Okay, so Early Access, you love to hate it. The current adopted business model of choice on PC has gotten its fair share of criticism and I for one find it hard to justify buying any game using this model. You only need to look at games like Day Z or Spacebase DF-9 to see what a massive risk we, as consumers, are taking when we splurge our hard-earned cash on what is essentially a promise of content. Little Green Man Games however, have done this all before with their previous title Starpoint Gemini 2, which released to fairly positive reviews, and Starpoint Gemini Warlords definitely feels like an early access game done correctly.
Starpoint Gemini Warlords takes place within the same universe as the previous title, and shares many of its features and aesthetics. The big difference this time around though, is the introduction of a new strategy element, much like many 4X games such as Endless Space or Stelaris. I whirled around in the game for around 8 hours before I’d seen the bulk of what the current build of the game has to offer, and, whilst I wasn’t a massive fan of the previous entry in the series, I enjoyed what I had seen.
Do keep in mind that this game is still in its Alpha stages so, whilst the features are there, they are very much barebones at this stage. And at a price of £18.99 it may be a hard sell, but what is there is definitely playable and definitely enjoyable, couple this with the fact the LGM are one of the few ‘good guys’ of Early Access and you’re in with a pretty safe bet that your cash will bear fruit in time.
Once you completed the main tutorial, you’re handed a basic ship and sent on your way in the galaxy, which is enormous by the way, and you’re free to go anywhere you like right from the start. I wouldn’t recommend just shooting out into space personally, your best bet is sticking around the Concord space station, Concord being the faction that you are currently allied with.
The space station acts as your central hub where you can buy and upgrade ships or weapons, you can also find various jobs here, such as bounty hunting, courier or scavenging missions. These optional jobs add to the variety of the game and really make you feel like Warlords is tailored to how you want to play. Do you want to be a fearsome bounty hunter? Or a scavenger? A perhaps a military commander? The choice really is yours.
The controls are simple, and, whilst the tutorial does a pretty lacklustre job of explaining them, they are basic enough that anyone who has played a space sim before will find their feet fairly quickly. Some of the more advanced mechanics such as using items and abilities are not explained by the tutorial very well at all, and more than likely you will have to figure these out for you own. The camera is slightly problematic too, as it almost feels a little too close when in combat and by extension whilst exploring, I want to zoom out and see what’s around me personally. Perhaps these gripes are just nitpicking though, and again, the game is in Early Access so these issues will more than likely be ironed out before a full release. I’ve seen a lot of people complain about the menu system in this game, but I found it to be functional if not spectacular, using consumable items could be streamlined a bit more but again, this is the point of Alpha builds.
Aesthetically, the game looks great. The ship design’s are uniquely alien with a human touch, and the galaxy backdrops are stunning. The game ran perfectly well for me on the highest settings, and I was really impressed with its performance as an Alpha build. The musical score is fantastic, with a lot of ambient sounds adding to the haunting, lonely atmosphere of space. The voice acting on the other hand, is pretty average, and this is one thing I hope they can improve with the increased revenue they will get from releasing this game as Early Access.
Overall, aside from a few small issues, this game is the perfect example of how to do Early Access correctly. The Devs are passionate and their communication is fantastic, they are massively active in the community and it’s something that we need to see from more developers using the business model. This game isn’t far from being a great game already, and there’s still plenty of features to be fully implemented, which I will revisit once the game is further along in development. For now, I can’t wait to play this at full release, and any like-minded space-sim fans should be just as anxious to play it as I am.
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