Starpoint Gemini 3 is currently in Early Access on Steam and is pretty devoid of content at the moment. I mean, technically it is a game set in space, so being mostly empty and undeveloped could be said to be a feature!
Genre: Action, RPG, Simulation
Developer: Little Green Men Games
Publisher: Little Green Men Games
Release Date: 5 Sep, 2019
This is just going to be a preview because Starpoint Gemini 3 isn’t in any shape to be fairly reviewed right now. If the game leaves Early Access in its current state it would likely be my first Quit rating ever! However, as Starpoint Gemini 3 is more or less in very early alpha stages at the moment, the bugs, crashes and sudden unexpected stop to the story can all be forgiven for now. I can honestly say I hate the protagonist, but I think he is actually meant to be hated, so not sure if that means his character is very well done or very over-done!
As it stands right now, the core elements of the gameplay are in place. The combat and flight systems all work decently well although the keymapping and controller support are a little wonky at the moment. With two separate gamepads, an older XB360 pad and a newer XBOne pad, I could not get Cruise speed to work. It would count to around 99% then reset back down to 0 each time and start building up again. The game definitely plays better with the controller in general, but without the ability to reliably cruise, I was forced to go to the keyboard and mouse. After a bit of a learning curve and a handy dandy notepad, I managed to play what exists of the game with relative ease.
When flying the ship, everything is decently fluid although sometimes I lose the ability to actually steer the ship. The camera pans around to an awkward front side view and, other than barrel rolls and speed changes, doesn’t allow me to do much of anything else. I tried looking in the settings to see if I hit something, and I also randomly pressed every other button, but I never was able to lock the camera back to the ship properly or regain my ability to control the ship. Another thing that happened was me accidentally skipping a dialogue chain. After a cutscene, I was teleported back to my ship. I sat for at least a minute waiting for the game to mark my map then I hit the map key to see if anything was showing on the big map. Right as I hit the key the game started speaking then suddenly stopped again when the map loaded. This led me to miss the entire conversation so I reloaded my save. When the cutscene came on again, the ambient sound effects still played, but the characters spoken dialogue was muted. Reloading the save again allowed it to play properly. Another time something weird happened was when I was docking with a planet. I got close enough to the planet for the dock option to appear and pressed the docking button. Everything went fine but when I took back off again it started beeping quickly and I exploded. If you get too close to a planet (even if it looks like you are still far away) you get those beeps and then if you ignore them you explode. At least my save was just before docking so I didn’t lose too much! The only other flight-related thing I can think of mentioning is that, if you are using a waypoint and then decide to not interact with the object, the waypoint marker vanishes. This leaves you to have to either explore space until you find it again, check the main map and hope there is something there, or reload an earlier save before you reached that waypoint. Enough complaining about issues though, let’s get on with it!
You are not just flying a ship around in space the entire time. You also have the ability to leave the ship too! ADAH, the ship’s computer is able to fly around in a probe and hack objects and basically complete menial tasks. These sections are a little bit painful right now. The first time you do it there is a kind of stealth element to it, but the next time is just a big empty room with a bunch of hacking spots that need you to press one button for. The thing is, I’m not sure if the issue was with my PC or the game itself here. Unlike when in the ship, which can zip and roll with impunity, ADAH stutter-stepped around and seemed to operate like a shopping cart with a bad wheel and about 100lbs over maximum weight. When using the gamepads (didn’t matter which one) she would randomly veer to the left, but using the keyboard and mouse just made her a bit awkward to control but overall doable. My best guess is that these ADAH missions will be enhanced considerably by the time the game leaves Early Access because as it stands right now, they are not overly enjoyable. Even if the hacking became a mini-game over a one-press and done thing it might make it a bit more enjoyable. Okay, I promise no more complaining, it is Early Access, it’ll be okay…
… In space no one can hear you scream, but you might hear me scream if Captain Bold says one more word! I’m a pretty easy-going person and I have pretty thick skin when it comes to being around annoying people. I mean I am a Professor after all, but Captain Bold has to be the most annoying character I have ever encountered in a videogame. Ever. He makes Zapp Brannigan (Futurama) look like a fine respectable gentleman. I liked Zapp Brannigan, he is meant to be disliked, even his own crew dislikes him. While his methods are not always the best, and he is a bit boorish, Zapp Brannigan actually manages to be a bit of a hero albeit by the use of tactics that rely on large numbers and wanton disregard for the safety of his crew. But Captain Bold on the other hand… he has no redeeming features at all! If given the choice of rescuing Captain Bold or ending up like Captain Pike (Star Trek), well… I have always liked blinky lights. Every time Bold speaks, I am not even going to call him Captain anymore, he has a ship he stole and adopted the title, anyway Bold is completely unlikable. The way he talks is annoying. His arrogance is annoying. His treatment of his AI is annoying (although she is a bit annoying too, at least she is more adept at giving as good as she gets). His mannerisms are annoying. The way he talks to others is annoying. His blatant speciesism is annoying. The fact he is even still breathing is annoying. I took great pleasure in flying my ship into things just to explode Bold a few times… but I digress. In all fairness, I don’t believe Bold is meant to be likable. The developer did an excellent job if that was their intention. I barely even met the character and I wanted to punch him in the face repeatedly, and I am not even a violent person. It would have been worth smashing my monitor just to not have to look at his smug face!
