by Sergio Brinkhuis
previewed on PC
The original Starpoint Gemini was a bit of a mixed bag, and that's not totally surprising. If you try and blend an RPG with a Space Shooter and an RTS, you have a lot of balls to hold up in the air. The chances are, some - or all - are going to come down. For Starpoint, that is pretty much what happened, but Iceberg Interactive and Little Green Men are determined not to make the same mistake twice. Now in the polishing stage, the Gamescom demonstration showed a game that has seen so much Turtle Wax applied to it that it shines, and gloriously so.
In Starpoint Gemini 2 you get to play a variety of roles, ranging from pirate to trader and everything in between. There is mining to do, there are convoys to protect, and criminals to be hunted for bounty. You can change roles freely, but your efficiency in each role is effected by your character class. The Commander class is great at motivating allied ship and gets a repair bonus, the Gunner does additional damage in combat, and the Engineer can deploy automated drones and has the ability to... tinker with enemy life support systems.
Your success in different roles also depends on your chosen ship. A Dreadnaught is great for combat, but it probably won't do so well when you are trying to catch a pirate in a small Gunship - he'll simply be too fast and agile. There are 70 to choose from and you will need deep pockets to be able to afford them all. You could, of course, capture the ship you need, after which you can send it back to your own station where you can either get it repaired or scrapped for parts. The chance of success of the boarding action required to gain control depends primarily on the class and hull integrity of the targeted ship. You can hire officers specialized in boarding to further increase your chances.
When your ship is too damaged to get back to your own base, you can dock with AI operated space stations for repairs. While there, you can pick up new upgrades and weapon systems, many of which are tied to the faction that owns that particular base.
Ambitious captains looking to build fleets can hire mercenary companions to whom you can assign any ship you do not fly yourself. Being mercenaries, however, they do expect to be paid, so you need to keep track of your income to make sure you can afford their salaries. If you find yourself with empty coffers when the wages are due... well, you might not like the results. Fortunately most space stations feature job and bounty boards, so a quick buck is never far away.
The galaxy is not only a rather busy place, it is also a dynamic one. You should not expect territorial boundaries between factions to remain the same. Nor should you expect your own actions to go unnoticed. You build up a reputation with each of the game's factions, and your standing with one faction impacts your standing with both its friends and its foes. And if you happen to attack a mining operation, the chances are that prices for minerals in that section will go up, trade to it will increase, and your presence there no longer appreciated.
Should the galaxy's watch dog Gladius send its forces at you in retaliation, then be careful not to blindly fly into the nearest nebula. The galaxy is filled with dangerous anomalies and you might find it draining your shields.
Beyond the main gameplay staples are lots of fun little features to spice up the game. Changing your ship's name, for instance, will actually change the name on the hull. The wanted list consist of pictures and profiles with background stories written by Starpoint Gemini's online community, which are quite well done. Nifty overlays show you the status of your ship, the status of individual sectors, and much, much more.
Starpoint Gemini 2 thoroughly impressed at Gamescom. It is so chock full of great features that it should be on the radar of every fan of space combat games, even if you've set your sights on Elite Dangerous later this year.