The space combat simulation was once a thriving genre, with franchises such as Star Raiders, Wing Commander, and Colony Wars presenting a plethora of opportunities for promising galactic combatants. Over time, the once-popular vocation has shrunk to distressing proportions; Project Sylpheed has been the sole instance of space skirmishing for the current generation of consoles. The release of Ascaron Entertainment’s (The Patrician series, Sacred 2: Fallen Angel) DarkStar One: Broken Alliance represents a revisit to the forlorn theme, adding a robust amount of ship customization and career choices.
The game’s moniker will be familiar to pilots who recall the game’s 2006 PC iteration. Beyond the addition of the Broken Alliance subtitle, 360 owners are also given a spiffy 1080P presentation and slightly more intuitive control scheme. Yet, despite these upgrades, the game’s reliance on menu-based mechanics and mission repetition can make DarkStar One seem a bit archaic; at least one passerby thought the title was a XBLA game.
With a storyline that doesn’t veer far from sci-fi trope, Broken Alliance commences as Kayron Jarvis inherits a unique starship following the mysterious demise of his father. Driven by revenge, the protagonist seeks the assassin’s whereabouts, while simultaneously discovering the DarkStar’s tremendous capacity. Unlike other crafts, the senior Jarvis embedded the vessel with the capacity to grow and modify upon the collection of ancient artifacts. Both retribution and relic gathering will send players scouring over 300 solar system, generating a vast thirty-hour expedition.
Space stations present players with a radial menu of options. Here, gamers can comb through news stories, browse escort and contact missions, examine a star system map, upgrade their ship, or buy and sell commodities. Tasks are presented with a text-based delivery, which might be disappointing for players accustomed to vocalized dialog. Broken Alliance’s brief navigational tutorial forgoes many of the game’s intricacies; I was forced to consult the game’s manual to understand why a newly acquired missile launcher wasn’t firing. A few convenient amenities do exist, such as the meter which alerts traders on the scarcity and worth of every freight item.
Skillfully, the title allows gamers to plot their own career trajectory- each with a list of repercussions. Whether players choose the path of trader, bounty hunter, smuggler or pirate they’ll undoubtedly rub one of the game’s factions the wrong way. My drug and video game smuggling runs to some of the third-world star systems weren’t overlooked by the police. I soon amassed a Grand-Theft Auto-like wanted level, which sent the space sheriffs of every Galactic Union-run system on my tail.
Reducing the substantial control scheme of a PC game down to the inputs offered by a single analog pad can be tricky, yet DarkStar One‘s system is generally functional. Players will make frequent use of the left and right shoulder pads to bring up a radial menu system of the ships functions. Although this system has been employed when translating real-time strategy titles, it’s implementation here is spotless. Less precise is the game’s star map, which seems to require mouse-like precision from the analog stick. Being able to zoom in and out would have helped immensely.
Graphically, each of DarkStar One‘s solar systems are brimming with radiant planets, fiery suns, and overflowing asteroid fields which have been dutifully up-rezed. While there’s some palette-swapping of celestial bodies, novelties such as the occasional annular space-rock are employed to keep the visuals from becoming tedious. Less impressive are the game’s cinematics and dialog which haven’t been altered, pushing the once-serious tone dangerously edging on camp. Although an attempt at multiculturalism might have been in vogue during Star Trek‘s reign, hearing space pilots with a Edinburgh brogue today seemed forced.
If gamers can look beyond DarkStar One: Broken Alliance‘s repetitive mission structure and immerse themselves in the title’s compelling combat, they’ll discover why the title has garnered a small, but loyal following of PC players. With few contemporary choices, DarkStar is a elective assignment for console owners yearning to re-examine the sectors explored in titles such as Elite, Privateer, or Freelancer.