At a glance...

Reviewer Platform Publisher Developer Players Screenshots
Matt Bailey PC/Mac Just Play Matrix Games 1 Here
Requirements Buy from Amazon.co.uk
Minimum: 500MHz Processor, Windows 95/98/ME/2000/NT4 SP4+/XP, 64MB RAM, 300MB HDD Space, 8MB Video Card, DirectX 8 or above Click here to buy Starships Unlimited: Divided Galaxies.

Starships Unlimited: Divided Galaxies review

Starships Unlimited began its life in 2000 as an online game; not a game played online, but one that was could be downloaded, and payed for through the online registration process. Basically, it was a modern shareware title that used the internet for delivery and registration instead of floppy discs and American phone numbers. It went through many versions and renditions before the creators came up with Starships Unlimited: Divided Galaxies; a fully-fledged product that even had a comprehensive digital manual, and thus it was released on the internet, using a proper payment system. However, like most available-only-online titles, Starships Unlimited: Divided Galaxies was only seen by a limited number of people and never reached the mass markets. But now Just Play have stuck the title in a DVD-style case, given it some nice cover art, put up a bit of public promotion, and shipped it across Europe. One thing that makes the boxed copy so great, aside from the hard copy, and the avoidance of having to actually download the product (which is mostly a no-no for narrowband users), is a printed manual. Its not exactly easy to check out some items in a PDF file while in the middle of a game or away from the PC; with a printed copy you can just whip it out to your heart's content, and not worry about having to use expensive printer ink.

Graphically Starships Unlimited: Divided Galaxies is not that impressive, but neither was it in 2000, so even the long wait for a European boxed copy hasn't done it too much harm. No, this is a gameplay-over-graphics title (the type that Just Play have been successfully picking up), and what really matters here is how the game plays. However, comments still need to made about the graphics; despite their primitive looks, they still do the job of presenting the action, and the low spec allows many people who have not got the equipment for the latest games to play. One negative is the menus, which are rather bland and basic, just offering a black background, compared to, what could have been great, transparent menus. Orders and options are chosen from menus which appear when you click the appropriate category button from the top list of icons - a system that works well, except when menus overlap forcing you to close and open things again.

That menu system is the core component of the gameplay - it is where you control your ships, colonies, and your home planet - and as I said above, it often works very well, allowing for enjoyable and fairly intuitative gameplay. However, it can become irritating with a large fleet of starships, as each ship has to be individually controlled, so ordering to attack one place, or to return to the main base, is not very easy for multiple vessels. Although I said the menus were intuitive, I would recommend giving the manual at least a quick read before you play, as this is a fairly complicated game overall; a real, hard, semi-turn-based strategy game, full of stats and in-depth options, and not for the average real-time strategy player. The game is semi-turn-based because although turns are involved for production, travel, etc. things keep moving in real time until you click pause. Events that require human input automatically pause the action, and it is this nature that allows you to keep playing the game at speed without getting bored.

Despite the odd niggles, and the complicated nature of the game it is fun to play. I was hooked for a few hours, and probably wore my mouse down quite a bit in the process (a huge amount of clicks will be used during gameplay). That complicated part is what makes Starships Unlimited: Divided Galaxies such an in-depth game, and also goes a long way to making it last for quite a few hours. What helps this is the good level of artificial intelligence, and with up to 8 A.I. opponents, you are sure to be occupied. However, A.I. does not recreate the classic random nature of a human player (also prone to make mistakes), and unfortunately there are no forms of multiplayer here - no LAN, internet, or even take turns support. It is a pity, as this would have been a very enjoyable game to play against other humans, battling for conquest of the galaxy, with live chats in the communications room, rather than talking to the computer with pre-scripted chat. Still, the computer is a good opponent to play, even if it does become slightly predictable after a while.

Ratings

Graphics They weren't excellent in 2000, and they certainly don't compare to today's standards. 4/10
Gameplay Very in-depth, but still enjoyable to those who learn how to play. 8/10
Value At the time of writing, we did not have a value for money ranking. 0/10
Lifespan Can last you a very long time, but would have been better with multiplayer. 8/10
Audio The soundtrack wasn't bad, but after a few hours of play I switched off the music and played my own (not through the software, unfortunately). 7/10
Overall It doesn't have the graphical touch of recent games, but few games are as deep as Starships Unlimited: Divided Galaxies in the gameplay department. 8/10

Click here to buy Starships Unlimited: Divided Galaxies from Amazon.co.uk.

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