Planet Exploration is one of the core features of Star Control: Origins and is required to collect resources and interact with many quests. There are over 70 different planet classes and thousands of unique planets. Some contain life while most do not.
When the captain visits an alien world, they can review the world by scanning it from Orbit. Scanning the planet reveals all the collectable resources and objects of interest, gives a break-down of the planet data and displays any threats. The Captain can review the information and deice whether or not to send down crew to explore the surface to acquire resources, artifacts and make contact with inhabitants.
Each planet has a specific landing zone designated for safe entry into the planet. The player controls the Lander during its descent from orbit to make sure it lands within the landing zone, the severity of the planetary determines how much Lander sway the player has to counteract. If successfully landed on the landing zone, no crew are lost and the player can begin exploring the planet. If the Lander impacts the ground away from the landing zone, it will take crew damage depending on the distance. if far enough away from the landing zone, the entire crew will be lost and another Lander will have to be launched.
The Lander is able to rapidly traverse around a planet, but the player will have to often jump to navigate terrain such as ravines and mountains, while the booster can be used to improve movement speed. Some planets will host critters, natural or otherwise, that can destroy the player's lander. To combat critters, the Landers are equipped with a laser weapon that can engage and destroy threats. Planetary hazards such as Volcanoes and Fireballs can also be lethal to the lander, so the player will have to avoid dangerous areas of the planet or have precise timing to traverse them.
There are four factors to manage on the lander:
Crew functions as the health of the Lander, if all crew are lost the Lander is destroyed and another needs to be launcher. Crew can take damage from botched landings, encounters with hostile critters and planetary hazards
Energy is depleted from jumping and and boosting the Lander but regenerates over time. Efficient management of Energy is an important skill in rapidly exploring planets
Storage determines how much resources you can collect in a single haul. If a Lander reaches maximum storage, additional Landers will need to be launched to collect the remaining resources on a planet.
- Weapons Energy
Firing the Lander's laser weapon drains Weapons Energy but regenerates over time.
The main reason for exploring planets is to collect valuable resources with a lander as these can be sold to Star Control headquarters or to Precursor Starbases. Distant resources are displayed to the player so they navigate between the various resources on a world. To collect a resource, the player only needs to approach it with the lander and it will automatically be collected. There are many types of resources ranging from chemical compounds to metals, with more rare resources having differing values but they are all converted into Resource Units for interstellar commerce.
Planets vary greatly on their conditions such as temperature, toxicity, gravity and wind strength. Not all planets are equally hospitable, most planets the player will be able to explore with little risk but some will have conditions that makes exploring dangerous. Examples of hazards include volcanos, methane geysers, fireballs and lightning. Players can upgrade their landing craft with upgrades such as heat resistant plating to allow them to explore inhospitable worlds. If a landing craft is destroyed, the craft and the crew inside of it perish and need to be replaced, but the player can try again with multiple landers.