Follow TV Tropes


Video Game / StarFlight

Go To

And for a time there was rejoicing and forsooth all was hunky dorey. Then, upon Mankind was there laid the greatest of catastrophes and he was bummed.
—The book of Endurium, chap. 3.

One of the first Wide-Open Sandbox games, StarFlight was the creation of Binary Systems. Touting '15 man-years in development', the game was, unlike many other games, able to live up to the hype by providing a galaxy of 200 stars, with 800 or more planets, several races with their own behaviors (Taking an Elowan for a crewmember? Don't visit Thrynn space, then...), and even though you could go anywhere and do anything, there was an overarching reveal that was frankly amazing for its time.

Ah, did we mention it fit on two 360k floppies?

This game spawned one sequel, StarFlight 2, and an unofficial sequel, ProtoStar, since by that time Electronic Arts and Binary Systems parted ways. For some time there was word that there might be a third game in development, but at this time it's considered to be Vapor Ware.

Both games are available on Good Old Games.

This game is considered to be the spiritual ancestor to the popular Star Control II. The fact that Paul Reiche III and presumably others were involved with both series helps.

No relation to the disaster movie Starflight One.

A Fan Sequel, StarFlight: The Lost Colony, was released in 2010. It can be downloaded here. Another Fan Sequel, Starflight: Heroes of Arth, was released in 2019, and is a Game Mod of Lost Colony. It can be downloaded here.

This game provides examples of:

