Starpoint Gemini 2 Review

 Space trading is one of the oldest concepts in videogames, going as far back as Elite. With the resurgence of that franchise last year, as well as the likes of Star Citizen seeing an incredible Early Access campaign, there is clearly a temptation to bring more of these games to consoles. However, by bringing Starpoint Gemini 2 to the Xbox One, Little Green Men Games demonstrates that not only is it very difficult to port a space simulator to consoles, but design oversights are hugely costly for accessibility.

Starpoint Gemini 2 on the Xbox One makes a pig’s ear in its feeble attempt to clear the first hurdle: Teaching players to play their game. Regardless of whether you start with the Campaign or the Free Roam options, the game will prompt you to learn about the controls and mechanics. All this does is open the digital manual that snaps onto the right-hand side of the screen and is independent of the game.

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To put this complaint into context, the only other game I’ve seen do this with its in-game help is Peggle 2; a far simpler game to understand with a significantly shorter manual. Starpoint Gemini 2 is a vastly more complicated game in a genre not typically found on consoles, so the concepts behind its mechanics require more than just a wall of text you’re expected read. While I appreciate that lack of hand holding, this is one instance where a lack of a proper tutorial has seriously hindered the experience.

So what is it you actually do in Starpoint Gemini 2? Essentially the bulk of the game is being a space trader; gaining money and experience for mining asteroids, killing enemies and selling their cargo, or completing randomly generated missions that range from assassinating rogue ships, escorting people or cargo, and repairing facilities to name a few, or to improve the ship you chose at the beginning of the game.

You’re free to roam the universe, building relationships with the factions and improving your fleet as you progress. Some might like the rather laid-back and loose approach to the proceedings, but as with most space simulators there is a lot of down-time when you’re travelling at warp speed to another destination.

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This is where much of the tedium of Starpoint Gemini 2 lies as you’re spending your time merely reacting to vocal alerts from the ship’s computer. As such, this is a simulator about completing side-quests for the vast majority of the game, which to me is incredibly dull. Different classes do boost the variety, but not by very much.

For those who need a goal to work towards, Starpoint Gemini 2 does have a campaign, yet it’s a conspiracy not worth pursuing for the truth. You take on the role of Adrian Faulkner as he investigates his father’s death, alongside all the side quests that the Free Roam mode has to offer. However it doesn’t really expand on the mission variety much beyond some dodgy voice acting as they closely resemble the Free Roam missions, despite the campaign offering a more structured experience.

As much as this gameplay style that Starpoint Gemini 2 has would appeal to a certain audience, I suspect this game is significantly more playable on a PC than the Xbox One version. “Tutorials” aside, the controls here aren’t efficiently streamlined for the lack of buttons available. More often than not I have found that while moving and basic shooting is relatively simple to perform, anything more complicated requires either weird button combinations or navigating to an options menu.

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This is far from the only issue with Starpoint Gemini 2. Entering the game’s world takes several minutes to load all the assets, yet travelling between each sector makes the game stutter as the game updates the universe accordingly. It’s jarring whenever it happens, making it seem like the game has crashed when it hasn’t, but it’s far more worrying when it occurs during combat as your ship may be on the verge of taking a massive barrage of enemy fire. Sometimes, the game will actually crash, which is just the icing on this cake.

Space simulators are difficult to analyse in terms of graphical fidelity because the vast majority of space is black emptiness, but Starpoint Gemini 2 does at least populate space with vibrant planets and luminescent galaxies, creating some nice particle effects as a result. Ship design however is rather minimalistic. Aside from one default spacecraft that looks rather phallic, nothing here is akin to the iconic designs of the Millenium Falcon, the Starship Enterprise, or Battlestar Galactica.

What’s Good:

  • Some rather pretty visuals.
  • Generally a good concept at a relaxed pace.
  • A great sense of discovery.

What’s Bad:

  • Terrible method of teaching players how to play.
  • Converted controls don’t work very well.
  • Struggles when loading new sectors, sometimes mid-combat.
  • Perhaps a little too many side-quests for some.

It’s simple to just say that Starpoint Gemini 2 isn’t for everyone, but there are fundamental issues that really make this game utterly impenetrable. The presentation is generally of a good standard, and though the performance falters at inconvenient moments, it’s how the game deals with teaching players how things work that’s most disappointing. We’ve seen space simulations that work on consoles, but this particular trade isn’t worth what they’re offering.

