DarkStar One: Broken Alliance
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2010-07-20 Xbox 360 Space Combat T (Teen) Kalypso Media / Ascaron Entertainment

It was four years ago that I lost myself to DarkStar One and the vastness of its universe on the PC. At the time, this really wasn't the type of game I'd have stopped to check out, but I am glad I did, since I ended up enjoying it quite a bit. Now, I get to do it all over again on a larger scale: instead of a PC monitor and a desk chair, I get to play on a 50-inch TV and from the comfort of the sofa, with an Xbox 360 controller instead of keyboard and mouse. And I'm happy to report that it was just as enjoyable, if not more!

DarkStar One: Broken Alliance follows the exploits of Kayron Jarvis, a young pilot looking to unveil the mystery behind his father's death. Kayron has recently completed his pilot training and has now inherited his father's ship, the unique DarkStar One.

The gameplay in DarkStar One: Broken Alliance is basically what you make of it. There's enough freedom of choice so that anyone can do whatever they feel most comfortable with to truly enjoy their gaming experience. However, there will be times where you must enter combat, regardless of how neutral and inconspicuous you try to remain.

The learning curve isn't too steep. The game will teach you little by little what you need to progress, everything from how to upgrade your ship, how to control the ship during cruising and combat situations, how to earn money, find artifacts, accept missions, reach other systems and so on.

Soon enough, you won't have to brave the galaxies alone, as you find an interesting travel companion who seems to be in more trouble than it appears, and which will lead you into more adventures.

You can zip through the game by following the main mission instructions only: go to a certain system, talk to someone, advance to somewhere else in the galaxy, get one step closer to the end of the game. But even that will require you to do a few other things, such as purchase some expensive new hyperjump drive so that you can travel further, and that means you will need Credits - your friendly space neighborhood currency - and how you earn it, it's totally up to you. Depending on your ways of earning income, your reputation will shift in whatever way: bounty hunter, mercenary, trader, pirate, assassin, smuggler.

Each system has a trade station, which is your "base" away from home. The trade station allows you to buy or sell goods in the Trade menu, which shows you how much of each item is available at that particular station, and how much it costs. You can accept a variety of missions through the Terminal, anything from bounty hunting to escorts, recovering lost cargo, destroying satellites, listening in on transmissions or taking pictures. Sometimes there will also be some side quests available, so look them up. While at the trade station, you can also upgrade your ship with new weapons or equipment in the Dockyard, check your logbook for what to do and where to go next, peek at the star map or just enjoy the view.

It's too easy to get lost in this game, by simply going from one place to another. You can purchase some goods in your first trade station, sell them at the next. But as you get to the next system you are attacked by pirates, so you drop your cargo (otherwise you can't maneuver your ship worth a damn while hauling all that stuff), pick the closest target and fire at will. Then you notice there is an artifact on this system's target list, and you go pick it up.... oh wait, I forgot to tell you about the artifacts.

The DarkStar One is a very special kind of ship, build with alien technology. At the beginning of the game you are told that there are several artifacts (100, actually) in the galaxy that will allow you to upgrade the ship, making it more powerful by having better engines, more resistant hull, and so on. The look of the ship will also change according to the upgrades you do.

Mostly, Broken Alliance is a port of the original DarkStar One, with little change. I found that using the Xbox 360 controller made combat easier, and my clumsiness with landing is now gone. Ok, I will still get rammed by the occasional ship coming out of the trade station, which will send me bouncing around like I'm in a pinball game, and swear like a drunken space pirate because they can't fly their motherf... uh, ship (space road rage? ) Still, it's obvious that I'm better at this the second time around!

Graphically, the environments are fantastic, and so much more immersive on the TV than on the PC monitor... it really shows how gorgeous space is. However, the animated sequences seem to lack the definition that we see in space and they come across as blurry, which is unfortunate.

On the technical side, there were a few things worth noting. There were times where the game would freeze when purchasing or selling goods. While it would say I had none to sell, my 70t cargo container was still full. This situation would solve itself by leaving the Trade menu, and coming back a few seconds later. Still, it was annoying and it happened frequently.

I also experienced some occasional slowdowns in combat situations. If more than three enemies would appear, there would be a slight hiccup as they came closer and became targetable. This hiccup would also happen when I dropped my cargo to engage them in combat. Other than that, space combat is generally fluid, fast and many times pretty furious.

However, I'm happy to be living the life of a space trader once again. It's easy for me to just go around buying goods in one place and sell them a couple of systems over, a bit like a door to door salesman, only carrying life forms, proteins, alloys or machinery. And who knows, maybe I'm smuggling something here and there, but I'll never tell. That's what jammers are for!

This is Didi, aboard the DarkStar One, over and out.

Special thanks to Ted Brokwood and Kalypso Media for providing a copy of this title.

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