by Chris Davis
reviewed on X360
Where Few Ever Go Anymore
Space simulators are starting to become hard to come by these days. Long gone are the glory days of Tie Fighter, Freespace, and Wing Commander each of which were pinnacles of the genre. Nowadays we have titles that fill that need like Eve Online, X, and Star Trek Online but none of these can really capture that unique feeling that a single-player space simulator can bring you. DarkStar One, originally released back in 2006, featured a determined focus on exploration, deep combat, and an objective story, but, four years on, can its console port, DarkStar One Broken Alliance, capture that same awe I felt as a kid?
Beyond the Sky
DarkStar One takes place in far future, at a time in which humanity has spread out to the stars, encountered extraterrestrial life, and established itself as a permanent race in the vastness of space. In the years following a grand galactic war, five sentient races have formed the Galactic Union, a United Nations -like government that rules across the known galaxy. As the game begins a series of indiscriminant and seemingly unrelated attacks by a sixth race known as the Thul have stirred up controversy and put the military forces of the various races on high alert. With the Thul attacks on the rise and their targets becoming increasingly larger, the various races are bracing for what could be an inter-cluster war.
Meanwhile, deep within Terran (human) space a young man named Kayron Jarvis receives his first ship, the DarkStar One, from Robert, a family friend. DarkStar One was a top secret ship developed by Kayron’s late father. After spending some time getting to know the new ship, Robert informs Kayron that he suspects his father’s death was due to sabotage. Indicting a rogue human named Jack Forrester Kayron begins his quest to bring Forrester to justice.
The overall story of DarkStar One is lackluster and takes far too long to get through. While you do encounter several semi-interesting characters throughout your journey, you only meet one really permanent figure: a girl named Eona whose arrival is extremely predictable and whose dry, dim attempts at humorous puns and quips leave you groaning instead of smiling. And yes, Eona is unfortunately your copilot throughout almost the entire game.
DarkStar One’s story is typical at best of the classic space opera: guy goes on revenge trip, meets a cute redhead, has adventures, and ends up saving the galaxy. The problem is that this method of delivery does not match up with the scope of the gameplay; more on that in a second.
You Aren’t Actually Going IN to an Asteroid Field?!
The DarkStar One is a very versatile ship. The true main character of the game, the ship can accept weapons and equipment modules made by each race and will actively transform over time as you collect artefacts, pieces of long dead alien technology. It is here that the game utilizes an almost RPG-esque tech tree leveling system. By upgrading certain sections of the ship not only do you enhance aspects of the ship, such as adding automated turrets or increasing your engine’s throughput, but you also visually alter the appearance of the ship. Watching your ship transform from a mildly appealing Terran transport to a bad-ass, nigh unstoppable marauder will take you dozens of hours but the results are inextricably worth it.
As you venture through the known universe of DarkStar One you will find that, while there is an overall narrative to the game, it is almost completely a sandbox experience. You have on hand several hundred star systems to explore, an almost infinite amount of missions to be completed, and, of course, plenty of enemies to shoot. While you will be attempting to follow the story to its conclusion you will find yourself relegating most of your time to exploring each star system and only going after story goals after having finished all other tasks available.
This is all well and good, but one of the main problems the game suffers from is repetition. And by repetition I mean a lot of doing almost the exact same thing all the time just to earn a pay-check. Almost all of the missions in the game can be consigned to one of three mission types: escort, reconnaissance, and attack. While there are small variations therein the game’s missions can get old fast and only the most patient souls may be able to tolerate doing all the side missions. The missions to wipe out the pirate gangs alone will take up more time than you are willing to give. There are very few missions down to the surface of a planet either and even these are let-downs.
Large galaxy to explore, decent space combat
lackluster story, terrible audio