Starpoint Gemini: Warlords – review
With the game finally out of early access, the time has come to finally sit down with a finished product and see what the Little Green Men team have done for us this time. Gemini awaits...
A bit of history
For those unfamiliar with the series, Starpoint Gemini is a real-time space RPG that started back in 2010, and was developed by 3 brothers working double-shifts to make their dream of making a game of their own come true. The game wasn't well known (coming from a tiny Croatian indie studio) up until LGM decided to start working on their second instalment of the series which was featured on Steam's early access.
During that time, Starpoint Gemini 2 managed to accumulate a decent sized fanbase mostly through dev dedication and the fact that the whole team camped the forums for feedback, patching in almost all of the requests that came from their backers. During that time, word got out and steadily more people came in.
Needless to say, gamers like when they are acknowledged... and in this time of mega-corporations where the only way of talking to an actual dev is through a generic "Thank you" video, LGM showed how early access should be done. Not only that, after SPG2 got released, tons of QoL patches followed, a few DLCs and even a full port of the original game to SPG2 engine for free!
The community grew and by now people got used to see their request manifest in game – so, naturally there was enough new requests to make a brand-new game. Enter Starpoint Gemini: Warlords.
The basic improvements
To be honest, even though SPG2 is a fun game, you can clearly feel it being an indie game. The voiceovers were done by amateur actors (or even devs themselves!), and controls may felt clunky depending on your control input (game fully supports gamepads and mouse/keyboard inputs). So this was something to deal with in Warlords.
Even though, games like these are never story rich, and the main plot is usually there to show you the basics of all the game mechanics – SPG: Warlords offers a narrative campaign which is mostly voiced over.
New actors are obviously much better than the ones in the previous game, but they still feel out of place from time to time. It's not that they're bad, it's more like the acting is not connected to the actual character or the actions currently going on screen. But, like I said – space sims are here to give us a huge rich universe and various stuff to do, so it's understandable voice acting the story-line wasn't a big priority.
Controls on the other hand were vastly improved. First of all, we now get a direct camera (turret view + mouse) that enables players to freely position the camera with their mouse while flying the ship (WASD keys). The old "standard" cam is still here, and if in that mode, you drag the mouse in a certain direction while your ship follows. The main complain about this was the lack of control once you engage an opponent since they kept circling around you and you constantly had to spin around trying to find the target on screen. The new camera solves this issue, and if you combine it with a bigger zoom-out level, you finally see your ship and the target as you should.
That said - it still takes a bit of getting used to since the camera follows ship movement by default. Hopefully, devs will make an option to unlock it while in this mode in a future update.
You play a captain in a huge Gemini galaxy. Depending on your selected game-start, you get a few hundred credits and a cheap ship (or a few million and a bigger ship if you please) and it's up to you to build up yourself in any way you like. Trading, mission running, bounty-hunting, mining and pirating are just a few options and all of them work really well. Once you actually pile up some cash, you'll be able to start research on your HQ station.
This enables various perks and upgrades that give you more options down the road. Stuff like new HQ modules, building new station (that come in various types like gas collectors, junk collectors, military outposts), strengthening your marines so you can board enemy ships more easily, build your own shipyard and recruit various NPCs into your fleet etc...
All this combined makes you a true warlord and then you start thinking of expanding...
You are initially given just a small sector on the map but let's not kid ourselves – why stop there? You are free to expand to other systems by any means possible. If you're a good guy, you can destroy or board pirate ships, attack their stations and take over their infrastructures, or you can sign peaceful contracts and start trading runs making them work for you.
Naturally, owners of the stations you took over won't be happy so they will send new fleets to take them back. That's where your own fleet and HQ upgrades come to play. You can assign fleet wings to strategic places or upgrade outposts into military installations so they can defend themselves.
And what about planets you might ask? You wouldn't be much of a warlord if you couldn't take down those as well, would you? Basically, if you decide to take down your enemies by force, you can build a massive weapon of destruction that can even take down entire planets. I'm sure Star Wars fans will appreciate this very much...
Buy all the ships!
The game offers multiple ship classes – From your smallest gunships, corvettes and frigates up to massive carriers and dreadnoughts. Each ship class comes with multiple ships and designs based on the sectors they are built in, and you can buy and fly each of them – making a total number of playable ships around 80!
Unfortunately, you won't notice a massive difference in ship flight-models once you actually change from a small one to a large ship. They might feel a bit more sluggish, but overall you can't tell the difference much. Also, it's always better to be in a bigger ship. More shields, hull and weapons will win you the fight each time.
If you add player ship models available through mods – you get an impressive arsenal of ships even on game release. For example, there's already multiple Star Trek ships available, as well as the legendary Star Destroyer and the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars!
Sound and Graphics
Without much hassle, I can freely say the game looks gorgeous. I'm pretty sure the game uses the same engine that ran SPG2, but the over visuals got so improved it can easily be a whole new engine. SPG: Warlords runs perfectly smooth, with no hiccups or random frame drops, and you'll be flying through the galaxy without any loading screens (apart from jumping into very distant sectors or some planetary landings, but even those usually take a second).
Compared to the previous game in the series, overall sound effects are improved, but they still show some signs of being made by an indie studio here and there. Some mods already address this, and seeing how easy it is to mod anything in the game – I'm sure people will provide tons of new mods in the time to come.
Starpoint Gemini: Warlords is a unique blend of EVE, X3 and Stellaris with all your usual space shenanigans simplified. You won't find a deep economy system, or a complex political scale, detailed fleet management, or some tedious way of building stations that take you 40-50 hours to even start. Instead – the game offers you everything from the get-go without overly complicating anything.
While this may be perfectly fine for some people, it might be an instant deal breaker for others. So if you expect to build your full-blown space empire where you can tweak every tiny detail, you should probably stick with X games. Or if you expect a 4X game like Stellaris where you can manage political affairs while waiting for your fleet to finish your orders – you probably won't be happy.
However, If you want a space game where you can play any way you like, and not worry about reading tons of manual pages, or just going all "spreadsheet" on it – Starpoint Gemini: Warlords will easily give you tons of hours of fun while making you spam that screenshot button with all the eye candy.
If you liked the previous instalments of the series - you'll love Warlords since every single aspect of the game has been improved, and you can be sure the devs will stick with the game throwing in more features on a regular basis.