Exploring space is an endeavor for the patient; there’s a vast amount of area to cover and the scenery doesn’t change very often. But when you do see something unique and interesting, it’s usually enough to leave you wide-eyed and slack-jawed. That’s representative of the overarching experience in Starpoint Gemini 2, as often you will be marching through familiar territory, both visually and within the gameplay itself, but the moments when the game throws something new at you, be it a new mission or a new ship, it’s very exciting.
I didn’t know what to make of the game initially. It’s certainly beautiful; the ship and structure models are filled with fantastic detail and have a significant weight to them, and the boundless void that is outer space is painted with glowing stars, cloudy nebulas, fields of asteroids, wormholes, space stations, planets, and other ships zooming about. At first it’s all a bit overwhelming to take in, and for the first couple of hours you will be bombarded by tutorial texts that sing the litany of the game’s structure.
On one hand the game offers straightforward action in the way of flying and shooting, this portion of the game is easy enough to grasp. You use your mouse to direct your ship, aim your turrets, and fire your basic weapon. The keyboard is connected to a numbered action bar where you can use special skills and items, as well as use hotkeys that perform various functions. You can toggle between the mouse directly controlling your ship or behaving like a mouse on your desktop, interacting with all the buttons and sliders in the game’s dashboard/interface.
When you’re not busy shooting down enemy ships and transporting precious cargo, you will be treated to the game’s RPG elements. This aspect of the game includes a story that pulls you along a primary mission line, side missions that are typically made up of assassination and transportation jobs, as well as leveling up and customizing your ship. The story itself is interesting enough to give you purpose and context as you zip around space, but if you just want to focus on action and exploration, there’s a sandbox mode that moves the story out of your way.
I mentioned customization earlier and Starpoint Gemini 2 has a lot of it. You can hire staff for your ship which affects its performance: For example, you might hire a crew member who increases your propulsion speeds. You have complete control over your equipment loadout and their enhancements. You can even customize the look of your ship to some degree. All of this is generally handled when you anchor yourself to a space station. While docked, in addition to what I’ve already mentioned, you can buy and sell trade goods, read news clips, access a garage which houses your ships, and more. It sounds like a lot to deal with, but between all the tutorials, which are accessible at any time for reference, and the well-designed interface, you’ll have your hands around it in a reasonable amount of time.
The music is very appropriate for a game that is set on immersing you in space. When you’re just drifting and not engaged in combat, the soundtrack bellows soft, playful notes that actually remind me of the more relaxing moments in Mass Effect. When the action picks up, so does the soundtrack’s tempo, and suddenly you’re being alerted with more aggressive audio. The sound effects and voice-overs are mostly standard affair, neither offending nor impressing.
Starpoint Gemini 2 is a massive sandbox style game that plays a lot like an MMO and games like Fallout and Skyrim. There’s no shortage of things to do and it’s a lot of fun exploring space. You’ll ride wormholes like waves in an ocean and jump through warp gates to zip around the map quicker, and you’ll actually feel a sense of danger when you enter enemy territory. The RPG elements allow you to outfit your ships to your liking, and earning credits through completing missions and trading will allow you to invest in even more powerful equipment and ships. The ships look awesome, by the way. Even the ship you start out with looks cool. The first time you lay eyes on a massive dreadnaught ship you’ll be floored.
The biggest downfall is the repetitive nature of the missions. At some point even the story missions feel like a chore and all you have left to push you forward is the drive to conquer the star chart – and the factions within – and acquire bigger and better ships. You have to be alright with not always having some interestingly scripted story event to draw you in and instead relying on raw exploration and adventure.
Starpoint Gemini 2 is a game for space lovers. This is one of the most wonderfully realized open space games I’ve played and it will delight you with its gorgeous visuals. There’s a true sense of adventure as you discover new areas of the star chart, with opportunity and danger lurking around every corner so you’re constantly encouraged to build yourself up in terms of power, wealth, and relationships with the various factions. There’s a serviceable story that will draw you into the personal ambitions of the game’s cast and imbed you within the politics and the conflicts. Just be aware that, ultimately, you’re basically completing the same type of missions ad nauseum: destroying enemy ships, transporting cargo, repairing structures and the like.