Space: the final frontier. Also, a great setting if you’re looking to create an in-depth sim that combines several vastly different genres into one coherent package. Not an easy thing to do, mind you, but it can certainly be done and Starpoint Gemini Warlords is the perfect example of this. Improving upon the formula established in their previous titles, developer Little Green Men Games and publisher Iceberg Interactive took fan feedback to heart and crafted an intricate space sim that borrows aspects from some of the best titles in the genre while still maintaining a rather unique feel. It’s not the most original concept out there but it works, and in a day and age when good space sims are few and far between, Starpoint Gemini Warlords is a breath of fresh air for fans of the genre.
While it may seem like taking elements from space sims, RPGs, and 4X strategy games and mixing them all together would result in a game with an identity crisis, Starpoint Gemini Warlords knows exactly what it is and wears its sources of inspiration of its sleeve. The game borrows elements from a variety of older space sims, games that you might remember playing back in the day. The most obvious source of inspiration, for me at least, is Freelancer, a 14-year-old game that manages to remain surprisingly enjoyable to this day. Anyone familiar with Freelancer will find Starpoint Gemini Warlords to be a nostalgic trip down memory lane as the two are quite similar when it comes to combat, trading, questing and other core mechanics. Once you take off those nostalgia glasses and advance further in the game, however, you’ll find that Starpoint Gemini Warlords also does a lot of things that are not that common for a space sim.
As mentioned before, this is a hybrid game that combines multiple genres, some elements of which you’ll encounter fairly early on. In addition to the space sim aspect, the game plays very much like an RPG all the way through, with the player being able to pick a name and a portrait for their character, as well as choose a starting ship. Like any good RPG, Starpoint Gemini Warlords also features a progression system where you can decide what role you want to play in the game by investing in certain perks as your character levels up. There’s no class system per say, however, it’s worth thinking carefully about the perks you pick because they can have a big impact on how you approach certain situations whether it’s combat, trading or diplomacy.
While there is a story mode, Starpoint Gemini Warlords is for all intents and purposes a sandbox game that allows you to step off the beaten path at pretty much any point and pursue your own goals. Want to become a trader and transport valuable commodities from one space station to another? No problem. Or maybe you’ve always dreamed of becoming a space pirate who stalks unsuspecting ships or perhaps a researcher always on the lookout for strange anomalies. It’s all up to you. The game features several modes where you can start doing that almost immediately. However, if you want to experience the single-player campaign you may want to put your plans on hold for a while because the game only opens up a few hours in.
Regardless of what type of character you want to become, you’ll need to grind a fair amount of reputation for certain factions if you want to gain access to some of the game’s better ships and items. I won’t lie, there’s quite a bit of grinding here and it’s often not very rewarding. However, Starpoint Gemini Warlords is the type of game where you start doing a boring mission and quickly find yourself exploring mysterious signals, scavenging derelicts or capturing enemy ships. It’s the type of game where you can very easily get sidetracked thanks to the wide variety of activities available, which is always a good thing for players who enjoy immersive open-world games.
Unfortunately, the freelancing missions tend to get repetitive and tedious awfully fast and are quite a bit less interesting than some of the side activities. The story fares a bit better on that front, though not by much. You won’t find any award-winning writing or mind-blowing plot twists here I’m afraid. What you will find, though, is a huge universe where there’s always something interesting to do and where you are free to explore the game world at your own pace. Despite being vastly different games, Starpoint Gemini Warlords shares a lot of similarities with titles like Skyrim in that regard.
On the space sim side of things, the game is overall pretty solid. Warlords offers a wide selection of ships to choose from, ranging from small gunships to massive dreadnoughts and carriers. And, interestingly enough, the game also includes a very nice customization system that allows you to personalize ships to your taste. Then, of course, there’s a large number of light and heavy weapons to play around with, as well as a selection of enhancements and special items that you will need in order to fulfill certain tasks like mining asteroids, scavenging derelicts or repairing your ship and boosting your shields.
When it comes to the combat itself, however, things aren’t exactly up to par with the rest of the game. Quite frankly, it’s a shame that the combat system falls short of expectations because it ends up dragging the game down a little bit. While it’s undoubtedly not the worst combat system I’ve ever seen in a space sim, it could certainly do with some improvements as it feels quite clunky at times and you end up relying too much on the auto-fire mode as a result.
