The captain’s chair isn’t even warm yet. An inexperienced crew looks to their equally green commander for guidance. Sat at the controls of a vessel teeming with unfamiliar technology teamed with new systems, knowing not their purpose nor their strength. Across the screen a map flickers into life pointing the way to a nearby space station. This station, this marvel of manufacture, dwarfs the vessel by a factor of hundreds. Where else to go in this vast expanse than into the station.
This is a pretty accurate description of the first few minutes in Starpoint Gemini 2. Around you a galaxy of opportunity spreads out to a point which boggles the mind, yet your sat in your little chair wondering what to do and where to go. The developer Little Green Men (shortened to LGM) luckily provides an in-depth tutorial for any new captains to help them get started, however unless you enjoy reading you may want to bring glasses since it’s at least 10 minutes of solid reading. Uninviting as that may sound however its all to the point. The reason there’s so much education at this early point is simple, Starpoint Gemini 2 requires it due to the wealth of activities on offer.
Now there can be no denial that the amount of information thrust upon you so quickly is a little jarring. Without a little practise guiding your first ship around the vast emptiness of space is sort of more like piloting a brick through a pool of jam. When it all sinks in though you can’t help but have a smile streak across your face when that first ambitious flanking manoeuver to keep your main weapons batteries pummeling whatever metallic hulk crosses your path. A rough estimate of 30 minutes could be drawn from when you first power up those engines to everything clicking into place — it took me about 40 minutes and a close friend 20, to get to grips with everything and feel comfortable enough to not open the keybinds menu. Luckily the amazing context menu which is brought up by mouse-wheel clicking on an area helps you do what needs to be done anywhere.
Before I mentioned a vast emptiness of space and it’s actually something Starpoint Gemini 2 beats into the ground by packing in so much to do you’re never going to be left drifting. In freeplay mode – the only mode currently available in this beta stage – everything starts of pretty simply with a couple of skirmishes between your powerful vessel and smaller fighters before offering up a host of other activities so vast a balance between freedom and an overwhelming sense of encumberment is formed. This does show Starpoint Gemini 2′s stand out feature with great power, the fact that no matter what level you are or area you’re in there’s always something to which your attention can be turned.
There’s first of all the trading system. You might for instance delight in the idea of a little asteroid mining in which you lock onto your chosen rock and hammer it with fire until it reveals whatever material is inside before lugging it all back to a station to sell of. Asteroid mining is one of those activities in a freeform game which so many seem to miss completely – a downtime activity. Too many times in games which take this route of gameplay make every activity something which requires your full attention unless you want to just sit around watching the world go by. The action of floating around an asteroid field blowing apart rocks for metals though is the perfect pastime to indulge in while taking that family phone call or watching a newly released film, and you’re still getting in-game currency and experience for it.
When it comes to actual trading spreadsheet-fiends the world over will be delighted to know there’s enough depth here to keep you occupied for months without it putting up a wall to those who’ve never tried it in games before. A little experimentation is necessary though. You’ll go pick up materials from one station then fly over to the next and hope to sell them for a profit which doesn’t always work but when you’re successful in turning a profit the rewards are there to be seen. Inter-faction trading is probably the easiest way to go here if you are lucky enough to come across two factions with which you’re at least friendly with.
Factions and reputation play a huge role in Starpoint Gemini 2. For example in one area you may buy a consignment of shard blades to carry onto your next location to sell, but between your destination lies a government which brands these weapons illegal. Should they discover that these items are in your cargo hold you’ll be asked to accept the order to jettison them or decline in the pursuit of credits. You’re free to do this, but there may be repercussions to your decision. Docking with any stations in the region purporting this legislation will lead to repercussions also. This depth and sea of possible outcomes and factors really strengthen a great asset the game has.
You aren’t flying around some game, you’re flying across a fully fledged galaxy.
There’s so much to this game that I’ve still to touch on like the humour in some of the goods (ferry adult special interest literature between two stations was a personal favourite) and the political stances between all the factions before even casting an eye over the ship upgrades or captain levelling system. Even such joys as scanning anomalies or repairing emplacements need more justice than I can provide for in this preview. For that reason I’m only going to have space here to talk about a feature which can make or break any space simulation game, combat.
You’re informed of the arrival of hostile vessels through a simple audio trigger and the red dots appearing on your map. Approaching combat can go one of two ways. The first route involves ordering the crew to fire at will while you focus yourself on manoeuvering around the combat situation and activating abilities. Abilities are granted by the captain time you pick at the opening of the game (commander, gunner or engineer), four in all are given which upon activation give you a series of buffs to help in the arena of space war. This is my prefered method because the weapon set up I use revolves mainly around a triplet of rail guns which with a little positioning can all be locked on to the same target at once. There’s also a heavy weapon you can fire using X in fire at will mode but its best to save this powerhouse for when it’s really needed.
The second method is to take full and complete control of everything to tune combat and fire rates to exactly what you need. In this mode you’re still going to be moving your ship but added to that you’ve got total control of where and when you fire by simply placing your cursor over a rival combatant and holding down the right mouse button. This is one for the lovers of space warfare because lining up a satisfying broadside never fails to get the adrenaline pumping. Tied to that you can put yourself in turret view so you can freely turn your camera to get those shots on while enemies are scything up your starboard or rumbling towards your rear.
Even with this combat has so much depth to it when you factor in context sensitive abilities such as grappling or boarding and all the way to adjusting the power levels of your vessel to best make use of the situation that a simple written preview doesn’t do it justice. So instead I give to you now a solemn promise. Starpoint Gemini 2 has taken over my life and stands ready to keep me from going outside for many weeks to come. Every few days or so there will be a new article or video released detailing several or even a single aspect of this amazing experience.
Starpoint Gemini 2 in this early beta stage is a massive, beautiful looking title with many great things to come. If you’ve wanted to dive into space simulators but been too scared of an information overload then look no further than this Iceberg Interactive-published title. Perhaps you’re an experienced starship captain? Then go get into the early access program and enjoy yourself. Little Green Men Games are developing an amazing title here and still listening to community feedback and suggestions as the game runs towards full release. Ready to sign up? Then go grab the game on Steam, its £18.99 right now and bears enough content in its engine bays to blow apart games more than twice its price.