Why You Should Play the MMO DarkSpace
DarkSpace pits three factions against each other in a perpetual conflict for galactic domination. These factions are the United Galactic Trade Organization (UGTO), Interstellar Cultural Confederation (ICC), and the alien K’Luth. While the lore is relatively extensive, you can narrow it down to classic space opera archetypes: UGTO are the authoritarian government, ICC are the rebels, and the K’Luth are the mysterious outside threat.
As one would expect from a game that was released at the turn of the millennium, DarkSpace has aged quite a lot in terms of visuals. While there are efforts on the forums to update the game models, it’s going to be some time before DarkSpace reaches the heights of modern visuals. Despite this handicap, DarkSpace still manages to communicate ship types and factions quickly and easily. UGTO ships are sleek and polished, ICC ships look like cobbled-together junk, and K’Luth ships look organic and dangerous. It’s all very low-fidelity, but DarkSpace manages to stand out despite ancient textures and models.
The one area that DarkSpace fails completely in is user interface. While games have moved onward and upward in creating friendly, accessible interfaces, DarkSpace has stayed virtually the same. It can be very, very daunting to a new player, especially since not a lot is explained in the tutorial except basic functions. I suggest just jumping into the scenario server and messing around to get a feel for how DarkSpace plays. Eventually the barebones, utilitarian UI will become second nature.
Those familiar with the PC game Starfleet Command will instantly feel at home fighting in DarkSpace. Players control ships that move along a 2D plane. They must manage modules, power allocation, shield positions, and crew in an elegant ballet of combat against hostile forces. The only modern game that comes close is Star Trek Online, and that’s no coincidence. Darkspace is built on the concept of space combat showcased in the Star Trek TV series. These ships behave more like actual naval ships and less like the spaceships you see in games like Strike Suit Zero.
Something I love about DarkSpace is that all ships have important functions on the battlefield. Ships range in size from frigates to dreadnaughts, and the most massive unit that the player can pilot is a mobile space station. While the big, beefy, gun-toting ships are obviously important, the smaller logistics and raiding ships also play a role in determining the course of a fight. During my initial time with DarkSpace (around 2005), I usually climbed into an engineer ship and floated around, going where I was needed.
If ship combat isn’t your thing, then that aforementioned engineer ship is your best friend. DarkSpace also includes a system where players can build up colonies on planets that provide them with supplies, shipbuilding materials, and even spaceborne defenses like missile batteries. However, no planet is safe. Enemies can also bomb your defenses to dust and drop marines on the surface to conquer your colony for their own nefarious ends. And conquering planets is vitally important. Planets provide teams with the victory points necessary to win. In addition, the largest and nastiest ships can only come from planetary shipyards, which means that you need to build up in order to field the destructive behemoths of your fleet. That’s not to say that these monsters render the lower classes of ship obsolete, though.
In fact, one of my favorite stories comes from fielding the most basic of scout ships. I got tired of playing engineer during one of my many play sessions, and switched to a scout ship after finishing up my planetary construction. After some brief long-range recon work, I jumped into an enemy fleet. After catching their attention, I jumped towards one of our friendly planets. The trick, however, was that I jumped through a friendly fleet with interdictors in their composition. Ships with interdiction prevent enemy ships from jumping away as long as they are close by. The enemy fleet took the bait and jumped to catch me. As ships jumping through an interdiction field are automatically pulled out of jump, they slammed face-first into a wall of heavy ships. I joined the fight shortly thereafter, and we clawed our way to victory and took the system.