On the bright side, letting your weapons do all the hard work while you only focus on flying the ship gives you plenty of time to deploy your ground troops and infiltrate enemy ships in the middle of battle. Starpoint Gemini Warlords uses a very simplistic yet highly effective system to achieve this, which feels almost like you’re playing a turn-based tactics game à la XCOM. Specifically, once you deploy your troops, you have a certain amount of action points at your disposal that you can use to cripple, pillage or even capture the enemy ships you’re currently fighting. Admittedly, at times it can be difficult to capture a ship while five of its friends are firing at you, but it feels very rewarding when you do manage to pull it off. This system is an interesting way of making combat more engaging and feels right at home in a game that blends together a lot of different genres.
It’s not very apparent at the start of the game, but after a few hours of playing Starpoint Gemini Warlords you’ll begin to realize that there’s a lot more to manage here than just your ship and character. Indeed, things scale up pretty quick after a certain point in the campaign and you’ll soon find yourself in charge of an entire space station along with its surroundings before ultimately moving on to conquer additional territories as you build up your very own galactic empire. It’s quite a big change but the transition from space sim to 4X strategy game feels seamless and natural.
While the 4X elements themselves are fairly simplistic, they do manage to add yet another layer of depth to a game that was already brimming with content from the get-go. On top of running around the galaxy doing odd missions for credits needed to upgrade your ship and experience points needed to level up your character, you’re now also managing resources and building structures as you attempt to expand your new empire. Thread carefully, though, because the other factions aren’t sleeping either. Like any good 4X game, Starpoint Gemini Warlords requires you to establish alliances and trade with other factions whilst keeping enemies at bay. If you want to become a truly successful galactic warlord that is.
Now, it may seem like all these different systems and gameplay mechanics might be a bit too much to handle, however, the truth is that the strategy elements seem to have been streamlined specifically as to not overwhelm the player. Base building and resource gathering are fairly straightforward affairs that can be handled with just a few clicks. This means that you can easily continue to roam around the galaxy in your ship as your empire continues to grow. In addition, once you get things up and running, you’ll be able to command fleets of friendly ships to help you out, whether that means patrolling your borders, guarding important structures or joining you in combat. Naturally, building powerful fleets requires time and a lot of resources, but you’ll eventually get there. If you’d prefer to just focus on base building or researching different technologies, however, you can always capture enemy ships and use those instead to serve as your fleets.
All these different elements tie in surprisingly well with each other whether it’s scavenging derelicts for resources to be used towards base building, taking your fleet into hostile territory to capture structures that can later be incorporated into your ever-growing empire or investing resources into research that will make your troops more efficient at capturing enemy ships. It’s quite surprising that Starpoint Gemini Warlords manages to blend together so many genres in such a seamless way. The drawback here is that some of the systems aren’t as complex as they would have been if this was a traditional space sim. As a result, Starpoint Gemini Warlords can sometimes feel like a jack of all trades, master of none type of game, though not in a bad way. By combining all these different things and getting most of them right, the developers managed to create a fairly unique experience with this game.
It may not be the best space sim, RPG or 4X game, but it’s certainly one of the best titles to combines all these different genres into one cohesive product. Starpoint Gemini Warlords is greater than the sum of its parts and makes for a very compelling and immersive experience when everything is said and done. It’s also worth noting that the game only recently got out of Early Access and, if similar titles are anything to go by, Starpoint Gemini Warlords is just beginning its journey and is likely to get bigger and more polished as time moves on. Even at this stage, though, Starpoint Gemini Warlords is a must-play for fans of the series and anyone who enjoys a good space game.
Starpoint Gemini Warlords is available exclusively on Steam for $35 or your regional equivalent.
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Starpoint Gemini Warlords
- Great blend of space sim, RPG, and 4X elements
- Game world feels immersive and compelling
- Lots of interesting side activities
- Exploration is often very rewarding
- Wonky combat system
- Tedious and repetitive freelancing missions
- Takes a while to really get interesting