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Starpoint Gemini 2 review: The cold, empty vacuum of space

Hayden Dingman | Dec. 17, 2014
I never thought I'd be able to say this: Starpoint Gemini 2 is a victim of bad timing. Five years ago--hell, two years ago--the space sim genre was more empty than the cold vacuum of space itself. Occasionally a lone title ventured into that frontier again, but it was rare enough that Freespace 2 (a game from 1999) was still one of the titles recommended most.

I never thought I'd be able to say this: Starpoint Gemini 2 is a victim of bad timing. Five years ago — hell, two years ago — the space sim genre was more empty than the cold vacuum of space itself. Occasionally a lone title ventured into that frontier again, but it was rare enough that Freespace 2 (a game from 1999) was still one of the titles recommended most.

Had Starpoint Gemini 2 somehow tumbled through the void to land on my computer back in those days I would've called it a miracle. And yet in 2014 the space sim is (to my complete surprise) alive and well — so alive and well that I've even looked into joysticks again.

In this time of plenty, Starpoint Gemini 2 feels like a holdover from the past. That's not enough to hold my interest anymore.

Empty space

Starpoint Gemini 2 is basically a modernized version of Freelancer. There's no reason to beat around the bush here. There's a campaign (more on that later) but most of your time is spent exploring a fairly large space-sandbox. You'll encounter various factions, mine some asteroids, dogfight, ride through a few wormholes, and mostly sell garbage to space stations so you can make money to buy new ships.

You can also make money by picking up various freelance contracts. Some task you with destroying random ships, while others have you scanning anomalies or ferrying people between two distant points in space.

There's certainly a Zen sort of calm gained by flying around Starpoint Gemini 2. You can completely blow off the campaign and play in freeroam mode, which tasks you with basically imagining your own story as you fly around the universe. Even doing the campaign, however, you'll spend most of your time aimlessly wandering the galaxy and picking up odd jobs.

It's relaxing. I spent many hours of Starpoint Gemini 2 with a cup of hot tea nearby, classic rock or folk music playing in the background (the in-game soundtrack wears out its welcome pretty fast), watching my ship crawl across the stars from the camera's remote third-person view (Tip: Hit F11 to hide the ugly user interface).

But it's ultimately an empty sort of experience, and not just because space is vast and cold and indifferent to humanity. Exploration should be a huge draw in this game. The playable space is nowhere near the size of Elite: Dangerous's crazy recreation of the entire Milky Way, but there's still a ton of space to putter around.

There's nothing out there though. That's the feeling I get after hours and hours of Starpoint Gemini 2. The universe is lifeless. There are factions, but they don't interact with you in any meaningful way. Your reputation is a linear scale that shifts between lawful and unlawful. You can sort of "write your own story" across the universe, but there are only so many stories that can be told with the limited actions at your disposal — basically pirate or do-gooder, rugged ruffian or peaceful trader.

 

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