Star Raiders is a first-person space combat simulator first released as a cartridge by Atari in 1979 and it was ported to Atari 2600 in 1982.
Star Raiders gameplay
Like the text-based Star Trek games, in Star Raiders the player’s ship maneuvers about a two-dimensional grid fighting a fleet of enemy spaceships.In Star Raiders, this part of the game takes the form of a “Galactic Chart” display dividing the game’s large-scale world into a grid of sectors, some of which are empty, while other are occupied by enemy ships or a friendly “starbase”. The Galactic Map is the equivalent of the earlier Star Trek’s Long Range Scan.
Flying about in the 3D view with the ship’s normal engines is sufficient for travel within a sector; travel between sectors is via “hyperspace”, accomplished through an elaborate and noisy “hyperwarp” sequence with graphics loosely reminiscent of the Star Wars and Star Trek films in which the stars seemed to stretch to radial lines. On the higher difficulty levels, hyperwarp has a skill element; the player has to keep a wandering cross hair roughly centered during the sequence in order to arrive precisely at the desired destination.
Star Raiders combat, damage and resources
Two Zylon fighters attack. Below the crosshair is a Patrol ship. A Fighter is in the upper right.
To the Star Trek formula, the game added real-time 3D battles as a space combat simulator. In the main first-person display, the player can look out of the ship and shoot “photons” at Zylon ships, which come in three different varieties reminiscent of ships from Star Wars, Star Trek, and Battlestar Galactica (whose villains were the similarly titled Cylons).
A small targeting display in the lower right corner gives a general indication of a distant enemy or starbase’s position relative to the player’s ship, and also indicates when weapons are locked on the enemy, at which point the player’s weapons will fire two torpedoes simultaneously. There is also a “long-range scan” screen showing the surrounding region in a third-person overhead view centered on your ship, operating like a long-range radar display.
Enemy ships come in three types. The standard Fighters resemble the TIE fighter. The Patrol ships, which do not fire until fired upon, loosely resemble the front-on view of a Cylon Raider or Klingon Battlecruiser. The most powerful Zylon ship, the Basestar, has a pulsating orange glow and resembles a Cylon Basestar. It also has shields, which protect it from incoming fire, thus requiring the player to either hit it multiple times in rapid succession at close range or get it into a Target Lock, which results in two torpedoes being fired simultaneously and tracking the target until impact.
The game has four difficulty levels; on all but the lowest “Novice” level players must steer the ship into hyperspace and collisions with random meteoroids and enemy fire can cause damage to the player’s ship. Such damage includes malfunctioning or nonfunctional shields, engines, weapons or information displays. Any collision when shields are down destroys the ship and ends the game. Running out of energy likewise ends the game.
The player has to manage finite energy reserves as well as damage to the ship; it can be repaired and restocked by rendezvous with a friendly starbase. The enemy can also destroy a starbase if allowed to surround its Galactic Chart sector for too long, so the starbases have to be defended. All this lends Star Raiders a degree of complexity and a sense of player immersion that was rare in action games of the era.
Star Raiders Scoring
The player can actually win the game by destroying all enemy ships in the galaxy. However, there is no running score display; only upon winning, dying or quitting the game will the player receive a “rating”, which is a quasi-military rank accompanied by a numerical class with particularly bad play earning a rank of “Garbage Scow Captain” or “Galactic Cook”. The rating depends on a formula involving the game play level, energy and time used, star bases destroyed (both by player or the enemy), the number of enemies destroyed, and whether the player succeeded in destroying all enemies, was destroyed, or aborted (quit or ran out of energy) the mission. Some possible ratings reach from Rookie to Star Commander.