The graphics, for an Early Access game, are actually pretty decent. While it has a little rough around the edges look to it. I think this game will probably shape up to be a pretty visually appealing game once the developer has had more time to play around with it. The various characters, except Bold, are all good looking. Bold looked like a slimeball. The various races that are currently available all had their own unique take on the human-style template. There were enough minor details to keep things interesting without it being too overwhelming. The ships and stations are all heavily stylized and detailed and somewhat unique looking. Station interiors, when flying as ADAH, also were very decent looking but a little drab at the same time. It does make sense that a station is designed to be functional and not meant as an art gallery, but a little touch of colour would have been nice. There are some fixtures and accent pieces but for the most point its just empty space. It’ll probably get a little more refined once the development cycle has finished off the important parts though, so these most-likely placeholders will likely be spruced up a bit later. When your ship is landed, the planet’s surface and settlement are both highly detailed. I can say though that the best-looking part of the game is space which actually looked wonderful. The nebulas in the background, the stars and all the other backdrop elements looked fantastic considering the game is this early in its Early Access cycle.
This game is pretty much fully voiced. All the important characters you encounter will speak to you. The various alien races all had certain inflections to their voice that made them match with what you would think someone who looked like that would sound like. Generally speaking, most of them sound really good, except Bold. Bold, with no offense intended to voice actor, should take a page from Link’s book and shut up and say nothing. In fact, for those of you that ever watched the cartoon version of The Legend of Zelda, you likely know that Link is pretty annoying in it with his “well excuuuuuuuse meeee prin-cess” and other such dialogue… well, I’d rather listen to a remix Link saying “excuse me princess” and Navi saying “Hey! Listen!” on a 10-hour loop on Youtube than listen to Bold say one more word! With that said, I do like that Bold is voice acted, and I am pretty sure the voice actor is doing it on purpose. The sound effects and other ambient sounds as well the background music were actually all quite pleasant. You don’t even necessarily notice the sometimes subtle background music, but it is there. The sound of your various weapons firing really felt at home as you got into space dogfights. Even with your eyes closed, you could tell which weapons you were currently firing for the most part.
Controls and User Interface
While I touched on this earlier, I do want to say that the controls in their default layout do work well once you get used to them. The problem with these sorts of games is that there isn’t a whole lot of standardization for controls. The last space shooter I played had its various controls completely different, and the one before that was different again. This leaves me stumbling early on trying to learn the correct key binds. Yes, I know you can rebind them however you want, but when I review a game, I like to leave it as pure as possible so I can actually talk about things. If I complained that it was annoying having to press F12 to accelerate after I was the one who bound it there, it wouldn’t make sense. My leaving it as default, I can say I found it a bit awkward holding W to accelerate. I kept assuming W would adjust my pitch. The User Interface in general was very easy to use and navigate. When given choices, it was very easy to point at the one you wanted to choose and select it. It was also very simple to utilize the settings as well. The only difficulty I found is I couldn’t find the key bind to eject Bold out of the airlock without a spacesuit.
If you enjoyed Starpoint Gemini 2, then you will likely enjoy this one as well once it has been developed more. As it stands right now, unless you are a fan of the series and want to support the development cycle, it’s probably best to pass on it for now. There really isn’t a lot to do. Once you are basically out of the tutorial the game abruptly ends a few missions later. Sure, there is still stuff to do, such as running the bar missions to gain some extra cash to upgrade your ship, but in terms of story progression there isn’t anything more you can do. There are some annoying elements to the game, other than Bold, where the dialogue, which is meant to be funny, starts getting a bit old. The best example I can give is the currency discussions. They use pirate speak which apparently involves bananas, fish, old pajamas and perhaps other random nonsense. This sort of made sense when the conman is trying to… well con Bold by confusing him. It didn’t really make sense that the next alien race he spoke to, on an entirely different planet, also used old pajamas as a currency unit. I do get that it was meant to reinforce that everyone knows that slang, except Bold, but it didn’t really entirely make sense in the context. On the flip side, Bold using his old dating app pseudonym of Quilt when trying to hide his identity and then encountering a bunch of people who knew a Quilt from a dating app was actually a fun running gag. If you are a fan of space sims and want to try Starpoint Gemini 3 to see if it is your cup of tea, well you might want to wait for it to be a bit more steep. Overall I can’t really recommend the game in its current state if you are looking for substance, but if you don’t mind watching the game grow and slowly progressing through the story as new patches are released, then Starpoint Gemini 3 actually isn’t that bad and you might find something to amuse yourself for a little while. All in all, give this game time. With just a little more work, it’s bound to develop into something very playable.