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I own a heck of a lot of games, and as a result I tend to play only a very short amount of any random one before the next one comes along. While I would like to get over this and finish more of the games I own, in the meantime I have started Snap Judgement to make use of the impressions I get from the start of a game. I do believe that the start of a game is one of it’s most important parts, and if it doesn’t catch you, then even if the end of it is awesome, you’re not likely to continue on. Hopefully my comments and opinions will help someone on the fence about trying a game!


Amount Played for Review:
 ~2 hours
Platform: PC (Steam)

Warframe Title

So hey, did you play Mass Effect 3′s multiplayer, and wish it had more Free-to-Play hooks around it? Then Warframe is probably the game you’ve been looking for.

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I own a heck of a lot of games, and as a result I tend to play only a very short amount of any random one before the next one comes along. While I would like to get over this and finish more of the games I own, in the meantime I have started Snap Judgement to make use of the impressions I get from the start of a game. I do believe that the start of a game is one of it’s most important parts, and if it doesn’t catch you, then even if the end of it is awesome, you’re not likely to continue on. Hopefully my comments and opinions will help someone on the fence about trying a game!

Amount Played for Review: ~6 hours
Platform: PC (Steam)

Among the countless game franchises that exist in the industry, there are few that have the same level of fan love (and nostalgia) as X-Com. Notorious for being brutally hard, even with a bug that locked the game on Easy, X-Com has earned a place in the hearts of many gamers. People who make it clear how they feel about any use of the brand (I wonder where they were for Enforcer and Interceptor, though…). So, it comes to no surprise that there was quite the outcry about 2K’s other XCOM reboot (exasperated by the fact that their PR teams entirely bungled presenting what that game even IS), and why there was tempered relief about news from Firaxis that they were also making a new XCOM strategy game.

To put it simply, Firaxis did a great job at taking what made the original X-Com tick, and then modernizing it for today’s audiences. Soldiers are SLIGHTLY sturdier (though not by much; a good comparison would be to the default armour soldiers got in Apocalypse), they can take cover on the battlefield for defense bonuses, Action Points have been simplified into discrete actions, equipment management has been streamlined, and more. It lets you get down to the business of killing aliens without distractions.

Distractions you can’t afford to have. You need all these improvements because otherwise your soldiers will be coming home in a bag. Right from the start, the game throws your mostly untrained soldiers against vicious aliens who have way more firepower then you. And before you can get your research up to bring you on par with that, the game has already stepped up the stakes, sending much more powerful aliens, more often. It’s always a game of catching up.

It’s also a game of trade-offs. Everything from the powers you can choose when a soldier levels up to what missions you can take are a matter of managing trade-offs. The most up-front is the typical alien abduction missions. When these trigger, you get a choice of 3 locations that are under attack, and you can only save one. Each location offers various rewards for taking that mission, but the most important one is that the panic level of the country to choose to help will go down, but the panic of the other countries will go up. And if a country’s panic level gets too high, they’ll choose to leave the XCOM program entirely. If half of the countries in the XCOM program pull out, the operation shuts down entirely, and it’s game over.

Even your base is a sequence of trade-offs. You only have one base in XCOM, unlike previous games (though you can house your interceptors in generic hangars all over the world), and so space is limited. As well, the game provides incentives to build the base in certain ways, as like facilities put next to each other give an increased effect.

Now, one trade-off that Firaxis made is that your squad starts off at only 4 soldiers, and can be upgraded to a maximum of 6 soldiers, well under the maximum size of a team from X-Com. But with the higher average survivbility and firepower of your team in XCOM, it evens out. Speaking of your soldiers, at the start of the game you get your typical rookie, but when they get promoted to Squaddie, they get assigned one of 4 classes: Heavy (LMG and rockets), Assault (shotguns, rifles and front-line fighting), Sniper (sniper rifles and long-range fighting) and Support (buff and healing). Each class has their own set of talents, typically a choice of two at any given rank.

For example, an Assault can choose to either take bonus defense for each enemy they can see, or take bonus critical chance for each enemy they can see. Or a Sniper can choose to have the ability to move and shoot with their rifles (they can’t normally), or have the ability to take advantage of any ally’s line of sight in order to engage an enemy. The abilities trade off of each other at each rank very well, and generally make for an interesting choice.

