Game Review: Darkstar One

Darkstar One
(8.0 of 10)
Platform: Windows XP (PC)
Publisher: CDV
Developer: Ascaron Entertainment


Space simulations were one of the genres that dominated the PC gaming industry, many moons ago. Games such as Freespace, Privateer, Frontier, and X: Beyond the Frontier were nearly played by every PC gamer that I know during the heydays of this genre. Nowadays, space simulation is buried beneath the market of MMORPGs, RTS, and FPS. If you do find one, its simple fun of blasting away space pirates –or space police, if you’re the unscrupulous type- is lost in the game’s complexities. Darkstar One, however, kept everything simple and concentrated on one thing that matter to most: blasting enemy ships.

The Darkstar One, scouring the asteroid field

Darkstar One was written by Cladia Kern, a renowned German science fiction author, which is quite entertaining. The story revolves around an upstart pilot, Kayron Jarvis, with an agenda to bring his father’s murderer to justice. Following a trail of information, his adventures brings him to different star systems, get caught in the middle of conflicts, and, eventually, uncover a plot larger than the universe. Albeit it’s pretty basic for the most part, the story still has some flavor to it.

The Protagonist, Kayron, and his co-pilot, Iona

What I like about Darkstar One is its simplicity, no complex features and just straightforward fun. You start out with a short, and yet precise, tutorial which covers everything you need to know about the game, from hyperjumping to landing your ship on space stations. Combat is very easy and simple, just point the cursor at your enemy, click the mouse, and kill. Dodging and outmaneuvering enemies can also be done simply with the use of a mouse and keyboard, although the utilization of a joystick may be needed for effectiv
e dogfighting in difficult levels. Trading is also pretty basic in Darkstar One, unlike in X3: The Reunion where the economy moves realistically, you just buy low in one station and sell it high in another.

Enemy Sighted!

Besides from the simple and fun gameplay, Dakrstar One also incorporated subtle RPG elements to its gameplay, adding a dash of flavor that is uncommon in space simulation games. In Darkstar One, instead of frequently changing ships to answer the challenges presented to a space pilot, you’re just stuck with one ship from start to finish. An evolving and fully upgradeable prototype ship that is. Your ship will evolve, or “level up”, if you’ve collected certain amount artifacts, which can be obtained through searching asteroids, or given as a reward by liberating a star system, and can be customized to your preference. Upgrade the hulls of your ship to make it even sturdier, modify the wings to increase the weapon mounts and agility of your ship, or increase your ship’s energy to obtain better equipment and firepower. In addition, each ship upgrade will also able you to improve your plasma cannon, a feature that allows you to have various special attacks and defenses.

Ship Upgrade Menu.

Graphics & Sounds
The graphics in Darkstar One is pretty decent. I love how the way your ship changes its appearance every time you upgrade it. The ship and space station designs are also cool, especially in the Raptor Systems, and the planets are vibrant and colorful. However, there are not enough ship and space station models to add variety to the game’s atmosphere. There are also fewer objects to be found in space, and there are not enough
unique objects to make one star system distinct from another.

The Universe of Darkstar One.

Like the graphics, the sound is also above average. The blips, the engine hum, and the blasting cannons are all in place. The music changes from a calm ambiance to heavy guitar riffs when an enemy is near, to enunciate the upcoming battle. The voice acting is also passable in most times, but there are some situations that the characters sounded less eager and emotionless.

Darkstar One went back to the basics, kept it simple, and throws the player right into action, without digging through a three hundred page manual or memorizing a multitude of hotkeys. The combat, however, becomes repetitive. Hyperjumping can become tedious and less enjoyable too, because the star systems look all the same, and there are no places to visit besides the trade station. Trading is too simple as well, and might be a turn off to those who love space trading, or X3’s dynamic economy. But if you’re itching to turn something into space dust, Darkstar One, coupled with an entertaining sci-fi story, is the game that will satiate your appetite for destruction.