Darkstar One Impressions - First Look

If you loved Freelancer, then CDV and Ascaron are hoping you'll like their upcoming game about space exploration, combat, and trading.

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SAN JOSE, Calif.--Space simulations that let you play as a starship captain piloting a complex vessel from the future have fallen by the wayside over the past five years. But there's one kind of space simulation game that seems to be plugging along--games that focus on exploration and trading, such as X3: Beyond the Frontier. Darkstar One is described by publisher CDV as being similar to Freelancer, Microsoft's ambitious 2003 space game. In Darkstar One, you'll be able to role-play your own character as you decide to be a fighter, a trader, a mercenary, or some combination of the three in a dynamic universe filled with more than 400 star systems.

In Darkstar One, your character inherits his father's spaceship (appropriately named Darkstar One) after he's killed under mysterious circumstances. Apparently, your father had some highly prized device that he had stashed aboard the ship, and over the course of the game, you must solve the mystery of his death, as well as seek revenge on those who killed him. Of course, the story will take you all over the galaxy, and you'll be able to follow up leads, take on various paying missions, and do dozens of other things until you get to the end of the tale.

CDV refers to the game as "Freelancer done right," which is perhaps why there seems to be a ton of content in this game. In addition to including the aforementioned 400 solar systems, the game lets you customize the Darkstar One with more than 300 different modules, and the ship will get bigger and more formidable the further you get into the game. That's not even counting the strange McGuffin device that's on the ship, but it's apparently very powerful and much sought after.

The game will also have a dynamic economy, which means prices for various goods should fluctuate depending on supply and demand. There are six alien races in the game, each with its own tendencies and tactics. Some may like provoking a fight, while others will skulk in the background. When you can't get through to your alien neighbors by being diplomatic, you'll have a vast arsenal of weapons to outfit your ship with, and from what we've seen, combat is fairly typical for this kind of game. You fly your ship much like a fighter, usually from a first-person cockpit view, maneuvering to put your nose on the enemy and fill him full of lead (or, in this case, laser).

Visually, the game looks very good. Space games tend to look great in general, since the designers can put lots of focus on rendering beautiful ships and planets. After all, there's nothing much else out there in the big empty void to render. Still, Darkstar One brings all the latest graphical prowess to the forefront, and we saw some really interesting spaceships and stations, as well as plenty of pretty graphical effects. Darkstar One looks sharp, and it should definitely be on the radar for fans of space games everywhere. It's scheduled to ship this year.

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