|System: X360||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Ascaron Entertainment/Gaming Minds||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Kalypso Media||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: July 20, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Andrew Groen
Playing DarkStar One: Broken Alliance is like opening up a time capsule from 2003-4 planted by the PC gaming community. The space dog-fighting and adventuring genre that was so popular back then with games like Freelancer has long since died out, and its legacy forgotten by all but the most dedicated PC gamers.
Fast forward to 2010, and the Xbox 360 library contains not a single entry in this genre until DarkStar One was released. Posterity alone is a good enough reason to check out this game, which is so utterly unique in the Xbox 360 library. You'll never find anything else like it on this system. Whether you'll enjoy it is another matter entirely.
At its heart, DarkStar One is an adventure game in space. However, that doesn't mean you'll spend all of your time clicking random objects. The main gameplay is about dogfighting in space. You'll travel from planet to planet trying to find work, trade items, follow mysteries, all the while fighting off pirates.
You're fighting in a very special starfighter called the DarkStar One, a gift to you from your late father. This ship can be constantly upgraded to facilitate new weapons systems, armor, and all sorts of doodads and knickknacks. You do this by spending money you earn on missions and from destroying pirates. Your ship can also be morphed and upgraded by finding artifacts in nearby space.
All of this sounds good, and for the most part, it is. The major problem with DarkStar One is a problem inherent with any game that takes place primarily in space, . it's boring. Space is almost entirely empty, with nothing to do or interact with. All you can do is fly around and shoot pirates or search for asteroids carrying artifacts in this vast expanse of nothingness.
You're going to have to be a huge space buff in order to be immersed in the experience enough that you don't notice how boring it all is. To the developer's credit, though, they do a lot to keep that immersion intact. From the moment you launch, everything is similar to real life, right down to the moments you have to radio the control tower for permission to land. When it comes time to perform the landing, you actually fly into a dock in the side of the ship rather than just seeing a cutscene.
At least it never gets visually boring though, which, like gameplay, is a tough hurdle considering space is generally an incomprehensibly enormous empty blackness. Most space games, like Star Trek Online, try to beautify the landscape by injecting stellar nebulae and huge colorful clouds of gas off in the distance. But there's a problem with that. None of those things are realistic, since those things don't usually emit visible light. Do you see huge colorful gas clouds when you look up at night? Well, it's most likely you wouldn't in space either.
DarkStar One side steps this issue almost entirely. Space still looks fairly boring, but most areas exist near planets and moons. Not only is this a far more logical choice (what purpose is there for being in deep space anyway?), but it allows them to include gorgeous planetary systems in the background. Many of these are positively awe-inspiring.