Have you ever played Starpoint Gemini? In fact, have you ever even heard of it? Nope, me neither, until Starpoint Gemini 2 landed on my lap for review. However, after trying (and failing miserably might I add) to get into Elite: Dangerous, I’m glad it did, as this space sim from Little Green Men Games is easy enough to get into and provides a lengthy, enjoyable romp – despite exhibiting a number of issues.
Strictly a single player experience, Starpoint Gemini 2 lays its two gameplay modes open for you from the outset, although in truth, they’re not that dissimilar. Free-roam is exactly what it says on the tin; letting you loose in the game’s universe to go about and do whatever takes your fancy, and trust me, there’s a lot to do. You could spend your time being an unscrupulous pirate, amassing riches at the expense of your morals, mining asteroids, doing honest work for modest pay, or even as a simple trader, exploiting economic shifts to become filthy rich; it’s up to you – your time spent in Starpoint Gemini 2 is truly what you make it. If you want more structure to your space travels though, then there’s also the Story campaign that provides a narrative background that you can weave in and out of during your escapades.
Playing as Adrian Faulkner, who’s taken it upon himself to unravel the mystery behind his father’s death and ultimately defend the protectorate, the story does its job of giving your adventures some context but it’s hardly riveting. It doesn’t particularly help that it is told via pop up dialog boxes with some pretty ghastly character art, and whilst most of it is (poorly) voiced there’s quite a bit that is not, which can be quite jarring.
Whichever mode you choose to play, you start with a choice of a few basic ships and a small sum of credits that won’t really get you very far, so you’ll quickly want to find a few good ways of making some dough. Although opting for the story campaign presents you with exclusive missions that you can tackle at your own pace, everything else you can do to fill the time in-between them out in the open universe is available in both modes as soon as you begin. This means that aside from trading, mining and piracy as mentioned earlier, you can also jump into a plethora of additional missions to keep you occupied and increase your fame and fortune. Freelance missions, for example, offer a quick diversion and are fairly varied, providing you with assassination, science and maintenance tasks. Side missions on the other hand, are more developed, and often offer unique scenarios and objectives. Whilst none of these distractions are necessary to progress through the game, a level system is employed, with the recommended level for all story, freelance and side missions displayed for your consideration before taking them on. Further expanding your unique Starpoint Gemini 2 experience, levelling up grants you points which can be spent to increase numerous skills that are dependent on your choice of starting class. Additionally, perk points are also awarded every for every five levels that you gain, giving you the opportunity to benefit from a host of passive bonuses to your abilities.
The experience required to level up is earned in many ways, but the most rewarding and interesting of all is of course combat. Whilst not as thrilling or action packed as the aerial conflict presented in most flight sims, Starpoint Gemini 2’s space warfare is a similar case of moving into the effective range of your armaments and opening fire, all the while trying not to be a sitting duck for your enemies’ retorts. Added strategy, however, comes from how you choose to allocate your ship’s resources. At any point in time, you can adjust balance of your ship’s systems between speed, defence and attack, allowing you to place emphasis where it’s needed the most. For instance, when you’re just out exploring the Gemini system you’ll more than likely want to place all your ship’s power to speed to reduce your journey time, but upon entering combat, whilst having a speedy ship will enable you to manoeuvre faster, it’s probably more beneficial to bolster your weapon systems to do more damage. It’s a simple yet effective system that affords you a great deal of flexibility with regards to your playstyle and strategy, and it certainly makes it feel more like the destiny of your ship is in your hands.
Once you’ve settled into the game and have a nice balance of credits, you can start looking at buying new ships for your fleet, or buy upgrades and weapons for your existing ones. Obviously you’ll need to consider what you’ll be doing with them, as all of the ships have their own strengths and weaknesses such as a cargo bay size, speed and shielding. Attention must also be given to your choice of primary and secondary weapons to ensure that you’re capable with dealing with a range of enemy ships, with low powered but long lasting beams being useful for nimble foes and high powered missiles useful for damaging large behemoths. All in all, there are a large number of options on offer, allowing for a great deal of depth as to how you build and manage your fleet. You can even hire wingmen and officers to assist you if you wish.
On the whole, Starpoint Gemini 2 is a great game for players seeking a nice cerebral experience that they can take at their own pace. Travelling between planets and space stations, conducting your business wherever you see fit, is a nice and relaxing affair due to the pretty scenery and breezy pace, and it is married nicely with frequent bouts of action that never let the experience get stale. It’s obviously made on a tight budget, with its shoddy presentation and inconsistent voice acting, but it remains an enjoyable and absorbing space romp nonetheless. Those that are looking for a deep sandbox adventure into space and are daunted by the stone-cold wall that titles like Elite: Dangerous present to players will find this a lasting and rewarding experience, but it’s best avoided by those that like their action easy, thick and fast.