Space: the final frontier. A dark and mostly empty abyss populated sparsely by planets rocky or gaseous, gigantic stars and exotic phenomena. We dream of an era where interstellar travel is commonplace, and Starpoint Gemini 2 brings that future and the cold, unforgiving void to life in an adventure equal parts engaging and relaxing.
As you begin, you’re given the option either to pursue the campaign or explore in Freeroam mode. The latter foregoes any semblance of plot and leaves you to your own devices to explore the immense map, known as the Starchart, that SG2 takes place in. Immense is an understatement: even in a fast ship with engines set to overdrive, going from one corner to the other will take hours.
You have your choice of character portraits before selecting one of three classes. The Commander is fleet-oriented and grants bonuses to allied ships. Gunners are weapons- and combat-focused, and Engineers have the capacity to hack enemy ship systems, boost their own power output and generate dangerous space-time anomalies to trap enemies in. Your selection will have considerable impact on your combat as you venture forth.
The campaign is extremely lacking. You are the son or daughter of Gabriel Faulkner, and are sent on a mission across the stars to recover a series of data cores containing sensitive and encrypted information. Immediately, you’re exposed to one of the most disappointing aspects of the game: the voice acting, which ranges from terrible to almost tolerable and features a slew of gratingly poor accents. Beyond that, the quest to recover data cores effectively boils down to you flying point-to-point and completing some meager quests along the way to up your level and line your pockets. It seems Starpoint Gemini 2 is cognizant of the fact that this mode is poor and even encourages you to pursue the Freeroam mode after the first portion of the campaign.
Aside from the voice acting, some of the notable shortcomings include low-resolution particle effects and a complete absence of 3D character models. When docked or anchored to a station or planet, you’re presented a 2D screen and a handful of buttons that signify the local merchant, shipyard, upgrade center or news stations. Your character is a portrait, as is every NPC. These can damage immersion somewhat, but the game is devoted to delivering an authentic adventure in space, not on land or onboard a ship, and as such these shortcomings are forgivable.
The Freeroam mode is where Starpoint Gemini 2 shines, brighter than a supernova. You’re left alone in the game’s universe to carve your own path as everything from a lawful-good enforcer or chaotic-evil smuggler or pirate. You can seek rare and illegal cargo to sell on shady markets or complete bounty missions to bring some peace to the sector. Quests randomly pop up as you explore, and allow you to do everything from repair damaged stations to assassinate high-profile targets.
The gigantic map is somewhat sparse, but not to the game’s detriment. As you move towards a mission objective or docking station, which can take several minutes, you’re given time to kick back, relax and enjoy the surroundings. Travel is made easier by the existence of T-Gates, regulated fast-travel devices and wormholes, which pop you across the map at warp speed.
Either in a third-person view from behind your ship or behind one of the mounted turrets – a severe oversight was the developer’s neglecting to include a captain’s chair perspective- you can take in the game’s scenery, from its undulating wormholes to daunting asteroid belts.Much more of the game is spent travelling and questing than engaging in the combat, which is fun and frenetic. You can choose to give your crew and AI control of your weaponry as you focus on navigating about, dodging fire and keeping enemies in sight or attempt to juggle both. Often, you’ll find yourself outnumbered and needing to use every tactic at your disposal to survive, striking a balance of energy distribution that keeps your shields functional, engines to a point where you can move quickly and responsively and weapons with enough juice to fire continually.
It’s obvious where the focus was during development: on creating a massive and believable universe with tons of ships and procedurally-generated missions to take on. As such, the ships are detailed and extremely customizable. They can be outfitted with everything from beam weapons to missile launchers and every aspect can be upgraded in some capacity. As you gain experience, you gain Skill and Perk points, which allow you to increase your character’s traits and their influence on various aspects of ship control and combat in a familiar RPG style.
Starpoint Gemini 2 is extremely deep and complex, though unlike similarly-scaled and immersive games like EVE Online it manages to be approachable. There are hundreds of in-game tutorials, and video guides for beginner’s on YouTube are well over two hours in length. Steam Workshop support exists and a modding community is evolving for Little Green Men’s game. The modders have added ships, upgraded textures and various tweaks to either make the game feel more authentic or Star Trek, as your preferences dictate.
The game includes a rudimentary economy which you can manipulate as you gather loads of credits with which to outfit your ship. Purchases at any of the hundreds of stations run the gamut from light- and heavy- weapons and the associated upgrades to crew members who can upgrade various ship capacities to incredible, immense ships with incredible offensive capabilities.
Accompanied by sweeping electronic soundscapes, you’re given the freedom to carve your own path in Starpoint Gemini 2, and the sheer amount of things to discover is mind-boggling. The game only gets better as you get more powerful, with engagements becoming larger and more demanding though never reaching the gigantic fleet-on-fleet wars you might expect.
All in all, Starpoint Gemini 2 is a relaxing and immersive foray into the depths of space. With tons of content, enthusiasts will find themselves lost for dozens and possibly hundreds of hours exploring, questing, looting and negotiating with the thriving and vivid universe. Some aesthetic issues keep it from being perfect and it lacks the consistent adrenaline-pumping action that thrill-seekers crave, but overall it is an immersive and engaging experience for space captains everywhere.