The Real-Time Strategy (RTS) genre of video games can be a true test to one’s ability to handle a major and usually chaotic state of affairs. You’re usually faced with a vast, powerful and hostile army ready to cause chaos within whatever scenario you’re presented with and it’s your task to build up resources, create a massive army and use them to take the fight back to the enemy. Before battle you must decide how to manage your resources to build a strong base and during battle you’ll be needing to constantly manage your forces to outsmart the enemy and crush them. In Gemini Wars from developers Camel 101 and publishers Iceberg Interactive, you’ll be collecting resources and researching new technologies to create a massive fleet of powerful warships to spread across the galaxy and crush your foes. This sounds like an exciting and challenging undertaking, however with competition coming from games such as the Sins of a Solar Empire series, the Homeworld series, Star Ruler and Endless Space, Gemini Wars has much to contend with to stand out from other space based RTS games.
It’s the 2nd half of the 21st century and mankind is out exploring the galaxy. Man finds the Omega sector where millions of habitable worlds are found and are soon being colonized by man. However, corporations also took their interest to the Omega sector and helped create the most powerful paramilitary force in the galaxy: Omega Tech. The settlers of the Omega sector then declared their independence from Earth and for decades they fought for this right. The Omega settlers became known as The Alliance of Free Worlds. The leaders of Earth and allied colonies joined together to create the United Space Federation (USF) and created the United Space Federation Fleet to counter the relentless onslaught of the Alliance. Now the USF and the Alliance are locked in a massive conflict and only one of these superpowers will take control of the galaxy.
Gameplay is influenced heavily by games such as Sins of a Solar Empire and Homeworld. You will construct research stations, dockyards, mining stations and many other entities in order to build a fleet to combat the enemy. There are planets scattered around the star map where you can colonize and build your base of operations. Crystal is mined through asteroids which can be used to pay for constructing you bases and your ships. There is also a research tree which gives you access to more buildings, improvements for your ships and more powerful warships. When in combat you can give your forces commands such as attacking the enemy, attacking from afar or using a defensive stance. Your ships are also able to gain experience and level up, should they survive the many battles they come across. The more you spread across other planets, the more chaotic the battles become since you’ll be defending all of you controlled planets while at the same time attacking theirs. Luckily you’re able to zoom out to a strategic view which gives you a 2D view of the battle-space, allowing you to assess the situation and plan accordingly during chaotic battles.
The storyline may not be wholly original, but it does its part of adding context to this conflict and does a rather decent job of making this conflict personal. The campaign keeps things nice and varied when it comes to each scenario. Sometimes you’ll provide protection to a convoy of civilian ships and some missions involve exploration. The graphics are actually rather good with highly detailed and rotating planets, nice textures on buildings and ships, effective special effects and colorful backgrounds. The sound is exemplary for a game such as this and it does its part with battle effects, dramatic musical scores and voice acting of varying quality.
In skirmish mode you can determine how many planets are in a start system which affects the length of the game greatly. Games can take from a few hours to a few days. Battles can spread across the entire star-map which makes for some excitingly large-scale battles. It’s thrilling to watch your ships and the enemy’s locked in combat while you’re literally on the edge of your seat waiting with great anxiety to find out who comes out from battle alive. Successful strategies make the victory all the more sweeter.
Gemini Wars can provide an enjoyable experience, yet there are noticeable flaws which prevent the game from being up to the standards of Homeworld, Sins of a Solar Empire , Endless Space and the rest. The AI is very inconsistent for one thing. Sometime enemies can range from brutal and cunning to idiotic and make some rather bizarre strategic decision which leave you able to take the enemy out rather easily. You can’t set rally points which makes it rather troublesome to rally your forces. The interface doesn’t tell you enough information about your ships, especially when they are grouped as there is no details about shield and hull levels. The interface also doesn’t tell you about new ships being built or warn you about an enemy attack. It’s rather cumbersome to navigate your domain because there are no shortcuts present in the interface which give you quick access to your planets and ships.
The game comes with some rather nasty bugs. One of them can make you loose your research point and prevent you from creating new facilities and ships you’re already building. The campaign only allows you to play the USF. It would’ve be great for them to add a campaign for the Alliance as well so the player can see this conflict from their point of view and add even more complexity to the campaign mode. Also some campaign missions can be quite linear and they don’t offer the player the chance to make some clever strategic decisions to put the fight in their favour. Missions require you to follow a set path and it’s game over if you stray from that path. It’s rather unfair to compare this game to RTS juggernauts like Sins of a Solar Empire or Endless Space, but it’s hard not to because they pull off space RTS gaming so well everything else is expected to follow suit.
Ultimately, Gemini Wars is a great effort to provide the player with an engaging and dynamic RTS experience. It is a definite flawed gem of gaming. It may not have the depth and complexity of Sins of a Solar Empire or Endless Space and the game does have some design flaws that prevent the player from using effective strategies, but the developers deserve praise for providing fun, action-packed and accessible RTS gaming. A very good first effort and it will be interesting to see what the developers will come up with next.
This review was based on a retail download copy of the game for the PC provided by Camel101.