…But not as we know it!

I’ve been watching Sci-Fi shows on TV and at the cinema since I was knee-high to an Ewok. I remember hiding behind the sofa sometimes when watching the first Dr Who series as a kid – Watching replays makes me think that somehow black and white made it more scary. I fell in love with Star Trek when the original series was brought to the UK’s TV screens. Some of those stories were iconic and some remain in the back of my consciousness to this day. Others less so as they have been let down by dated scenery and effects.

Originally Star Trek was a set of stories that normally had a conclusion within the same episode. That was the format that The Next Generation followed to a large extent. Although there was the ‘Continuum’ of the characters being on a vessel that was exploring, each episode was just a snapshot in time.

The first hint that this was going to change was with Voyager. Now there were stories that continued from one episode to the next, either beneath the surface or up-front and in full technicolour. If you can take your eye off Jeri Ryan’s tight-fitting suit you will see the significant tale of 7 of 9 that grew over 100 episodes. This was so different to the past where we knew what every officer’s role was on the Enterprise and saw very little change in their status as the exploring went on.

Bring on Deep Space 9 – Now we’re in a series with a continual ongoing story. While the foreground is still episodic, there is a long growing background story that will ultimately see full blown war. So, Star Trek has evolved significantly over the years and shed its ‘good guys always win every episode’ skin. It has even accepted the possibility that the bad guys may sometimes be the good guys and vice versa – the Andorians and the Vulcans in Enterprise being a case in point.

That brings me to Picard. This new series on Amazon has had a bit of a mixed response and I must admit that on my first watch I was a bit non-plussed. It’s only when I look back at the way that the Star Trek franchise has changed that I realise that this series is the next logical growth. It has the ongoing story that Deep Space 9 had. It finds a way to involve characters from older Trek series but treats them with a level of respect that maybe the films did not – it recognises that they are older. It introduces new characters that we can love or dislike too. It benefits from all the wonders of modern CGI while capitalising on some good acting and it presents our heroes as more flawed than I think we have ever seen them before. On a second run through of the first series, I’m now fully engaged and loving it πŸ˜ŽπŸ‘

If you haven’t, I’d love to recommend that you try watching Star Trek Picard too πŸ˜€

Last week Hardspace: Shipbreaker released on Steam in Early Access. I liked the look of the game, which falls neatly into the space and simulation genres. The game does a good job of giving the impression of working in Zero-G – utilising tools that impart energy results in opposite reactions for yourself so you can wind up drifting around quite a lot. The graphics are good although the game rightly comes with an epilepsy warning at the start because you can get some quite vivid flashing effects.

There are currently two modes of play – Career and Free Play. The background to Career mode is that you have signed on to be a ‘Cutter’ – a worker who breaks up old space vessels and salvages the parts. You are an indentured employee with a huge debt to Lynx – your employer. You have to work to pay back your debt but you also have to pay for the hire of your equipment, your habitation unit and even the oxygen you breathe – Very topical at a time when we are recalling the effects of slavery but whether the developers intended it that way I doubt. I think it’s more likely to be based on the system of legalised slavery within the Empire in the game Elite Dangerous though the background story is very different. Free Play is just an opportunity to practise your skills, get to know the ships a bit better and to generally have some fun.

Currently the game is a bit limited because it is still Early Access. There have been some design decisions in Career mode that, whilst intended to give the player a challenge, can be quite frustrating. Each shift lasts 15 minutes and your Oxygen supply lasts around 7 minutes (depending on how much you can do inside the ship before you evacuate the atmosphere). Having to go back to the Hab unit to buy more oxygen mid-shift, sometimes twice, initially felt a little too much. But after spending some time in Free play to get some practise in ship breaking I found it less tedious when I restarted my Career save and began the shift process again. I do think there maybe a case for increasing the shift length and oxygen supply duration but, if that were to happen, perhaps there could be an option for the player to choose to carry out their work detail in a shorter shift for a greater reward?

I think this game has a lot of potential especially with things like discovered objects in the derelict spacecraft. Some of these are already building a background story and I can see all sorts of possibilities for future development in that area – who knows, perhaps we may find alien stoways? Overall I like this game and I’m glad I decided to invest in the Early Access πŸ™‚

Here’s some screenshots taken in Free Play mode…
…Those last 2 shots are of me being electrocuted after I deliberately sliced through the cockpit area – Space is Dangerous and the game will reward bad cutting decisions with Depressurisations, Electrocutions, Fuel Explosions and Reactor Meltdowns πŸ˜‰

I gaze upon the moon
Try to count the myriad of stars
And wonder…

Do clones share their thoughts?
Were you individual
Once separated post-vitro

Did you fight loyally
With no thought of death
Serving those who grew you

How many battles, how many foes
Lay shredded by your heavy gun
Before fate drew us together

Our battle – A sealed test-tube moment
Highlighted instants of life
In the midst of death

Now you lie broken before me
A rag doll, soon to decay
And be forgotten

Poem – Martin Addison; images from Warframe by Digital Extremes.