“Gemini Wars” review

Space RTS games are really hard to come by. From “Sins of a Solar Empire” to the beloved cult series “Homeworld,” there have been a multitude of games that have really tried to nail down intergalactic warfare.

Of course, this means there are some lack-luster games that make their way to shelves. While it may be clever but surprisingly pretty, “Gemini Wars” is one of those games.

Large scale battles are the big feature for “Gemini Wars.”

Coming out of the indie publisher Camel 101, “Gemini Wars” is actually a good concept and I was surprised that I found the issues that I had with it after I realized they were recycling a formula from another popular space RTS, “Star Wars: Empire at War,” a personal favorite of mine.

As many people know, the story or campaign of an RTS is rarely the reason you play it. I’ve really only found that in Blizzard games or the “Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War” franchise that the story has meant anything to me. Maybe “Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle Earth” and “Command and Conquer” too.

The point is, there really isn’t a reason to play through the story mode of this game. It just seems pretty forced and thrown in there in an effort to provide something for the person who is looking for a really long tutorial on how to play the game. After all, that’s basically what the campaign in an RTS is.

The skirmish mode and online play seem to be the sole purpose of this game, and since that is the case, I will detail the mechanics for you.

“Gemini Wars” has your standard resource gathering. Both Research points and Minerals are your driving forces and can be gathered by creating mining facilities in asteroid fields or a research center above a planet. Points are then spent on building your fleets or researching betting engines, new ship hulls, weapons and the like.

Honestly, it is a pretty game and the ships are cool looking.

Ships range from small gun-boats and missile frigates to hulking capital cruisers that deal out damage by the blast. This is what makes the game really similar to “SW: Empire at War.” The game even has a Battle Camera option that takes away the UI and puts the player in very cinematic views of the carnage that plays out. Just like “Empire at War.” Seeing a pattern?

Worrying about the large ships is a simple matter of having enough smaller ships to survive the onslaught. However, if you have your own giant vessel, you may be able to target the vital points on that ship and knock out its life support or engines to completely disable it. Just like “Empire at War.” See where I’m going with this?

Now there are several huge problems with “Gemini Wars.” First of all, I encountered major framerate drops during the campaign at points where it seemed like there was very little going on. And then, I played skirmishes with double the number of ships on the screen and more detail and the game ran fine. Also, the framerate drops happened at the exact same spots each time, so I don’t know if it’s bugs or simple programming errors slowing the game down.

When I started a skirmish, there were absolutely no asteroid resources available to me or the NPC enemy. I actually saw their scout flying about in a futile attempt to find a place to mine just as I was doing the same thing. Which is weird, because I told the game to spawn 8 asteroid fields.

Resource gathering! You either love it or hate it. You’ll have to make your own decision for “Gemini Wars.” If you’re able to get one of the fields in the game, you’re pretty likely to keep it, unless some overwhelming force comes and blows your station out of space. Solution? Multiple mines! Only problem is that the game has the same tactic.

This results in a very sci-fi Cold War standoff where each player is systematically upgrading their ships and researching while building bigger and bigger ships. This is a little silly because you need to have a military space station to increase your unit cap, and you can only build those if there is a free planet to do this at. This complicates things if there are only two planets in game. You could always tell the game to spawn multiple planets, but then you’re fighting a war on multiple fronts and if you’re not comfortable with that, then you’re stuck.

I also found that the game can paint itself into an extremely long and arduous corner. I made a bunch of capital ships, was ready to go do battle at my enemy’s base after fending off a large attack, only to find that their nearest base was literally a grid of heavy turrets and they had barely any ships left. Not only that, but the turrets alone could destroy all of my heavy cruiser capital ships.

This situation explained why I hadn’t seen any more enemy ships, because the NPC had literally spent all of its resources on turrets to defend itself. I ended up quitting the skirmish and saying, “Yeah, I don’t have time for that.”

Here’s the thing: The game is pretty to look at, the formula is there and it is really hard to screw up an RTS. Camel 101 knows this. However with the bugs I ran into, not to mention the fact that when I told my ships to go someplace and they very obviously ignored me and or would just go for a bit then turn back around to the fight, I find the game somewhat lacking.

There’s some good stuff in “Gemini Wars.” Targeting the vital systems of the larger ships allows you to take it out before destroying it, and if you’ve got a bigger ship yourself, you can send over marines to capture the vessel and take it for you own, no resources needed. Downside? The amount of time it takes to repair is absolutely mind-numbing.

You’re going to want to put a lot of research into shields. Just sayin’.

It seems like the ideas were here for this game, but the execution was just off. At the Vault, we always tell you to push old formulas and make it your own. Camel 101 really did try this, and for that I applaud them.

While this is nothing new for an RTS, it still is a good try at making a system like this new with mechanics like the marines and the large map sizes. “Gemini Wars” gets a 6 out of 10. Maybe next time, folks. Keep working at it.