Darkstar One Demo Review

July 5th, 2006 by Potato

I had a chance to play with the demo for Darkstar One. It could use a lot of work still, but I liked it. Basically, it’s Privateer/Freelancer again, except instead of being able to change ships, you’re stuck with your one semi-organic ship that upgrades with you over time (though it doesn’t appear as though you’ll be able to change your mind and go back to a cargo hauler mode like you could when you sold your ship in the other games; this might be a significant limitation later). Despite the lack of originality or significant improvements over its predecessors, I think I’ll buy it just because I’ve been hankering for a game like this for a while now (or better yet, another Mechwarrior/Heavy Gear: Mercs type game).

The combat is right out of the Wing Commander games: ships are fairly nimble, and the name of the game is “ride that ass”. The physics are definitely not Newtonian (which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise — it’s a hard physics model to play in space, especially if draw distances are restrictive). Unfortunately, this game doesn’t even seem to feature weapons with different ranges and ships with different speeds like Privateer had — everything but cruisers and large freighters seems to top out at the same speed, so running isn’t often an option for you. I haven’t fully tested the weapons in the game, but they all seem to be “whites of their eyes” type affairs as seen in the other games of this genre. I know you’d hardly ever hit anything, but I’d like to see a gradual dissipation in weapons for these games, rather than a sudden vanishing of weapons fire. Even perhaps being able to tune your weapons for spray vs focus fire mode (rather than having to outfit a completely new turret at space dock, if available). The game is also sorely lacking an autopilot feature. There is a time compression one so you don’t spend all day floating around, but you can only go in a straight line — no plotting roundabout courses to avoid patrols and the like. I also can’t seem to find a system map option, just a galactic map, which I would find annoying if there were more than 2 or 3 things in any given system.

Minor things the game could really use include a targeting reticle: the mouse cursor looks like a reticle, but your shots still go straight ahead, which can be quite confusing in joystick mode. Also, there’s a cycle through targets, and target nearest enemy function, but no target under reticle option (which is needed for dogfights and also for grabbing space junk). The joystick hat function isn’t very good: instead of looking out around you to spot for enemies, it provides you with an exterior view aimed at your ship. A number of other things (especially the English translating) just aren’t very smooth or intuitive, though it is possible these will be fixed by release in a month.

The universe so far is pretty bland, but it is just the demo. It doesn’t have the depth of hidden items that Freelancer had, nor the map system for tracking them. And you can’t randomly chat with people or beg for your life like you could with Privateer.

All that said, it is still a Privateer-type game. You get a ship, you blow stuff up, run cargo, make money, and upgrade your ship. So I’ll probably be buying it come August.

One Response to “Darkstar One Demo Review”

  1. Rez Says:

    I tried the Darkstar One demo and was not impressed. The combat system isn’t as dumbed down as it was in Freelancer, but just about everything else is. It’s an arcade shooter style game rather than a space sim (the keybindings take up one page…come on!).

    I’m actually hankering for a game more like Wing Commander/X-Wing/Tie Fighter where you are a part of a squadron with actual missions and the like. The down time in Wing Commander between missions was great, hanging out in the bar and chatting with your squadronmates or messing around in the simulator. It’d be great to have that atmosphere but with multiplayer so you can fight alongside (or against, I suppose) real life people!