Chris Roberts announced Freelancer in 1997 once he was done with his saga Wing Commander.
First scheduled for 2000, then reported to 2001, it was finally sold to Microsoft Game Studios who took control of its development because Chris Roberts was unable to finish what he started (Isn't that right, Star Citizen in development since 2011?) and released it in 2003 after having been waited for 6 years.
Then Microsoft Game Studios started developing a sequel to feature in the catalogue of their coming X-Box 360 and named this sequel to Freelancer: Project Lonestar.
Project Lonestar collapsed with Digital Anvil, Chris Roberts' company, in 2006.
However the same year, another company released Darkstar One.
When Microsoft discovered Darkstar One on PC, they were so impressed that they negociated with Ascaron Entertainment, the company who developed it, to port it to X-Box 360 in place of failed Project Lonestar.
In other words, Microsoft, who saved the failing development of Freelancer and released it in 2003, recognized Darkstar One as the worthy successor to Freelancer.
However, even though Ascaron Entertainment provided modding tools for Darkstar One, no modder paid attention to it for some reasons...
Which is why I would like to convince you to mod Darkstar One and therefore I take upon the challenge to make you love it.
My utopist scenario is that my article will start a gold rush of modders into Darkstar One who has been unnoticed despite its potential until now...
So let's do it!
Pictures attract more than words so let's start with pictures, here is a gallery of 77 pictures to treat your eyes:
And one more:
Now, because the first fan of a game is the one who created it, I let Daniel Dumont speaks about Darkstar One:
Then I add my personal experience and knowledge:
I would like to share with you my personal story about how I discovered Darkstar One absolutely by luck, it is funny.
Once upon a time, my best friend Robert visited me, enthusisastic to show me his last acquisition.
It was Sacred Gold.
Indeed, previously, I introduced to Robert a hack and slash from Ascaron Entertainment, Sacred, of which I owned the Gold edition containing the game Sacred along with its add-on Underworld.
I can't remember how I had acquired this game, because hack and slash are not for me, gameplay which consists in clicking and watching just gets me bored.
Anyway at that time, I was trying to get into it, I still remember playing the vampire knight and exploring Ancaria with my wolf and my bat that I summoned and transforming into my vampire form whenever I encountered hostiles.
Until I grew bored of hack and slash so repetitive gameplay and I uninstalled the game from my PC and went to sell it to game shop (That was before the advent of dematerialization, when games were on discs in boxes with printed manuals.).
Still, I had have time to introduce Robert to it and make him play to it on my PC before I separated ways with it.
And he got into it a lot more than I did, he was hooked!
So when he found it in game shop, he didn't hesitate, he hurried to buy it for himself and show it to me to remind us of good old times.
This is the game he showed to me:
Indeed, the edition of Sacred Gold that he acquired was actually a collection of 3 games from Ascaron Entertainment.
You know what's funny? That's that at first, neither he neither I paid attention to this unknown game which was squatting the box of Sacred Gold.
That is, until I gave a look at the back of the box:
And then, I was like "It's a space ship game!".
So I enthusiastically opened the box and this is what I saw, left:
I noticed that Sacred Gold and Port Royale 2 shared one disc while Darkstar One enjoyed its own disc.
Do you see me coming? I asked to Robert if he would mind if I kept the disc that he didn't care about.
Then he extracted the disc of Sacred Gold and Port Royale 2 from the box and he offered me the box, yeah, that's what a good friend does!
So I installed Darkstar One on my PC and I started playing.
I didn't expect to be impressed, coming from an unknown game which was not even good enough to have its own box, which had to squat other games' box, and coming from the creators of Sacred and Port Royale, I didn't expect a master piece.
Wow, how much I was wrong!
Darkstar One put me in my place and blasted my biases assumptions out of me!
Because this game IS a master work!
So Darkstar One, what is it really?
Darkstar One is the name of a space ship unique in the entire galaxy!
Yes because Darkstar One doesn't take place in a sector of the galaxy like Freelancer does, Darkstar One takes place in the entire galaxy!
Not one sector but a twenty sectors, not a fifty solar systems but hundreds of solar systems to explore!
The galaxy of Darkstar One is huge!
And humans are no more alone, there are now 6 species who share the galaxy: humans, mortok, raptor, octo, arrack, and thul.
5 of these 6 species form the Galactic Union while the last one keeps to themselves within their part of the galaxy.
Relationships between species are dynamic.
The Galactic Union Council (GUC) resides on Earth because it was the humans who invited the other species to unite after they all suffered heavy losses in a galactic scale war.
You are Kayron Jarvis, and you just completed your escort pilot training within SimRob Inc, the security company founded by your late father, Simon Jarvis, and his best friend, Robert Altair.