Of course, it wouldn’t be an X-Com game without research. And there’s a good amount of it, all of which having great writeups to go alongside. Typically things that involve “We could have studied this for years, but we don’t have the time, so, uh… here!” And of course, once you research stuff, you also have the ability to produce it as well. In XCOM, they streamlined the resources a fair bit, having things generally require only alien alloys, fragments from their weapons, or Elerium (though some special things may need intact UFO power sources or nav computers). Most of these only come from alien UFOs, making those missions a high priority, and also introducing even more trade-offs. Do you want to spend your limited number of alloys on making new laser weapons, or on making the new armour? Thankfully the game gives you back all of a soldier’s gear should they perish (at least, if you’re not playing on Impossible), but it still means you have to work with limited gear.

And as mentioned, even with improved gear, your forces are fragile. It’s tough to go out there on a mission and have that soldier you spent so many missions building up get eviscerated by a chryssalid, or blasted by some Muton’s plasma rifle. Especially if it was because you stretched yourself a little too far. And to help drive the point home, they even have a memorial board (complete with bagpipe music) set up in the barracks so you can see all your soldiers who died during the war.

All in all, XCOM is a worthy entry into this long line of games. If you have a hankering for saving the Earth from the hordes of brutal aliens, then XCOM is certainly a game for you. I’ve also been hearing that, as the game was also developed for consoles, that handling the game using a 360 controller also works very well, and in fact makes some of the controls a little less awkward. I’ve found a few times that the game gets confused about where exactly I’m pointing my cursor at, though it usually fixes itself if you scroll up or down the layers.

The story is a little thin, but that’s only in comparison to modern strategy games. And not even in comparison to past Firaxis titles. It’s far more then you got from X-Com in the past, and works perfectly well enough to let it be YOUR story. The tale of how you and a rag-tag group of soldiers saved the planet from impossible odds… or died trying.

 

 

Full Reviews:

Giant Bomb – Quick Look

I own a heck of a lot of games, and as a result I tend to play only a very short amount of any random one before the next one comes along. While I would like to get over this and finish more of the games I own, in the meantime I have started Snap Judgement to make use of the impressions I get from the start of a game. I do believe that the start of a game is one of it’s most important parts, and if it doesn’t catch you, then even if the end of it is awesome, you’re not likely to continue on. Hopefully my comments and opinions will help someone on the fence about trying a game!

Amount Played for Review: ~11 hours
Platform: PC (Steam)

So, if you already read my previous Snap Judgement on Torchlight II, things have not changed a whole lot between the beta and the final release of Torchlight II.

The main difference between the beta and the final release is that they changed the skill system from instead being a tree of sorts to being a flat set of 7 active skills and 3 passive skills per tree. They still don’t require points put in earlier skills, instead being gated by level. The only main difference is that active skills how have “tiers” that you unlock every 5 points you put into them that give various extra improvements to the skill, such as adding damage reflection, increasing attack range, or setting hit enemies on fire. However, like I mentioned in the beta, I’m still not sure how I feel any more about this kind of talent system, but in the end it works well enough for the purposes of the game. The addition of the tier structure also makes points more then just tiny improvements.

My strongest impression now that I’m 11 hours into the official release, is that the game REALLY feels like Diablo 2. The story is very similar and the areas you are in for each act (up to 3, at least) are very similar. But also changed enough to fit their own internal narrative. I can’t fault them for this, though; Torchlight was made  by Diablo vets, after all. And they do a great job at realizing their idea of the loot-driven action RPG.

Another major difference between Torchlight 2 and Diablo 3, besides TL2 being based on Diablo 2, is that TL2 doesn’t care about if you want to mod or hack your game and get items easier then you would normally (or super busted items that aren’t even in the game at all). In fact, there’s even achievements for running the game with a bunch of mods installed, and the game will have Steam Workshop support for mods as well. If you really care about the sanctity of your random drop system, you may find this irritating if you go and play online with random people.

All-in-all, I found Torchlight 2 to be well realized game, and still want to put a ton of time into it, even after 11 hours already.

 

(For the record, though, I’m definitely expecting Act 4 to be set in some kind of volcano.)

