Subtitles prepared by human
Hey hey, people. Sseth here. Starsector is an open-world space strategy game about selling heroin and illegally harvested kidneys on the black market, making money off misery, disruption and political unrest and ambushing trade convoys in deep space, just to watch a planet descend into chaos. I've been playing this game on and off for years now. It's amazing, yet, I don't hear many people talk about it. Starsector is a massive project done entirely by four people and it's had updates for about nine years now, each one getting closer to their dream goal of simulating a living, breathing galaxy. Story: Okay, nobody gives a shit. So, I'm gonna be quick. Right, so in Starsector, humanity figured out faster than light(FTL) travel. We colonized thousands of worlds, spanning hundreds of galaxies, using the relays from Mass Effect, which were the only practical way of crossing galaxies. They WERE the only practical way until suddenly, nobody knows exactly why, all the gate systems went dead.
We could no longer reach the rest of humanity. This event is referred to as "The Collapse" and marks the end of the prosperous Domain Era. In an isolated galaxy, 206 cycles after The Collapse, our story takes place. Common humanity has been replaced with ambition, desperation and conflict. Our future is bleak and we don't know what tomorrow might hold for us. Welcome to Starsector! Basically, everything's a piece of shit. We're in the galactic version of the Dark Ages, but it's super fun. Nobody remembers how to make anything anymore, mainly because of DRM and copyright laws. I'm not kidding. That is the actual in-game reason. We can't reliably make new ships or machinery, because all the corporations put copy-protection on their design chips. Anyway, in the chaos that followed, everybody broke off into their own respective factions and keep dick waving each other. But ultimately, nobody can consolidate enough power to wipe out or unify the competition. However, they didn't account for one thing: You.
Thrown into the space sandbox, you begin as nothing but a pilot with a small fleet. Insignificant in the scale of things, but given time, practice, and some high-level maneuvers, you could be the one person to unite the sector or reduce it to the Stone Age. Every faction is unique in their motivations and it generally pays to be nice to them. That is, if they can be reasoned with. In no particular order, these are: The Hegemony, which represent the combined remains of law and order from the Domain Era; The Persean League, which said, "Fuck taxes", and broke off from The Hegemony; The Sindrian Diktat, a military dictatorship, which also said, "Fuck taxes", and broke off from The Hegemony; Tri [Death Grips] "TAKYON" Corporation which represents the R&D business interest of Tri-Tachyon Incorporated, the mega corporation responsible for pioneering unregulated AI technology; conversely, there's The Luddic Church, who are subhumans that believe The Collapse was God's punishment for molesting the stars and that artificial intelligence is literally Electronic Satan.
These are considered the "moderates"; then, there's the Luddic Path, a sect of fundamentalist space Jihadists that believe the answer to man's technological hubris is rampant terrorism. Everyone hates the Luddic Path and the Luddic Path hates everyone. And finally, Pirates. These are self-explanatory and quite consistent with their ideology: "You have stuff I want so I'm going to kill you." or "You don't, I'm going to kill you anyway for the hell of it." Your relations and interactions with each of these factions will determine the fate of the galaxy. Anyway, gameplay. Everything's a wreck, tensions are high, but most of all, there's profit to be made. Mostly everything in Starsector revolves around money or credits. These are effectively space bitcoins, and are universally accepted everywhere. Most of your time, as with real life, will be spent figuring out how to make as much money as possible. You can see why I love this game. It runs in my blood. Your starting fleet is very small. You can't really fight most enemies, but you are fast and burn very little fuel to get around.
The only means of interstellar travel in Starsector is by diving into hyperspace and burning through metric tons of antimatter fuel to reach distant stars. So, the size and composition of your fleet is important for fuel economy. You should always watch your fuel tanks and pray you never run dry while in the middle of deep space, because once you go dry your fleet will be pulled into the nearest gravity well, which if you're unlucky might be a red giant. If you're very unlucky, a black hole. So, at the start, I recommend you do planetary surveys and exploration contracts. These don't require much investment, just patience and nerves of steel. Sometimes, while exploring deep space, you might hear distress signals. Uh... We ignore those. Just IGNORE THEM. Contracts are offered to you by intel frequencies from different factions, businesses, and planet administrators. How close you are to the nearest communications relay will decide how quickly you hear about it since transmissions travel in real-time.
