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PC sci-fi classic Star Control returns as Free Stars: The Ur-Quan Masters

Ur-Quan Masters comes to Steam on Feb. 19

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Artwork from Free Stars: The Ur-Quan Masters, featuring a number of alien species and spacecraft floating in space Image: Pistol Shrimp Games
Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

The creators of the classic Star Control franchise are bringing the beloved sci-fi adventure series to Steam on Feb. 19, for free, under the name Free Stars: The Ur-Quan Masters. The franchise will continue under the Free Stars name, with a direct sequel to The Ur-Quan Masters currently in development at Pistol Shrimp Games.

Pistol Shrimp was founded by Paul Reiche III and Fred Ford, the creators of Star Control and original founders of Toys for Bob, which is now part of Activision Blizzard. It’s been more than 30 years since Star Control 2 first hit DOS PCs, and although then-publisher Accolade released numbered sequels to that game, they were done without the direct involvement of Ford and Reiche. Now, Ford and Reiche are going full steam ahead with their re-release and a long-promised spiritual sequel to Star Control 2.

Free Stars: The Ur-Quan Masters promises a “riveting, quirky adventure to save Earth from the ruthless Ur-Quan armada,” its creators said in a news release. Like the original game, players embark on a space adventure through an open galaxy, encountering a colorful cast of alien creatures and discovering hundreds of star systems. The game is full of space battles, with a charming retro aesthetic and weird extraterrestrial characters.

The Star Control games were highly influential on a generation of game developers, who were inspired by the franchise’s open-world gameplay, strategy, diplomacy, and action, as evidenced by the following video.

If you’re wondering why Pistol Shrimp is not using the name Star Control for Free Stars: The Ur-Quan Mastersand the planned direct sequel, Ghosts of the Precursors — that’s because developer/publisher Stardock acquired the rights to the Star Control franchise in 2013 and made a game of its own, Star Control: Origins. Ford and Reiche and Stardock were caught up in a protracted legal battle over the rights to the franchise a few years ago, which culminated in an amicable agreement between the parties.

Free Stars: The Ur-Quan Masters has the added benefit of community developed code and content, thanks to the pre-existing The Ur-Quan Masters open-source project, for players who feel like tinkering with the classic sci-fi adventure game. For those who prefer the vanilla originals, Star Control and Star Control 2 are sold as a bundle on Steam and GOG.

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