Know this from the start: Gemini Wars is absolutely horrible. If you’re the sort of person that watches NASCAR in hopes of seeing a crash, then by all means continue reading this review – but again, just so you know where this is going, Gemini Wars is one of the most broken and unnecessarily frustrating games I have ever had the displeasure of reviewing in the last five years.
The game begins with a single moment of mediocrity which you’ll later come to regard as the high point of the experience only if you are possessed of some contractual obligation to actually reflect upon the game. The introductory video has some decent visual quality to it, despite the fact that it highlights some absurdly lazy storytelling: apparently for decades the Alliance and the United Space Front have been fighting. As you were.
That statement is expected to be enough for you to also take up arms against a sea of tyranny (Gemini Wars does not deserve a correctly quoted Shakespeare reference). In true Hatfield and McCoy fashion (or Big Enders and Little Enders, if your dirty minds can be trusted with that reference) you fight your neighbor for the sake of fighting your neighbor, until (rumor has it) eventually some aliens show up and you fight them too. I say “rumor has it” because I was not able to curse my way past mission number two.
I spent three hours repeatedly failing one single mission. At first I thought, “Surely I must just suck at this, I have to be doing something wrong.” That was when I started doing my research. You see, the game affords players a tremendous amount of free time, as everything moves so absurdly slow. Just built a ship in your space station? That’ll be a few minutes before the next one in your queue begins construction. There’s no real reason why – I’m guessing it’s USF Union mandated coffee breaks.
So you kind of begin to wonder… am I the only one? Checking out the forums apparently there are lots of people complaining about all sorts of bugs. Lots and lots of people. Still, we’re objective so we want to form our own opinion. The game, despite being on Easy, starts you out pitted against a much larger and more technologically advanced force than what you could possibly hope to achieve victory against. The game moves slow in the collection of resources to the point where your ships die faster than you are able to build reinforcements – but it’s possible you just missed the window of opportunity, so you start over and try again. But achieving the same results, this time you note that the enemy seems to build ships much, much faster than you.
Queue up ten units (the maximum) and maybe try a third time with a larger starting force. Since you have half an hour to kill (that isn’t an exaggeration), you’ve got time to read some other reviews for this game. Really, it can’t be that bad – not when they’re actually charging money for it. Imagine my shock when I literally found another reviewer who wrote, in the text of their review, that the game moved so slowly that they actually stepped away from the game and started reading something else – the very thing I was doing at that exact moment.
At that point I had seen enough (and those of weaker constitution are also advised to avert their gaze). The ships in the game have hideously unimpressive visuals. When you see ships in space you expect them to fire brightly colored lasers. Your assault frigates fire large, dull green, spherical objects. In other words, they literally shoot peas. The character animation and appearances are on par with the grade school visual horror that was The Elephant Man.
The camera controls are imprecise and it is unnecessarily difficult to track or select your own units – often times when you zoom in you will blow right past your men, down to a micro level of nothingness where the raging battle between ugly ships is happening directly behind you (when I suggested those with low constitution avert their gaze, I did not anticipate that the camera itself would heed my advice). But you were silly to think that clicking on your ships and selecting them would matter anyway.
If you manage to select a unit, you are free to tell it what to do just as it is free to completely ignore your instructions. Ordering a ship to fly to a destination while outside of combat is just as likely as not to result in no movement whatsoever, while ordering a ship to move while it is in combat is completely reliable in that every instance the ship will pretend to move for one second, then stop and resume firing. And it will resume firing at whatever it damn well pleases, regardless of whatever object you got lucky enough to find the hit detection box to click on.
As far as the audio of the game is concerned, it is serviceable only for those players able to mute their PC speakers. But before you turn down the obnoxiously loud and thematically inappropriate music (seriously, that music is way too intense for simple menu navigation) first take the opportunity to consider that this game is supposedly taking place in the distant future, where human technology has risen to the point where we can use worm holes to navigate between star systems. With that in mind, before muting the audio, take the opportunity to laugh hysterically at the fact that, hundreds of years in the future, when communicating via radio you will apparently still hear the squelch noise at the beginning and end of every conversation. “Chhhk. Uh, you don’t have to make the ‘chhk’ noise, over. Chhk.”
Nearing the end now, you’ve probably spotted that large number down at the bottom. We all knew it was going to happen. But still, as awful as the experience was, there was a point where I realized that there actually was one good idea buried beneath everything. That was when I used the hyperdrive on my ship to jump into an asteroid field, aggro the enemy fleet, then jump out to another star system with those idiots in pursuit. Then my army, waiting in the wings, swooped in for the kill on the unprotected base. At least, that’s how it went down in my mind – in reality, all bases have internal guns that can hold off an invading force long enough for the battle cruisers to turn back around and hand you your space arse.
That fleeting spark of imagination was nice though.
SCORE: 2 out of 10
A copy of Gemini Wars was provided to Pixel Related for review.