First off, let me say that even though I’m advertising this game right now, this preview will be fair and honest. Now, recently a lot of spacey RTS’ have been pretty open, more like fast-pased 4X games than anything else. This isn’t bad, pre-se, but sometimes you want a little scriptedness with your space conquering. This is where Gemini Wars comes in, hoping to add a bit of movie magic and story to the expanses of virtual space. Let’s dive in and take a look at a preview build I was sent before the game comes out this Friday, June 8th.
There are two tutorials that came with my preview build, Normal and Advanced. The Normal tutorial covers a lot of ground, especially since you can tell it was made not only for the beginning RTS player, but the beginning space RTS player as well. This, overall, is a good thing as it will hopefully help with the appeal and accessibility of the game.
The Normal tutorial covers a lot of ground, such as camera controls — which are a bit fast for my liking — unit control, combat, experience levels and so on. Unit control is pretty much standard RTS fare, which made it easy for me to pick up and play. As for experience levels, ships gain experience based on the opponents they fight, so if a ship or group of ships destroys a much more dangerous ship, they get more experience points than if they destroyed a ship on their own level. Overall, there are four experience levels, which adds to a ship’s effectiveness in combat.
The Advanced tutorial covers things like hyperspace jumps, building and invading colonies, and so on. To do insterstellar jumps, you need to build stargates onto wormholes, which become very important targets for your enemy. If there’s a friendly wormhole on a stargate, enemies can’t pass through that gate, so these always need to be defended as the important choke points there are.
Colonies in the game can either be built or conquered, and both are fairly abstracted. Once you start a colony, it expands automatically, keeping things streamlined. While some might want more direct control, that isn’t what this game is about. ;) Colonies can also be invaded with the right ships, and you can watch the battle for the colony unfold through a small screen in which the numbers of resistance and marines are simply shown. It was a bit hard to read this since it was white text on a white background, but hopefully the final version fixes this.
The controls to handle all this are pretty straightforward. While you can zoom out all the way on a map with the mouse wheel, a handy strategic view can do so with one click, which saves time. Moving and attacking work as they should, and things like construction and research are clearly laid out. Overall, the controls should make this game accessible to both the novice and experienced player.
Also, during my tutorial playthrough, I noticed just how good the music is. It’s very epic and bombastic, just as one would expect in a big budget movie. The graphics are also very pleasing, if not eye-popping. This is fine, as again, it makes the game accessible to people with older machines who still want to blow up spaceships. The presentation goes up a notch, however, when you enter the campaign.
First, right off the bat, I need to explain something. The full game comes with a sixteen mission campaign. However, the preview I had only came with maybe five or six missions spread all over the campaign. Therefore, I only played the first mission in the campaign so I wouldn’t spoil myself and, subsequently, all of you. I truly hate spoilers, and enjoyed the story enough to want to see it in its entirety, not in random pieces.
Now, with that said, in the campaign you play Captain Cole, returning from three years in exile — I must’ve missed why, hopefully the full game will explain this — to go back to active duty in working for the United Space Federation. The USF has been in a deadly civil war with the Alliance of Free Worlds for decades now (according to the well-rendered cutscene at the beginning of the campaign), and things seem to be ramping up a bit when Captain Cole returns to the scene. The first mission has you escorting some transports to the Rala Mining station in the Vega system, which goes fine for a short spell until, of course, the enemy unexpectedly shows up.
Eventually the stakes get higher and more and more enemies show up, but in a way to continue the education of new players, the game guides you to the usage of the military station in order to build more frigates for your fleet. This helps keep the tension going between waves of enemy ships and also helps new players gain a better understanding of the game.
During the first mission — and I assume throughout the campaign — the game also uses a cinematic camera to pan to certain sections of the map when important stuff happens, adding to the movie-like feel of the game. Overall, it works well in setting up tension with the events and set pieces of the game. In this mission, these set pieces were all about combat, which is fun and tense. Basically, combat simply involves selecting your ships and pointing them at the enemy, they’ll do the rest. It’s not insanely tactical, but it’s probably not meant to be, and there’s still a great deal of tension in watching your ships slug it out.
The strategic map helps handle all this, as ships need to be moved quickly from one portion of the battlefield to another, and zooming out is the only way you can engage intra-system jumps. This also helps keep the battlefield flowing, as in this mission, where new combatants began to attack my station orbiting Vega whilst we were mopping up enemies around the mining base in the asteroid field. I had to move ships quickly between the two locations, and the strategic map helped a lot.
Eventually some larger, destroyer-class ships began to attack my military station, which really outclassed my frigates. Thankfully I had plenty of ’em to throw at the enemy. Ships have several factors that attribute to their health, including the typical hull and shield variables, but also crew as well. This mostly comes into effect during boarding actions, but can also affect the effectiveness of a ship as a whole as well, so they all need to be monitored. Crews also gain experience, which improves their effectiveness in combat.
Eventually, after a very tense battle, we were able to take down the destroyers and save the system, after nearly forty minutes of constant fighting with only a few small breaks in-between. I had a ton of fun with this mission, in all honesty. Combat was tense and fun to watch, the music and cinematic qualities of the mission really helped put me in the thick of it (though the voice acting can be a bit grating at times).
Overall, I had a great time with this preview copy of Gemini Wars, and I can’t wait to see the final release in order to continue the story. I’ll admit I’m more keen to RTS titles which are more open-ended and less linear, but the story here was presented quite well, and was engaging enough that I didn’t mind the linearity at all. I suggest if you’re looking for a bit more epic story in your RTS, give Gemini Wars a look. Based on my time with it, it looks good, sounds great and is very fun to play.
Thanks for reading my preview, I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope you’ll also enjoy the gallery of all of the screenshots I took for this article below. Thanks again!