Your father was shot down by thul drones.
Robert summons you in his office in order to introduce you to the Darkstar One, a prototype of new revolutionary space ship, the most advanced in the galaxy, partly organic, implying semi-living, evolutive.
By absorbing artefacts of an ancient civilisation scattered in the entire galaxy, the Darkstar One can evolve into what its pilot chooses.
Every time you acquire enough artefacts to level up your ship, you can choose to upgrade either the hull or the wings or the engines of the Darkstar One, each option making the Darkstar One evolve in a different way to become a different kind of ship.
While in Freelancer, you replace your ship, in Darkstar One, you make your ship evolve.
Along with organic evolutions of the Darkstar One, there are also many equipments customizations.
The Darkstar One is a unique all-in-one customizable ship.
The Darkstar One is also the fastest ship in the galaxy, even faster than the Millenium Falcon!
Indeed, it has a turbo mode which allows it to travel fast within solar systems!
Think about the trade lanes in Freelancer, but the lanes are no more required, you can activate your turbo anywhere and anytime, the only limitation is that it cannot be active in the vicinity of objects such as ships, buildings and asteroids.
Robert entrusts the Darkstar One to you since it was the will of your father and sends you to familiarize with it.
Once the game tutorial done, Robert summons you into his office again, where he reveals to you that he investigated the death of your father because he was an outstanding pilot so he didn't believe that he could be beaten by drones.
He examined the wreck of your father's ship, and found out that its weapons were sabotaged, your father didn't stand a chance...
You snap and you ask Robert why he didn't tell you sooner!?
He answers you that he didn't want to distract you from your training, he was waiting for you to complete it and take hold of the Darkstar One as your father wished.
He continues by telling you that he finally managed to identify the saboteur, and therefore, your father's murderer, who was bribed by the thul.
The culprit is Jack Forrester!
Jack is one of SimRob Inc's best pilots, but unscrupulous.
He vanished after your father's death.
You take the Darkstar One and you go on a quest of vengeance to hunt down Jack Forrester wherever he is hidding!
But your current jump drive is only good enough to jump into solar systems within the sector, you need a more powerful jump drive to be able to reach the next sector...
It is up to you how you gain the credits that you need to buy it.
Escorting, bounty hunting, transporting, trading, mining asteroids for ore, smuggling forbidden goods, spying, piracy, plundering, do whatever you want, but keep in mind that actions cause reactions...
While in Freelancer, everything looked the same because everything was human, in Darkstar One, there are not only humans, there are multiple species each with their own completely different style!
Each specie has their own history, their own culture, their own traits, their own technologies, their own ships of all kinds, their own weapons, their own fighting styles, their own stations, Darkstar One offers a rich diversity!
And each specie is not confined within the borders of their own territory, you can meet ships of any specie anywhere however the ships within a territory are mainly of the species whose territory it is and the stations of each species are within their own territory.
In Darkstar One, every solar system contains at least one station which replaces the cities in Freelancer, we can't land on planets but some missions make us fly the Darkstar One over planets surface and even inside buildings and asteroids!
Some solar systems are occupied by gangs, if you enter into these systems, you are warmly welcomed by an armada of pirates and there are only pirates within the system, until you destroy all of the pirates, then civilian ships start to fly within the system and you feel as if you just revived the system.
There are cops and militaries who patrol systems and fight pirates on sight, if you become wanted in a system, they search the system for you, the station of the system denies you entry as long as you are wanted, and there are bounty hunters who hunt you down across the galaxy, there are transporters, freighters and cargo ships who transport goods from system to system, there are pirates who attack ships who are unfortunate to cross their path, but there are escorters, who protect other ships, there are gang fortresses hideouts heavily guarded to find and destroy, ships enter and exit stations, they jump from system to system, across the galaxy, people go about their business, the galaxy of Darkstar One is dynamic, active, full of life!
Capital ships blowing up, which used to amaze me in Colony Wars: Vengeance in 1998, and which still amaze me in Freespace, are present in Darkstar One, with an extra originality!
Indeed, whereas in other space ship video games, capital ships blow up and vanish without a trace, in Darkstar One, they blow up and their wreck remain drifting in space, that's awesome!
The curb of difficulty is perfectly designed in Darkstar One, I never have to grind to become good enough to continue, I progress naturally along with the story, I appreciate that.
To conclude, there is a good reason why Microsoft, who developed and released Freelancer, recognized Darkstar One as the worthy successor to Freelancer, Darkstar One offers everything Freelancer does, but better, and adds even more.
If you wish to experience it yourself, it is available there:
Well? Did I succeed to make you want to play and mod Darkstar One?