I own a heck of a lot of games, and as a result I tend to play only a very short amount of any random one before the next one comes along. While I would like to get over this and finish more of the games I own, in the meantime I have started Snap Judgement to make use of the impressions I get from the start of a game. I do believe that the start of a game is one of it’s most important parts, and if it doesn’t catch you, then even if the end of it is awesome, you’re not likely to continue on. Hopefully my comments and opinions will help someone on the fence about trying a game!

Amount Played for Review: ~1 hour
Platform: PC (Steam)

Krater is an interesting type of action RPG, coming out at a time where the genre seems to be getting a resurgence of sorts. You can think of it as a cross between Diablo and Fallout, but leaning much more towards the Fallout side.

Oh, and it’s Swedish, to boot.

Krater is set around a world that basically destroyed itself in nuclear war. The only real known “safe” haven in this post-apocalyptic Sweden is a massive crater known as… Krater. Well, maybe they had other things on their mind. The bottom of Krater is a lush land of resources, which draws explorers and settlers there to try and make a better life for themselves.

You, the player, act as a sort of commander for a team of freelancers who have come to Krater to make their fortunes through following typical Western RPG style quests. You can command up to 3 characters, which is what makes for the twist here. You have your typical selection of classes; the healer, the tank, the ranged DPS, and the melee DPS. But there’s also another rub here, where your characters are all hires that have their own sets of skills from a pool that each class has.

This is all because characters are pretty expendable. Or, well. They can be. Each time a character is knocked out, they suffer injuries that may or may not affect their stats, but if they’re not treated the character could permanently die. To support this, characters have a range of quality levels (your typical MMO set of grey -> white -> green -> blue -> purple -> ???), each having a different recruitment cost and level cap.

Equipment also follows the same pattern. Each character has only two equipment slots, though, one for their weapon and one for an additional ability. However, they also can unlock slots that you can fit permanent upgrades to stats and their powers as they level up. This also means that lower tier characters can’t get many of these slots, since they can’t increase to the appropriate levels. Crafting is also available to help you make weapons and upgrades if you aren’t getting them from drops.

That said, though, Krater is not without it’s problems. The game likes to crater itself every now and then, but it’s getting better because they are doing frequent updates. It does, though, give the impression that the game is now doing a paid beta, even though it did just come off of an extensive regular beta. In addition, there are some hiccups with the UI. Sometimes I’ve needed to press a command button twice to make it actually activate, which can be trouble in a pitched battle.

A last complaint is just one I have in general with RPGs, and that I just don’t like 3-man parties when you have a range of “classes” available. Especially when the game is built around the Trinity of Tank/Heal/DPS. I just feel that it cuts off too much of what the game offers the player.

All said, though, Fatshark has promised to make regular updates (and in fact have made a few at the time of this writing), which includes fixes and new features (such as new NPCs that can upgrade characters to higher quality levels). I expect that they’ll fix up the problems over time, and expand the game further. They’ve already announced that one of the upcoming patches will activate an online co-op, which I’m looking forward to.

If you don’t mind quirky in your post-apocalyptic RPGs, and can stand a bit of klunkiness from the UI, then Krater is definitely a game to check out.

Full Reviews:

Giant Bomb – Quick Look

I own a heck of a lot of games, and as a result I tend to play only a very short amount of any random one before the next one comes along. While I would like to get over this and finish more of the games I own, in the meantime I have started Snap Judgement to make use of the impressions I get from the start of a game. I do believe that the start of a game is one of it’s most important parts, and if it doesn’t catch you, then even if the end of it is awesome, you’re not likely to continue on. Hopefully my comments and opinions will help someone on the fence about trying a game!

Amount Played for Review: ~3 hours
Platform: PC (Steam)

I really like to use sniper weapons in video games, so Sniper Elite V2 turned out to be right up my alley. It’s a game based entirely on crawling through your typical FPS levels, and either avoiding or sniping anyone in your way. Sure you have some other weapons as well, but why would you use them if you’re playing the game “right”?

