The story is set in the year 2197, where jump gates have made travel between planets in our solar system possible within a reasonable time frame. Earth and Mars are beginning to butt heads over independence.
Terminus in notable for its adherence to Newtonian physics. There's no friction, so any acceleration must be countered with equal reverse thrust. The faster you go, the harder it is to turn, so dogfighting is more like jousting. The acceleration of your vessel is not only determined by engine power, but by its mass, which can change in real time (a loaded cargo ship will be slow, but if you dump your cargo you can get moving much faster). You can actually move fast enough to tear your ship apart, so you have to be careful how you maneuver.
Another notable feature is that all four campaign missions actually take place concurrently. The universe is persistent, it's merely your chosen path which changes the outcome. If you know when and where to look, you can interrupt the other faction missions, changing the resulting news reports. They also continue even if you fail to particpate, meaning you could skip a mission if you weren't worried about the outcome (or found yourself too far from the starting point to make it in time).
The game also features Free mode, which activates automatically upon beating the game or can be selected from the get-go, allowing the player to act freely without missions. Then there's Gauntlet mode, where the player is given infinite money to load up a ship and kill waves of enemies until dead.
- Boring, but Practical: Mining takes a long time to fill a full hold, leaves you a sitting duck for the duration, and makes you move very slowly once you're ready to cash in. It's also the fastest way to get much-needed funds to trade in your early ship for a better one.
- Critical Existence Failure: Averted with fighters. Your armor will only protect so much, and you'll be lucky if your ship is still capable of full movement at even half health. If you're near-death, you should be thankful that you can move at all. Played straight with cruisers; until they're dead, they're combat-ready at all times. The only way to keep them out of the fight is to knock out their turrets.
- Deflector Shields: Electron shields, which repel electron particle weapons. It's the only type of shield, though, and it doesn't actually negate damage, just repels that type of attack. Proton weapons are attracted to the shield, and neutron weapons are unaffected.
- Explosive Overclocking: Each ship has a rated maximum speed. But since this game takes spaceflight very seriously, there's nothing stopping you from going faster than that. Push it too far, though, and the stress to the hull exceeds tolerance, damaging your ship at a rate equal to how much you've exceeded the maximum.
- Old School Dogfight: Averted. There's no way to maneuver in any way even resembling atmospheric combat. Dogfighting consists of speeding at your enemy, lining up a shot, and hoping you can blow them out of the sky while they don't cause too much damage in return. There's no such thing as attacking from behind, because all ships can shoot in any direction while traveling in another (though, naturally, the computer is a lot better at this than you are).
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Cruisers, if reduced to 10% health, will open a jump gate to escape. Once at 10% health, they lose health slowly until dead, so this keeps them out of your hair. However, you can chase them through the gate to watch them die.
- Space Friction: Averted. One lucky shot by your foes and you could very well find yourself tumbling into the void at full speed. Even rescue units, had you actually bothered to purchase a signal device, might not be able to catch you.
- Subsystem Damage: Most subsystems can be targeted, though on fighters it can be rather difficult to manage precision strikes.
- Take Your Time: Averted. The game runs on a clock, which keeps going even if you're not there. Find yourself too far from civilization and you may just miss the call for a mission. You only have around five or six minutes to answer the call, and this may be beyond your reach depending on where you need to go.