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Stellar Track is a text- and turn-based strategy game where the player controls a Terran Super Warship that must clear out alien ships from all quadrants of a galaxy. It was created by Atari, but sold in Sears stores only, and under their label (see Trivia) in 1980 for the Atari 2600.
The Terran race, even though they have high standards in art, philosophy, and science, is lacking hyperwarp drive technology, which would allow them to travel to other planets. The Terrans became discovered by extraterrestrial life, who allowed a trade of their hyperwarp technology for Terran art and science.
Tension between the aliens and Terrans begin as the two races started competing over riches, so the Terran government built an indestructible Starfleet and two Galactic Starbases to keep the aliens at bay, recruiting a commander for their Super Warship to destroy the aliens.
With the start of a new game, the player is given a number of alien ships to destroy, along with a certain number of Stardates in order to do so. Pressing Game Select or Game Reset will bring about a new set of each. Once the player has decided on what game configuration they want, pressing the button on their joystick controller will start a new game.
From there, the player must check maps and scanners and decide on what course of action is best to take in order to destroy as many (if not all) alien ships per quadrant. They begin each game with 3000 energy units and nine Photon Torpedoes.
Being turn-based, the game awaits a command from the player, which consists of:
- Galaxy Map–this is a 6 x 6 grid that shows where the player has traveled during a game. With a new game, all quadrants are shown as zeroes (00) until the player starts moving their Warship around, then all adjoining quadrants will show what they consist of, whether they are empty, contain one to three alien ships and/or a Starbase.
- Long Range Scan–similar to the Galaxy Map, although this reveals what is in the adjacent six quadrants surrounding the player’s current Warship location.
- Phasors–fires Phasors at one or more enemy ships inside a sector. These will spread out over an area, as the closer alien ships are to the player’s Warship, the more damage they will do.
- Photon–fires a Photon Torpedo in one of eight directions, rather than in a general fashion as the Phasors do, which will destroy an alien ship upon contact.
- Short Range Scan–reveals the 8x8 grid contents of a sector the player is currently in, showing the player’s Warship, stars and/or possible alien ships and/or a Starbase.
- Status–gives information in regards to (mostly) various ship functions, including:
- Stardates remaining
- Aliens remaining
- Energy remaining
- Photons remaining
- (Photon) Launcher status (either being functional or displaying Stardates needed to repair)
- Phasors’ status (same as above)
- Engines’ status
- Short Range Scan status
- Long Range Scan status
- Quadrant location of ship
- Sector location of ship
- Warp–allows the player to warp their Warship either around a sector or to another quadrant.
From there, aliens could be present right off the bat (this is indicated by a red screen, which green means a clear sector, and light blue/gray means a Starbase is present), which the player would need to run a Short Range Scan in order to view the present sector they are in. From there they can either flee the sector or engage in combat and destroy the alien ships, although the aliens automatically get the first attack, then it will be the player’s turn.
If there are no ships present, the most likely next measure to take is to run a Long Range Scan to see where the closest alien ships are, then plotting and executing a course to intercept them.
Taking damage/alien shipsEdit
During a round of combat, alien ships will, at times, cause damage to the player’s Warship. This will result in either the loss of some energy and/or cause damage to some of the Warship’s functions. Damage could cause the Phasors to be knocked out, the Photon Torpedo Launcher to quit working (so no Torpedoes can be launched), the Engines not work correctly and/or the Long or Short Range Scans to not function.
Damage can only be repaired by docking with a Starbase or via taking up a certain number of Stardates, as, after damage has been dealt, checking on the Status will tell of how long repairs will take to commence. For instance, if the Photon Launcher is at a -2, it will take two Stardates before it is able to work again (which warping to an adjoining quadrant will take up one Stardate). Engines at a -3 will not fully function until after three Stardates, as entering in the Warp Factor of one will not allow the Warship to warp to another quadrant, it will only move within the sector it is currently in.
Alien ships have an energy level of 99 units each. If the player’s Warship is right on top of or adjacent to an alien ship, using their Phasors at a factor of 99 will destroy the ship (note: this does not count diagonals, as that takes 110 Phasor units to destroy an alien ship then). The further the ships are from each other, the more Phasor units are needed in order to destroy the alien ship(s). On the other hand, one Photon Torpedo will instantly destroy an alien ship on contact, although the Warship can only carry nine Torpedoes at a time.
Docking with a Starbase will refill the player’s Warship’s energy level back up to a full 3000 units, along with repairing any damage and restocking the ship with nine Photon Torpedoes. Starbases never move and cannot be destroyed by either the player, nor alien ships.
If the player runs out of energy or Stardates without destroying all alien ships, the game will end with a message from Starfleet to the player stating that they must surrender to the aliens, along with giving the player a rank. However, if all aliens are destroyed before the player runs out of Stardates, they will receive a message at the end stating that “the aliens are now retreating”, along with being awarded a rank.
The Phasor strength is controlled by the left Difficulty Switch. The player’s Phasors are twice the strength of the aliens’ in the B position. In the A position, both Phasor strength (the player’s and the aliens’) are equal.
Shield strength is controlled by the right Difficulty Switch: the B position is the default setting for damage during a combat round. In the A position, damage probability is twice as high.
- Stellar Track is based on a Star Trek game that was found on college mainframe computers in the 1970s. It was originally supposed to be a Star Trek license, but the Paramount entertainment company wouldn’t grant it. The player’s ship still has Photon Torpedoes however, along with there being Stardates (all part of Trek lore) and the “Terran Super Warship” looks like the Enterprise ship found on the show.
- Stellar Track was the only text- and turn-based strategy game for the Atari 2600 at the time of release.
- The game was sold exclusively in Sears stores due to Atari’s contract with them at the time. Other Sears exclusives included Steeplechase and Submarine Commander, along with Super Breakout, although the latter would later be widely released to other stores.