Sniper Elite V2 is set during WW2, with your character being tasked with tracking down a number of V2 missile scientists and take them out to stall or stop progress. This brings you to a number of locations, from bombed out German towns to factories. The missions are pretty linear, but do have some variety in how you can move through them. For example, I replayed one of the first ones earlier, and discovered that there were more ways that I could crawl through the streets instead of needing to snipe all the patrols on the streets.

I sniped them anyway because it’s fun, though.

See, when you get a critical hit on an enemy from far enough away, you’re treated to a slow-motion view of your bullet as it travels, and then x-ray views of the enemy as it punches through the body, hitting everything in the path. And what it will track as being hit is pretty detailed; if you hit with a trajectory that would put a bullet through the top of the head and down into the spine, it’ll actually model hitting everything along the way. Hell, the bullet leaving the body on the other side can even hit other enemies, and won’t always come out at the same angle.

And it does model a LOT. Blowing out hips, punching through the intestines, piercing the skull.  Hell, it’ll even model shooting a grenade and having it explode, or even shooting someone in the nuts. Because, I don’t know. Maybe you want to do that.

Making fancy or skillful shots also awards you with points, which the game tallies up and puts on a leaderboard after you complete the mission, so it’s worth your while to try and long-range headshot or grenadeshot anyone you come across. You can even make use of some additional tools you can bring into a mission to help you with that, like tripwires, mines, and explosive bags you can shoot to detonate.

Sniper Elite V2 also has a number of different weapons to choose from, including a pretty wide range of sniper rifles, each with different scope magnifications, bullet speeds, and round counts. And the game also has a number of difficulty levels which add varying degrees of bullet physics, including wind speed and bullet drop. Easier difficulties give you indicators when you use a time slowing ability, though, to help you manage these factors.

However, even on easier difficulties, your character is really fragile, and won’t survive long in a firefight. Which is fine, since even though you can also use a variety of pistols and SMGs, you are playing a sniper game.

Overall, if you aren’t looking for a fast-paced shooter, and prefer taking your time to line up the perfect shot, then Sniper Elite V2 is probably right up your alley.

Full Reviews:

Giant Bomb – Quick Look

I own a heck of a lot of games, and as a result I tend to play only a very short amount of any random one before the next one comes along. While I would like to get over this and finish more of the games I own, in the meantime I have started Snap Judgement to make use of the impressions I get from the start of a game. I do believe that the start of a game is one of it’s most important parts, and if it doesn’t catch you, then even if the end of it is awesome, you’re not likely to continue on. Hopefully my comments and opinions will help someone on the fence about trying a game!

Amount Played for Review: ~70 minutes
Platform: PC (Steam)

I’m not meaning this in a negative manner, but Jeff Vogel REALLY likes Exile.

Maybe I should back up a moment. Avernum: Escape From the Pit is a remake of Spiderweb’s Avernum, which came out in 1999. Avernum was itself a remake of Exile, which was released in 1995. All of these titles are large world, story-driven RPGs, all made by a man who might as well be the grandfather of indie games. Jeff Vogel was making independent games before indie was even a thing, selling shareware (remember that?). The original Exile and Avernum are getting to be at the point where they just won’t work on modern computers anymore, which prompted a desire to remake the original trilogy once more.

The story of Exile/Avernum has always been one of it’s stronger points. The world of Avernum is one where an oppressive Empire has a magic portal to a hellish underworld where they throw prisoners of all shapes, be they violent, petty, or political. Down in the darkness, these people have banded together to make a life for themselves against all the odds, dreaming of the chance to retake the surface.

In Avernum 1, the story is mainly one of survival, as your band was just thrown through the portal and you need to make a life for yourself. You start off by making a group of 4 characters. While there’s “classes” available to choose from, all they actually do is award prepackaged stats. As you progress through the game, all characters can do all things if you want to, but you don’t have unlimited points in which to do so. Unless you want to use the included save editor, that is (another Exile/Avernum staple). With regards to dialog, you have choices available to you as to how you want your characters to act, but it’s not as in-depth as say Skyrim or Mass Effect. But it doesn’t need to be.

System-wise, Avernum: Escape From the Pit uses a modified version of the one from Avadon, Spiderweb’s previous title. The biggest changes are your party and the magic system. In Avadon, spells and special abilities all work on a cooldown system, whereas Avernum returns to a MP system. This can make fights easier since you can have healers casting each turn, but by the same token it also makes battles feel better, and feel better balanced.

