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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.

There are dozens of factions, but after hours with the game I couldn't tell you what any of them stand for. There are just people who like me and people who don't — no readily accessible lore to tell me why the Empire hates me but the Iolian Pact thinks I'm a pretty okay dude.

Freelance jobs quickly become repetitive, without even a veneer of flavor text to distinguish one from the other. Every "Assassination" mission, for instance, features the same exact text — "[Random Name] wanted dead or alive! [Random faction] willing to pay compensation." That's it. No explanation of why [Random Name] is wanted by [Random Faction] or any other flavor text that would, you know, actually get you invested in this side content. There's no reason not to do the missions, since they're short and pay well, but there's also no reason to cheer when your opponent's ship is finally engulfed in flames.

Even the environmental discoveries are lackluster. The first time you encounter a wormhole it's exciting. The second time it's sort of expected. The third time you start to wonder why there are so many wormholes in this universe. New planets and new space stations are largely interchangeable, outside of the specific items they're trading.

As I said, it's not unenjoyable. I spent plenty of time floating around space casually dogfighting and exploring parts unknown, blowing up asteroids for easy money and capturing ships for slightly-less-easy money.

But outside of the campaign there's not much in the way of lore, of tailored boutique content, that would get you invested in your ship and your character and your role in this galaxy. You're upgrading your ship because the game's central treadmill requires upgrading your ship.

Space opera

That brings us to Starpoint Gemini 2's campaign content. Simply put, it's not very good. The story itself is okay, in a generic space opera way — you play as the last surviving member of the Faulkner family, part of the legendary Gemini League. Your dad was killed off in suspicious circumstances, and it's up to you to track down the threat facing the universe.

Starpoint Gemini 2's effort to tell this story is hamstrung by poor voice acting and scripting, however, not to mention some extreme swings in difficulty. Accents are all over the place, some characters talk about the end of the universe with all the passion I'd muster for the technical specs of a light bulb, and it all combines to disrupt any sort of emotional punch the story might otherwise have.

It's a shame because the underlying lore of the Starpoint Gemini 2 universe is (if you dig outside of the game) pretty fleshed out and fantastic. None of that comes through in the game itself though, whether pertaining to the main story or the environment or the political machinations of the galaxy. It's actually frustrating because Starpoint Gemini 2 feels mechanically like a framework for a great game, but outside of the central stat-grind treadmill the content is missing.


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