Review: Gemini Wars
Title: Gemini Wars
Developer: Camel 101
Publisher: Iceberg Interactive
TL;DR: Crisp looking conventional space RTS
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After opening up the Gemini Wars box and popping in the disc I was treated to a highly impressive introductory video full of epic spaceship explosions. For a small development team I can’t praise them enough for the level of polish on Gemini Wars: mission briefings, dialogue, and updates on invasion progress all come in video for giving the game an air of a big studio game. The story here is pretty standard: humans have gone into space and can’t stop doing wars with each other (pesky humans), then aliens appear and throw everything up in the air. It’s your job to complete mission objectives for your side which consists of capturing different sub-planetary bodies for military, scientific, and economic exploitation.
After creating an account I gave the tutorial a shot, and I must say this is a pristine introduction to an intuitive and logical control system. Camel 101 have clearly paid close attention to the masters of this genre (Total War, Company of Heroes, and World in Conflict) and put their own spin on the excellent basis provided by these games. There’s nothing wrong with copying perfection. Once I started the campaign mode I found engaging, if pointless, features, like a galaxy wide news network you can receive textual updates from, and similarly presented information about the planetary system around which the next mission will take place.
After ignoring all that information I kicked off the mission briefing video and once again the presentation is great (though without HD graphics it does seem oddly out of sync with the rest of the game), plus if it’s your second playthrough you can skip the cutscenes. As Captain Cole you’re given your orders, and at this point the gruff voices and the horrendous attitude of the player character made me feel like I might be the bad guy. As well as this I’m not sure of the motivation for either side for the ongoing war. Maybe that’s the point: we fight because we can.
Thankfully the graphics, particularly the backgrounds and planets, are beautiful. They’re only let down by the slightly boxy spaceships. Along with the quality graphics the sounds are impressive though I’d say that the music can be annoyingly dramatic at times. After being well and truly dazzled I turn my attention to the gameplay. It definitely feels like you’re either spending time mining and researching or invading and building ships. Like a Paul McCartney song, we’ve got two great ideas and shoving them together doesn’t necessarily make for a consistent whole.
It’s during the warfare where I got frustrated. Ships move interminably slowly, and the whole thing feels 2D: this is a missed opportunity in a space setting. There are positive elements: keeping ships alive by retreating allows them to gain XP: useful when you’re counter attacking later. Also, I love the fact that stargates (for long distance travel) can only be used by the force that built them. But minor annoyances like being unable to line up ships in a custom formation frustrate after all the positive elements. That’s the problem with this game. All the general features and ideas are fantastic, it’s the implementation on the small scale that’s annoying.
Take zooming into battles for an example: this allows you to micro-manage, but an over eager spin of the mouse wheel zooms you in beyond the plane of battle, leaving you below the action. While they’ve rightly implemented a save system to deal with long-lasting battles, the problem is the battles taking ages: destroying ships takes forever so the game quickly becomes dull. Plus there are times where you have to wait without reason: many times I had enough crystals to build ships but there was an inexplicable delay.
Building turrets is a great idea, but they come too cheaply and quickly, so once you have a few set up you can pretty much spawn them as a reassembling wall when you come under attack. Perhaps my most infuriating moment in the game was where I had all the money and ships, the enemy had nothing left except for their military base, but my ships weren’t powerful enough to destroy their base. So to build better ships I wanted to build a research station, but despite having all the prerequisites to do so I was not permitted to. Then as I was about to rage-quit I accidentally discovered the self-destruct button which is right next to the build button and has no confirmation built in. A haphazard click can undo an hour’s hard work, which could easily be prevented with an “Are you sure?” box.
I don’t want to leave you with the impression that this is a bad game, because it very much isn’t. The presentation is marvellously polished, and all the big ideas for a great space RTS are there, it’s just a combination of minor things that need improvement to make it fantastic. At a very cheap price, with real playability, I can recommend Gemini Wars for those who want something different from all the historical RTS games.
- Impressive backgrounds and cutscenes
- Variety of economic, military, and scientific management
- Different ways to complete missions
- Very slow
- Missing micro-management features like formations
- That darn self-destruct button!
PEGI 16. Personally I feel that rating is more than necessary, as the violence is focused on spaceship explosions, though the censors always know best.