I found myself a new favorite space simulation since Freelancer. It’s called Starpoint Gemini Warlords, but I prefer calling it “Space Tycoon 2017”. Sure, between 2003’s Freelancer and present day, there were at least a dozen new complex space simulations being released on Steam or otherwise. Yet those were a bit, out of my league. I would have loved to sink dozens if not hundreds of hours in CCP Games’ EVE Online or Egosoft’s X Series, yet I always felt that those titles required a pilot’s license and a Ph.D. in Economics before I’d fully enjoy them. I’m exaggerating of course and I hope you can take a joke. Yet Freelancer, that “arcade” game by comparison to the aforementioned ones, had it all. The looks, the sounds, the gameplay, and most importantly, the user-friendly interface which endeared it to me.
Starpoint Gemini Warlords is the third title in the eponymous series and I must confess that I never played the previous two as much as I did in Warlords’ case. I’m sure that the larger picture is a direct continuation of the main plot and subplots present in the first two titles but my point is, even if you only purchased and played the game I’m reviewing today, you won’t feel left out. Warlords does a stellar job at providing a lot of reading material and in-game auxiliary videos. The only other video game I remember taking its story and setting to such great lengths in terms of manual complexity, is The Witcher: Enhanced Edition. That is high praise in case you were wondering, since I like reading stuff on almost any topic.
Indeed, you can probably spend about an hour or so just getting acquainted to Starpoint Gemini’s rich lore. I won’t spoil that for you, but I will refer to Warlords’ protagonist and his crucial role in this game. Like many other gameplay mechanics I will write about below, you can customize your character within this title as well. Male or female, several portraits to choose from and even a multitude of traits/perks to further ensure your own vision and touch. You can’t complain about games which offer you so much freedom right from the start. The prologue has players controlling a future underling of the character you’ll create, since Starpoint Gemini Warlords puts an emphasis on the chain of command and promotion sustained by meritocracy.
You served as an officer aboard a Solari Concord dreadnought prototype which got sabotaged and destroyed during its maiden flight. The plot shall obviously thicken and you’re soon no longer regarded as a suspect or just a henchman. Ironically, you’ll get promoted until you control your faction’s entire war effort and your former superiors become your subordinates. Now that’s something Freelancer never even dreamed to achieve. It’s far better to bark orders at others than to follow them through your entire career, right? Solari is your faction and you can interact in a friendly (or less so) manner with several more. As with so many other Sci-Fi settings, a civil war is brewing in Gemini as well. You will have to join in eventually, but you can still keep yourself busy while earning hard currency one way or another. Even an altruistic administrator can play the ruthless smuggler in his spare time. Freedom of choice, baby!
Developer Little Green Men Games has made a name of itself with the Starpoint Gemini series also for using and constantly improving their proprietary graphics engine, named “Whale”. So Starpoint Gemini Warlord uses Whale Engine 2.5 and it features both the eye candy and the stability to wholeheartedly enjoy the experience. Playing it in 4K resolution, I would get around 35 frames per second so I settled for 2K res and constant 60fps. The screenshots still look great and there were no frame rate dips or crashes to desktop. As for bugs & glitches, I met some when activating T-Drive (long-distance propulsion) and entering a new area, such as an asteroid field which would load a few seconds after I arrived. And no, that’s not “normal” or acceptable since I play all my games on an SSD. I can imagine that certain asset loading is even longer on an HDD. Hopefully, future game updates can iron out this issue.
The soundtrack in Starpoint Gemini Warlords is pretty much what you’d expect from an excellent simulation. Some of the cutscenes are fully voice-acted while the dialogue between the protagonist you created and various NPCs is a silent affair. I’m not gonna complain since my previous sub-genre favorite (again, it was Freelancer) had the same dialogue lines for almost all the “random” space station encounters. It was like TES IV Oblivion in space, to better understand how repetitive those voices and spoken lines became by the time you’d heard them countless times, no matter where you traveled. So Warlords avoids this and takes the easy way out. Far better texts and zero repetitive/annoyingly generic voices.
If I were to discuss in detail, the complexity and sheer variety of the gameplay in Starpoint Gemini Warlords, you’d probably not only fall asleep but also feel like you’ve just read a massive spoiler. I’ll summarize and focus on a few key features. First and foremost you’re a leader of your human faction. That doesn’t not mean that you can’t take the fight to the many enemies you shall make, but you need to understand that leading by power of personal example won’t be as satisfying as assembling a mighty fleet and ordering them to secure a new sector for your ever-expanding ambitions.
As administrator of numerous factional assets, you’ll be responsible for the well-being and profitability of those ships and structures as well. It might sound over-complicated but I assure you that there are very many video tutorials which you may access from within Warlords’ Codex, which shall teach you step by step, all the necessary measures and options in order to play the game at its maximum potential. You just need to be patient and don’t give up even if you met some failures along your conquest path. Resources (whether we talk of Credits or Gas, Ore etc.) are aplenty and this title’s economy is quite stable. You won’t get shifting prices and I’m glad that stock trading & market aren’t included. Those features always end up being a hindrance rather than help.
If sitting behind a proverbial desk and ordering others around sounds dull to you (and probably everyone else), our Solari Concord hero or heroine is fortunately in favor of the hands-on management style. You fly and observe those missions in person, on your own ship obviously. Speaking of which, the ships themselves are not just a sight to behold, but also come in various shapes and sizes, from the nimble gunships, to the massive freightliners and carriers. In-between, we have corvettes, cruisers, frigates and more classic nautical terms which apply not just to the space vessels but also the intricate battle mode. The ability to equip “consumable” powers and divert ship energy from shields to guns, for example, speaks volumes about the in-depth simulation I’m writing about here. There is so much more you need to discover by yourselves and I will not deny you that privilege.
A near-flawless experience, Starpoint Gemini Warlords is the perfect combination between RPG, RTS, Economic and Space Simulation. The fact that it also does a wonderful job at instructing new players, is what sets it apart from its competitors. The price tag is fully justified, given the limitless time you can spend within the game’s main storyline or the other open-world type scenarios in which you can focus on pure trading or bounty hunting if you wish. There are so many variables which seem to work perfectly along the gameplay mechanics which emphasize on player choices and customization. Just buy the game now or during a Steam Sale and you won’t regret it!
All the screenshots you see above, have been taken by me in-game through the Steam Overlay.