DarkStar One: Broken Alliance • Page 2

Space port.

Still, it's a win for the consumer. There's nothing else like this on console - the space sim is another of those huge, complex genres which have steadfastly refused to migrate into the living room. It's something console gamers have, in relatively polite and quiet tones, been crying out for, so kudos to Kalypso for spotting the gap.

DarkStar One's lightweight approach does have its pitfalls, though. Whilst the side missions ostensibly fall under various categories, including assassination, covert ops, patrol and cargo missions, they usually translate pretty quickly into 'fly here, shoot that'. Similarly, the job roles, although they offer various bonuses when practised for long enough, aren't really enough to encourage you into what you might ever call a career. Despite the trading having some subtleties to its supply and demand modelling, it's pretty boring. Nobody wants to inherit a pimped-out space ride and only use it to become an inter-planetary Ocado delivery man.

So bounty-hunting it is, at least for me - but in reality, you're not actually going to spend much time doing whatever it is you choose to do to pass the time between story missions. However, at first, you'll need to do quite a few odd jobs to earn the bucks to fit new weapons and kit to your evolving ship.

Forward-facing guns, missile launchers and turrets can all be fitted to the DarkStar, alongside capacitors, generators, shield units and all the sci-fi trimmings you'd reasonably expect with your space roast. Once you're a few missions in, however, and pirates start attacking you with regularity, the cash you'll earn from taking them out in addition to that received for the storyline and major side-quests will mean that the smaller jobs are almost completely unnecessary.

3
Space is generally not this colour, in truth. I blame Hubble.

It does detract from the open-world, non-linear aspect of the game a little, but it actually helps to focus DarkStar One as an experience; here is a game which cheerfully accepts it limitations, happy to put the soap in space-opera. The shallow nature of the tertiary game, alongside the necessity to keep moving on in the search for the all-important artefacts - which basically level up the DarkStar and let you carry bigger guns and better equipment - means that it's easy to avoid the directionless nature of a lot of open-world games.

Often, when playing Red Dead: Redemption or Just Cause 2, I find I've been fannying around for a couple of hours without ever really having anything particular in mind to achieve. Perhaps it's my slightly butterflyish approach, but I find Darkstar One's pacing a boon to focus.

The flip-side of that is that things can get a little samey. Whilst there's usually a fair breadth of challenge available at any one time, each task rapidly becomes indistinguishable from the last. The narrative is interesting enough to keep you coming back for more, however, even when being turned into space-dust by a lowly group of space-hoodies becomes frustrating.

DarkStar One is undoubtedly a bit of a throwback. It's not the all-singing, all-dancing AAA space combat title which could still make a lot of console owners' days, but it does go an awfully long way to proving that a game of that calibre is eminently possible on consoles, as well as providing an entertaining diversion. Perhaps as a cut-price download title, Kalypso could have scraped an 8 with this, but age has weathered the full-price score by one since its debut.

7 /10

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Dan Pearson

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