Starpoint Gemini – Review


When it comes to space exploration in games I’ve never quite been able to make up my mind.  I think in a lot of ways I’ve found the idea appealing but the execution could never hold my interest.  Games such as EVE Online or the X universe series are well-designed, and I confess to being a little bit of a fan of the former.  But the reason they stop holding my interest is just how involved the games are and how repetitive the tasks can become.  That’s nothing against the games themselves, purely a matter of personal preference.

Starpoint Gemini starts off like most games do, with a tutorial, but it is optional.  Although this particular tutorial is nothing short of laborious, as it repeats explanations and even takes the time to long-windedly detail every aspect of a critical hit.

So after that you can begin the game for real.  There’s a variety of paths the player can pursue, such as salvaging, mining, piracy, research and so on, all the standard fare you can expect.  You can also hire additional crew members which will provide bonuses to various factors, such as weapon rate of fire or accuracy.

One of the first things you will notice about gameplay is the ships’ handling.  The obvious factor is that there’s no Y-axis.  There is a palpable lack of up and down in the game.  It’s not a game-breaking issue, and I can see why it’s been done for design purposes, but it still seems a bit odd for a game set in space.  The actual movement feels akin to having a rocket-powered inflatable rubber dinghy powering around on ice.  It takes a lot of getting used to, but then I think that goes without saying – not many people are accustomed to dinghy-rocket-based modes of transport.

Harking back to the opening paragraph of this review, I found the concept of combat in Starpoint Gemini more appealing than the combat itself.  Your ship has a series of subsystems, as any good space-faring vessel should, comprising of shield, weapon and utility systems.  Positioning becomes important quite early on, as you have specific shielding to the forward, aft, port and starboard of your craft – lose one section and further hits to it will take a toll on your hull.  When attacking you can select individual subsystems of the opposing ship, which is useful, especially if you need to disable their offensive ability.  To tell the truth, it mostly put me in mind of destroying the shield generators on Star Destroyers in X-Wing Vs. TIE Fighter (which then made me hope LucasArts gives a cash-injection to the series).

The graphics of the game aren’t terrible, but they certainly aren’t going to ‘wow’ you.  To use EVE as a comparison, I think even before the big graphical update it looked more impressive than Starpoint Gemini.  I will state it’s not often I feel graphics matter, and while it might seem critical, I have an attitude that if what I’m looking at is going to be 99% empty I’d quite like that remaining 1% to be pretty, and since the ships are what you’re going to look at for almost the entire time it didn’t strike me as decent for such a recent game.

The score is very nice.  I was happy with the background music.  But the voice acting left something to be desired.  The dominance of Eastern European accents is fine, I had no problem with that, but the range of emotions the actors could convey was limited.  Coupled with the translation issues in the writing it made some of the dialogue sound stilted.

Perhaps the shortcomings of the game can be attributed to a very restricted budget.  After all, only a team of 15 people made the game and they thought big, for which they receive my kudos.  However, I’m not sure that all of the shortcomings can be forgiven, especially in today’s gaming audience.  And it’s harrowingly clear that hardly anyone cared for the gameplay trailer on YouTube.  Unless you’re a massive fan of the space-exploration RPG genre I don’t see the game offering much that you can’t find done elsewhere and better.  But hey, it’s your money.