You should generally be very quick about grabbing these. Space is busy and contracts can be withdrawn or taken by somebody else without notice. With money to spare, you can go ahead and actually invest into your own ships and let me tell you, there's a lot of ships to choose from, with different roles, specifications and hull sizes. This ranges from the smallest frigates to capital-class ships, which take up most of the screen. It doesn't end there. Every ship can be modified, outfitted and equipped with weapons respective to the type and size of a mount. There's a lot of crazy setups. You can even make huge modifications to the hull to completely change your ships behavior. For example, let's say you want your cruiser to act as a makeshift carrier. You can convert their cargo bays to accommodate fighter squadrons instead. Some factions also cook up their own modifications. Pirates don't have top-of-the-line equipment, so they improvise. For this reason, the Pirate's capital-class ship is a stolen cargo freighter, ripped apart and stitched back together
with as many guns as they could possibly hold. The Luddic Path follows the same philosophy of DIY hull mods, but they don't care about coming back alive. So, they take captured fuel ships, override the safety settings and turn it into a gigantic battering ram, and it's absolutely terrifying when you realize it's burning towards you at full speed. The amount of customization is insane and you can do this for every single ship in your fleet. Combat takes place automatically, with your fleet responding to orders to the best of their ability. They're actually quite good until you get a Reckless officer who decides that the best defense is a good offensive ramming maneuver. However, you pilot your flagship directly. It takes some getting used to. Every ship generates Flux whenever they shoot or absorb damage, so you'll have to manage or vent the extra Flux into space to avoid overloading your system and leaving yourself open to attack. The same goes for enemies. As if all of this wasn't already too much to take in, every ship type has unique specializations.
For example, phase class ships can't use shields. Instead, they can do this, which moves the ship safely into an alternative dimension where time flows much faster. Combine that with my favorite ship in the game, the Starsector equivalent of Killer Queen, and you've got a ship that can turn anything into a bomb while hiding inside another dimension. I don't have to explain shit, it just works. Combat is amazing, once you figure it out. It's simultaneously the hardest and most satisfying component of the game. Luckily, your capital is not at risk. All planetary stations offer combat simulations to test your design. However, you'll need a lot more money to get to that point. So, you'll need to work with the game's economic system. Yes, this game has a fully-simulated real-time economy. Every colony produces, demands and consumes different resources and needs a constant stream of trade traffic to stay functional. The resources needed depend on the industry. For example, mining. Mining is very depressing, so miners consume a lot of heroin
to numb the pain of being a miner. A mining colony's output stagnates if the smuggled narcotics cannot meet demand. Each time you enter a marketplace in the game, you can pull up the entire market data, see consumers, producers, market shares, and relative prices across the sector. But making a profit isn't that easy. The open market is subject to a massive trade tariff of 30%, which can quickly cut into your margins. So we don't trade on the open market. We trade on the black market. Smuggling shit planet to planet completely sidesteps paying taxes and lets you deal in highly illegal contraband like combat mechs, AI cores, harvested organs and every drug you can think of. However, the life of a smuggler isn't that easy. Smuggle too much and your suspicion level increases, which means patrol fleets are more likely to do random stop-searches. Sometimes they find nothing. Sometimes they find all of your contraband, destroy it and hurt your reputation. I still remember the moment I was amazed by this game. I was about to be stop-searched by a random patrol.
So I thought, "Hey, let's just eject all of my drugs out into space." So I got stop-searched. They found nothing, as expected. Then, the patrol officer said, "Hey, you're all clean. By the way, we scanned some cargo pods floating around nearby and, you know what? They're filled with illegal shit. But it's not yours, right? So we'll just confiscate these and destroy them." This game thinks of everything. So to smuggle effectively, let me teach you the tricks of the trade, which conveniently are the same tools you'll use for navigating space. #1: In civilized space, everyone has to have their transponder on. This is your fleet identification. It's illegal to go without it, but it makes it very obvious when you're doing shady business. The detection range of your fleet depends on your surroundings. A nearby asteroid field is the perfect place to hide. Once inside, we kill our transponder and go dark. Going dark means running engines on minimal power, which reduces your heat signature and makes you very hard to detect.
Doing this, we quietly approach planets and do business anonymously, so the authorities can't trace it back to us. #2: If you get jumped by patrols or spotted, hit the emergency burn and outrun them. If they're too close, there's a chance they'll try and fire off an interdiction, which temporarily fries your burn drives. If this happens, you're screwed. But we've got another trick up our sleeves. #3: Transverse Jumping: The most essential skill you can learn as a fleet commander, which lets you jump right into hyperspace without using a jump point. It's highly illegal, it takes a while to charge, but it lets you dab on patrols before they can reach you. With all of these tools, you should be able to make fat stacks of cash. Now, of course, regular smuggling is fine and dandy. But the big profits are taken from trade contracts, as they often pay several times the market value, provided you can deliver on time. Or just hang around the local bar. At the end of the day, it turns out the best vehicle for human business is alcohol. This game is constant management, planning and calculation.
