Take that, Cap'n Hector!
The year is 2246. Humans have colonized all the habitable systems close to the mother planet, Earth. The core worlds, with Earth at the center, are run by the Fascist Confederacy, brutally suppressing any uprising. The outer worlds, however, are fighting back. The Rebellion has gained a lot of power in recent years, enough to almost match the Confederacy. On the outskirts lie the pirates, plaguing both governments for what they want more than anything: money. In the middle of it all is you, a novice starship captain and proud owner of a tiny shuttlecraft. There are riches to be made among the stars, you just have to go out there and take what is yours. Do you think you can make it? Think again.
Escape Velocity is another fine product from the designers at Ambrosia Software. Combining the mercenary aspect of Privateer, the combat of Star Control, and the plot independence ofDaggerfall, Escape Velocity is in a genre by itself. You can completely ignore the central plot of the game if you want. There are even different missions and outcomes depending on who you align yourself with. The best way to describe it is AutoDuel (for the Apple II) in outer space. Available for download, it's hard to believe that this game is shareware.
Escape Velocity is not what you would call eye candy, but it's graphics are practical. They are good where it counts, in game play. Each ship is pre-rendered 3D, rotates cleanly and moves smoothly across the screen. As you earn more money, you can buy bigger and better ships. There are over ten ships to choose from depending how much money you have and what type of missions you want to accomplish. Unlike Star Control there's no real limit to how many ships can be on the screen at any one time. On slower computers, this does cause a little slowdown.
The planets are really basic. It has a picture of the terrain and a maximum of seven buttons which you can push. There are no FMV's or amazing sights to see, but you'll never notice. You'll be too busy having fun.
The sound for the game is also sparse. Besides the opening, there is no background music during the game (so play your favorite cd). That leaves it all up to the sound effects, which, just like Ambrosia's other games, are just as funny as they are fitting. The only digitized speech in the game is from your escorts who vocally agree or argue with you. Other people I know who have the game, but don't have any speakers, still enjoy the game just as much without sound.
Enough with the externals, it's time I told you what it's all about. As a starship captain, you have four ways you can go about earning money: trading, running missions through the mission computer, piracy, or working for a government or group. Trading is the easiest, but least profitable. Most planets have a commodity exchange where you can buy and sell goods. What's expensive on one planet, may be dirt cheap on another. A very simple way to make money, but not a lot of fun. The mission computer is available on all inhabited planets and it contains a list of passengers and cargo that need to go to different planets. Rush deliveries will get you more money, but then you are held to a time limit. Starting out, you only want to do missions close to your location, otherwise a pirate might get you.
Speaking of which, piracy is a lot of fun. (It's pretty fun in the game, too.) We've all seen pirate movies, so I'll keep it breif: blast ships, take their money, cargo, and sometimes the whole ship. In order to work for a government or group, you'll need to meet them in the Spaceport Bar. You can receive special missions like picking up documents or blowing up pirates. As you get better at the game, the number of missions you are offered increases. Don't bite off more than you can chew, however, or you might find yourself sucking vacuum.
The most amazing part of this game is the replay value. How did Ambrosia solve the fact that you can eventually run out of missions? By adding more, of course, an infinite number more. Escape Velocity has a folder specifically called "Plug-ins" just for the player who gets tired of the game. The plug-ins themselves are not designed by Ambrosia, they're designed by players like you and me. Available all over the web (the best place is escape-velocity.com), there are plug-ins that can change just about everything in the game. There's even a couple of plug-ins that change the whole universe into a "Star Wars" or "Star Trek" game. While those particular plug-ins are unlicensed and therefore illegal, who cares? They are terrific! Ever wanted to fly a Star Destroyer? Well, here's your chance.
Escape Velocity is, by far, the best shareware game that I have ever played. You download the game in its entirety, opting to pay the shareware fee only if you want to. Mind you, the shareware fee is $20, cheaper than anything you'll find in the stores and well worth it. If you let thirty days go by without registering, I won't be held responsible for what Cap'n Hector does to you.
OK, so its not the flashiest game ever made, but being one of the most addicting games ever, every Mac owner, bar none, should have a version of Escape Velocity on their computer. With so very few Mac games on the market, leave it to Ambrosia to fill the void. EV is great fun and infinately expandable. It's also only a five megabyte download, so go to our download page and get it right now. You won't regret it.