Dawnstar by Wraith Entertainment is a great attempt that unfortunately still has a long way to go. Dawnstar is a space sim/RPG that ends up being little more than a nice looking space shooter with abysmal controls. The game starts out cool enough with cell shaded graphics and a comic style narration, backed by a jazzy soundtrack that pays homage to the anime series Cowboy Beebop. The presentation, voice acting, and relatively interesting storyline grabs your attention and then drops you into what should be the most polished and emphasized part of the game, and that’s when the trouble begins.
The graphics are great, the stars and planets in the backdrop are beautifully rendered, and the characters themselves have personality and style in classic comic book fashion. These features distract from a lackluster mission-based system and frustrating controls.
What hurt right from the very beginning is a poorly delivered tutorial which attempts to explain to you important game mechanics and controls while in the middle of a chaotic dog fight via quickly scrolling text. So I got through the first fight without having much of a clue as to how to actually play the game or control my ship. Fear not, I thought, how difficult can it be? Well it was excessively difficult, the main menu gives you no refresher on the basic controls and once I figured them out I came to a horrible realization, they were terrible.
When playing a first-person space shooter (because that’s mainly what this game is, with some very light RGP elements) the undisputed, most important aspect of the game are the controls. No one wants to steer a ship in circles for 10 minutes trying to chase down the last fleeing enemy only to over shoot it, then lose it, then crash right into it, and then finally be blown up by it and re-spawn 5 seconds later to shoot it once and see it explode. Yeah, that actually happened. The game has no traditional radar (a huge must in a game like this) and although each mission area is small, finding enemy ships and jump gates is tedious and far more difficult than it should be.
Despite its current flaws, the game has a ton of potential. It incorporates some very cool elements in the design and storyline, picking and choosing from classics such as Star Wars, but also pulling from some great lesser known works like the aforementioned Cowboy Bebop. It’s also important to note that there aren’t too many space shooters these days (although there are a bunch coming out soon). A beautifully rendered game with an original and intriguing storyline and memorable characters is exactly what we needed, it’s just unfortunate that despite having some of these features, Dawnstar falls short in some very vital areas.
However, hope is not lost. In today’s gaming world we are fortunate enough to have some very dedicated people devoted to their craft, and I believe that the people over at Wraith Entertainment are prime examples of this caliber of individual. The idea is there and it’s put forth in a very captivating way—the game looks great. The story and characters are developed and engaging.
There is a chance some of Dawnstar’s flaws can be addressed in a path. This game has the potential to be great. It would take a good amount of work focusing on the revamping of the controls and the construction of a helpful user interface. Some tweaks to the tutorial, main menu, and maybe even the way missions are given to you (pausing the game while this happens seems a simple and obvious fix). I plan on coming back to Dawnstar down the road, because I think the bones of a classic are there, they just need to be given flesh and blood.