Sometimes, things don't go as planned or get thrown off by factors outside your control. But these can also be exploited for your own gain. Let's say, a system has been targeted by Pirates. Smuggling is rampant. Trade convoys are going missing. This is terrible. However, it's also terribly profitable for you. The more desperate a system gets, the cheaper they'll sell their exports and the higher they'll pay for imports to stabilize the market. You could even go one step further. Why not take advantage of a trade surplus, buy off the excess and smuggle them back to the Pirates? Pirates have terrible trade routes and will gladly pay good money for Marines, mechs and narcotics. War and conflict is just business after all. In this game, morality doesn't pay. Opportunistic pragmatism does. When your business relation sours or ceases to be profitable, offer to take the bounty contract for that same group of pirates, blast their station into orbit and receive even more money and praise from the faction that posted the contract.
You'll come back a celebrated hero and lower-ranking officials will generally stay out of your way. "You're a smuggler, you're doing illegal shit, but you're also helping us out. So we'll turn a blind eye, for now." You could also do the same for the Luddic Path. Who knew that arming radical space terrorists could be so profitable? This game is amazing. And with the latest update you can go even further, move so much wealth and power, why not start exploring the far sectors of space? It's mostly filled with dead rocks and all sorts of natural and unnatural cosmic horrors, like neutron stars, black holes and even worse, the Re- <static> But somewhere in all that chaos, you might get lucky. You might find a planet that's actually good, not too much unlike Earth. So you run a survey, send an expedition and hey, what do you know? It IS a damn good planet. So, why not colonize it? Start your own colony, form your own faction, invest back into the colony,
attract more people and grow the population. Build heavy batteries, orbital battlestations and patrols to secure your domain. Expand. Expand aggressively. Announce that your station is now an open port. Profit from your own black market. Start an organ-harvesting operation. Take so much of the illegally-harvested-organ market share that other factions get jealous and try to fuck you over with red tape bureaucracy and trade disruptions to prevent you from getting ahead. Subvert their plans by bribing their commanders. Become an industrial powerhouse. Get targeted by Pirates for being too prosperous. Get targeted by the space jihad for being too industrial. Get targeted by The Hegemony because they realize why you're so successful. Because your colony isn't run by humans. No, all this time, your colony has been run by an alpha core, an artificial intelligence that overshadows the decision-making abilities of any human. In Starsector, using an AI is completely illegal. Using an alpha-level AI is extremely fucking illegal,
but as long as you keep bribing their military, they can't do anything. Eventually decide that having an AI isn't worth the trouble, try and pull it out. But you can't... because it's missing... [David Bowman, played by Keir Dullea] "Open the pod bay doors, Hal." [HAL-9000, voiced by Douglas Rain] "I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that." [David Bowman] "What's the problem?" [HAL-9000] "I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do." Realize that the AI already anticipated this. Get blackmailed by your own AI, who threatens to tell every faction in the sector that you've been using AI technology if you try and disconnect him. Do it anyway. Plunge your empire into total war. Raid the other factions and steal their copyright-protected blueprints. Watch them get obliterated by their own ship designs. Cripple their military. Propose a ceasefire. Receive no reply. Order a saturation bombardment on every core world. Condemn millions to their death. Win. Decommission every AI core and throw them into the Sun and consider what you've done. Then put one final bullet in the chamber.
Hold the barrel against your temple and shoot. <Gunshot Sound Effect #17> Starsector, it's a lot of fun. "Surely, SSeth, there's nothing more to say and you've covered everything." Wrong. This game also has its own active modding scene, which adds dozens of new ships, weapons and factions into the mix. There's even mods which merge them all together letting new factions trade and interact with the rest. After finishing the basegame, mods can keep you entertained with an entirely new game altogether. Sometimes the developers even incorporate mods into the main code if they're that good. Oh, yeah. This game also works on Mac and Linux. This is probably one of the best products I've ever bought and it only cost me 15 bucks. They make you use some old-ass website from the 2000s to get your CD key and download link, but hey, it works. I can't really complain about something I've played for several hundred hours, nor something that keeps getting updates yearly. My only criticism is that chasing enemies or getting into a fight can take a long time if you're flying the larger ships.
But again, this is something I fixed with a single mod. In an industry where you're piled on constantly with mediocrity, garbage and bloated design, this is something put out by a few guys that puts triple-A studios to shame. I give it a 10 out of 10. I'm completely biased and I don't care. Starsector is a beautiful game and I thoroughly recommend it. Go buy it, and, if you're not sure, go try it. Here's my actual CD key, there's downloads below. You can smack it in there. Enjoy. As always, more content to come so, stay tuned. A warm thanks to the many members of The Merchant's Guild generously funding and bankrolling these videos. You're all truly wonderful. Have a good one. Alright, roll the credits.
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