The local inhabitants of the recently colonised Parvian Frontier have a problem. Their quadrant of the galaxy is plagued by pirates out to make a quick buck by looting the freighters which regularly visit the sector.
This is good news for the Psi5 Trading Company and for you as captain of one of its ships. The lack of supplies has forced the Parvians out of desperation to pay almost anything for supplies. Your job is to deliver the cargo on time and in one piece, but a difficult time lies ahead.
As captain you don't actually perform any of the menial tasks like navigation, repairs and weaponry. Instead, the crew members do it for you. My initial reaction to this was one of utter amazement. If anyone's going to do the shooting around here, it's going to be me, I thought. But you soon get used to having someone do it for you. What you have to understand is that it's the other people on the ship that have the fun, you are in command.
Your first job as commander is to handpick the band of dedicated men and women that are about to follow you - probably to their death! There are five vacancies to be filled, weapons, scanning, navigation, engineering and repairs. You get to choose between six candidates for each post. Full details of a candidate's qualifications, strengths and weaknesses are provided in an on-screen report complete with photo paperclipped to the top corner.
Not all the hopefuls are humanoid, some are pretty strange-looking creatures and some are droids. Take Boris. Boris is a 47-year old Jargonian, an expert on the GX75 laser cannon and pretty good with sonic missiles not to mention the M26 battle thermos. The basic idea is to pick a crew that will work together as a team.
Once you have assembled a crew, it's off into the farthest depths of space. Your captain's console consists of a view screen on the left, communications screen on the right, on which the crew members appear, other ship's instrumentation below and, at the bottom, a window used for status reports.
Commands are issued to the crew by means of a menu used in combination with the joystick. So to set the ship in motion you select Nav, then acc, then choose the speed. When several commands need to be issued they are each allocated a priority. For example, when you come under attack, the enemy ships must be scanned and locked onto before you can give the command to attack them. If you are being attacked by more than one party you must decide which one you want the crew to pay most attention to.
Similarly, no skirmish is likely to take place without a little damage being done to your own ship. You must order the repairs department to allocate droids to each section of the ship to carry out the necessary maintenance.
Sometimes excruciating decisions must be made as to whether to give priority to a crewmember's life support system or your facing shields.
During one game I succeeded in killing off the navigator pretty early on by ignoring his pleas for a repaired life support system. Although R.I.P. was displayed on his screen he continued to send me pre-recorded messages about the ship's status. That's what I call loyalty.
The graphics are really excellent. Although there's nothing stunningly clever about them, what there is has been done well and works nicely within the format of the game. Whenever you communicate with one of the crew they appear on the screen fully animated. Mouths, arms, eyes, hair and even tendrils move as do some of the background features.