Starpoint Gemini is a deep game that reminded me of the classic and drawn out RPG titles we all used to play. Well, maybe not all of us, but I sure as hell did. Going into this game though, I had only screenshots and brief descriptions to go off of, and what I saw originally was a sci-fi RPG spent commanding a ship as captain. My interest peaked without question. And I’m glad I took the time to look into this game from Little Green Men Interactive. I went in expecting only so much but was instead delivered a veritable smorgasbord of game.
The game revolves around you being a pilot in the Gemini system, pre-cataclysm (tutorial only) and post-cataclysm. The system was once part of the Earth Empire as a colony, but a war erupted for independence that ended abruptly when the Starpoint Incident occurred. This event destroyed a chunk of surrounding system and locked many ships into a stasis for many years. In that timespan the system devolved into a mess of warring factions and pirates vying for control, though they are people devoted to pulling revenants (those stuck in rifts) back into the real world. Basically it’s all a mess. Depending on which story arc you play, you pick up at different times after the incident has occurred, but you’re basically spending the game trying to find your way through the mess that has developed.
From there, the game is broken up into a free roaming universe where you are able to go and do as you please. It’s essentially a Western RPG – there’s a main quest that you can follow if you’d like, but then there is a million other things for you to jump into as well. Want to get rich? Mine away! Explore space and discover long, lost riches, or dive into war as you try to stake your own spot in the universe. Your choices and how you handle yourself amongst the populace will add up – people will treat you differently based on what you’ve done in the system. Sounds a lot like other titles *cough*Fallout, Elder Scrolls, Mass Effect*cough*.
Here’s where it can get really fun though – you’re not limited much. If you’re not satisfied with the ship you’re currently commanding, why not upgrade? There are a variety of ships for you to choose from – anything from smaller frigates up to larger cruisers are available throughout the game. Just remember this ultimately affects your playstyle – with a cruiser it might be easier to just go to down and demolish the enemy, but smaller ships might be better at participating in boarding actions or small-scale engagements. Officers can be hired from space stations, further boosting different aspects of your ship’s abilities and your own command, or players can take the time to pick through their offerings for upgrading ships – I spent a LOT of time looking at possible weapon and ship upgrades. The time was partly because the system is a little convoluted and hard to understand, and partly because of the sheer possibilities. Each ship has its own weapon slots and possible attachments, though it must be within reason; you cannot over-fit a ship if it cannot handle the load.
Controlling your ship can be a bit of a pain and based on it I’m going to say perhaps one of the most damning things for my reputation – I was never a fan of Diablo due to the control scheme of the game. I cannot use just some hotkeys for special moves and everything else be controlled via the mouse; I need both hands! Luckily for me, Starpoint Gemini doesn’t focus on using only the mouse. Players will use a combination of the mouse and keyboard to maneuver through the game, though (sadly) expect to rely heavily on the mouse. Attacks are done either by clicking on targets or hitting the spacebar, and it’s even possible to target specific pieces on enemy ships. Blowing out enemy ship’s engine coils is fun because at that point they’re just drifting in space. Drifting and still shooting, but drifting nonetheless.
Once the controls are down pat (I highly recommend the tutorial), it’s off into the star system you go. I could potentially spend paragraphs on the possibilities within the game, but take my word on it – there’s a lot. If you’ve played other large and open-ended titles like Fallout or The Elder Scrolls, you’ll understand. Just think bigger. You can do a number of things from mining, researching space anomalies, and undertaking missions. That’s just scratching the surface.
Graphically this game is…well, “ok.” It’s perhaps the best way to properly explain these graphics. There is nothing super spectacular to be keep an eye out on, but I’m not talking NES-grade graphics either. Perhaps my favorite piece of the visuals were the environments – the backgrounds and space in general were fantastic to look at in my opinion. The ships and the space stations also look nice to a fault, but a lot of the facial animations that occur during communications with other ships and such are kind of blah. Honestly I don’t see these as major detractors – it puts the focus back on the plot and gameplay where it belongs.
Sound for the game was also an aspect I really enjoyed, especially the music. Hearing the sound effects – ship’s engines powering up, weapons discharging, everything exploding – it was all just perfect I really, really enjoyed the sound. One of my favorite things is commanding a ship(s) in space via any of the number of games where this is the main point of gameplay. I spent countless hours in games like Empire at War and Jump to Lightspeed (Star Wars Galaxies) just doing space battles because that’s simply where the fun is. This game was no different, and just getting to hear the nuances of a ship while piloting was a blast.
The game does have some issues though. Namely, it’s the high learning curve. The ridiculously high learning curve; unless players take the time to actually play the tutorial and learn at least the basics, do not expect an easy time in the main game itself. There are also a lot of small things that should be remembered – enough that I recommend taking some notes. As your character levels and learns new moves, you’re going to have quite the list of abilities and there are only so many hotkeys/buttons on the HUD.
Ultimately the game is fun, if convoluted. There is a tutorial level for a reason – I highly recommend taking it as noted. Multiple times. Even then, there are a few glitches within the game itself – sometimes I couldn’t jump out of places or I’d fail a mission because I’d do something too soon. Once these little kinks are understood the game is much easier to work with. Except for jumping out of system: that one still sucks as a glitch. Beyond those, the game is fun and definitely something I recommend for people looking to try a much, much deeper game. There’s a lot to chew on with this game and it won’t leave you wanting.Note: Starpoint Gemini was reviewed on PC. A digital copy of the game was provided by the publisher/developer.