DarkStar One review

  • Richly-detailed graphics
  • Time Acceleration
  • Plenty to do, lots to explore
  • No third-person camera
  • Laughably bad script
  • Copy protection screws with your PC

What is it with space pirates? They don't fly the Jolly Roger, they don't wear flowing garments and they don't abuse the word "arrrr". These guys aren't pirates; they're just losers. So there really isn't any moral dilemma when you blow them out of the sky in DarkStar One, a game that tries too hard to be a cinematic drama when it should just concentrate on what it does well: blowin' stuff up.

You play Kayron Jarvis, novice fighter pilot, on a mission to find the assassin who killed his father. At your disposal is the DarkStar One, a brand new prototype starship that can be tricked out dozens of different ways using whatever technology or "artifacts" you happen to find, steal or buy. There's a lot of plot focus, but it's all for naught: not only are the characters hollow and underdeveloped, but the script is badly translated into cheesy English from the original cheesy German, and the voice actors sound bored and detached. 

Instead, you should just ditch the Kayron backstory and enjoy the game for its space dogfighting. Your highly maneuverable ship is fast and rugged, and the brisk action offers enough missions to keep you busy for weeks. You'll explore a galaxy full of solar systems, many of which are filled with - you guessed it - space pirates. Six non-human races inhabit vast regions of the galaxy that you'll eventually traverse, collecting weird alien gear for your ship, and commodities you can tug from station to station and sell to raise a bit more cash.

The trading aspect of the game isn't for everyone, so you can also skip it entirely and focus on missions, which run the gamut from espionage to escort to straight up search-and-destroy. Missions pay well but get more difficult as you gain combat experience. Trading, on the other hand, isn't nearly as risky (though you can get in trouble for trading in contraband video games), but doesn't pay as well in the short term.

The sensation of spaceflight counts as one of DS1's high points. While you don't get to experience completely free Newtonian physics, a fully loaded ship does have greater momentum than an empty one, and as a result takes longer to slow down from full speed. In combat, you actually have to temporarily dump your cargo just to be able to fight effectively, then retrieve it afterwards.

The space environment also brings its own challenges: Asteroids litter some star systems, while others are shrouded in a thick fog-like plasma. Some tasks require you to fly inside of huge asteroids to collect objects. Visibility in space is rarely good, and you could do your ship serious damage ploughing into a space rock at full speed. Fortunately, all but the biggest asteroids are destructible, so fire away to clear your flight path.

And space is a big place. Unlike many spaceflight sims, DarkStar One doesn't force you to suffer the interminably slow flight from one point to another in real time - something that has plagued games such as Jumpgate and Earth And Beyond. A feature called Time Acceleration lets you temporarily spin the clock faster and get to your destination on the other end of the solar system in record time. You'll wish you had one for your morning commute.

The developers wanted desperately to evoke a sense of place in the game, and included lots of incidental radio chatter and other color that gives the game some character. Unfortunately, you tend to hear the same comments over the radio over and over again. Fortunately, it's easy to detach yourself from DarkStar One's story and immerse yourself in the moment-by-moment excitement of traversing a sometimes-hostile galaxy in a hot-rod of a ship.

More Info

Available Platforms: PC
Genre: Adventure
Published by: CDV
Developed by: Ascaron Entertainment
ESRB Rating:
Rating Pending


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