Space Rogue was released in 1989 by Origin Systems. You play a private whose mothership was destroyed by the sinister and mysterious Manchi while you were on EVA duty investigating a derelict spaceship. Using the derelict spaceship, you have to figure out why the Manchi are attacking ships in the Far Arm cluster, while equipping your ship and making a name for yourself.
The game is open, in that it doesn't force you to proceed along at any particular pace, so you can take your time making money and equipping your ship, or just jump straight into the plot by talking to everyone you meet. Initially, more of your time will be spent trading or otherwise getting credits to equip your ship. Eventually though, as you talk to more and more people, you are led to the main storyline, so in the later part of the game, more of your time is spent on figuring out how to further the plot. There are only nine star systems in the game, so the emphasis is not on exploring hundreds and hundreds of worlds, yet the game's universe is big enough that taking time to go everywhere is worthwhile. You will need to visit nearly every world at some point in order to beat the game.
Space Rogue is part 3D space combat sim, part top-down RPG. While traveling in space, you will encounter different ships, and you may choose how to interact with each one. Your past history with the Imperium (government), the Guild (merchants), and the pirates will determine how they react to you. When you dock at a base, the game changes to a top-down view, where you can walk around and talk to various people, trade, and upgrade your ship. There is even a game within the game, in which you hunt down those Manchi bugs and can earn money by getting to high enough levels.
You can trade at different bases to gain money, or be a pirate and hunt merchant ships, or be a bounty hunter and seek out pirates or Manchi to kill. These are not set-in-stone professions that you select at the beginning of the game, but avenues to making a profit that you can choose through your decisions. As is usual, trading is the safest if least exciting way to make money. However, towards the latter part of the game, once you are fully upgraded, there is little need to make money. At that point the best equipment will come from fulfilling quests, although you will still need some money to make repairs and replenish your weapons.
There is no music, and the sounds consist of the standard bleeps and bloops when you fire a weapon or run into something. However, the gameplay is very good, and bugs are few and far in between. It runs natively in Windows XP without problems.
I have many fond memories of this game, from the first time I managed to go through the Malir gate to a new star system, to figuring how to avoid the monster on Bassruti, to evading and fighting lots of Manchi ships. This is a game that will provide many weeks of fun as you explore the various quests and upgrade your ship, so try it today!
This game is very mod-able. If you want to try to mod it, there is a guideline included with the extras. In addition there is a saved game, OETA.SAV, which allows you to use every ship in game.