000 years in order to prevent the takeover of the galaxy by the evil Microids. If not stopped, the Microids will move on to other galaxies, including ours.
The XTM automatically travels to the Echelon Galaxy 10,000 years ago, but the intergalactic drive breaks down, and the on-board computer ANGUS tells you that the only way to repair it is to replace four key components that can only be produced by highly-advanced races, meaning you now have 2 tasks: ensuring that the four races successfully grow into powerful starfaring civilizations capable of repelling the Microids, and having those races build the components you need to get back to the Solar System. Oh, and you must also prevent these races from destroying one another.
You do all this by using the various consoles aboard the XTM to perform tasks, such as navigation, combat, communication, teleportation, refueling, and repair. The ship also has a shuttle that can be taken down to the planet and used to destroy a building with its laser cannon. One of the most important screens is the historical database on each of the four races. While your ship and you have Ripple Effect-Proof Memory, the database is designed to be updated by "temporal storms" that occur whenever you change something, meaning you get to see the results of your intervention without having to travel to the future. Both time travel and space travel use up fuel. There are 2 ways of refueling the ship: the slow way is to simply wait in orbit of a planet, using the trickle of gravitic energy as a constant but tiny stream of fuel. In systems with a gas giant, you can perform a fly-by of the giant and top off the tank, although the ship is likely to sustain damage in the process that must be repaired using that same fuel.
At the start, the XTM has four "seeds" aboard. These seeds are actually genetically-engineered morphs capable of assuming the shape of the race where it is beamed down. Essentially, any planet you choose of the appropriate climate to beam down the appropriate seed turns out to be that race's homeworld (although, it's a good idea to pick worlds that won't be conquered by the Microids any time soon). The first thing the morphs do is build temples in your honor, where they keep communications equipment and where the locals bring new inventions for you to approve or take away (if you teleport the technology to your ship, it will be erased from history). The main way of solving the various crises that crop up is to communicate with the race's morph and give it instructions. The morph may refuse to follow them, though, requiring you to take alternate means. The four races in question are the Reptoids (desert world), the Slothoids (ice world), the Entomons (jungle world), and the Piscines (water world). For some reason, none of these is capable of resolving their crises on their own, resulting in chaos that lasts until the Microids come and destroy them, meaning you have to babysit all the races through most of their 10,000-year history (in 100-year increments).
Occasionally, you may have to engage in fights with alien ships. These include the Microids, any of the four races that have achieved space flight, the Hoods (the Hood in the intro mentions a previous attempt to fix history by them), and your Evil Counterpart. That last one is, apparently, an alternate McDonald recruited by the Microids to ensure their dominance in the Echelon Galaxy and given an identical ship. You can't kill him for the same reason that you can't die yourself - the XTM will perform a Hyperspeed Escape when it sustains enough damage. He will, however, occasionally show up to screw up history and destroy a race that you have so painstakingly led. This is the exception to the Take Your Time nature of the game.
Given the countless paths for the game to take, there is no way to lose the game, as you can always go back and try something else. Originally, the developers included a contingency where, in the event where there was absolutely no way to fix things, your ship would be destroyed by a powerful temporal storm. Then they realized that this will never happen and removed this contingency.
The game provides examples of:
- Bee People: The Entomons are a race of humanoid insects ruled by a queen. One of the crises involves an attempt by a male to rule instead. If you try that, it will be a disaster. Ditto for trying to introduce democracy there.
- Big Bad: The Microids are the evil alien race who aim to conquer the Echelon Galaxy and move on to other galaxies, and Captain McDonald must nurture the four good alien races to stop them.
- Cool Star Ship: The XTM.
- Deflector Shields: Eventually, one or several of the races will invent planetary shields that keep the Microids away from them. However, you will also be unable to go down in a shuttle through the shield.
- The XTM is equipped with a pulse shield. After it is drained by enemy fire or gas giant fly-bys, the ship will start to receive damage.
- Delayed Ripple Effect: Every change generates a temporal storm that will arrive shortly. It will be announced by ANGUS and shake your ship depending on how big the change is. Strangely, it will seem to affect you even though you're located in the same time period where the change takes place.
- Descriptively-Named Species: Little is known about the Hoods, except their choice of clothing, as reflected in their name.
- The four races in your charge: Reptoids are reptilian, Slothoids are sloths, Entomons are bugs (from Greek "entomos" - "insect"), and Piscines are fish ("pisce" is Latin for "fish").
- The Microids are implied to be microbial life forms.
- It's possible all of these are a result of Translation Convention by ANGUS.
- Divine Intervention: This can actually end pretty bad. If you do something that requires a more direct action than communication, the locals may see this as proof that you really exist, which will kick-start religious fanaticism.
- Everything's Worse With Bears: Despite their name, the Slothoids look less like sloth and more like polar bears.
- Evil Counterpart: Occasionally, your alternate self, allied with the Microids, will screw-up your efforts, requiring you to go back and fix things.
- The Evils of Free Will: Attempts to introduce democracy among the Entomons will result in a complete social collapse.
