reviews\ Dec 4, 2002 at 7:00 pm

DarkSpace - PC - Review

At one time space was thought of as the final frontier. It isn’t anymore, at least not where the game world in considered. There are been a plethora of real-time strategic games based in space, and there are more on the way. And now you can add one more to the mix, and like another recent release, this one just happens to be a massively multiplayer on-line game as well.

DarkSpace is published by Got Game Entertainment and developed by Palestar. The game centers on a universe splintered by intergalactic war. There are three factions to choose from and the mapboards for this game are huge. But one of the more outstanding features of this game are its graphical elements.

This is a true real-time strategy game, but with three-dimensional graphics and glorious space environments. And not only can players enter the game to battle for pieces of space, but you can also sign in to scenario-specific servers.

Of course, as with any MMO game, you begin at the bottom and level up. In DarkSpace, players begin at the ensign level, and through diligence, hard work and a thorough command of your space ship, you can eventually attain the rank of fleet admiral.

Some of the game features include team-based play (realm versus realm combat, if you will), and content updates. The developers are very good at keeping abreast of developments within the universe of DarkSpace and correcting anything that may be causing problems.

If there is a downside to the game, it lies in the fact that this is not a game that has received the massive notoriety of some other games, and because it isn’t as well known, the servers are not jammed with players. Fewer players equal diminished battle scenes instead of the massive mayhem one hopes to one day find. Once this game gets its share of players, those battles may well be memorable gaming experience.

The game features three factions:

  • The UGTO is a conglomeration of the Old World United Nations and various other socio-political organizations. Its goal is to unite humanity under one allegiance. It is spread across seven systems, has colonies on 12 planetary bodies, and has numerous outposts and space stations.

  • The ICC was established first as the Free Trade League, but uprising and coups splintered the group away from United Worlds to become the ICC. It is the strongest opposition to the United Worlds and is the group mostly responsible for preventing the UGTO from gaining majority control of the universe.

  • The K’Luth are an alien race from somewhere beyond the Sirius system. The UGTO officially denies the existence of this mysterious race while it is rumored that the ICC has not only contacted the K’Luth, but acquired technology from it.

One of the unique aspects of this game is how the ship you choose determines your role within the game. There are several types of ships: scout, engineering (build structures on a planet surface), supply, transports (ferry troops into enemy territory to capture planets), frigates, destroyers, cruisers, dreadnoughts (you can pound a planet "into the Stone Age" using its massive guns), and support stations (commanded by fleet admirals).

There are seven planet types and once a planet is captured, players can manage it through the interface.

Are there enemy fighters on your tail? Duck into a nebulae and your enemy’s sensor’s will fail to detect you. You can also snuggle up to a star to wipe enemy sensors but there is a danger that if you get too close, your hull won’t be able to handle the heat and radiation.

When first launched, the tutorial in DarkSpace was somewhat daunting. The review copy received did come without a manual and trying to navigate through this game without concepts of what you are being shown is akin to dropping into the middle of a swimming pool with no idea how to swim.

Once the control elements are learned, game players will be treated to an enjoyable experience.

The player interfaces are very well designed and give a wealth of game information. Graphically the game is excellent, and the audio track is also very good (as was mentioned in another recent review, space is a vacuum so there really should be no sound, however game players like the stimuli provided by solid graphics and sound).

DarkSpace is a well-built game that deserves a solid fan base. The action is excellent, the role-playing elements, depicted by which ship you pilot, are very nice. This is a game that does not encourage freelancing, but rather is team-based. The base idea is that this is a military foray against other forces. As with any RTS, strength lies in numbers, and in the case of DarkSpace, numbers can make a world of difference.

This game is rated Teen. There is a monthly fee for playing, with your first month free.


Reviewer's Scoring Details

Gameplay: 7.8
While the game itself is open-ended, team play is essential to success. There are times where there really are not that many playing. Load times are relatively quick, and the game plays smoothly.

Graphics: 8.5
This is not the best-looking space game to be released, but it is very good. The 3D universe is excellent and the ship dynamics are also very well done. The interface is also exceptional.

Sound: 8.5
The game does feature a very strong and solid audio track, from the musical score to the special effects.

Difficulty: Medium
It will take time to learn how to maximize the control elements of the game. The tutorial does a nice job of setting this up, but give yourself 30-40 minutes to get reasonably comfortable.

Concept: 8.5
This is a well-designed game, from the interface to the support it receives through Players can work through scenarios or take on the challenge of open-ended combat for control of the system.

Multiplayer: 8
Lack of players is a problem right now, but this is a game built on cooperative game play. Without the numbers, the game does suffer.

Overall: 8.1
Given some time to grow, DarkSpace will likely be a sleeper hit ­ a game that didn’t come with a lot of hype, but won fans through its game play. This is a game that looks good, sounds great and plays well. The focus on multiplayer gaming may be coercing players into cooperative game play, but if you don’t want that kind of experience, don’t purchase an on-line game.


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