Avernum also features touched up versions of the original skill and stat art from Phil Foglio, which adds a huge amount of charm to the game. Skills are also better constructed then they were in Exile and the original Avernum, having been built around the same system as Avadon. The only change is that Escape From the Pit also includes an additional set of “feats” you can pick at each level to give more generic bonuses and customization.

Another major improvement over the original Exile and Avernum is the inclusion of an actual quest log to help you at least track WHAT quests you have, even if it doesn’t track progress to a detailed degree. It’s still incredibly helpful.

Overall, if you are a fan of RPGs, it serves you well to go and get a copy of Avernum. Jeff Vogel and Spiderweb Software have honed their art to a fine point, and still manage to put out quality product to support themselves independently for all these years. And for that, I salute them.

I own a heck of a lot of games, and as a result I tend to play only a very short amount of any random one before the next one comes along. While I would like to get over this and finish more of the games I own, in the meantime I have started Snap Judgement to make use of the impressions I get from the start of a game. I do believe that the start of a game is one of it’s most important parts, and if it doesn’t catch you, then even if the end of it is awesome, you’re not likely to continue on. Hopefully my comments and opinions will help someone on the fence about trying a game!

Amount Played for Review: ~60 minutes
Platform: PC (Good Old Games)

As legends come and go, the tale of the Legend of Grimrock (I seriously have to keep checking myself to make sure I wrote that right), sounds like a familiar one. In some fantasy kingdom, the king is a jerk and decides to sentence criminals to exploring a strange dungeon within the mountain of Grimrock. If they can make it out alive, they get their freedom. And no one has made it out alive yet…

Legend of Grimrock is a throwback to olden dungeon crawlers like Swords and Serpents and others I never played a whole lot of because damn Swords and Serpents was hard. You create a party of 4 from among 4 races (Humans, Minotaur, Lizardman, Insectoid) and 3 classes (Fighter, Rogue, Mage). Your party travels through the dungeon as a 2×2 square, which you can re-position on the fly during combat. Regular weapons can only be used by guys in the front two positions, while the rear two positions need either long-range weapons like spears and bows, or magic.

With your “heroes” made, you’re off to delve into the depths of Mount Grimrock. Exploring the dungeon is pretty simple, though the fact that it has both rotate and strafe buttons right next to each other has tripped me up a few times, causing me to accidentally fall into pits or just ramming into a wall.

Combat is also fairly simple. You right-click on the weapon you want a character to use and he’ll swing, hopefully hitting the enemy. As mentioned, weapons have ranges, so only melee weapons in the front row can hit an enemy, though the Rogue class can use the skill points it earns from levelling up to obtain an ability to use melee weapons from the rear row as well. When a weapon is used, it activates a “cooldown” until that party member can attack again. Since you can swap party positions on the fly, you can make use of this to move melee characters into and out of the front rank if you don’t have long-range weapons and have them attack as you wait on cooldowns.

And there’s more then just the monsters out to get you, as well. The dungeon itself is full of traps and puzzles, with hidden rooms and secret passages all over the place. Watching the area and looking for the hidden buttons, or recognizing the signs of a hidden switch like an oddly empty torch holder will get you far and find you loot you wouldn’t get normally until later.

Of course, you can take advantage of these same traps yourself, tricking monsters into falling down pits or locking them behind a door while you catch your breath. The game has 3 difficulty levels to let you choose just how challenging you want encounters to be, and even on Normal some of the fights can be pretty rough while you’re lacking for gear.

If you really enjoy an involved dungeon crawl with puzzle elements, then Legend of Grimrock is definitely something you should look at. It’s available on Steam and Good Old Games, but GoG does offer a number of bonuses such as printable graph paper if you want to go really old-school and turn off the game’s automap.

I own a heck of a lot of games, and as a result I tend to play only a very short amount of any random one before the next one comes along. While I would like to get over this and finish more of the games I own, in the meantime I have started Snap Judgement to make use of the impressions I get from the start of a game. I do believe that the start of a game is one of it’s most important parts, and if it doesn’t catch you, then even if the end of it is awesome, you’re not likely to continue on. Hopefully my comments and opinions will help someone on the fence about trying a game!

