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Star Control II takes place in the mid-22nd century, 20 years after the conclusion of an interstellar war in which Earth and its allies were defeated and enslaved by the Ur-Quan Hierarchy. The final hope of mankind lies with the survivors of a secret mission stranded on a little-known planet during the last days of the war who avoided being locked beneath the Ur-Quan slave shields. After discovering technology of an ancient race known as the Precursors, they build a new starship and, under your leadership, leave the planet to investigate post-war conditions and, hopefully, free the races enslaved by the Ur-Quan.
Combining elements of strategy, action and adventure, the game spans a universe of 500 star systems, more than 3,000 planets and 21 races. The main storyline revolves around a battle for supremacy between two factions of the Ur-Quan. The Kohr-Ah wish to exterminate all other sentient beings while the Kzer-Za believe enslavement or all other races will prevent any threats to the Ur-Quan.
Success relies on a mix of skills including creation of alliances with a number of alien races (performing side quests for them), collecting mineral resources to build a combat fleet, trading captured alien life forms for advanced technology and information and winning battles. Interaction with aliens is based on selective response dialogue. Effective conversational skill results in new alliances, acquisition of useful devices and additional side quests while diplomatic errors, though rarely fatal, can impede progress significantly.
Action is conducted via a sub-game known as Super-Melee, a direct descendant of the action game Spacewar, with only one ship from each side involved in the battle at any given time, regardless of the relative sizes of the fleets involved. Each race has its own ship design, equipped with a unique weapon and special power ranging from the Earthling Cruiser's point-defense laser and the Orz flying space marines to the Druuge Torch ability to restore its ship energy batteries by burning its own crewmembers.
Combat takes place in a wrapping area of space, which may contain a planet and its gravitational field. When one of the combatants' ships is destroyed or flees, another replaces it until all ships on one side have been eliminated. If the flagship escapes, the entire fleet leaves the battlefield but the game ends if it is destroyed. Super-Melee can also be played as a stand-alone game where additional ships become available and teams can include any combination of ships without regard for the main game's political alignments. Two players can engage in battle by sharing the keyboard. ~ Francois Laramee, All Game Guide