I've talked about the Read The Manual Era of PC gaming here before; the period from about the  mid-80s to the early 90s where developers assumed you would read all the pack-in materials diligently and thus had no problem tossing you into confusing situations with no explanation whatsoever when you booted up a game. Space Rogue is vintage Read The Manual stuff (as most Origin games were), but the game's controls turn out to not be that complex and you are actually pretty well rewarded for reading them.

The game is basically an enhanced reimagining of Elite, which was the first open-world space combat and trading game with any sort of an attempt at 3D graphics when flying your ship. For a modern comparison, it's kinda like a primitive version of Eve Online. Like Elite, the game came packaged with a little novella that explains the backstory - you're a young crewmember on a trading ship with only a few missions under your belt, and while in the midst of salvaging a functional but abandoned spacecraft, your merchant ship gets destroyed leaving you stranded in space. There's really little plot from that point forward - you're just dropped into the galaxy to make your living however you prefer, from doing trade runs to becoming a bounty hunter, or just turning pirate. People you encounter at the various space stations may also give you personal quests.

There are a few factions in the galaxy with whom you have an ongoing reputation. Everyone is initially nice or at least neutral toward you with the exception of the Manchi, the bug-aliens who blew up your merchant cruiser and who go aggro on anyone they find who isn't them. You can improve your reputation with factions by finding their quest-givers at the space stations and successfully completing their tasks, but failing them will hurt your reputation. Attacking their ships naturally causes them to take a sour view of you as well. If no one is pissed off at you, combat encounters in space will only occur with Manchi or the occasional pirate if you're carrying trade goods.

Manuevering through space can be easily handled by a star chart that automatically takes you from known location to location, but you'll have to drop into the cockpit if another ship attacks, or when you want to land at a station or use a warp gate. As with most Origin games of the time, nearly everything is handled with keyboard hotkeys, but there's really not that many and you can easily print them in a small chart to keep on hand until you get used to the game (just print the final page of the manual linked below.) Landing at space stations takes you into an engine much like Origin's early Ultima games, just without any of the RPGing.

Space Rogue's only real fault is that it was made in 1989. It's actually advanced for the time, but technology forces the game to be spartan and a little on the dry side. There's little to do at space stations but talk to people whose dialogue is nothing but full-screen text dumps (though credit the game for having basic dialogue trees that affect conversations sometimes), and space combat is a bit on the annoying and clunky side. The game defaults to Newtonian physics which makes fighting almost completely impossible, but you can hotkey over to a more arcadey control scheme at any time that I found more comfy for just general steering around the galaxy as well. Those who need a sense of character development and plot progression won't be too happy here; it's one of those games where the character is supposed to be "you", so they have little personality and no growth. And there's no combat outside of the ship, so no levelling either. About the closest you get is buying equipment upgrades from your ship. There IS an overall plot (that leads to an eventual ending sequence) in which you learn the origins of the Manchi and why they are such buttholes, but unlike with modern games the cues to progress it are sometimes really obscure.
Links :
* Game manual / novella (commands same for both Amiga and PC versions)
Videos :