Starpoint Gemini Warlords – Xbox One Review
Starpoint Gemini Warlords is a space simulation game that seems to harbour ambitions to be many different things, and maybe overreaches itself too much to be a really great game. It combines an RPG story, combat, strategy and 4x elements. The game previously released on PC last year and is making its debut on the Xbox One. The franchise by Little Green Men is the third in the series and has been converted to an Xbox game having previously been available for the PC.
The campaign in Starpoint Gemini Warlords is nothing out of the ordinary, in fact it felt dated and clichéd in its storyline and characters. It starts as a tutorial which does a reasonably good job introducing the player to the elements of the game one at a time, but is unforgiving if you fail and die, making you start the whole chapter from the start. The storyline has you as commander of a small spaceship accompanying a large battlecruiser that is destroyed because you have gone back to help defend your base station. You can play out different scenarios in the story after this but to be honest, you get more out of the game by starting out on your own and forging your own adventure rather then being lead by a sub-standard narrative. The most impressive element of the game is the options available to you as you chose the direction you want your adventure to take. You can focus on being aggressive in combat becoming bounty hunter, try and make your fortune in space salvage, mining, or schlepping between bases trading all sorts of goods in the hope of making a tidy profit.
In the free roam mode you get to plan your adventures strategically as well as tacking the action elements. As you gain experience and make money you can change ship or upgrade the one you have, develop and expand your base station, and eventually build a small fleet that is ultimately under your command. The management side of things was very multi-layered so giving plenty of variety but where the game falls slightly short is in the combat. Once you get used to the physics of moving in zero gravity (ie your ship will not fly like a plane, so think of the Vipers in Battlestar Galactica rather than a Star Wars X-wing), you have to content with an awkward camera system which will often end up you travelling in the wrong direction without realising it. Early on in the game especially, its virtually impossible to avoid incoming fire, having to rely on the strength of your shields, yet its extremely difficult to maintain accuracy when firing at an enemy. You can target an enemy with a marker making it easier to see, but with no aim lock it takes a lot of fiddling about in different directions to get some regular direct hits. This frustration certainly tempered my enjoyment of the game as I had to play as a much less aggressive captain to minimise the instances of combat.
Graphically the game looks fantastic, with a great variety of designs when it comes to the spacecraft and some beautiful looking backgrounds and environments. There were a few issues with frame-rate which tended to drop when there a lot of elements moving around your area of space at the same, and a particular annoyance was the text on the screen was far too small to be practical even on a big tv screen. You don’t really want to be forced to get closer to your screen to read the font. Character art was very disappointing, featuring pen pictures of characters that were lazily stereotypical and more akin to a 1990’s sci-fi cartoon.
Starpoint Gemini Warlords gives you a large canvas to play on once you’ve uncovered more areas of the map, the trouble is that it flatters to deceive as everything feels so close. Planets and space stations that you’d expect to be vast distances apart can be reached fairly swiftly, with the light speed travel mechanic just looking like normal travel but on fast forward, rather than it seeming as if the space is bending around you like you get and now expect from other games of the genre.
You can easily get drawn into the world of Starpoint Gemini and take your space adventure in many different directions and invest plenty of hours in the game, but it’s the shortcomings that for me stop it from become the fully immersive addictive experience I so hoped it would be. A valiant ambitious effort most certainly by the developers but the game slightly over-reaches itself and comes up a bit short to be considered a classic.
Developer: Little Green Men Games
Publisher: Little Green Men Games
Many Thanks to Little Green Men for the review copy.