Starpoint Gemini Warlords Xbox One review: Beautiful gameplay, ugly game

Starpoint Gemini Warlords is a strategy title that impresses from a gameplay perspective, but the game becomes a chore to play for longer periods of time due to the awful presentation.

New strategy games are always a nice thing to see for Xbox One, so it was great to see that Starpoint Gemini Warlords, a popular PC game from early 2017, make its way to Xbox. However, while the gameplay overall is solid, both the story and the presentation leave quite a bit to be desired.

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Story and campaign aren't worth your time

The plot of Gemini Warlords is about as uninteresting as a game can get. You are tasked with expanding and improving control of multiple sectors of the Gemini galaxy with your fleets in order to crush rebel forces. It's an OK idea on paper, but the problem is that none of the characters or factions are well-written or have any depth. As a result, there's no real reason for me to care about the story.

Storytelling has never been great in strategy games. Unfortunately, the campaign missions themselves are also lacking in complexity or challenge, and that's a problem when the game's genre is about trying to test your decision-making skills. The campaign is simple, shallow, and easy, which is everything you don't want.

Gameplay is a tried-and-true strategy formula

While the campaign is a massive letdown, the free-roam mode — the one that allows you to play the game as you see fit as opposed to mission scenarios — is a vast improvement. Thankfully, this is where you'll be spending most of your time because of how short the story is. From your command ship, it's up to you to build and expand your bases, construct structures, create a fleet, and engage enemy forces.

Your foes in this mode feel a lot more intelligent than those of the campaign, and this allows for the strategy aspect of Gemini Warlords to shine. Learning what ships and upgrades you'll need to defeat certain foes, as well as when to engage and when to retreat, is a thought-provoking process that will leave you satisfied. Though there aren't any new or unique ideas here, the gameplay is solid.

Presentation and performance ... please, make it stop

As well-designed as the overall gameplay is, it's a shame that the visuals and sound designs of Gemini Warlords are so lackluster that it can often be difficult to enjoy the game for more than an hour.

Graphics, while certainly not critical to the experience, are below-average here. Strategy titles have never been known to have state-of-the-art visuals, but I can't help but feel that this isn't a valid excuse for the poor texture work and simplistic looking special effects. Because of this, there's no excuse for poor performance, which Gemini Warlords unfortunately has. Frame rates dip quite often, and audio occasionally cuts out, too.

Speaking of the audio, it is perhaps the worst aspect of this game's presentation. The sound effects during gameplay are incredibly annoying, with the same type of high-pitched whine being used for nearly every ability in the game. The music isn't that interesting, either, and tends to sound repetitive thanks to the lack of many different tracks. In general, there is very little variation in Gemini Warlords' sound.

Starpoint Gemini Warlords for Xbox One conclusion

Though the gameplay is great, the story of Gemini Warlords is incredibly unsatisfying. Pair this with the fact that the game's performance and presentation are severely lacking, too, and you have a game that fails to build upon its strong foundation and feels shallow overall.

Pros:

  • Great gameplay.

Cons:

  • Lack of satisfying story and campaign.
  • Performance and presentation are lackluster.

Starpoint Gemini Warlords is available on Xbox One for $34.99.

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This review was conducted on an Xbox One, using a copy provided by the publisher.

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.

7 Comments
  • Strategy games never have good story telling? Really? I can think of two right off (helps that they were some of my favorite games ever), Starcraft and Command and Conquer Gold.
  • Of course there's the outlier here or there, but overall strategy game narratives (in my opinion) are rather bland and uninteresting.
  • Is the reviewer sure they are not playing the first game - well first on xbox - rather then Warlords? Some of that criticism could be aimed at that, but not this sequel. The main story is not as bad as the reviewer is making out. Although, it should be noted that it is basically an introduction to the MASSIVE sandbox that this game is. Gameplay is also much, much better than indicated here.  Occasional Framerate drops are anything but a patch could not fix. And as to the visuals and textures? Well, I am playing on the xbox one x and think it looks fantastic. The game is great. Give it a go. Really good fun. If you have ever played EVE or the X games then this is for you
  • Yeah man, I'm positive.
  • Sure? Still not convinced. Curious, as I have not played it on my stock Xbox, did you play it on the xbox s or xbox one x?
  • The campaign in Starpoint Gemini Warlords is nothing more than a tutorial.  Once that (and the brief story) is over then the game turns into free-roam, and you can take it from there. The frame rate issues are greatly diminished once you finish the campaign.  I purchased this game on Steam when it was in Early Access, enjoyed what I played, but really wanted it to come to Xbox (day 1 purchase).