Truth be told, I bought my 3DO so I could play Return Fire and the 3DO-only expansion, but once I had acquired that, I needed to find something else in order to truly appreciate my purchase.
We all know the fate that awaited the 3DO, so I wasn't really expecting that it would have an outstanding line up of games, but one title that continually reappeared on lists of best games for it was a game I'd never heard of called Star Control 2. So, of course, I got it, I played it, and was surprised by what I found.
The plot works like this; The Ur-Quan (after whom this game's PC release was named after) have gone around and defeated and enslaved the various races of the galaxy. Fortunately you weren't there at the time; you were busy discovering a medium-pimpin' ship, used by ancient races. But this ship is no Silpheed, Radiant, or R-Type ship, so you're gonna need some help. You're going to need resources, allies, upgrades and all sorts of things in order to take back the galaxy from the evil Ur-Quan.
The game is simple enough; you have a base of operations, which is just a star-base outside of enslaved Earth, where you can get more crew, repair your ship, its Landers and it's shuttles. From there you move about the galaxy, traveling to any star you'd like (provided you have the fuel required for the round trip), and explore alien worlds trying to locate rare minerals to sell for money to buy more crew and upgrades. You find worlds, scan them, and decide to send down a Lander or not. Factors include the weather battering your Lander, or the heat, or earthquakes. Or maybe the gravity's too high, and sending down a Lander would simply use up too much fuel. Or maybe the minerals showing up on your scans simply aren't worth it. All these choices are yours.
There's even inertia in space, which can be a difficult, though interesting obstacle to have to work around. There are many, many alien races for you to interact with, all of which are done with spoken dialog. Some chose to side with the Ur-Quans, others with you. Some will aid you discretely, and others will simply sell you fuel, upgrades, or information in exchange for animals you might find on alien worlds. Some alien leaders may send you on quests.
As you progress, you can outfit your ship bigger and better, allowing for more items like cargo holds, fuel tanks, crew quarters, weapons, and alien shuttles for your bay -- best used for weakening enemy vessels before you send in your flagship to finish them off.
The battles are done in an asteroids-style top-down shooter way, and can vary in difficulty depending on your opponent. You can also set the battles to be automatic, so you don't have to do them at all; you simply let the best ship win.
But all this great stuff falls apart in the most horribly way. Once you're in this deep, it's probably already too late. You see, there's an in game clock ticking away all the while, it may take months for a round trip to a certain star according to that clock. And the worst part of the whole game is, when the clock says you've been on your mission for 10 years (which was about 3-4 days of casual gaming for me) you lose. That's it. The End. The Ur-Quan win, and you didn't even know you were being timed.
The game has such depth, that you want to do so much, but you can't. You have to go straight towards your goal, as impossible as it is to know exactly what to do, and do not deviate from that path no matter what. The time limit is so bad that it seems as though the game is only as non-linear as it is just to try and trick you into having fun and losing. Without a real Game Shark or Action Replay for the 3DO to disable the time limit, the only real way of going through this game is with a walkthrough on your lap. And how fun is that?
Basically, what it comes down to is Star Control 2 could've been the 'must have' title on the 3DO. It was non-linear ahead of its time, and had so many options, that simply cannot be explored. The best solution is to get Ur-Quan masters for your PC, and try to mess with it so you don't have a damn clock. Then you'd have a genuine winner.