  • Absolute Xenophobe:
    • The Uhlek... soooooorta fit. They have formed a very long-term Enemy Mine with the Gazurtoid because the solar flares are driving both races outward from the core. But they won't talk to anyone else before opening fire with plasma bolts.
    • The Ancients are trying to destroy all other life in their journey out from coreward to rimward, though this is because they're Starfish Aliens and have no means of communicating with the spacefaring races that are inadvertently using them to fuel their spaceships. The Veloxi think they have an alliance with these guys, but the Elowan are pretty sure that the Veloxi are fooling themselves.
    • The Umanu in the second game are humans under the control of the driving force behind the Uhlek. They have no allies of any kind.
  • Action Girl: Your G'Nunk crewmember is always a female.
  • Adam Smith Hates Your Guts: In the first game, the price of Endurium will rise not once, but several times. (Thankfully, you can find it on certain planets in abundance... and one planet is MADE of the stuff.)
    • Less severe in the Genesis version, where the price rises in relatively small increments, and the ease of getting money makes the increases almost meaningless.
  • After the End: The Old Empire was destroyed by solar flares and alien invasions, and humanity only survives on Arth and as the Umanu.
  • And That's Terrible: If you bring Endurium to your base in 2, after being cited and fined, the message sent to you will end with a "shame on you."
  • Anti-Villain: The Ancients are destroying all other life in the universe out of simple self defense.
  • Apocalypse How: The Crystal Planet, a Weapon of Mass Destruction built by the Ancients, also happens to be a Forgotten Superweapon (to the rest of us) that causes stars to flare, killing all life
    • On a smaller scale, the Black Eggs (see below).
  • Apocalyptic Log: You can find messages in ancient ruins, some of which describe the ongoing downfall of the civilization in question. This is especially true for when you find Earth, and can roughly piece together the progression of events which led to humans being wiped out there.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: Endurium in the first game, Shyneum in the second.
  • Bee People: Subverted. The Veloxi are not actually eusocial, but they act like it. They kill all female larvae except for the queen, so that the whole race consists of one queen and the rest males. The Velox on Arth, however, don't participate in this practice.
  • Berserk Button: The G'Nunk are absolutely infuriated by other powerful species, strong enough to defeat G'Nunk in combat, who do not behave with hostility towards others and cull weaker species as the G'Nunk do. Being weak is not "evil" to them, but failing to cull the weak is.
  • Bizarre Alien Sexes: The entire species of Ng'Kher'Arla transforms into one of three specific sexes, each with a distinct personality (Arla being friendly, Kher being paranoid, and Ng being hostile and xenophobic), depending on the time of month. On the last day of the month individuals change into a random sex and a species-wide mating orgy ensues.
  • Black Box: All of the important artifacts in the game are ancient alien technology that can be used but not replicated.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: The Uhlek and Umanu. Both species are simply taken over by an entity(s) known as UHL, which tacks it's name onto theirs. The Leghk became the Uhlek, while a lost Human colony became the Umanu.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: The Spemin are completely incapable of being honest, unless they're kept honest by fear.
  • Les Collaborateurs: The Veloxi know what the Ancients are and what they're doing, and have formed an alliance with them to protect them and their artifacts, in exchange for the Ancients leaving their stars alone and destroying all other races. The Elowan hint that they may just be making this alliance up, though.
  • Copy Protection: The first game used a code wheel by which you could enter codes; failing to do this properly would have the Interstel police hunt you down, and ask for a code again. Fail this time and you'd get blown outta space. The second game ditched the code wheel and just relied on the map. "PULL OVER! THIS IS THE INTERSTEL CORPORATE POLICE. YOU ARE UNDER ARREST. DROP ALL SHIELDS AND DISARM ALL WEAPONS. YOU ARE IN VIOLATION OF INTERGALACTIC SOFTWARE THEFT LAW. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO RESIST."
  • Crutch Character: Androids make excellent starting navigators and engineers, but are untrainable. If you decide to use them, do so only until you have the money to train up Veloxi replacements.
  • Death World: Most worlds are pretty dangerous to land on. In the second game, though, the G'Nunk homeworld is a real hellhole with Everything Trying to Kill You. Also, with extremely dangerous Brass Harpooners to farm for cash.
  • Deflector Shields: A possible ship component, and can be manually raised and lowered. It's best to keep them lowered, as raised shields may be seen as a hostile gesture.
  • Different States of America: Logs you can find in the ruins of Earth mention an Emperor of the United States.
  • Dirty Coward: The Spemin.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • In 2, the free Leghk did this in the distant past.
    • Taking aboard an G'nunk crewmember then speaking to another alien in a weak stance will cause her to kill herself in disgrace and disgust.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: Playing with Black Eggs isn't suggested.
  • Earth That Was: You can find Earth by tracing the path between the Noah 9 colony ship's wreckage and its intended destination on the paper map. Earth itself has been scoured clean of all life by the Crystal Planet, but still barely habitable.
  • Easter Egg: The Mysterions, already a freaky race that usually terrified the player when they were first encountered, could actually, somehow, be talked to and would give out the then phone number to Binary Systems...but only in binary. Less subtlely but probably more appropriately you end up running into the Enterprise from Star Trek, and as The Next Generation hadn't been made yet, the Kirk-era ship immediately and appropriately starts firing away at you.
