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classic sci-fi time-wasters (4 of 4): MegaTraveller 2

by Rob Friesel

MegaTraveller 2 boxThe “classic” sci-fi time waster is not just restricted to colonizing distant suns and/or flying around blowing up shit. No. Sometimes it involves flying to distant suns that are already colonized, geting¬†out of your spaceship and then¬†blowing up shit. And after all, isn’t that — the epic space opera, anchored on some Byzantine galaxy-spanning empire — what makes science fiction so much fun?

And if that’s the case, then wouldn’t that make Paragon Software’s two games in the MegaTraveller franchise among the best, most “classic” sci-fi games ever made?

Kind of? Sort of? Maybe sometimes?

Well, MegaTraveller 2 sure was fun. And it rounds out our “top 4” classic sci-fi time wasters…

Licensing the brand from GDW, Paragon Software made two MegaTraveller games1. While both seemed true to the franchise and while gameplay was similar for both, I played the second game quite a bit more than the first and so will focus on it here.

MegaTraveller 2 screenshot

MegaTraveller 2 screenshot

As mentioned above: what wouldn’t be fun about an operatic, epic space romp like this? Galaxy-spanning conspiracies at work within a millennia old juggernaut of an empire, disreputable scoundrels and paranoid aliens at every turn, interdicted planets… As far as a sci-fi adventure/RPG game goes, MT2 had all those prerequisites plus some great hooks to open the story and it seemed immediately accessible — even to someone unfamiliar with the milieu2. The game had mature, sophisticated graphics for the time and had a style of play that allowed some flexibility and (at times even) unpredictability. What worked best for me was that it was not driven by the space-faring aspect; though you were expected to navigate from system to system, the main game and story actions were all on-world. Your party picked its way through the cities that made up the space ports, explored the planets’ surfaces to find ruins of the Ancients or other locations relevant to your plot (or sub-plot). It seemed massively replayable because there were so many different approaches and so many side-quests within the core plot; I can’t say that I ever actually “finished” it.

I could see an updated version being successful as an MMORPG while staying true to the setting. Because the game did not have a heavy focus on space combat, a third person 3D style could be used with a minimal UI overlay to govern traveling between star systems. As in the original, emphasis would be on exploring the different worlds, interacting with the other characters, and (of course) outfitting yourself with the best gear. Because the MegaTraveller milieu is an RPG by definition and already contains such a variety of backdrops, alien species, and equipment as part of the setting — it’s practically ready for the “persistent online world” treatment.

But isn’t the market already flooded with these kinds of games?

Kind of. Sort of. Maybe sometimes.

Previously: Privateer

  1. Titled (aptly enough) MegaTraveller 1: The Zhodani Conspiracy and MegaTraveller 2: Quest for the Ancients. []
  2. I should probably admit that I was. And until writing this hadn’t thought about this game or its setting in years. []

About Rob Friesel

Software engineer by day, science fiction writer by night. Author of The PhantomJS Cookbook and a short story in Please Do Not Remove. View all posts by Rob Friesel →

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