The space RTS genre is a very crowded genre beginning around the time of the iconic original Starcraft by Blizzard Entertainment. Since then, many games have arisen with different takes and vasty different budgets. But, recently, indie publishers have been jumping on to give their own creative spin. Gemini Wars by Camel 101, was designed with just that intent. But with so many games packing into this genre, does Gemini Wars have what it takes to stand out?
Gemini Wars, like most space RTS games, is set in an area of space where there is conflict – both direct and somewhat mysterious. The quite impressive intro describes much of the pretense of the story, but, unfortunately, it lacks a voice- over explanation. While this appears to be a bad sign of things to come, don’t fear, this is the exception! Dialog in the game is very believable and interesting – if not a bit basic in the beginning. As for the missions: space RTSs might seem like the gameplay is all the same: “kill this” “defend that”. Gemini Wars appears to break out of the mold to an extent with providing additional twists and tricks: traps and back-door invasions to keep you on your toes. I clearly remember bringing a massive force to wipe out a space station with mediocre defenses only to realize that the enemy warped in an entire fleet to back it up as soon as I engaged. As for presentation of the storyline – it is quite reminiscent of Nexus: the Jupiter Incident in that your character (amazingly) talks – something I would think standard but is in a precious few. Missions in the campaign consist of an overall briefing within the command room and then tasks and dialog once you are actually playing on the battlefield.
￼Once on the battlefield (and even before) the interface is quite helpful in layout and design. It has a slightly Starcraft feel to it, but there are certainly enough elements to give the UI its own, clearly Gemini Wars, feel. I didn’t find it cumbersome except in selecting units. (NOTE: With the latest patch, unit selection appears to be much better, but selecting small units over large structures can be difficult from time to time) While Gemini Wars is an indie title, it has a lot of the polish of the bigger titles – the main one being different unit states (defensive, free attack) that truly work. The AI on both sides also appears to be quite intelligent. You won’t generally find your 20 units shooting missiles at 20 different targets. Even without directing them, units appear to enjoy finding a single or two units to kill. But that also works with the enemy. Unlike a large number of RTSs out there, Gemini Wars’ AI appears to “primary” select targets and go down the line focusing fire. This means you will NOT be able to save every unit in campaign missions in Gemini Wars. This adds a refreshing change to the way too common senseless drone AI.
Moving from the interface graphics to the game’s overall special effects and graphics, Gemini Wars clearly stands out as one of the more beautiful space RTS games. The explosions and projectiles may not blow your socks off, but the nebulae, planets, and stars will impress any indie gamer. You certainly won’t find any simple salt and pepper starscapes in Gemini Wars. When it comes to units, there appeared to be little expense spare on the textures. Even when zooming in really close, you can make out tiny little bumps and windows on the ships. However, my only complaint would be the limited variation and shapes of ships in the game. With only a handful of ships to create, it can seem a bit devoid of variability. But enough talk about the graphics, see for yourself.
￼Along with the graphics, Gemini Wars truly stands out among most other indie RTSs in terms of audio. The music is top quality trailer music akin to that from Game Score and others. It does get a bit repetitive on each map, but the score appears to change between the maps giving a bit of a variety to listen to. When it comes to vocal audio, Gemini Wars doesn’t have the Hollywood cast of command and conquer, but dialog during the campaign is quite believable and dramatize correctly. All in all, the audio compliments the gameplay and graphics quite nicely.
While Gemini Wars really shines in many aspects, there are some areas which truly could be improved to provide a better experience. For those people who would like to continue playing the game well after the campaign there is a skirmish mode. However, there are some severe limitations – the most obvious of which is the ability to only have a single enemy. Skirmish difficulty also appears to be quite different than the campaign. Even on “hard” the enemy appears to be easily steamrolled, confused, and destroyed. The combined elements make the skirmish mode a bit of a disappointment after the first couple games. Perhaps a future patch will incorporate more. One aspect of Gemini Wars which few other space RTSs incorporate is unit experience. While it appears to be an excellent addition to the game, there is unfortunately no easy way to tell which units have what amount of experience. This makes unit experience an interesting but, so far, quite difficult aspect of the game to fully utilize.