There’s always something relaxing and familiar about space sims. You fly around in the inky blackness of space, dodge asteroids, and blast things. You collect things and trade them for money. And sometimes you play as a giant moron who’s constantly getting himself into horrible situations. Starpoint Gemini 3 is already looking quite promising in all of these regards.
Starpoint Gemini 3 has just entered Early Access. Due to this, there isn’t a whole lot of content in the game yet. There are two things you can do – the campaign and a free roam mode. The campaign is only about 75 minutes long, and the free roam just throws you into things. The mechanics and systems all seem to be in place, though, so if you like these sorts of games, it could very well be worth the purchase already. But let’s get down to space tacks.
An idiot abroad
Starpoint Gemini 3 follows the adventures of Captain Jonathan Bold. Bold has acquired a small ship managed by an AI named A.D.A.H. who is surprisingly into being snarky and taking risks. Bold is one of the four surviving heirs of the Thomas clan, a rich, powerful family. As such, these survivors are highly sought after in order to be used as tools. The game opens with Bold getting attacked by space pirates who wish to turn him over to a woman who wants to marry him for his position.
He decides to nope out of there as quick as he can, but they stay hot on his tail. Our heroes dock at a huge ship owned by a megacorporation with no money and no hope to escape the pirates. So, A.D.A.H. naturally decides to steal a ship so that they can evade the pirates. But she picks one of the corporation’s own ships just because she likes it. This ends up making Bold a wanted man, giving him another headache to worry about.
The campaign mode moves quickly for how short its runtime is, jumping from big plot point to big plot point with a lot of speed. The voice acting is amateurish, and the writing has some issues. That said, it’s also quite funny and entertaining. I found myself chuckling and smiling at what was going on for the entirety of Starpoint Gemini 3‘s brief campaign. It’s really, really stupid, though, so it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.
Do a barrel roll!
Starpoint Gemini 3 controls just as you’d expect, with the mouse used for aiming and a host of available weapons. Your ship can carry four at a time – two rechargeable weapons and two types of missiles which need to be restocked at merchants. The shooting feels fine, even if it is a bit difficult to hit enemies with missiles. The weapons also recharge a bit slowly, but it’s perfectly manageable.
Your ship has shields that regenerate after you cease taking damage for a time. If your shields get eaten away, you’re left with just your health bar. If that gets depleted, yup, you explode. Your ship can also boost, roll, and raise and lower itself. Pressing Tab will change between three different camera settings, two of which are third-person vantages at close and medium distance, with the third being the cockpit view.
As you’ll be traveling large distances, the ship also has a cruise control setting that will let you boost indefinitely once it reaches 100%. Unlike the regular boost, this strangely doesn’t need to recharge. You can also use it in combat instead of boosting if you want, which feels like a bit of an oversight. You lock onto enemies and waypoints by clicking the middle mouse button. Getting close to waypoints allows you to interact with them as well. Once you dispatch your enemies, they often drop things that you can pick up and sell at vendors.
Not all rootin’-tootin’ shootin’
But shooting enemies is only a part of the gameplay. There’s a lot of emphasis on chilling out and traveling to the waypoints the game’s campaign pushes you toward. This can get a bit boring, honestly, as there generally isn’t much to do while waiting for your ship to cross the distance. These typically aren’t very far, though, and you are in space, so I can’t fault it for that.
Aside from flying around in your ship and fighting, there are also sections where you directly take control of A.D.A.H. to operate a drone and hack things. There are a couple of points in the game where you just hover from point A to point B and then press a button while an object gets hacked. It’s a change of pace, I’ll give it that, but it gets old fast. There’s only one longish section like this in what’s available of the campaign, fortunately.
The stars are no nearer
Starpoint Gemini 3′s graphics are a bit of a mixed bag, which is understandable for a game that’s not only indie but also just entered early access. Space looks decent, and everything moves nicely enough. However, the models during cutscenes are really basic, and the lipsyncing isn’t there yet. Neither are the facial movements. The framerate is also erratic. I was generally fine when cruising through space, but during certain sections, it appeared to be locked at 30 FPS. And specific cutscenes locked me at 15 FPS, which was strange. I’m sure these will get worked out fairly quickly, but it was still kind of odd.
Starpoint Gemini 3 is fun, though. The graphics and gameplay are solid, and the cutscenes and characters are funny and entertaining for what they are. The end of the current campaign also hints at what’s to come with a twist. You also land on a planet right before the end and can purchase all sorts of upgrades for your ship, including new weapons and equipment, plus new parts for the ship itself, such as thrusters and the like. I’m looking forward to seeing how the game comes together during development, as it seems like it’s going to be a fun time when it releases fully.