The universe seems to be a hodge-podge of other sci-fi properties covering everything from Star Wars to Babylon 5 with elements of Star Trek and Cowboy Bebop tossed in for flavor. There are some unique components to the universe that you can really feel the influencing some parts of the game.
The goal of the game is to earn money so that you can buy bigger and better stuff to help you earn more money to help you buy bigger and better stuff….you get the picture. It’s a vicious cycle but it’s a lot of fun since some parts of the galaxy are off limits to exploration until you advance to a certain level. You can earn money several ways. The easiest is to take on missions from the bars at the bases. These missions aren’t too varied and usually consist of eliminating a rival group by either assassinating their leader, removing them from a sector, or recovering something that they’ve stolen (which involves more killing). I was a little disappointed that there’s in the missions’ lack of variety since they all follow the same format. However, it’s an easy way to make money. It would have been nice to have some kind of escort missions but oh well. You can also salvage weapons and commodities off the people you eliminate which provides a nice secondary cash flow. The other two ways of making money are a little more interesting.
One is to go mining. You basically wander out to one of the “minable” areas on the map and start shooting stuff and tractoring it in. You’ll run into the occasional group of criminals who will try to liberate your cargo for themselves. The final way is probably the most rewarding but requires the most work and it’s trading items. Each planet or base sells commodities and what is cheap in one area is very expensive in another. It’s up to you to visit all of the bases and see what they are selling and at what price. The game does a good job telling you what is and is not a good deal. There’s also a Trade Routes view which allows you to see the prices for an item at all the places you have visited. With a little time and experience, you can create highly profitable trade routes.
As you play through the game, your actions will affect your reputation. Play the side of law and order and you will be attacked on sight by the criminal elements and vice versa. Your enemies have friends and if you piss one of them off they’ll all decide they want a piece of your hide. Int turn, your reputation affects the kind of missions that will be made available to you and what ships/weapons you can purchase.
** Single Player spoiler **
This is a nice feature but it does create some holes in the single player missions. During parts of the game you are forced to deal with parties that you may have been in conflict with and they show no animosity towards you which is kind of jarring.
** End Spoiler**
One frustrating part of the single player section is that in order to fly some of the bigger vehicles you need to be at a specific level. For most of the game, your level is determined by how much you are worth. There are exceptions for a few levels when you must complete single player missions. This keeps you from getting too far ahead of the game and the enemies become easy to kill but it is a little frustrating to not be able to get something because of an artificial constraint.
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