November 23, 2012

Super Star Strategy

Lasting First Impressions of Gemini Wars

Developed by Camel 101  |  Published by Iceberg Interactive

Gemini Wars Title» In the hallowed halls of the 4X strategy genre you will find monuments to amazing games like Galactic Civilizations, Sins of a Solar Empire, and Sid Meier’s Civilization; genre defining titles, masterfully crafted to perfection by digital savants.  Unlike Call of Duty, which is for the lowly unwashed masses, 4X strategy games cater to the refined, intellectual gamer who prefers to use their wits to outsmart their opponent as opposed to a shotgun blast to the face.

Gemini Wars, a space based 4X strategy game from indie game developer Camel 101, presents us with an interesting value proposition. Priced at $20, Gemini Wars is half the price of it’s biggest competitor, “Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion”. From a cursory glance, it starts to get even better. Unlike Sins of a Solar Empire which only has skirmish modes, Gemini Wars also includes a fully fleshed out single-player campaign.

The story places us in deep space, two human factions have been at war for decades and we’re the hot-shot rookie commander poised to save the galaxy. Okay, so it’s not exactly gripping right off the get go but it’s good enough to get the ball rolling. Seeing as this is a one-hour review instead of a marathon, it’s hard to say how great it will pan out in the long run but the writing is decent enough.

Gemini Wars screen 1

The gameplay itself is reminiscent of Sins in terms of giant systems to explore, jumping in and out at your leisure, with the only significant difference being a lack of distinct connections between the stars. This interesting tweak on the gameplay style helps the game carve a personality for itself. You can literally jump to any other body in the system, totally changing the typical strategies one would use in this sort of game. The base building can be a little tedious at times but pulls inspiration from StarCraft. You’ll need to build shipyards and special research buildings to unlock new technologies while still balancing your income and mining operations.

It should be mentioned that even though this is an indie game, they’ve still taken it upon themselves to release both a PC and OSX version of the game.  Being the die-hard Mac user that I am, of course that’s where I decided to review it. It was early on into my experience that I first encountered what I refer to as “indie jank”. You see, indie games are indie for a reason. Quite frankly, they’re typically created by small teams on tight budgets. Having lots of money doesn’t just mean more levels… it means a lot more polish and QA too. When, while playing the game on my MacBook, I was asked to “middle click my mouse” to get to the next stage of the tutorial, I had to start wondering how many Mac users had actually play tested the game (pro-tip: MacBooks don’t have a middle click button and neither do Apple mice). The voice acting is, as expected, a little weak and the cinematics aren’t what you’d really expect from a modern game.

Gemini Wars Screen 2

Once you get past all that though, and don’t forget you’ve only paid $20, what you’ll find is a charming, rough-around-the-edges space 4X game that’s trying really hard to get your attention. Sure, it could use some polish, but since the game was released, the developers have tirelessly been adding to the game and improving it. Already they’ve added skirmish and multiplayer modes along with a host of bug fixes. Let’s not forget that they’re bringing a lot of new ideas to the table too. The unique gameplay elements and cool ship designs help Gemini Wars to feel different and unique.

Indie Games are special. You know they’re never perfect and that they’ll never be able to pull off all the bells and whistles of a AAA game. But then, that’s part of the charm. Gemini Wars left the gate with a rocky start, but the developers at Camel 101 have continued to improve their game and they’re doing exactly what a good developer should do: listen to their fans and give them what they want. When it comes to PC games, there are a lot of AAA studios that could stand to learn that lesson.

Camel 101, I gave you an hour and I am IMPRESSED.

About the Author

is a dedicated game enthusiast, artist, father of 2 + 2 halves and co-host of The OMG! Hour podcast. He has worked along side great companies like Xbox Canada and ArenaNet and will continue to find ways to make the world a better place for gamers. You can follow him on Twitter as @Sinnix.



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