DarkStar One: Broken Alliance Review
If DarkStar One: Broken Alliance for the Xbox 360 seems entirely too familiar to some gamers, it’s because it is a four-year old PC game. Don't expect any new features though. Broken Alliance is a basic port, with a new control interface, and a shiny graphical overcoat.
The story revolves around a young man named, Kayron, who is on a quest to avenge his father's murder using the unique DarkStar One ship left behind by his father. This ship is special in that it can change shape and level up using ancient artifacts. It’s a throwaway story that won’t keep you on the edge of your seat, and you will most likely forget what you’re main objective is, very early on.
The two main draws are its open-world mechanics and ship customization. After the initial couple of hours, the game opens up, and let’s the player choose from a myriad of quests, and tasks. There are escort quests a plenty, pirates to be hunted, trading of resources, and even opportunities to become a pirate yourself.
The main problem is that most of these are a “go there, shoot (or escort) this, come back” ordeal, and become very repetitive. Some quests give the players a moral choice of saving the crew they were ordered to destroy, but offer absolutely no impact on the overall story, or gameplay. You do have a chance to step out of your ship, but that’s only in space stations. Shopping, mission selection, and news updates are all done through static menus.
RPG-style leveling and skill trees gives the ship customization a robust amount of options. Rather than gaining XP, the player has to seek out ancient artifacts that the ship absorbs. You can focus on speed rather than firepower, or the strength of your hull versus weapon capacity. Each artifact is a skill point that can be spent on upgrading the wings, the hull or the engine. Upgrading each part also morphs the ship, which means that everyone's ship aesthetics will differ. Obviously, Darkstar One is the star, and not Kayron.
Having played this game on the PC, I have a love/hate relationship with the new control scheme. Piloting the ship through open space, shooting down pirates, and navigating through debris is extremely intuitive with the analog sticks. However, targeting specific enemies or items, and activating certain ship features was far more accessible on a keyboard, which required a single key-press.
The new radial menu requires constant pausing of the gameplay to select abilities and feature. More annoying is the process of selecting enemies, which requires you to open another menu and select your target from a list. A quick-target option is available, and it works most of the time, but the feature quickly becomes obsolete as enemies improve and you find the need to target them in specific orders..
DarkStar One can be surprisingly attractive, at least for a space-combat game. Each ship and space station harbors intricate touches of detail, but flying through the darkness of space with an occasional planet in the background hardly justifies the HD-branded makeover. No, really, the box boasts "Full HD," as if that is a selling point these days, and not an expectation.
It’s hard to recommend a four-year old game whose main selling point for the AAA price-tag is upgraded graphics, but leaves the core gameplay unchanged. The game has a lot of substance that unfortunately becomes repetitive quite early on. For those who missed the opportunity to play DarkStar One on the PC, I recommend giving that a shot first.