Amount Played for Review: ~45 minutes
Platform: PC (Steam)

Do you like Roguelikes and only have about 10 minutes to play a game? Then Hack, Slash, Loot is certainly the title for you. Made by apparently a team of apparently 5 dudes, Hack, Slash, Loot is a very simplistic Roguelike that’s meant to be played through very quickly, be it to victory or death. And commonly death.

When you turn the game on, you get presented with a simple, yet effective menu which lets you pick a specific character and quest, or just leave it random. Characters give you a set of pre-made stats and equipment, while the Quests define the dungeons and objectives. Most of both are locked when you start the game; you just begin with a simple Warrior, Archer, and Wizard, as well as 4 generic missions. More are unlocked by playing quests (and dying); including classes such as the Knight (starts with more defenses) and the Amazon (starts with a special weapon that gives random bonuses to stats when you kill an enemy, but has very few defenses otherwise).

Hack, Slash, Loot’s gameplay is just as simplistic as it’s interface and visuals, but that’s not a bad thing. There’s not much in the way of stat management, there’s no XP, and barely much of an inventory. This makes for much faster play, overall, and even with no XP, there’s plenty of ways to get permanent bonuses (or penalties!) through various scrolls found around the world. That said, health recovery seems very rare and/or limited, which may be intentional.

Death comes easy and often in the game, but starting a new quest is fast, with as soon as you acknowledging the death message, you start a new one right away.

All that said, though, I found a few problems with the game’s interfaces. The first issue is that game tiles are not uniformly square, and are in fact actually rectangular. That, combined with the viewing angle, sometimes made manoeuvring around the dungeon difficult. I have a feeling that the interface for this game would probably work better on a tablet.

In addition, while the game can allow for you to obtain allies that help you in battle, this is actually a terrible idea as they will not only prove to be generally bad against enemies, but also block your path! And the engine won’t let you try to move to an area if it’s blocked RIGHT NOW, even if it’s likely that the path will be clear within the few turns it’ll take to get there. Thankfully, the game does allow you to backstab your allies, since it doesn’t really treat them as anything more then a monster that won’t attack you first.

That said, the interface issues were more annoyances then real problems.

With dungeons quick and easy to run, and an interface designed to make playing it easy, Hack, Slash, Loot is a good game to use as a short time waster, if you enjoy a dungeon crawler. And that it has a good sense of humour certainly helps as well.

I own a heck of a lot of games, and as a result I tend to play only a very short amount of any random one before the next one comes along. While I would like to get over this and finish more of the games I own, in the meantime I have started Snap Judgement to make use of the impressions I get from the start of a game. I do believe that the start of a game is one of it’s most important parts, and if it doesn’t catch you, then even if the end of it is awesome, you’re not likely to continue on. Hopefully my comments and opinions will help someone on the fence about trying a game!

Amount Played for Review: ~25 minutes
Platform: PC (Steam)

You know, it’s not that often that I buy something and later think it was kind of a bad choice. Maybe I just don’t quite get it, but Cubemen is one of these rare occurrences.

Cubemen is another Tower Defence game, except this time the gimmick is that your towers are treated as RTS soldiers. This isn’t as great of an idea as you would think it is, though, which I’ll go into detail later. When you start, there’s very little to the game. You can choose to either play a Defense game which is like your typical TD, or a Skirmish game which is not unlike the kind of competitive TD that is like Monday Night Combat. In Skirmish, you set up your units to shoot enemy towers and enemy walkers, to protect your own walkers as they shamble to the enemy’s base and take their HP away. This mode is actually the only one I played that felt like it played right.

Now, as for the gameplay. Cubemen’s gameplay is… flawed. Conceptually, having an RTS TD probably sounds pretty cool. In reality, though, it suffers from a number of downsides and design problems. The biggest downside is that it means that your towers need to actually walk to where you want them to be, under fire the whole time. Sure, they can PROBABLY shoot back as well, but in my experience they… tended to either not, or shot pretty ineffectively.

