DarkStar One: Broken Alliance • Page 2

Elitist.

Of course, this sort of villainy will earn you a reputation too, bringing those pesky space-police knocking on the air-lock and attracting swarms of bounty hunters. There's very much a system of consequences in place, with the various roles offering bonuses to counter the extra hassle of attacks or cargo checks.

The upgrade process is two-fold. The rare alien artefacts change the structure of your ship to allow more weapon emplacements, a higher energy class or greater hull strength, whilst stations stock equippables like better generators, weaponry and shield capacitors. There's a nice balance of complexity and clarity to the system, giving depth and consequence to your choices without overly obfuscating things.

Mission-wise there's a fairly generous spread of activities, although inevitably a lot of them revolve around the concept of flying somewhere and blowing something up. There are cargo retrieval missions too, though, and plenty of side missions to space out the tougher main story activities. The tedium of flying back and forth is ameliorated by the availability of a time-compression function from the off, as well as a few incidental events which crop up along the way.

Because the universe is divided into more manageable sectors, progression through which is restricted by the upgrade status of your hyperdrive, you'll spend a fair bit of time getting to know each area. In truth, each star system is fairly similar to the last, albeit with slightly different window dressing - but there's still a bit of a thrill to be had when warping in for the first time and bringing up the sector scanner to see what's what. Once you've got your target list it's a matter of choosing what to investigate, with shipwrecks, gang hide-outs, large mining asteroids and debris fields to explore.

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DarkStar One is a proven game, so what's going to be really key is how the controls have fared during the porting process. At the minute there's a bit of polishing to be done as full 3D dog-fighting proves to be a bit cumbersome, especially given the layout of the throttle controls and the rolling. Engaging with enemies is still fun, however, and probably no harder than it was on PC. In fact, the generous auto-target and leading reticule can sometimes over-simplify the combat, and the AI can rely a little too much on over-powering enemy weapons and shields rather than piloting skill.

Still, what made the PC original an enjoyable game was the fact that it could be played on so many different levels of engagement - from an arcade blaster to a more complex trading sim. I suspect that it'll find a larger audience in the context of the former offering, as perhaps it probably always did, but there's nothing wrong with that. The hours I spent with DarkStar One brought back many happy memories of the original, without shattering the old rose-tinteds too much - and that in itself is an achievement. If a console Freelancer-clone is likely to engage your warp drive, this is one to watch.

DarkStar One: Broken Alliance will be available exclusively on Xbox 360 this summer.

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Dan Pearson

Dan Pearson

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