The space combat genre was once at the forefront of video gaming. From outstanding titles such as Freespace , Descent, Freelancer, the X series and many more, the space combat and space combat and trading genres have enabled players to travel across the endless plane of outer space and take part in the adventure of a lifetime. Elaborate stories of conspiracies, ancient evils, rivalries and heroism we’re told while you and your ship where the driving force behind it all. Sadly these games fell into decline and very rarely were these genres revisited by any developer and publisher. Today the genres have been revitalised and are being made in small numbers by many developers, in addition to big triple A titles such as Star Citizen and Elite: Dangerous on the way. Thankfully it appears that developers have chosen to revive these legendary genres and open up the galaxy once again for an epic journey amongst the stars.
One game that’s re-opened the galaxy to any would-be space adventurer is Starpoint Gemini 2, published by Iceberg Interactive and developed by Little Green Men Games. Its predecessor had some terrific ideas but its implementation was unfortunately lacking. Nevertheless LGM Games seems to have taken on board all the criticism of the first game and rectified any faults in this new chapter of the SG series. With a host of new improvements in both graphics and gameplay, SG2 looks to be the true gateway to an epic adventure in the vastness of outer space.
Since the end of the second Gemini War, the insurgency group the “Gemini League” is a shadow of its former self. Their leaders are gone, their power and influence has dwindled and their enemy the Empire have made their wrathful return. Using the re-opened Starpoint, they have conquered sectors once held by the league and plan to take even more territory under their banner. However, that may be the least of the league’s problems. Rumours have spread that something else is coming through the Starpoint that frightens even the mighty Empire. Will you stand as the vanguard against the impending evil that’s on its way to wipe out all existence?
You’ll begin picking what class to choose: the Commander who excels in tactical combat especially when surrounded by a fleet, the Gunner who charges in combat with brute force and the Engineer who relies on sabotage instead of direct combat. You’ll also get either a choice of the campaign mode where you find out more about the backstory, your character’s quest for vengeance and what’s at stake for the sector, or freeroam where you’re literally free to explore the galaxy at your leisure. Either way you’ll find what most of these space combat games offer: a massive, beautiful looking sandbox based in a galaxy full of places to go and things to do.
The gameplay is highly influenced by games of the same genre, most noticeably Freelancer and the earlier games of the X series. Some are calling this a single player EVE, as there are deep, complex RPG elements embedded with the gaming mechanics. You control your ship from a third-person perspective, with either the mouse or WASD to move around. Your ship comes loaded with standard light and heavy weapons which you can upgrade or replace later. You also get many skills to use with your ship such as augmenting your defences, your agility and your fleet. You can also gain perks as you progress depending on your playstyle including more efficient mining, better trading results, increased damage and better command of your wingmen. SG2 combines the strategic and managerial aspects of a space trading and combat simulator with the depth and complexity of an RPG and taking full advantage of these mechanics will shape you into the hotshot space pilot you’ve always dreamed of being.
The dogfights in this game are intense and exciting. Battles rage between rival factions all the time giving you the perfect opportunity to try out your hardware on anyone you choose. It never gets old as you swerve, manoeuvre and speed up to avoid enemy cannons, fly at their weak point and unleash your entire arsenal against their hull. Starting enemies tend to be on the same level as you, but later enemies become much stronger with tougher ships and stronger weapons. You’ll utilise brain as well as brawn when using your perks, your equipment and your weapons all in unison when taking on these much stronger foes and you’ll soon find yourself victorious even when the odds are stacked against you.
The galaxy opens up a wealth of possibilities to pursue your ambitions in space. You can build your reputation amongst dozens of warring factions who fight both sides of the law. Take on freelance missions for yourself, trade goods with other stations or smuggle them in without the authorities noticing. Explore the galaxy using your Starchart where you can set custom waypoints to anywhere on the map, find freelance missions, check the bounty board for challenging hunts, check the best buy/sell database to keep track of trade information, check T-Gate routes to travel quickly to your desired location (at a price of course) and much more. Docking at planets and space stations opens many options to you from upgrading your ship, checking your finances and much more. An interactive menu opens where you can browse the latest wares and upgrades for your ship’s components or even browse for an entirely new ship. You can employ officers who expect a hefty salary but come with passive bonuses such as a faster recharge rate for you batteries or harder hitting guns. Hire mercenaries to fight alongside you, customize the appearance of your ship from the colour to the name, find out the latest galactic news and much more. You’re given all the tools to explore this enormous and inviting galaxy and mastery of all these tools and options will have you tracing across the galaxy and seeing everything on offer in no time.
The visuals do a superb job of representing the serenity and beauty of outer space. It’s very soothing and uplifting (when ships aren’t attacking you) to fly across these vast, open sectors of the galaxy viewing colourful skyboxes, hovering past beautiful planets and grandiose space stations. The special effects add to the spectacle of this space adventure, especially in combat where missiles, laser fire and explosions lighten the place up in devastating splendour. The enchanting, soothing sci-fi soundtrack also adds to the tranquillity of flying through outer space. Weapons and explosions resonate loud destructive noises, adding satisfaction when engaging in battle. Thanks to the high quality production of highly detailed graphics and special effects coupled together with strong music and sound design, SG2 presents outer space as a mysterious, exciting, serene, even dangerous place to be.
SG2 has let itself shine and shown both veteran space trading and combat players as well as newcomers what’s great about this genre. It’s got great visuals, intuitive gaming mechanics and the action is raw and engaging. Yet even with all that SG2 has to offer, it’s not without its shortcomings which prevent it from being the ultimate comeback for the space trading and combat genre.
One distinct problem that many of these games share is that they are rather slow to start with. The immensely vast galaxy can be overwhelming at first and finding your foothold can be a daunting task. It does take quite a lot of time and effort to start getting to the good stuff and initial it may feel rather repetitive finding the same freelance work and docking at space stations.
The game may be very nice to look at, but it still feels very static and doesn’t feel like you’re in a living, breathing world. Sectors aren’t densely populated and it feels rather lonesome when flying long distances without the T-Gate between your location and your desired destination, as they usually isn’t much to see besides a few space stations and a couple of ships. It’s also rather anti-climatic when docking at a majestic space station or a beautiful planet only to be greeted by menus and images.
There is context to what you’re doing if you choose to play the story mode. The history of the Gemini War is interesting and there is the urge to continue following the story to find out what happens next. Yet much of the storyline seems to be glanced over because encounters with other characters who explain vital parts of the story are very brief. Conversations with these characters are nothing more than minute chatter on the radio, meaning there’s no real attachment to any of them. Even the main character is rather bland and uninteresting, as his quest for revenge feels rather redundant when you’re distracted by what else the game offers.
Starpoint Gemini 2 is indeed a huge improvement over its predecessor. It looks far better, plays far more smoothly and is loaded with tons of content that with have you exploring and fighting in the depths of outer space for a long while. It is gratifying to see this genre making the comeback it needs with titles such as this. The scale of this game might be consuming at first and it does take a while to get into, but there’s a lot to discover and enjoy the more you progress. For those looking for adventure and excitement in outer space with scenic travels, intense dogfights and a plethora of things to do, then grab Starpoint Gemini 2 and get ready to make your mark on the galaxy.
This review of Starpoint Gemini was played on the PC and was provided by Iceberg Interactive.