  • The Eeyore: The hat of the Dweenle species in the second game.
  • Enemy Mine:
    • The Spemin M.O. in the Back Story was to try to hide behind one set of enemies to be protected from another set.
    • The Gazurtoid and Uhlek are nasty races that would not form an alliance under any circumstances that were even close to normal; the Gazurtoid despise all air-breathing races, and the Uhlek are an Absolute Xenophobe Hive Mind. They're fleeing from something even worse, leading to an alliance that has lasted for over a thousand years.
  • Fantastic Racism: While their Arth-born brethren have gotten over it, foreign Elowan and Thrynn are not on very good terms with each other. Having a member of one race as part of your crew will cause the other to attack shortly after trying to initiate ship-to-ship conversation.
  • Final Solution:
    • The Numlox and Phlegmak (the First Wave) were wiped out in their entirety by the Old Empire. Also see Absolute Xenophobe.
    • The Ancients are doing this to all sentient life in the galaxy, although this is because they are actually the fuel source your ship uses, and they have no way of communicating with "normal" life, thinking its a virus killing its people.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: In the first game the Spemin are spineless (literally) lying cowards who initially like to talk big but quickly start groveling to anyone who seems threatening. In the second game they suddenly are one of the biggest threats around due to having discovered advanced weapons technology nobody else has.
  • Gaia's Lament: A dark humor version. A log you can find on the ruins of Earth talks about beavers going extinct, which were the last animal species besides humans on Earth at the time. The Environmental Protection Agency is said to close after this "due to lack of any environment to protect."
  • Game-Breaking Bug: Though more annoying than game-breaking, the Genesis version, which is essentially a port of the PC version flat-out Video Game Remake with highly changed game mechanics, has the side-quest to get rid of the Uhlek removed, while the in-game text and hints on how to do it are still intact.
    • The IBM PC original has an option to quit without saving. Doing so basically makes the game unplayable without reloading from an earlier save, which makes you wonder why they even bothered having that option. Oh, and the game itself uses self-modifying code, so I hope you backed up those floppies...
    • If you can somehow land on an AI race's homeworld (which requries destroying all the protecting ships and then flying off the edge of the screen before reinforcements arrive due to the Alien Distress Call), and take aboard the mysterious element xxx (which boasts a ridiculously high sale price in the description), the game crashes. Hope you took note of the "quit without saving" problem.
  • Genius Loci: The Uhlek Brain World in 1.
  • Guilt-Free Extermination War: Destroying the Uhlek in their entirety (which you can do in the first game) is a good thing for almost everyone else in the galaxy. They'll certainly be happy to wipe you off the map.
  • Harmless Villain: The Spemin in the first game. Inverted in the second game when they loot a ton of Leghk tech.
  • Have a Nice Death: When your ship/lander is destroyed in the Genesis version of the first game, you get treated to an image of your ship/a planet respectively exploding, as well as a description of how you died and that the universe is screwed.
  • Hive Mind: The Uhlek operate with one mind. The Veloxi have a hive-mind of their own, but are controlled much more loosely.
  • Humans by Any Other Name: Arthlings and the Umanu.
  • Insectoid Aliens: The Veloxi.
  • Invading Refugees: As explained by the Minstrels, the Phlegmak and Numlox of the First Wave, and the Uhlek and Gazurtoid of the Second Wave, were both fleeing the solar flares caused by the Crystal Planet on its path to rimward.
  • Killer Rabbit: The Chichifa in 2.
  • Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: Subverted. While missiles will pack more of a punch than your lasers will, plasma bolts, which were an AI only weapon in the original game and in the sequel only gotten near the endgame, are far superior.
  • Lizard Folk: The Thrynn.
  • Lost Technology: You wind up picking up and using quite a bit of this over the course of the game.
  • Manipulative Bastard: The Spemin in the backstory were actually pretty good at playing the other factions (the Empire, the First Wave and the Second Wave) off against one another. When they'd exhausted the Empire's patience, there were always other enemies of the Empire who would protect them.
  • MegaCorp: Interstel, the corporation that controls Arth and the colonization effort, and the people who are backing your space venture.
  • Mistook the Dominant Lifeform: The Elowan and the Old Empire had some rocky relations early on because the Thrynn convinced humanity that the Elowan were nonsentient.
    • The Ancients (endurium). The very fuel in your starship is actually intelligent life.
  • No-Sell: The Gazurtoid are completely immune to missiles.
    • In the second game, the Uhl is immune to everything until it gets hit with the Uhl weapon.
  • Our Wormholes Are Different: The anomaly in 2 that can take you a million years in the past, before the nebula was created. You need to go back in time to get plot critical elements to defeat the Uhl.
  • Out with a Bang: The Veloxi Queen kills the males who fertilize her. Arth Veloxi have abandoned this practice.
  • Plant Aliens: The Elowan and the Tandelou.
  • Precursors: The Ancients, in both Starflight 1 and 2 which was a race that ruled the galaxy thousands and thousands of years ago, leaving behind pyramid like ruins. They haven't gone anywhere, but are actually the fuel powering your ship in the first game, and the G'nunk's in the second.
  • Proud Warrior Race: The G'nunk, although they are acutally a collection of races, and not a single species.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: You find out at the end of the game through notes and other research that the Applied Phlebotinum fuel Endurium is alive, sentient, and not too appreciative of being burned alive for fuel and is the reason why they built their save themselves, they were going to kill all other life in the galaxy, and it's hinted they've done this before. Also happens to be The Reveal, hinted at by some of the more unusual creatures you run into.
