Starpoint Gemini Warlords suffers a bit of an identity crisis. It wants to be a 4X strategy game and a space combat/trading sim at the same time. When it commits to one, or when you choose to commit to one yourself, it can prove a compelling experience built on the adventure of emergent gameplay, however, switching between the two presents some difficulties.

Largely these difficulties stem from a lack of understanding about what you’re supposed to do and how to go about it. With some patience you can overcome this and enjoy what’s on offer. New comers to the series, however, are unlikely to invest the time needed. A lack of an engaging storyline as well as the confusing clashes in mechanics makes this an initially off-putting experience, as you decide between controlling your ships personally or commanding them remotely. Indeed, it’s a tricky sell when both styles of play are catered to in this fashion; where both are adequate in order to achieve the objectives but neither feel special or entirely appropriate. It’s an unfortunate side effect of its design, where developer Little Green Men Games took community feedback from Starpoint Gemini 2 and created this spinoff.

As such, fans of the series are likely going to enjoy this unique adventure in the universe they’re already acquainted with, with a new story about a splintered faction of humanity looking to survive and dominate the Gemini system. Your task of direct control of ships, options to trade, explore and fight within the open structure of the scenario-based sandbox mode is similar enough to the previous, numbered, titles for fans to feel comfortable with, meanwhile, building up a fleet of ships and a powerful home base to conquer the system offers some new experiences.

Unfortunately, the story’s lacklustre tale and use of copious, dull fetch quests makes a terrible first impression. However, this largely acts as the tutorial rather than the primary experience. Once things open up, Starpoint Gemini Warlord’s Elite-esque freedom to trade, fight and explore, along with the real-time strategy elements of commanding a fleet and upgrading your home base, is compelling enough to keep you engaged for countless hours. We did, however, encounter some technical issues, with framerate dips frequently breaking immersion, but overall the presentation was strong, with some excellent looking ships, weapons fire and explosion making combat a pleasant spectacle and exploring the Gemini system’s many different regions a treat.

The combination of 4X strategy and space sim means Starpoint Gemini Warlords is full of content to sink your teeth into, and offers a huge variety of different tasks to engage in. Meanwhile, RPG elements allows you to choose a class of ship and abilities to suit your playstyle. However, it’s complex, and with a tutorial marred by a boring story and set of initial quests, it fails to teach you enough early on to keep you engaged. Stick with it and focus on the free-roaming mode, however, and you’ll be in for a deep and satisfying experience, one you’ll enjoy even more if you’re already invested in the series.

Thanks to Xbox and Iceberg Interactive for supporting TiX