Starpoint Gemini Warlords is an open world sandbox space simulation combined with RPG and strategy elements.
The player has numerous "starts" to choose from, ranging from having absolutely nothing but a small fighter to command to being in control of a massive cruiser. For the sake of this review, we will begin by focusing on the Story mode followed by observations from the Sandbox mode.
The game begins by providing a cutscene to explain some of the backstory and puts the player directly into a stylish and rather powerful looking vessel. This aims to explain the game's controls and systems before the world opens up into free roam. There are numerous story bits and cutscenes as well as a combat section too.
Once the tutorial is over, the player now has the chance to create their character by choosing a portrait which represents them in conversations. The player can also choose their gender, name, surname and class. There are 3 classes to choose from, each with their own unique abilities and specialties.
The Vanguard is the tank and close range class, capable of ramming and pulling enemies around. The Vanguard's main damage ability is the "Shotgun" skill which can shoot dozens of explosive shots in a cone. Every class comes with a passive, the Vanguard's gives it increased damage when using Light weapons while being close to the target enemy.
The Sharpshooter is the long range sniper class, it has a wide array of decoy and disruption abilities capable of confusing enemies as well as keeping them at a safe distance. The Sharpshooter's main damage ability is the "Precision Shot" skill which fires a destructive bolt at an enemy from long range. The passive for the Sharpshooter increases Light weapon damage the further away the player is from their target.
The Marauder is Starpoint Gemini Warlord's answer to a stealth fighter, it has cloaking technology and high burst damage. The Marauder's main damage ability is "Expose" which while short range can damage and weaken enemy defenses. The Marauder is also capable of utilizing the longer cooldown abillity "Execute" which has the added benefit of the cooldown being reset upon landing a killing blow with this skill. The Marauder's passive adds an additional chance to critically hit with Light weapons.
After selecting the class, the player has the opportunity to select numerous perks which range from unlocking new conversation options, to improving trading prices as well as improving boarding enemy ship ability.
Once the creation section has been completed, the player is then placed into their gunship of choice and is allowed to freely explore the game world. However it is recommended to follow the main story at least a little to become further acquianted with the various side missions that will be available once reaching Concordia (the space station the player calls home).
Upon arriving at Concordia, the player must hail the station to begin a dialogue sequence which will lead to the next mission. The player will need to use sublight drive (default key: B) to reach the waypoint faster. On arrival, the player will need to destroy defense platforms as well as enemy ships.
Next up is raiding a space installation. For this, the player will need to target the installation and use the menus to deploy troops onto the enemy station. There will be a mini-game of sorts where the player must keep their troops alive as they progress from room to room until finally reaching the control center where they will be able to acquire the necessary data.
By this point, the player has most likely gained enough experience to advance in level which will unlock a skill and perk point to be spent. The skill point can be used on the 4 class skills the chosen class has available while the perk point can be spent on a variety of different improvements to your overall character. For example providing the player character with the familiarity of certain ship types making them better at flying them in combat. There are also perks in categories such as "Weapons", "Governing", "Personal", "Engineering", and "Warfare". All with more choices within each.
Moving on from the story mode, the Sandbox mode is an entirely different affair with the ability to create the player character, choose your ship and be dropped right into the game world, no cutscenes, no big story missions, just the player and whatever goals they set for themselves. The player has the ability to dock into Concordia and browse various menus each with their own specialties. These range from Shipyard, Garage, Drydock, Trader, Jobs Board, Research, Shipbuilding and Construction.
The Shipyard contains a wide array of ships to purchase each gaining in whatever specialty the player chooses, whether that be combat strength, speed and mobility or cargo space.
The Garage is where the player can browse through their owned ships.
The Drydock is where the player can modify their on-board weapon systems as well as change their utility skills and upgrade them.
The Trader is where the player can buy trading goods and sell loot.
The Jobs Board acts as a way to earn some quick cash and also level up reasonably quickly, depending on the job that is completed.
Research is not available at the start of the Sandbox mode as it requires an upgrade to be constructed on Concordia but it allows the player to discover new technologies and unlock them to be used on their ship and fleets. (Yes you can command entire fleets!)
Shipbuilding is where the player creates ships to be added to fleets which can be commanded from the map screen (default key: M), there is also the ability to unlock "companion" characters through missions who will command stronger vessels than normal ships and have similar abilities to the 3 classes available to the player. These companions can also level up and gain new ships as they progress, they can be commanded to act as bodyguard for the player or as a strike team leader for a fleet.
Construction is where the player can upgrade Concordia depending on if the sufficient amount of material is available. Materials are gained by utilizing various outposts and capturing more from enemy territory, these outposts pay out their resources every week. The materials required for construction can be gained by constructing and upgrading: Mining Outposts, Gas Collectors and Junk Reclaimers. There is also a need to spend Credits, the in-game currency. The player gains Credits by collecting taxes as well as completing missions. The player also has the ability to send out "Civilian Fleets" to locations on the map to acquire resources another way. These missions have a risk rating associated with them ranging from "Very Low" to "Extreme" threat levels. It is recommended to send out these fleets whenever the player has an opportunity, this is all done in real-time so micromanagement is important.
Once the player gets out of Concordia and begins leveling up, destroying enemy ships and getting the hang of the systems in place. It is now time to begin expanding the player's territory.
To do this, the player must fly to a neighboring enemy sector and attack the forces currently inhabiting it. There is a bar at the top of the screen indicating how many ships the player must eliminate to successfully capture the sector. Once captured, the sector will provide any resources, outposts and anything within it to the player. The outpost which must be destroyed to capture a sector can be upgraded to increase its defensive capabilities. The player has the option to command a fleet to patrol in any sector they choose.
It is now up to the player where to conquer first.
Apart from the story and sandbox modes, there are also numerous others. The DLC currently available for Starpoint Gemini Warlords features a variety of different scenarios, ranging from being the last survivor of an ancient race (and having the massive ship to match) to defending against an invasion of an unknown faction. The game also has Steam Workshop support for those who would like to customize their experience even more.
Overall, Starpoint Gemini Warlords is a very enjoyable experience with many great aspects to it. The graphics are beautiful, the gameplay is smooth. The only drawbacks would be is if one does not enjoy the gameplay loop of combat, then one may find it a little grindy but luckily the combat is exciting and engaging. Many scenarios had me running for cover while trying to outsmart my opponents! The controls may take some getting used to but it is a space sim and with so many features available, it is understandable to have the controls designed that way. After about half an hour, I was able to control my ship and do everything else in the game without any problems whatsoever.
If one enjoys open world spaceship action with strategy and roleplaying elements thrown in, Starpoint Gemini Warlords is definitely something one should not miss!