Experience science fiction on an epic scale in our review of Gemini Wars

Experience science fiction on an epic scale in our review of Gemini Wars

As part of the United Space Federation you've little choice but to continue fighting the war against the Alliance of the Free Worlds that has been raging for decades between humankind, if good sci-fi teaches us anything though it's the dark and dangerous threat of alien invasion that brings together the human race in times of strife, let's just say that Gemini Wars is no different.

No, Gemini Wars is not the latest 4X strategy game, it shies away from the quietly popular trend of the genre's hybrid and focuses on the real meaty action of ship combat in a real time space strategy that does not focus on micromanagement, and puts that on the back burner for more of a focus on fighting the good fight.

With 16 campaign missions in the game it's easy to presume that you won't be sat playing it for a very long time, however do not be mistaken! Whilst the first few missions start pretty slow, the whole game hands you a potential 20+ hours of playtime; and these episodic missions are not a walk in the park, with many taking part over more than one solar system, the game quickly becomes epic on a television and movie scale.

A sci-fi strategy is nothing without its spaceships, and Gemini Wars is all about the ships! Although you may start out small with miniature frigates, you'll soon propel through the game with large destroyers, even larger carriers, and absolutely massive battleships what more could you want? Well how about the ability to build orbital stations, planet cannons and watch all of your action unfold with a dynamic battle camera! That should about do it.

To make your ships more of an asset than a figure, they will gain experience through battle, now whilst this works well with your larger ships that have a decent life expectancy, your standard frigates generally act as little more than cannon fodder, which can be slightly demoralising at the start of the game.

Rather than lump the player with a collection of ships, upgrades and space stations, Gemini Wars drip feeds you with technologies, and research opportunities, ensuring that not too much is given to you at a time, so that when you are using Battleships and researching armour upgrades you are never missing out on a trick, because you've already learnt everything as you worked your way up the ranks.

Despite the lack of micromanagement, there is one important commodity in Gemini Wars; the harvesting of crystals from asteroid fields, these crystals will fuel the good fight, allowing you to construct new vehicles or structures, there's also research points that are gained via your research station, then your battalion is kept in check with a population cap that can be increased through multiple military stations, after these, all you have to worry about is your own tactics!

With a military cap ever present and hanging over your head it's very easy to run out of available space and still not have enough to counter the attacks, thankfully, Gemini Wars focuses just as much on the defence of your colonies as the offence that you take to your enemy, and so after a little research you can increase the defence on your asteroid fields, space stations and military stations with a variety of turrets, shields, and even rail cannons to deter those pesky enemies.

One reason that Gemini Wars is so simple, is there are very few non-military ships that you will have to deal with, excluding the construction ships that are the lifeblood of your future colonies; they will build your basic military, mining, and research stations alongside any researched technologies such as shipyards and the great Star Gates that will allow you to cross into other systems.

If you're going to do a space strategy right, the scope has to be pushed all the way up to epic, and Gemini Wars definitely achieves this with its strategic map, that much like Supreme Commander, allows you to zoom in and out of the your current location, to encompass the whole system, to focusing on a small asteroid field in the midst of United Space Federation space.

If there's one thing that Gemini Wars gets right its the small aids to help you along your way such as the very effective battlegroup system, that allows you to create up to 9 hotkeys for quickly selecting squadrons of your ships, extremely handy when battles can rage across systems let alone different sides of the field. Battlegroups are by far the best strategic asset at your disposal, thanks to them you can send squadron 1 and 2 to the Haller system whilst your 3rd and 4th units keep an eye on your mining stations in Serpentis, with no need to drag select specific units.

Ships can move around at impulse speed inside of an area, then jump from field to planet inside of a system with their hyperdrive, but every two-bit space ship has a hyperdrive these days, what Gemini Wars opens up is the possibilities of system-wide exploration with the use of Star Gates to colonise worlds and open the doors to a new galaxies of potential.

Now whilst the campaign is a fantastic bulky experience, it is hard not to get frustrated at how certain aspects of the game are blocked from you until you progress further into the story, and it makes you want to really sink your teeth into the meat of the game, which is greatly lacking a skirmish or online mode. Thankfully developers Camel101 are releasing the two as free DLC after launch, however the sooner they do the better, because sometimes you just want to play around with everything available to you.

The guys at Camel101 are experienced when it comes to space, and no this is their first game, they are pros when it comes to space just like you and me thanks to the abundance of science fiction in our media, thanks to cues from the likes of Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars, even Homeworld and Mass Effect, Gemini Wars contains all the hulking battleships, orbital stations and futuristic jargon based cutscenes that you would desire, and on top of this there is the musical score of truly epic proportions.

Gemini Wars is the culmination of the suggestions of a community of science fiction, space strategy fans, and for this there are a lot of great little additions and features like the battle groups, or the range of defences on your stations, but then without the ability to rally freshly built ships to certain areas, or centre on a ship or station with a key press, or the simple fact that for a game set in outer space where travel does not take the blink of an eye, there is no time compression at your disposal and you begin to wonder why all these real time strategy necessities are not present.

Despite all your best efforts at times you may get a little frustrated with the AI, that really does like to rush you at the most inopportune moments, you'll find them often send off the odd scout ship to test the waters on the defences of a particularly nice asteroid field in your possession, and if they reckon that they have a chance to take you, they definitely are not shy about it, and you'll find wave upon wave descending upon you from the depths of space as they attempt to find a weak point in your lines, attempt the same tactic on them and you'll find they will send forces from other strongholds your way, the game is refreshingly challenging, and usually finding a dink in their armour is the saving grace from domination.

Gemini Wars is a fantastic space strategy, whilst it doesn't improve greatly on the real time strategies you used to know and love, Camel101's heart is definitely in the right place, and with skirmish and online modes on the way you can look forward to colonising systems and planets against your friends, but until then, you'll have your hands full defending galactic civilisations from the true enemy with a pulse-pounding score.

four stars

Gemini Wars will be available June 8th in all good retail stores and digital distribution sites for the RRP of £24.99, if you're a fan of space, and real time strategy, what are you holding out on?