Big discount on Strategy First games? Okay. Let's see what they have... Hmm, interesting, here's a neat little game.
I won't compare Darkstar One directly to any of the Big Four. In case you have no idea what I am talking about, then let me give you a hint: The Big Four games in this genre start with the letters F, P and X. (Two share the letter 'F' for their name.) These games are held by many of space sim/combat games to be the pinnacle of the genre.
But I'm not going to invoke the Big Four in direct comparison to Darkstar One. Comparing DSO to any of those has been done before in other reviews, and at times, I feel this comparison is unjustified, particularly when people say DSO isn't "as good" as the Big Four.
I suspect the developers of DSO have played the Big Four. There's lots of elements from those games present in DSO -- And, in fact, I would argue that you couldn't MAKE a space sim/combat game without having those elements, either borrowed intentionally or re-created without realizing it. It's like hold-left-dragging to select units in an RTS game. That is an extremely common and intuitive manner to select lots of units. It's become a common verb in RTS games, and in hind sight seems like a very obvious thing to implement and if you were to create an RTS today, you would implement mass-unit selection in that very manner. To do otherwise would be unnatural and new players would complain. Someone else found the most optimal verb for expressing an intent, and it's become a part of the building bible for the RTS genre.
Therefore, DSO uses a lot of the same verbs as the Big Four. If you've played the Big Four, then practically nothing in DSO will seem out of place. It's all there, it works like you expect it to, and that is what makes this game a lot of fun, even for someone such as myself. I've played practically every major and note-worthy space sim/combat game out there, and that's not really much of a boast considering that I can only think of a dozen in my entire lifetime as a gamer. This isn't a genre that gets a lot of attention.
DSO does it right and does it competently.
If you are a die-hard Big Four fan, you can't go wrong with DSO. Just give it a chance. The graphics are good, the voice-overs are decent, the plot and characters are okay, and the game mechanics are just fine. There's all the elements you would expect from this genre: Exploring, trading, bounty-hunting, alliance/allegiance shifting, pirates, Big Scary Aliens Doing Bad Stuff To Everyone, Mysteries to Uncover, etc. The whole kit and kaboodle.
The only real issue with DSO is that it doesn't bring much new to the table aside from the single, upgradable ship instead of the more typical ladder-climbing of purchasing better ships. I also like how they implemented the cargo carrying system, as it allows your super agile combat ship to suddenly take on the characteristics of a slow, vulnerable cargo vessel without forcing you to switch ships or land at a station first. That was well thought out.
The game is well made and both looks pretty good and plays well enough for what it is. And damn, you can't beat the price. (Under $3 as of this review. I would have gladly paid far more for this game, if I had known about it before hand.)
If you aren't a fan of the Big Four, and in fact if you are confused about what I am talking about: Give DSO a try. It's a good starting point for someone interested in this genre. If you want more, then don't worry. The Big Four are still around and you can pick them up at bargin prices. (For the uninitiated, most of the Big Four are really old games. Like, one of them is a DOS game! See what I mean about this genre not getting much love and attention?)
DSO is worth it, no matter if you are a fanatic of the genre or not. It's not going to blow you away, but it will provide many hours of solid, fun gaming and that's more than can be said for %90 of what is on Steam. :)
Kudos to the developer of DSO for making such an enjoyable game in this genre!