February 2007


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Review: DarkStar One

For those of you who have been pining away like me for a new space shooter since we got tired of playing Tachyon: The Fringe and gave up on X3: The Reunion, there is some small bit of hope: Ascaron Entertainment’s DarkStar One.

Basically, the game is a T:TF retread. Your character is given his murdered father’s ship, the experimental DarkStar One after he graduates from flight training. He is of course then tasked to go find his father’s killer. Along the way, he flies from system to system, meets new, interesting people, and kills them.

Yeah, the plotline’s a bit hashed, and I think an almost direct copy of X3, but what the hell. It’s not like we really give a rat’s ass about the plot, we’re here to shoot down other ships.

And, boy, do they give you plenty to choose from.

The hook for the game is the ship itself, which has a new twist up its tailpipe: the ship can be upgraded by collecting Coupons…err, Artifacts that have been left behind by some ancient race.

In asteroids. That are being actively mined for ore. And people just left these things lying around without taking them to any of the hundreds of research stations planted throughout the galaxy…

Yeah, not a lot of thought here.

Keep reading…

These Artifacts change the ship by transforming into additional hull structures in three areas: hull, wings and tail. Each area gets improved in various ways, such as increased hull strength, better agility and extra weapon mounts, or just plain ‘ol speed and power generation.

You also get the Plasma Cannon! (Wait – del that “!” and make it a “.”)

This device is actually more of just a ship system, and not really a cannon at all. It has variable functions, which can be used to recharge your weapons and shields, or later on in the game it can be used to short-circuit enemy shields or even trap them in time for a few seconds while you blast them into the afterlife.

Gameplay is pretty straightforward: You have the main Plot, and you have the task of collecting Artifacts to improve the DSO. Along the way you will also need to improve the various ship systems (like shields and weapons) so you will also need to earn money. To get money, you can trade, take on missions, or turn pirate.

Trading is not a fast money-maker, so don’t pay it too much attention. Missions pay better, and there are tons of pirates floating around at jump gates just waiting for you to shoot the shit out of them. Most missions are, in fact, pirate-hunting forays. Since the Gov’t pays a bounty on pirates on top of paying you to take the mission, this ends up being the “pharming” aspect of the game. To really ice that cake, if you kill the boss pirate of the clan, you get a bonus weapon that is better than what is available for sale at the trade stations.

Speaking of new weapons, this one does have a neat addition to the standard laser / railgun / missile rack: the turret. Turrets get special mounts that you (of course) have to improve the ship a couple times to get, but they are SO worth it. They auto-aim and auto-fire at your target – and they hit more than you do. Turret mounts are all topside, so the important thing to remember is to keep your enemies above you.

Graphically, the game is pretty to look at. While it will benefit from an SLI configuration, it is not necessary as long as you have a modern vid card. The game does have some bugs though, so be prepared for the occasional glitch or game crash. These usually happen after an hour or two of play, so it isn’t a real problem. The game auto-saves at every trade station, and you can hit the ESC key to save at any time, so there’s no great loss when it does crash.

In-flight physics are fairly standard, and the flight controls are easily configured for either joystick or mouse. The HUD could be a bit brighter or a more distinctive color, but otherwise puts up all the data you need for dogfighting.

On the bummer side, the developer has stated that patch 1.3 is the final patch, so don’t expect it to get better over time. Vista support is not in the works, either, so make sure you are well and truly done with this game before upgrading.

Another mark against the game is the voice talent. I miss Bruce from T:TF, but the game is from a GmBH and they didn’t spend tons of cash on English voice talent. Ya pays your money and takes yer chances, as they say.

In conclusion, I give it a 6 out of 10. Good gameplay, interesting hook for advancement, and lots of eye candy. The lack of a mulitplayer mode, however, puts the kibosh on what could have been greatness.

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