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Darkstar One Review

publisher: CDV Software Entertainment
developer: Ascaron
genre: Shooters

PIV 1600, 512MB RAM, 128MB video card
ESRB rating: T

release date: Aug 14, 06
» All About Darkstar One on ActionTrip

September 04, 2006

The space simulation genre remains a mystery to me to this very day. With games as fiercely addictive as the Wing Commander, Freelancer, and Free Space, one would think that space simulations would be treated on equal terms with other popular game genres. The reality of the situation is very different, however; space sims are almost as extinct as classic adventure games. The reason? Well, it likely has to do with money. It always does.

Nonetheless, this action genre with a space twist still has a loyal and devoted following, so any mention of a new game is greeted with much enthusiasm amongst the fans. Upon first seeing Asceron's Darkstar One, the all-too-familiar spark lit up, and I was happy to find myself plunging into the blackness of space again, armed with lasers, shields, and my weathered reflexes.

Conceptually, Darkstar One stays well within the boundaries of the genre that were set by its famous predecessors. DO (Darkstar One) incorporates the non-linear exploration elements of the ancient Elite, while relying on a linear story path, much in the same way that Freelancer did. In fact, aside from the overhauled graphics, the gameplay remains almost identical to the classics of the genre.

As a young and budding pilot looking to avenge your father's death, you will get mixed up in inter-galactic conspiracies and save the world from an evil alien race. I bet you never saw that one coming. Your name is Kayron Jarvis, and you are *not* a porn star, no matter what your name may sound like.

Anyone who has played a space sim before will feel right at home with Darkstar. You will be jumping through hyperspace, visiting one trade station after another. Trading valuable commodities (buying low and selling high in an overly simplified trading system), or looting other trade ships as a pirate. As you make your way through the many star systems, random side missions will pop up. When you get tired of this freeform play style, you can embark on the main quest, which will often require you to achieve certain things before you can move the story forward.

One relatively new concept in Darkstar is that you won't actually be getting newer and better ships, but rather, you will continue to customize your starting ship. Darkstar One is the name of the ship left to you by your hotshot pilot father - it is a fusion of organic mass and machinery that requires artifacts to "grow." These artifacts will be scattered across the galaxy and will provide you with upgrades unique to your vessel. Other, regular upgrades you'll be able to purchase on trade stations. In case you are wondering why your father didn't turn Darkstar One into an invincible über ship himself, the answer is pretty simple. Just think of how woefully incompetent your dad is with Windows Updates and keeping spyware off his PC and you'll get the picture. Another reason is that the game designers probably wouldn't have a storyline at all, which would be a huge blow to the game. Or would it?

As your ship becomes more powerful and you gain notoriety as a pilot, your journey through space will become increasingly perilous, with plenty of hopefuls wanting to make a name for themselves by blasting Darkstar to bits.

Visually, Darkstar One looks pretty enough not to disappoint. The special effects are not overdone, and the visible part of the ship's cockpit feels gritty and natural. The design of the ships and other larger space vessels is striking at first, but it does become somewhat repetitive after a while.

Performance-wise, the game ran smoothly with 2Gigs of RAM. Naturally, the frame rate would drop near larger objects on a mid range rig. In addition, playing with 1Gig of RAM, the loading of new maps suffered from a lot of stuttering that would eventually become less frequent once most of the textures were loaded. Normally, I wouldn't mention this at all, but the situation got pretty bad a couple of times.

The sound effects, while not top-notch were good enough to sort of blend into the gameplay seamlessly. The voice acting, on the other hand, is mysteriously void of the "acting" part. Blame it on the fact that the game was translated from German.

The AI blends into the game's overall technical mediocrity. The control layout on the keyboard felt natural enough, so using reverse trust and afterburner to get on the bogie's tail was easy enough in most cases. Boss fights usually come down to whoever has more shields on their ship, so in that sense, Darkstar One can hardly be called revolutionary. Still, the AI was good enough not to be noticeably bad in any particular situation.

The biggest problem that Darkstar has by far is the fact that it simply feels like a pale copy of other, far more successful games in the genre. There is nothing in it to grab you while playing. The combat is overly simplistic after you master the controls and the story is about as engaging as the evening news. You almost get the feeling that DO was put together by people who either didn't know how to make an interesting game, or simply lacked the will to do it. Darkstar One is in need of fire and passion; it lacks the imagination and creativity needed to captivate the player. The gameplay feels flat and it becomes very tedious after a while. Even though the initial impressions may suggest differently, DO doesn't deliver the type of experience that space sim fans are looking for.

I'd steer clear from buying it unless I was desperate for playing a new space simulation.


5.7   Okay

Pretty with all the features you'd expect in a space simulation;

Lacks passion and direction in terms of design, gets boring really, really fast.



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