Score: 5/10

Version Tested: Xbox One

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7 Comments

  1. Wow! If the game takes that long to load up the environment, stutters when moving between regions and also crashes from time to time then I wonder how this game managed to get through the quality control gates with Microsoft. Do Microsoft still (if they ever did) review for compatibility and quality before a game is released?

    • No. And neither do Sony. They check that the console specific things – like what happens when you press the PlayStation button, or that achievements work. They don’t QA the actual games and how well they play of perform.

      • Yep, exactly this – Developers should have their own internal testing to see how the software performs on that particular platform (& to weed out bugs, glitches & the like). When Sony/Microsoft/whoever get it, the only things they are really looking for is that it works as intended (purely on a surface level, such as ‘can it load?’) & that their core functions still operate as expected when running the game.

        That said though, haven’t SCEE QA blocked a couple of games in the past due to inappropriate content? Or am I making that up?

      • Well that explains that weird walking-transforming-exploring tropical game you reviewed TC! Still in awe that CS:GO never made it out on the PS3 over here, I’d love to know what happened there.

  2. Oh god, what were they thinking? No real tutorial in a game in a rather rare genre on consoles? Laggy load times for planets? Boring side quests? Hell, the entire game sounds and screams boring just by the summary of what it is. Space Trading, ok, it may fall into a dull genre but there are ways to liven it up and this is not one of it. It sounds like no-one tested it or they did and didn’t give a flying freck.

    There is no excuse for stuttering in mid combat or just struggling to load in general due to the hardware being capable of running it unless it is poorly coded and the game is bleeding memory everywhere.

    i hope the next space game we see is far better and shows everyone that the genre works on console. So far, it seems not to be working. :-(

  3. shame, hope rebel galaxy fares better…

  4. I don’t get this review. Too many missions is the minus of the game? I have it, I play it, I enjoy it. Great game, great dev team and in more than 50 hours of gameplay I didn’t had any kind of problems. Loading screens? What loading screens guys? The game loads once when you start it up. The whole universe is streamed and there are no loading screens in the game whatsoever.

    Tutorials that are separated from the game are something I prefer over irritating popup tutorials that break my gameplay so that was a good decision. Game plays good, looks fantastic, there are tons of things to do (unlike in Elite, at least for now), and I’m glad this made it to the console.

    Devs are active in the community on their official forum, but also on Xbox One. They are dedicated, unlike many AAA titles that you pay for twice as much and don’t complain.

    As for Rebel Galaxy, it’s a different kind of game. It is not even comparable to SG2. Rebel Galaxy is naval combat in 2D plane while this one is full 3D space tactical combat sim.

    I didn’t had any issues with the game, some other titles I have are crashing to Home screen from time to time, but this one didn’t. Stutters that are mentioned are occuring only when travelling between sectors and since that is the only loading you will see in the game, I don’t mind. I never experienced any kind of stutter in combat.

    Feeling of vastness of space is fantastic, sense of exploration is fantastic, there are tons of various freelance and side missions, many game mechanics like mining, trading, capturing enemy ships, hiring mercenaries and officers that help you in later game, huge amount of weapons and ships (over 75 ships if I read correctly), and it’s sandbox. What more could I wish for on Xbox? They sold over 150.000 copies on Steam and people love the game and the team, I did my research before buying and I didn’t regret it. Actually, if you post something on Steam or their official forums, even game hub on Xbox One, there is a big chance you’ll get a pretty darn fast response from dev. Dedication level I’ve never seen before, indie or AAA.

    It’s clear that reviewer is not a fan of space games, or any complex games for that matter. I can understand that, but I also felt that I should post something in defense of this gem. Unfortunately, this is the reason why space games will always be reserved for PC Master race, they just don’t sell on consoles because console population doesn’t want to play complex games like these. Rebel Galaxy will not sell on console (or maybe it will because it’s much more simple then SG2 and it offers less) and Elite was also a flop compared to PC sales.

    Anyway, half of things in this review are something that I haven’t experienced in over 50 hours of gameplay so I would take that with reserve, especially considering the frustrated “I didn’t even wanted to review this” tone in the whole text.

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