Posted: November 5, 2014
Starpoint Gemini 2 is a bit shallow and a bit pricey for what it offers, but it is still enjoyable. Overall the story was okay enough to keep me going, and the combat was fun enough to make my stay in Gemini enjoyable. If you are itching for a space sim that is pretty easy to get into and doesn't require a large time commitment to win (around 24 in-game hours for me), this will scratch that itch pretty well. Otherwise, you may want to think carefully on buying this game unless it's on sale.
However, the developers appear to be actively working on improvements to the game as time goes on. Some concerns raised in this article may be addressed as time goes on. Keep an eye on the updates page if you're interested in this product!
LONGER REVIEW: The good:
Visuals are nice, music is nice, starship aesthetics are good too, and the combat is solid. The universe feels big, and provides a pretty immersive experience of traveling through space. Said universe is also populated by various starships as well, usually around space stations and various other miscellaneous space structures. There are many different factions that like to use certain types of ships and lay claim to different areas of space, and you can easily see heated space battles taking place at faction borders. The HUD takes a little getting used to, but is pretty nice once you learn it.
The game itself is a bit grindy as it uses RPG levelling mechanics to determine what ship you can pilot, but I personally didn't mind it that much since the combat was pretty fun. The not-so-good:
The story is okay. The Voice Acting for the story dialogue ranges from terrible to okay.
Side-story missions boil down to "repair structure there for $$$ and XP" or "kill enemies here for $$$ and XP" or "ferry person over there for $$$ and XP" with little fanfare. After you finish the main story, all you can do are the missions described earlier.
During the main story, certain factions and places will be purportedly destroyed or crippled, but what this actually means is that you will just pretend that the story happened while in practice the universe remains largely intact and unchanged.
Certain mechanics are a bit shallow (i.e. hiring crew = looking up which dude/gal has which bonuses, click hire button). Also, while you *can* be a merchant or asteroid miner in this game, it seems to be much eaiser just to capture enemy ships and tow them back to a planet/station where you can sell them.
Character progression is RPG-like, yet character skills/perks can pretty much be ignored. Your character's power is MUCH more dependent on what type of ship you are piloting and how well it is outfitted. The RPG mechanics are more akin to a gating system, where your level determines the type of ship you can pilot.
For me, the entire game was a bit grindy. This was how it went down: capture/sell ships until I can afford the next weight class of ship, do missions (sometimes main storyline) so I can meet the level requirement of said ship. Repeat until I have achieved highest class of ship.
Long segment about what I would have liked to have seen in the game: Multiple plotlines in the game.
The "Escape Velocity" series of games (plot-heavy 2D shooter space-sim) implemented this rather well; there were multiple plotlines for each main faction AND there were also a lot of side plotlines too.
Examples of side-plots: testing prototype weapons for a starship arms company, or ferrying vacationing CEOs to a jungle planet for big game hunting, or helping a rockstar go on tour throughout the galaxy only to discover that he's a robot! Or picking up a random stranger and ferrying him to a planet only to discover that he's a leader of a small sect of colonists who are trying to resist pirate incursions, and he implores you to help them with their plight since the Powers That Be in the universe are far too busy (or corrupt) to deal with the pirates.
I didn't just do these missions for cash, but to see the story unfolded; to see how these characters reacted to these sometimes tragic events in their lives, and how they would deal with it.
I think it's good to have a big Main Storyline as the main attraction, but there's plenty of room in Gemini for smaller guys with fascinating struggles and dramas in their own lives that an aspiring starship captain can be a part of. Being able to hail and talk to other ships and planets.
You don't need to have dialogue trees for every one. But it'd be nice to be able to beg for mercy from a pirate and buy him off with credits, or just say hi to random ships and planets. In this vein, they'd also have a message for when you greet them, with each faction having a different way of talking to you. Perhaps even with a random pool of different types of responses from each faction that vary in tone depending on your standing with them? This is a bit small, but I think it would help with game immersion. The ships, planets, and space stations could use more flavor text.
Though it might seem like a huge hassle to write up descriptions for every space station/planet/starship, you can build an EXTREMELY immersive narrative with these and make the game feel alive. Again, the "Escape Velocity" game series (mostly Escape Velocity Override and Escape Velocity Nova) used flavor texts/descriptions to great effect.
Why is this station in the middle of nowhere and surrounded by hostile space? Are they revolutionaries or sympathizers with another faction, or are they just badasses? Why is this Frigate cheaper than this other one? Oh, the company that manufactures this one wanted to push out a model to get an edge over their hated rival company who was taking their sweet time with their own model. Hey, this Corvette saved an entire company from the brink of bankruptcy! This Carrier design looks like a UFO because of a revolutionary new frame that allows for rapid fighter launching while providing overlapping fields of fire from all of its turret batteries? Cool. This Dreadnought looks like a eldritch abomination because their designers desperately welded a lot of spare parts together and accidentally created a ship that could challenge all previous starship design conventions? Neat!
Planets and some space stations presently have short descriptions with a little flavor text. But it doesn't help that these blurbs are only accessible via starmap. When a player is on the starmap, their first instinct is not to click "info" and read; they want to get somewhere quick. I think it would have been better if you saw the write-up in an unobtrusive static text box on the bottom of the screen. This provides incentive for an exploration-oriented player to land/dock on every planet/station that they find so they can see the little blurb there. These descriptions can really flesh out the factions and gives you an idea of why they exist and how they conduct themselves (i.e. how they treat citizens, local planetary economic problems, policy problems, military actions, natural disasters, etc.).
Overall, more flavor text would be nice so that the universe that the player travels in would feel more alive.
Also, it would be nice to have an in-game chart of which ranks correspond to player level.