  • Red Herring: In the first game you can find a literal red herring as an item on a planet. It is just barely larger than the maximum cargo capacity of the lander vehicle, meaning you can never pick it up.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: The foreign Thrynn are lying, deceitful bastards. At least they won't attack on sight.
  • Running Gag: Two unseen characters named Xenon and Borno keep sending messages back and forth at the communications center of your home base. It begins with Xenon owing Borno money, they arrange for a meeting and Xenon never shows up. From there is quickly descends to both thinking the other is secretly planning to take them out and making their own plans accordingly. And it continues in the sequel.
  • Scary Dogmatic Aliens:
    • The Gazurtoid in the first game hate anyone who breathes air instead of water (except for the Uhlek, who they've formed an alliance with due to the flares, and the Spemin, who've been pulling a fast one).
    • The Veloxi are more comical and less scary, but they're still a theocratic regime that are arrogantly convinced of their superiority to all other races, and don't mind threatening other races or shaking them down for Endurium.
    • The Uhl is an extra-dimensional being that really doesn't like life in our dimension because the neuro-electrical impulses in their bodies disrupt its "meditations", so it assimilates the dominant species and uses them as bodyguards and enforcers.
    • The two Tandelou factions in the sequel are stated to be this towards each other over "minor differences in religious dogma". They are perfectly friendly towards you, though. The dialogue and graphics for the two factions is identical except that one faction wears masks with three small blue dots on them, and with the other they are three small red dots.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: The Humna Humna combine this with a visit to the Department of Redundancy Department.
  • Shout-Out: Setting off the Black Egg in the first game, under the right conditions, and your crew can give you this little gem.
    "Captain, I have sensed a disturbance. It's as if millions of voices cried out and then were suddenly silenced.
  • Single-Biome Planet: These come in three flavors: temperate, icy, and Mordor. There are also gas planets, but landing on them is instant death.
  • Social Darwinist:
    • The Thrynn are like this.
    • The Minstrels allude to this being the natural situation of the galaxy when the Crystal Planet pushes outward from the galactic core, destroying all life in its path. The strongest and nastiest races are able to build ships, form alliances, and flee toward the rim, where they try to wipe out other races in their way and take some living space for themselves. Then the Crystal Planet moves into their new territory, and the cycle continues.
    • In the second game, the G'Nunk are a coalition of species that hold to this philosophy. These species came to exist on a harsh planet with intense levels of background radiation, causing species to rapidly come into being and then die out. Thus, their religion is about "compassionately" weeding out weaker species and creatures.
  • Solar Flare Disaster: The driving force of the plot is that this is happening en masse across the sector, forcing the protagonists to find planets to colonize. It is revealed that it's being caused by the Crystal Planet, a weapon designed by the Ancients, who are also the fuel in your starship.
  • Sssssnake Talk: The Thrynn sssspeak like thissss. They're Lizard Folk.
  • Starfish Aliens: Most of the species you encounter have some Starfishy traits. The crown, of course, goes to the Ancients and the UHL.
  • Strange-Syntax Speaker: The Veloxi.
    • Also additionally the Humna Humna, who have a habit of and predilection towards saying and stating everything in two different ways.
  • Super Drowning Skills: In the Genesis version, your terrain vehicle is this if you haven't purchased pontoons. In the computer versions, the only penalty is massively reduced fuel efficiency.
  • Surreal Humor: See the page quote. Many of the messages in the games are intentionally pushed into "complete nonsense" territory for humor value.
  • Time Travel: In the second game, you can travel through a wormhole nearly a million years into the past, during the time when the Uhlek ruled the area. This is required to meet with the Leghk, who have vital equipment to win the game.
  • Translation Convention: If your communication officer is up to speed, conversations with aliens will be in English. If not, the conversation will be half English and half alien, or all alien.
  • Unwinnable by Design: You cannot leave the starport when you are in debt, and if you don't have enough assets to liquify to pay off your debts, you are stuck there.
  • Updated Re-release: The Macintosh, Amiga, and Atari ST ports vastly enhanced the graphics and sound over the IBM PC originals, as well as adding a nice mouse-driven interface and a far more convenient saving system. (But to be fair, they were released at least three years after the PC version, by which time IBM PC-compatibles were getting competitive with even the Amiga.) The Sega Genesis version was an outright Video Game Remake with significantly changed mechanics.
  • Vestigial Empire:
    • Technically, Arth civilization is the last remnant of the Old Empire.
    • The Veloxi are not quite vestigial by the first game, but they're definitely past their prime; they've traveled space for a hundred thousand years and much of the Old Empire's tech was originally based on theirs, but now it's inferior to Arth's best, and their focusing stone was stolen by a human pirate over a millenium ago, weakening their Hive Mind.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: There are three Black Eggs in the game. That's one more than you actually have a legitimate use for. Feel free to use your imagination when disposing of the third.
  • Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe: Elowan communication.
  • You Bastard!: If you so desire, you can ship Endurium, which you discovered in 1 was sentient beings and is now illegal in 2, to the G'nunk for cash, but the Humma Humma and Interstel don't appreciate this...