Starpoint Gemini Warlords Review – A Worthy Spiritual Successor to Freelancer

Starpoint Gemini Warlords
Little Green Men Games/Iceberg Interactive

Okay, I’ll admit it from the get-go: I had no idea what Starpoint Gemini Warlords was all about. Well, actually I didn’t want to know much about it on purpose so that I could have a raw and untainted view of it as I experienced the game first-person style. Well let me tell you, after playing the game for around fifteen hours all that I can say is “wow!” I didn’t see that coming.

Why wow? Starpoint Gemini Warlords starts you off as the lowly captain of a pretty mediocre starship. You have your rather inexperienced crew with which to explore your beginning sector, and gradually learn about the controls in the form of helpful tutorials. For instance, early on in the game you’ll be set upon by some dastardly characters whom attack you straight away. The tutorials kick in and gradually reveal how to not only fire your different weapon systems, but also how to manage your shields, engines, and the like.

The wow-factor came a little later after I’d learned the basics and began to upgrade my ship and purchase additional ones for my burgeoning fleet. That’s right, what I thought was going to be a more singular slog through space from a first-person perspective, turned into a hybrid-RTS experience. So during the first several hours, there I was flying through space with my single ship, obliterating enemies and upgrading my ship with loot, thinking that I was playing Elite: Dangerous-lite, or even a rougelike game such as Everspace. Then Conquest mode kicked in and the game turned into more of an Endless Space 2 experience.

Now this could sound confusing, and indeed I was slightly baffled at first with the switch. But the way that the developers, Little Green Men Games, introduce the more strategic RTS layer felt pretty natural—all things considered. While I did enjoy some of the pre-scripted missions of the Campaign mode, in Conquest mode you are free to invade various star sectors and rip them from enemy control through ship-to-ship combat.

But you have to be careful—if you expand too quickly you may overextend your forces and end up falling prey to AI counter-attacks. Therefore, I found it much safer to establish strong defensive forces right after taking a system over. Luckily, there are many types of modules and upgrades that you can outfit your fleets and space stations with. The wide array of customization options allows for some great strategy opportunities, since if your enemies are attacking you with specific types of weapons, you can always choose to outfit your fleets with defenses that counter their offensive capabilities.

On the negative side of things, Starpoint Gemini Warlords certainly has its share of niggling bugs. But what really hampers the whole experience is the wonky controls, as well as the rather bizarre camera arrangement. I know that this game is pretty much the spiritual successor to Freelancer but couldn’t the developers at least fix the camera and make the controls more intuitive?

What Starpoint Gemini Warlords is good at is making you feel like you’re part of a living galaxy, and that’s something that can’t be said by larger-budgeted games such as the disastrous No Man’s Sky. For example, if you follow a tourism vessel, you’ll see it eventually dock at a space station and pick up new passengers. Likewise, mining ships dart this way and that, burning their laser-torches into various rocky surfaces in order to extract their valuable mineral deposits.

Likewise, combat is a glorious spectacle to behold. Especially when you get involved in fleet vs. fleet combat. You’ll see smaller fighters and gunships dart in-between larger destroyers and massive capital ships as they slug it out with each other. Advanced technologies are on full display as brilliant lasers pierce through shields and slash into armor. Rows of missile streaks cut blazing swaths through space, exploding into glossy fireballs of orange and yellow as they deliver their devastating payloads onto enemy starships. I must say, Starpoint Gemini Warlords definitely has some of the best space combat effects I’ve seen for such a budget title.

What really sets Starpoint Gemini Warlords apart from the rest of the pack, however, is the feeling you get of being an actual (well, virtual) fleet commander. The sense you get that you’re growing your fleet by mixing and matching from a vast pool of ship designs, and then outfitting them as you see fit, is a really satisfying feeling. And although you’ll most likely experiment with all sorts of ship models and designs, you’ll quickly find out your favorite combinations as well as what works and what doesn’t work.

In all, Starpoint Gemini Warlords is a highly immersive RPG space sim that should keep space junkies like myself busy for quite a while. Its campaign is pretty lengthy, but you’re not forced to follow its more linear path. You’re free to branch off into the game’s more sandbox Conquest mode in order to explore and conquer territories as you see fit. This sense of freedom is a welcome feature which is absent from many of the comparable games on the market, and is a worthy successor to the magnificent Freelancer.

SCORE: 81%

Starpoint Gemini Warlords features gorgeous graphics that are more than good enough to wow your friends with. However, you want to have a pretty beefy gaming PC or gaming laptop in order to play it at a decent framerate. So, you may just want to invest in a decent gaming rig:

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