- Fish People: The Piscines are a humanoid-looking fish race living under the world's ocean.
- Giving Radio to the Romans: A common mechanic to help a race develop is to take something they've recently invented and give it to them a few centuries earlier.
- God Guise: While you never directly appear before any of the races, the morphs build up religions on their worlds dedicated to you as a deity. The temples are built to allow you a convenient teleportation spot. Any new technology is first placed on the altar at the temple in order to receive your blessing. If you take the technology via teleporter, then they conclude that it was bad and don't use it. You can likewise teleport any technology you have previously taken to the temple to introduce it to the people, but only if their collective IQ is high enough. As your high priest, the morph has considerable influence, which works in your favor, as it allows you to resolve crises without directly interfering. This is good because Divine Intervention can sometimes backfire and result in chaos.
- "Groundhog Day" Loop: Conversations with the morphs sometimes feel like it, especially since, a lot of the time, a second attempt at conversation in the same time period will initiate the start of the conversation, as if the previous conversation never happened.
- Humans Are Special: Apparently, only a human can succeed where the Hoods have failed.
- Hyperspeed Escape: If the XTM receives critical damage during space combat, ANGUS will automatically perform a jump to the galaxy's central system (the Microids never conquer it).
- Imported Alien Phlebotinum: Averted. Technology taken from one race cannot be given to another.
- Improvised Weapon: The Piscines develop underwater ovens with chimneys that are capable of lobbing explosive bricks all the way into orbit. This turns out to be their deterrent against the Microids until they develop spaceships.
- Lizard Folk: The Reptoids are war-like desert-dwelling humanoid reptiles with a great emphasis on honor.
- Non-Standard Game Over: Originally written into the game in the case of a complete, irreversible screw-up. Then they realized that the "irreversible" part is meaningless in a game about Time Travel and removed it.
- Organic Technology: The XTM definitely has a look of an organic ship. However, if damaged, it will not heal and requires you to spend energy for repairs.
- Planet of Hats: Each of the four species you seed have a culture that revolves around one or two defining characteristics. You can try to guide each species to organize their society according to principles that are alien to them, but that will always result in disaster.
- Random Number God: If your Evil Counterpart messes up the history of one of the races, you can travel to the same time period and fight him off, negating his influence. However, the timeline will not necessarily be restored to what it was before the interference, even though, logically, it should.
- Ripple Effect-Proof Memory: The XTM is shielded against temporal storms, meaning both you and ANGUS are immune to changes in history. However, the database on the four races is designed to avert this trope and allow you to instantly see the effects of your actions in the past.
- Roboteching: Your lander has a laser cannon that can destroy a specific structure on an occupied planet. when firing, the laser bolt appears to curve like a guided missile before striking the target.
- Rubber-Forehead Aliens: All four morphs look like people wearing cheap Halloween costumes.
- Single-Biome Planet: Each of the four races must start on an appropriate world: desert for Reptoids, ice for Slothoids, jungle for Entomons, and water for Piscines.
- Starfish Language: All morphs speak with you using their local language, which just sounds like a bunch of growls and shrieks to you, depending on the species. ANGUS is the one who provides the translation.
- Succession Crisis: One of the earlier crises among all the races.
- Take Your Time: For the most part, you're not under any pressure to resolve a crisis, as Time Travel is on your side. However, your Evil Counterpart doesn't think so and can strike at any time (pun intended).
- Teleporters and Transporters: The XTM is equipped with a teleportation system that is initially used to teleport morph seeds to their planets. After the morph constructs a temple in your name, the altar will be used to place any new invention. If you teleport the invention to your ship, it will be erased from history (the natives won't use any technology not approved by their deity). You can give the taken technology back to the same race, but only if their IQ is high enough to use it.
- Time Travel: The central game mechanic. Your ship can jump to any star in the galaxy at any 100-year time period within the galaxy's 10,000-year history. Most of the time, returning to the same time period results in the previous time you were there not happening. Other times, not so much.
- Too Dumb to Live: None of the four races appears capable of resolving their own problems. Each crisis usually results in total social collapse that lasts for thousands of years unless you resolve it.
- The morphs can also sometimes fit this, especially since they are sometimes the ones responsible for the current crisis. An example involves the Reptoid morph who builds cheap and portable fusion reactors to make a quick buck. The result? The whole Reptoid economy collapses and society devolves into cannibalism. If you manage to resolve it, though, those same reactors provide an excellent power source for the Reptoids' starships.
- Translator Microbes: ANGUS provides all the translations for the morph speech in his own voice. We still get to hear the grunts and chirps of alien speech.
- Trust Password: A random event during a temporal jump can result in your ship finding itself in some sort of green mist with a mirror of it on the screen. If you contact the other XTM, you will receive a number. The second time you're in the "green mist" (may take many jumps), the other XTM will ask you for a number. If you give the same number, then the other XTM will teleport the plans for the most powerful ship-to-ship weapon to you. The weapon still needs to be built by a sufficiently-advanced race, but this is the only way to get those plans.