Gemini Wars does a spectacular job of keeping things simple. Units, resources and buildings come in clear categories, combat is a matter of straight forward target selection, and research options are kept narrow and easy to follow. It’s therefore a breeze to jump in to this space RTS title. However, this simplicity can easily be seen as a limitation. The narrative is clichéd, the strategy involved is repetitive, and its longevity is compromised. These limitations are all true, and this battle between them and its simplicity is fought throughout the experience.
For the most part though, the simplicity can out-charm the limitations and keep you engaged. The narrative, whilst familiar – involving the expansion of human colonisation and the breaking away of factions and the inevitable war between them – throws in a few twist, betrayals and new enemies that serve as enough drive and intrigue to keep you going through to the end. It’s a fairly long campaign as well, with the 16 missions offering a variety of objectives that occasionally take over an hour to complete.
The missions themselves do a decent job of providing variety, with the escort and battle scenarios being the most compelling. Unfortunately an incredible slow pace does threaten to ruin your fun. Your ships crawl through space. Simply engaging enemies on the other side of a planet is a painfully slow endeavour. It does do justice to the vastness of space and as the battlefield grows and you find yourself fighting across a solar system, or even multiple solar systems, it adds an interesting dynamic to the positioning and moving of units. But there’s no denying how difficult it is to stay engaged when the action is so frequently broken up for long treks across empty space.
Fortunately hyperspace jumps allow you to move quickly between planets and asteroid fields and proves to be a brilliantly implemented mechanic. Although your combat tactics are limited, with only a handful of ship types to build, being able to jump in and out of hyperspace after a short cool-down can get pleasantly strategic. Retreating becomes more commonplace as you desperately try to save as much of your fleet as possible and the AI will also use this tactic. This becomes even more strategic when you consider how much a single new technology from the research tree can significantly boost your ships. Indeed the options of how you approach combat and research pale in comparison to many other RTS titles but Gemini Wars has been carefully crafted to make the most out of a simple design philosophy. It’s truly impressive.
Building structure is also kept simple, with a research stations, ship producing stations with a shipyard attachment, and light or heavy turrets being your only options for planets and asteroid fields being limited to a resource collecting station and the aforementioned turrets. Additionally planets can be colonised to increase your unit cap. It suits the scale brilliantly, allowing you to concentrate on ship production and combat rather than maintain a whole host of structures
The whole experience does feel antiquated however; a side effect from the simplicity. Even the cut-scene work harks back to the days of yore, with stiff, unnatural movement in characters and low detailed textures. In-game fairs better though, with some spectacular vistas of space and nice shield impact effects. This old fashioned approach is also a great nostalgia trip for those who still fondly remember the likes of the original Command & Conquer titles. Only this time, of course, it’s in space, a battlefield we’ve seen less of lately in the RTS genre. As such it also feels unique and special.
Gemini Wars is undeniable a enjoyable RTS with excellent accessability but the pace is awful, due entirely to the speed at which ships move. It also currently lacks multiplayer and skirmish modes – although these are due to be added as a free patch shortly – which damages replayability, but the potential is clear to see. If you’re hankering for a space RTS then Gemini Wars is certainly worth playing, and we’ll be sure to check out the mutiplayer component as soon as it becomes available.
MLG Rating: 6/10 Platform: PC/ Mac Release Date: 08/06/2012
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a digital copy of Gemini Wars for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of one week on a PC