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Darkstar One (Windows)

76
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.6
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  StJude1 (11)
Written on  :  Oct 16, 2008
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  2.86 Stars2.86 Stars2.86 Stars2.86 Stars2.86 Stars

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Summary

Merely adequate space sim

The Good

Darkstar One follows in the tradition of other space fighting/trading sims such as the Privateers in that you start off with a slow weak ship and have to trade and fight your way through the universe, and complete the plot along the way.

As with other games in this line you can choose to become a Merchant, Pirate, Bounty Hunter etc. depending on the types of missions you take and the state of your relations with the various factions and authorities. There are 5 different species to interact with, each with their own ships and weapons. The explorable universe is huge, with hundreds of systems to visit. Some systems are not listed on the star map until you've been given its coordinates, which you can get as a reward for completing certain special missions.

Upgrading your ship is done in two ways. There is the traditional cash-for-guns approach, common to all games in this line. There is also the means by which your ship can be upgraded by discovering alien artifacts which allow you to increase your ship's abilities (such as max speed and power output).

The game has some truly stunning visuals. The cut-scenes are atmospheric, the in-game visuals are bright and colourful (bordering on the garish), and the control system and menus are intuitive and well laid-out.

The Bad

Having said all that, the game is let down in several areas, which I'll touch upon in turn.

Firstly, despite the huge universe, there is little differentiation from one part of the galaxy to the other, and may as well all take place in a single star system. Each system has almost the exact same contents (in terms of stations and ships and shops) as the one before it. Visiting hundreds of carbon copies of the same system gets a bit monotonous after a while.

Secondly, the trading system is highly simplistic, and holds little of interest. There are roughly 10 goods that can be traded, and the prices do not fluctuate all that much between systems. Trading quickly becomes unexciting, and is reduced to something you do only when you're flying to a new sector anyway and figure you can pick up a few credits along the way. Even the original Privateer had a more interesting trading system.

A problem that it shares with Freelancer is that despite being "open-ended", you cannot explore freely without completing the long and convoluted plot sequence. As such the game tends to feel rather linear in that it allows you to explore and upgrade only in distinct progressive chunks. The plot itself develops very slowly and you're given the impression that they are just trying to stretch out the gameplay as long as possible.

And finally, you only have one ship to fly throughout the whole game (the eponymous Darkstar). Similar to X: Beyond The Frontier, you can upgrade this ship extensively, but there really is only one viable upgrade path if you want to survive in the universe. Even with upgrading the ship does not change all that dramatically and it adds to the game's monotony.

The Bottom Line

DS1 is Ascaron's entrant into the space-sim market, but sadly it doesn't hold up to the others in this sub-genre. It is more of a good attempt along the lines of Tachyon The Fringe. Too simplistic, not enough depth to warrant a replay. Rather try Freelancer or any of the X games, as they have more depth and variation. If you already enjoy those games, give this one a miss as you'll just feel disappointed. But if you find those titles too complex and inaccessible, DS1 would be an easy introduction for beginners trying to get into the world of space trading and exploration sims.