Celestial Navigation at Its Best

Friday, December 15, 2006

The best space games take advantage of what the universe has in abundance: room and limitless opportunity. Games such as the classic Privateer series and, more recently, Freelancer understood that and gave you a ship and the freedom to roam.

DarkStar One follows the tradition. You play Kayron Jarvis, a man with a unique ship, the DarkStar One. Your vessel begins as a quick long-range fighter but has the ability to become one of the most powerful weapons in the universe. Throughout many star systems, you will find hidden artifacts. Collect enough and you can increase your ship's size and capabilities.

How you upgrade is up to you. You can improve your hull, which gives you more hit points and allows you to add turrets to gun down trouble. You can improve your engines to gain speed and the ability to support more electronic components. Or you can upgrade your ship's wings, improving your stability and flight characteristics.

Kayron's father, designer of DarkStar One, apparently has been killed. The DarkStar is willed to you. Kayron tries to find the guilty party and takes his search into a hostile universe divided into clusters of systems ruled by various cultures. One is starting to attack the others, and a fragile galactic peace is unraveling.

This leads to lots of opportunities for the right person. You can engage in piracy or become a bounty hunter, eliminating pirates. Pursue the career of a mercenary, offering your services to the highest bidder, or lead the life of a peaceful trader. The choice is yours, and your reputation in the galaxy will spread until you are known in most or all of the 300 systems. Eventually you will meet a beautiful co-pilot named Eona, who will share your ship and help you navigate; she also has an interesting back story of her own.

Combat is fast and furious. You will be rolling and strafing, jockeying for position and boosting your engines to maximum power as you blaze away at a diverse bunch of interstellar bad guys. Their exploding ships will briefly light up the darkness in a cascade of beautiful fireworks, though your opponents won't be around to enjoy the show.

-- John Breeden II

DarkStar One Teen; Windows XP ($40) CDV

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