There’s a pretty barebones tutorial when the game detects that it’s your first time playing. It’s not even tied to a specific map or anything; pick any map from “easy” to “insane” and start playing, and the game will start giving some tutorial boxes to make sure you know what’s up. It doesn’t do a good job overall, though. Or, I’ll just say, the fact that I could never even get halfway through the first “easy” level left me thinking that there was something I didn’t understand.

As well, unlike most TD games, there’s no such thing as a “pause” between waves in Cubemen. They just keep coming one after another as the wave counter ticks ever higher towards your ultimate failure.

 

Maybe there’s something about the way the game plays that I didn’t understand that made it unnecessarily hard? but it also didn’t go out of it’s way to try and make itself that accessible.

I own a heck of a lot of games, and as a result I tend to play only a very short amount of any random one before the next one comes along. While I would like to get over this and finish more of the games I own, in the meantime I have started Snap Judgement to make use of the impressions I get from the start of a game. I do believe that the start of a game is one of it’s most important parts, and if it doesn’t catch you, then even if the end of it is awesome, you’re not likely to continue on. Hopefully my comments and opinions will help someone on the fence about trying a game!

Amount Played for Review: ~110 minutes
Platform: PC (Steam)

One of the things that always made it hard for me to get into “open world” (universe?) space games is that there’s usually a lot of complexity even in how the game is controlled, let alone complexity of interacting with things. So while I like the concept of the genre a lot, getting into one is incredibly difficult for me. Starpoint Gemini seems to be a game designed to work around this, to a degree.

That said, it’s got it’s own set of complexities, which isn’t helped very much by the tutorial. I won’t say that the tutorial was poorly written, but it seemed buggy, locked out the controls at arbitrary periods, and took way longer then it should have. And still seemed to only gloss over many of the aspects of the game. I walked away understanding how to play, but I felt like I could have learned much more about it.

Starpoint Gemini is based around two campaigns, though I’ve only tried the main campaign. Much like your typical Elite-like, there is an overarching plot, but you can just go off and be a trader or pirate or whatever floats your boat. The amount I played doesn’t give an idea of how well the game supports these styles of play, but I was able to tell that they’re at least possible.

In the main campaign, you’re the captain of a ship that was part of a war between the Earth government and the colonies of Gemini. At the end of the war, the Earth forces basically blow up the warp gate between the places, causing weird space-time anomalies. One of which absorbed your ship, trapping you outside of time for 20 years. During this time, everything around you went to hell as the colonies broke up into various factions, not having had a common enemy to fight.

I think the story could have worked a bit better if it was more then just 20 years having passed, since everyone keeps referring to your “top of the line” ship from ONLY 20 years ago as outdated junk. That said, the length is basically arbitrary, and it’s meant to leave you as the character in the same place as you the player; lost in a universe that’s not your own.

Unlike other Elite-likes, Starpoint Gemini doesn’t play as a space sim, but instead plays more like the old Starfleet Command games. Action is on a primarily flat plane, though enemies and objects can be above and below you. There’s some control issues, though, as movement is by either clicking “vaguely” on the screen where you want to go or by using the A and D keys to start turns. It makes for awkward movements during combat, since the camera seemingly only focuses straight forward if you’re not targeting anything, or on whatever you’re targeting.

Speaking of combat, it has all of the features one would expect from this kind of game, though the scale is slightly different as you are typically piloting a capital ship instead of a fighter. You can target enemy subsystems to disable them, or manoeuvre around enemies to strike their weakened shields or to keep your stronger shields facing their weapons. And of course, keeping your own weapon fields of fire on the enemy.

There’s more then just combat, too, since not only is there trading available, but there’s also the typical things like mining asteroids, hunting down derelict ships, or scanning anomalies, in addition to the various jobs people can send you on. And doing just about anything seems to grant XP to your character. Your level doesn’t seem to give anything passive, but does give you points you can use to purchase and upgrade various active abilities. These include things from boosting your weapon damage or shield strength, to activating point-defense countermeasures, to making use of various special ship equipment such as stealth and repair drones.

As a sandbox space game, Starpoint Gemini seems to hit the right notes, though it’s very rough around the edges. Maybe some of the issues I came across will be resolved in later patches, since there were some crashes or oddities in how things worked, but overall it seemed decently put together. Not a bad choice for someone looking for something different in the space simulation genre.