Once you’re out there, though, the pirates aren’t just going to be lurking around the corners … they’re out there mingling with the locals, mixing it up with security forces, and tossing up trouble everywhere within a tight radius of the space stations. The arcade combat action is convincing, though, and it’d be easy to lose a roll of quarters on that aspect alone.
The menus, in and out of the cockpit, are picturesque and a snap to navigate, although some functions you’ll have to dabble with and discover on your own. Even the tutorial slacks on some important details for this simplistic simulator. You’ll never have to dig deeper than two levels into any icon. It’s a level of restraint lost on menu whores like EVE Online, but not so minimalistic that you’re teeth-grindingly lost like in X3: Reunion. The universe map is begging for a Search button, despite the VH1 pop up video style statistics, since manually tracking your mouse over hundreds of untagged stars is a hobby best left to Myst adventure gamers.
Travel between the stars is fast and oiled down, with only a few cursory equipment timers keeping you from hopping like Q-Bert through huge blocks of space. Your ship (the “DarkStar One,” incidentally) is equipped with heavy thrusters to aid you in short bursts during dogfights, but an hourglass icon also beckons from the side of the HUD to speed up time. Which is great if you’re not into sightseeing, but takes another chunk out of the breadth and scope of space. The X- and Y-axis keep shrinking in the DarkStar universe, no matter how many stars you sprinkle on the map.
And, despite the huge number of stars to contend with, the political map doesn’t try to dig too deep either. Much like the economics. Much like the character development. Much like the entire 2-dimensional DarkStar One endeavor. And don’t try to complain about frequent desktop crashes and system freezes: Their critical error email is written entirely in German. So unless you’re familiar with what “Ein unerwarteter Fehler mit unbekannter Ursache ist aufgetreten” means, we’ll have to rely on German speakers to report the bug-filled universe to Ascaron, and hopefully get a patch translated into English. Cross your fingers.
Or cross your legs. Since this space simulator effectively castrates itself with all-around shallow functions, a disposable storyline, bland economic modeling, and repetitive mission assemblies. The rich, creamy graphics can’t hide the fact that DarkStar One is a lot of empty calories and little nutritional content. The basic space sim food groups are here, but are overwhelmed by eye-candy amenities.
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* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
A failed epic, DarkStar One refuses to dig into the depths inherent to the sci-fi genre, and largely comes up with what they aimed for: A cheaply fun but ultimately shallow, forgettable experience. The graphics taste great, but the gameplay is less filling.
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