Star General
Review by Al Giovetti
Price: $59.95
Genre: war game
Release: 1997
Developer:Catware and SSI
Producer: Catware
Publisher: Strategic Simulations Incorporated (SSI)
Phone: 408-737-6800, 800-601-7529, 800-245-4525
Requirements: Pentium, 90 MHz, 16 MB RAM, 23 - 30 MB hard disk space, DOS 5.0, 2X CD ROM, Windows 95 of DOS 6.0

Company line: The latest (fourth) title in the 5 STAR SERIES from SSI, Star General uses an enhanced Panzer General engine, that allows the player to wage war through the galaxy, fighting both in space and on planet surfaces. Success will require more than just Generalship - fail to properly manage your planets and technology bases, and you'll find yourself unable to defend your planets from the hostile races of the Galaxy. Not a micro-managing nightmare, the resource management aspect of this game is well balanced: Important enough to win wars, but easily managed without tedium.

History: Strategic Simulations Incorporated (SSI) has been around for many years. After the demise of Strategic Publications Incorporated (SPI), who did paper map based war games using the hexagonal movement space, SSI was one company that took up the hexagonal movement space and took it into the arena of the computer.

SSI followed with such solid fantasy titles as Phantasie I and II and others including Eternal Dagger and Wizard's Crown. But basically SSI was first and foremost a computer war game company who used the hexagonal grid. With the new general series of Panzer General, Allied General, and Fantasy General, SSI reasserts its leadership in this format, and quells the concerns of the war game player, that the hex-based game is here to stay. SSI is the undisputed king of turn based war games.

Plot:The Star General is set in the David Drake and Bill Fawcett game setting of The Fleet from a series of stories. David Drake is best known for his Hammer's Slammers. Over the years many famous science fiction writers have take their respective turns adding more detail to this world. Bill Fawcett and his company Catware has co-developed the adaptation into Star General.

Star General pits up to seven alien races against one another in a galactic battle of conquest. The seven races include deceitful Cephalians, reptilian Dragonian, feline Hressa, unusual Human, barbarian Khalian, fascist Schleinel, and insectoid Xritra. Like all true real time strategy games, each race has its own unique characteristics and weapons to increase the game play.

The Schleinel have a death blossom which reminds me of the Star Pilot movie from the seventies, which is actually a long range artillery that decimates weakened ships. The Khalian's have Raider infantry units that quickly eliminate planetary production units. Cephians have the ability to develop new devices quickly that can throw the balance of any encounter into their hands.

Xritra have a very high reproductive rate and an in depth knowledge of biology that gives them the edge in producing biological weapons. Hressa are exceptionally fast, tenacious, and skillful fighters who concentrate their attacks on the most powerful ships in the opposing fleet. Draconians are paranoid, cautious and usually build ships out of natural asteroids and add as many weapons as will fit.

Game play: You begin on a random planet and you take turns building structures, and exploiting resources until you have enough money to continue to fun a massive armada of war ships and ground units. Once the massive space armada is assembled, you send it to a nearby panet to conquer it. This is a logical extension of the Panzer General series into space, but there is not much new here to engage someone who has played the other games. If the five star series is one of your favorite series of games, and you still like to play them, you will also like Star General.

The only problem is that the enemy artificial intelligence (AI) is not very smart and certainly not much of a challenge. A special game adjustment allows you to crank up the AI or to move it down to accomodate novice and experienced player alike. Unfortunately, it still can not do very well at the highest settings against moderately experienced humans.

Technologies and weapons are upgradable like in Civilization giving some races who concentrate on these upgrades faster advantages at the cost of army strength or other factors. What is a two level combat system?

Following in the Command and Conquer and Warcraft tradition, Star General allows you to build structures to suppliment the action. Also new are tech levels for units. The play is real time or simultaneous turn with units with different movement points, firepower, and armor statistics. Spacecraft now have two types of damage: manpower and structural. Ammunition and fuel must be supplied or the units will run out. Stacking is not allowed.

Star General has two playing fields: the space around the planets where extensive space fleets battle and the ground war on the surface of the planet where armor, aircraft, artillery and infantry fight for control. Resouce management plays a small role, where you build mines, biodomes, tech facilities, and military buildings. Upgrading units to higher tech levels and obtaining more units all take the expenditure of resouces which you must develop and harvest.

Four different planitary types, arrid, temperate, frozen, and wet, have their own advantages and disadvantages for production of factories, food and other resources.

Interface: The control screens are intuitive and well thought out. The galaxy screen seen from overhead, if there is an overhead in space, shows details on the planets without clicking on them. Space combat devotes half the screen to a tactical display of ships while the other half controls the individual ship movement and firing. The interface is easy to use and well marked.

Scenarios: There are twenty scenarios, where you must use limited intelligence to determine where the enemy is and destroy them. The universe consists of over 100 planets to conquer.

Units: There are 90 different types of units from ground forces to space ships. Ships include mine , hunters, assault, transport, recon, battleships, missile boats, battleships, carriers, destroyers. On the planet surface you have space docks for launching ships, mines to produce monetary units, factorys to manufacture ships, plant, and biodome to support population.

Graphics: All the graphics are in three dimensions with rendered vehicles and units. The graphics are poorly detailed and only can be excused when compared to the general quality of the remainder of the game, which is excellent.

Animation: Cinematic battle scenes help to set the mood and involve the game player with the action.

Voice actors: none

Music score: A redbook audio sound track with cosmic tunes helps to add to the atmospehere.

Sound effects: Limited to explosions, the sound effects are not very good.

Compare to: Reach or the Stars, Ascendency, and Spaceward Ho! all resemble the current game in game play and concept plot.

Utilities: Previous games in the Five Star series have permitted game players to customize vehicles by combining special weapons, engines, shields, armor, and other artifacts to create the ultimate ship. Star General has no such facility for custom ship manufacture which is a serious omission in the game design.

Multi player: Seven player simultaneous TCP-IP Internet and IPX Local Area Network play. Two player direct connect through null and phone modem and hot seat play. A turn based strategy game on a LAN takes a lot of time between moves when you will be sitting around totally bored waiting for your turn to come around again.

Reviewers: Most of the reviewers liked the game save Tim and Chris. Liam is a vetran reviewer and he liked it, so I always say go with a vet.

SSI Star General Web Site
Brad Craig, Boot, volume 1, number 5, January, 1997, pg. 97, (90%).
T. Liam McDonald, PC Gamer, volume 4, number 3, March, 1997, pg. 113 - 114, 86%
Chris Jensen, Computer & Net Player, volume 3, number 10, March, 1997, pg. 80, 70%.
Tim Carter, Computer Gaming World, issue 153, April, 1997, pg. 139 - 140, 50%.
Daniel Morris, PC Games, volume 4, number 4, April, 1997, pg. 87, 85%.