DarkStar One: Broken Alliance
Luke Skywalker may have been the hero of Star Wars, but it was daring bounty hunter Han Solo that caught everyone's imagination. I mean, what guy wouldn't want to be Han Solo? He's got a speedy spaceship, knows how to handle himself in a sticky situation, and has a way with the ladies. Who cares about special powers when you can shoot aliens in intergalactic bars and nab the leading lady from the other guy?
Kayron Jarvis may not have the same bravado as Han Solo, but his space-faring adventures in DarkStar One: Broken Alliance are just as exhilarating. Orphaned following the unexplained death of his father, Kayron inherits the cutting-edge spaceship DarkStar One and sets off to uncover the truth behind his pop's end. At its core, its a story of vengeance: son takes to the stars to uphold his family name; however, DarkStar One: Broken Alliance is far more than that. With an expansive galaxy before you, this is a game about choosing your own style of play, your own digital destiny.
Smuggler, mercenary, privateer, trader, pirate--who you become is entirely up to you. In the pilot's seat of the DarkStar One, you're free to pursue whatever missions you fancy along the long road to unravelling the mystery behind your dad's death. Your actions affect your standing in the galaxy, so pursuing a life of a smuggler is likely to make you more enemies than that of a morally conscious privateer. A reputation system gauges your standing with various factions, determining whether they will trade peacefully or open fire.
In this way, DarkStar One continues the tradition of other space adventures that have come before it. Like Elite and Freelancer, the game's depth and non-linearity offer an almost overwhelming sense of freedom. The key difference here is that PC-style depth of play is done entirely with an Xbox 360 controller in hand.
Across the expansive galactic map of more than 330 individual star systems, missions can be taken up that fill your wallet with credits for upgrading your ship. How you earn these credits determines your reputation. Trading resources offers a peaceful means of earning cash, though smuggling living creatures could gain your a bad reputation. Taking on a mercenary mission may cull favour with your employer, but you can be certain it'll piss off the faction on the other end of your reticule.
One such quest involves helping the peace-loving water-based alien race called the Oc'to whose eerie organic ships require assistance in defending against a band of pirates. Helping the Oc'to is good for earning their trust and gaining access to an array of alien upgrades for your ship. After all, taking on side missions and accumulating credits is all for the sake of decking out your ship. It's the only way to prepare yourself for the tougher fights that await in the most remote regions of the galaxy, which is of course where the story leads you.
Purchasing parts from traders at orbiting stations is the easiest way of acquiring upgrades, although you're welcome to grab them from defeated enemy ships. White nodes on the exterior of the DarkStar One signify where potential upgrades can be slotted like the timebomb, which augments your plasma cannon to freeze enemies in place for a short period of time. Other upgrades include a plasma shield that enables your ship to be used as a battering ram against enemies. Another upgrade automatically adjusts your speed to match enemy velocity so you're free to focus on firing weapons.
These upgrades--particularly the weapons--feel pretty good when battling in first-person cockpit view. The keyboard and mouse configuration devised for the original PC version has been reworked for play on the controller and makes the whole experience much more accessible. Aiming obviously isn't as accurate as having a mouse under your fingers, but movement is great and re-engineered menus cater to use of the thumbstick. Some of these changes were in effect in the version of the game I saw, though much of the work still is to be done.
There's enough time before the game's summer release that the controls and interface tweaks will be squared away. What really matters is that the gameplay, which succeeded in delivering immense depth and choice on PC, remains intact. That and allowing Han Solo fantasies to be played out one press of the A button at a time.