I have to admit that after watching the debut trailer and the gameplay
video I wasn't particularly impressed with Starpoint Gemini, although I did
see some of the game dynamics I love. After playing the demo I have to admit
that I was positively surprised. It might borrow ideas and concepts from
just about every space related game of the past decade, which makes what
Little Green Men did even a bigger achievement because the mix plays great
and it's very entertaining; the demo offering but a small part of the very
first part of the Campaign.
Like many good games now days there is a very Indie feeling to Starpoint
Gemini, but the demo is proof that when things are done right they can
compete against AAA titles and come out the winners with products that
offer engaging gameplay and fresh approaches to old concepts.
The lack of a tutorial in the demo (although it does come with a digital
manual) might be a problem for gamers looking for a fast entry into the
fray. There is a little head-banging involved with understanding the less
intuitive aspects of the controls, GUI and overall gameplay. But once this
stage has been overcome, with a little patience and curiosity, we can
start worrying about the details, the battles, the level increase, the
weapons, the ships and, to a degree, the story.
I can see the influence of games like Battlestations: Pacific, Nexus: The
Jupiter Incident, Freelancer, X3: Reunion, Star Wolves, Star Trek: Armada and
the unforgettable Homeworld. Each of these games relinquishes a portion of
what made them great and the development team manages to combine them
perfectly. Maybe not flawlessly, but fixing this is probably the easy part.
Personally, other than a missing DirectX file I had no noticeable problem
with the demo.
As the adventure starts we, through our avatar, learn that Starpoint
Gemini was the huge wormhole entry into the Gemini star cluster. After an
unknown device explodes near the wormhole the aftershock destroys everyone
close and changes forever the system itself. Now, 20 years later, our ship
has been found lethargic and still trapped in a stasis rift, one of the
phenomena caused by the strange explosion. Ship and crew awake into a
universe two decades older, while for them not a minute has passed.
The scientists of the Archimedes vessel can't help but let it be known that
what they did wasn't because of their purity of heart, or plain good
intentions. Something is happening in the sector, something is brewing,
Revenants, as those trapped in the stasis rifts are called, are starting to
reappear. And it seems that many are putting their hopes in them, as well
as many are afraid of them because most belong to the group that defeated
the Earth Empire twenty years ago, the Gemini League.
Gameplay wise Starpoint Gemini qualifies as a spaceship combat RPG with
tactical and simulation elements. The extent of its RPG side is at the level
of what Xbow Software and EgoSoft offer in their games. The demo includes
but a tiny portion of what is available, barely allowing the exploration of
a pair of systems and a few friendly stations. Enough to let us engage in
a little free roaming after the story driven start, and learn more about
combat, exploration, mining, freelancing and scientific work.
Our ship is the true character in LGM's game, the Capitan, our avatar,
nothing but a small off-the-scene part of it. In the demo we get to see around ten
ship types and perhaps get to handle at least half that many, if so wanted.
Each with its pros and cons, each better adapted, or adaptable, to a players
There are no single-pilot ships in Starpoint Gemini, other than as small
strike forces, in this respect it reminds me a lot of the Star Trek context.
The smallest would be Corvette and Cargo Freighter classes, and from there
we move up to Frigates, Destroyers, and Battleships. Each with a set amount
of weapons, cargo space and system's slots; all of which we can personalize as
needed or desired.
With a less action oriented focus the game offers the combat logic of
Battlestations: Pacific, also present, to a certain degree, in the game
Treasure Planet: Battle at Procyon. This means that guns have
restricted --and more realistic-- firing arcs; something that is crucial to
know when facing tough opponents head-on or dealing with fast moving
Combat is fun although I imagine it could become a little slow and
repetitive were it not for the presence of so many weapons and systems and
ships to play with. Perks, special abilities and bonuses also help to make
it more engaging. And, besides, there is so much more to do in the game
other than just fighting.
When not following the story arch we very much can do as we please. Explore
as many systems as we can access, do a few or all freelancing missions, mine
asteroids, look for derelict ships, analyze anomalies, repair satellite
stations, do a little pirating, even become a merchant. This amount of
openness seems at the level of games like Freelancer, X3: Reunion and Star
Wolves 3: Civil War, which very much means that when to stop is a player's decision
--although, it might be a little more limited during the Campaign in the full
game to allow for balance against enemy forces.
Visually the game is very good, there seems to be a distinctive look to each
system and there is plenty of color and life. Electric storms, nebulae,
anomalies and other galactic terrain allow for a nice exploratory experience.
Ships look good and combat effects are in the line of what we can see in
the best battles within the Star Trek franchise (movies and TV series that is), something that allows us to
identify the type of attack we are suffering and how to best handle the
enemies around us. Sound effects are at the level and the underlying
soundtrack, by Valdi Sabev, is of the quality we might expect from a higher
For anyone wanting to try before buying the demo of Starpoint Gemini comes
without artificial restrictions and so allows the player to test the full
offer. It even allows to save and load and do some free roaming after an
initial part of the story. The choice to keep on playing is only limited by
the fact that two systems get repetitive after a few hours. A good demo
for a very promising space adventure.