(This is part of my journey playing through Starflight. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)
Money drives EVERYTHING in Starflight. It not only lets you buy fuel and starship upgrades, but allows you to train (level) your crew as well. Ergo, you need a LOT of cash. Yes, it’s pretty annoying to spend the first few hours in this game doing little else but mining, traveling, and selling, but that’s part of the space sim genre tradition!
While I do yet more mining, I want to point out that this game has a surprising amount of detail for such primitive graphics, up to and including a real-time weather system. Yes, there are storms and yes, they are bad.
So as I continue the dull cycle of mining, returning to the ship, returning to the station, selling, returning to the ship, returning to the planet, and mining some more, let’s talk about Starflight’s little UI quirks. It’s all controlled with the cursor keys and enter key, which is simple enough, but often when you want to go DOWN in a menu you have to press UP. But not ALWAYS.
And then there’s the DOS save feature, which makes this version of Starflight far more Rogue-like than the later Amiga and Genesis versions. Basically, you can’t save and restore multiple files; instead, you save when you exit and restore when you boot back up the game. That’s it. If you — if I — die, that will be it for the game. So I am trying to be as careful as kittens here. Have I mentioned how many ways that this game wants to kill me? Oh so many.
So as I type this, I notice a funny little detail: My spacesuited man at the space station starts tapping his foot all annoyed if I leave him standing in one spot too long. Hee.
Taking a break from mining on the first planet to check out the third, which is an ice giant. The second I get out of the ship, I’m informed that I’m in the middle of a raging thunderstorm and that both Rubi and MJ are injured. I rush back inside the ship, even though it says I’m “lost”. Not going to take chances. Not going to take chances. This will be the dullest playthrough ever.
After picking another site only to lose the ship again thank to hail and “steaming heavily,” I decide that it’s probably safer to return to the first planet. So much for being a dashing space explorer.
I’ll spare you a LOT of exceedingly tedious mining tales — suffice to say, I make around 111,000 MUs, which gives me enough to buy a chunk of fuel, class 3 shields, class 3 engines, and class 2 armor. I’m not interested in fighting, so no worries about weapons. It’s time to jump to lightspeed and ditch this solar system!
…oh man, I am so going to die, aren’t I?
Here’s the galaxy map, such as it is. You can see that there’s not a lot in the immediate vincinity of Arth, my home world. So I guess my choices are limited unless I want to get stranded, quick. The only thing I recall from my youth is that there’s a nearby system with a planet that has minable fuel. Maybe that’s just in my head, because I thought it was north-east.
Actually, there’s a system just a smidge to the north-west. Maybe that’s it. Lots of planets, so let’s get surveying!
The inner-most planet is a rock with very little to mine. Boring. One survey and I’m done.
Nearby the ship I see my first icons that aren’t merely mining nodes. Actually, there’s a mining node there that spits out fuel (score!), but the triangle thing is an ancient ruin. Unfortunately, there’s nothing I can do with it, but it’s cool to see anyway.
I find several more empty ruins, which is disappointing, but at least this planet is lousy with minerals. I go on several trips to stock up my holds. Are the ruins a sign that I’m going to meet aliens soon? I really hope so!