Lightspeed. (computer game) (evaluation)
by Steve Hudson
It's finally happened. Man dumped one too many barrels of toxic waste, and now the planet is an ecological wasteland. The population has been forced into space on enormous Conestogan-class interstellar transports while the search goes on for a new planet to call home.
That's where you come in, with your simple task: find humankind a new habitable world. It all happens in Lightspeed, an interstellar simulation from MicroProse.
Lightspeed's action revolves around your Trailblazer-class scouting ship. No subcompact, this jewel sports a hull 3400 meters long and 2960 meters wide. You can even tailor its configuration to your needs, rearranging components to enhance your defenses, armament, or drive.
You control your Trailblazer from a comfortable and fully instrumented cockpit that boasts a three-dimensional radar view of surrounding space, plus holographic views of any alien ship you target. The ain view screen dominates the cockpit view with its smoothly animated 3-D representation of space.
Besides humble you, the Trailblazer carries three automated mining systems and up to ten missile chassis for hauling remotely guided missiles, kamikazes, and fighters. It also sports a main gun and a steerable blaster turret. Why all the firepower? Well, human-kind's not the only species with a claim on space. MicroProse has peopled its universe with beaucoup alien species. Some can be bartered with. Some will even sign peace treaties. All require your constant attention.
You talk to aliens via a translator that not only conveys ideas but also shows you the alien you're talking to. Sometimes you can pick up valuable information by watching for clues in facial expressions. There's even an automated trade balance system to help you strike deals. Still, remember that these creatures view you as the alien. You'll need all the political skill you can muster, but when negotiations go awry, you've got all those blasters.
Much to MicroProse's credit, Lightspeed entails more than simply blowing away aliens. Your trigger finger won't see you through every difficult situation; expect to use your brain quite a lot. You need treaties, new drive components, and resources. Sure, you can take them by force sometimes, but you may find it less painful to negotiate with the aliens instead of blasting them into cosmic dust.
How does the simulation end? Two possible scenarios await you. One has you fleeing for your life in an escape pod. Rest assured you'll ride the pod to safety a few times along the way. Alternatively, if you bring a star cluster to the point where it will support a new human colony, you can say you've won the game.
But Lightspeed never really ends. Plenty of Conestogas still search for homes, and every star cluster means fresh challenges. Your job is just beginning--you'll be lost in space for many hours to come.