So, finally in the last three or four days I started and completed Starlancer (PC)
It's really a mixed bag.
Gameplay is still rough as per Roberts brothers tradition but not that bad until you get to the final missions and then the badness hits you like a truck at full speed.
Oh, boy the final missions. [beware, here I start rambling]
First of all the game has the habit of interrupting the action with unskippable in-game cutscenes. The thing is more or less tolerable most of the time but mission 21 and mission 24 (the last one) go really overboard with it and it doesn't help they are probably the most difficult missions in the game so you'll probably have to repeat them a lot of times.
It doesn't help that mission 21 is really a mission in two parts, one a heavily scripted infiltration mission (which thanks to the horrible AI can often fail because your wingmen just have to bump into you but if you keep your distance the mission fails because you have to keep formation) and a carrier defence mission which consists of shooting down torpedoes which are much more deadly than in a game like Freespace, so missing only a few means mission failure especially if you come in blind and don't expect it (it doesn't help that the key of targeting torpedoes targets the bombers as well even though they usually just launch the things and warp out and doesn't give priority to torps like in Freespace, I managed to down one only in the second-to-last mission because I was literally in front of their carrier hangar bay, and while they are huge compared to Freespace's bombs they seem more difficult to hit).
Keep in mind that unlike similar cases in Freespace if you fail the second part you have to repeat the first which is not only slow but has also a hefty dose of cutscenes, the repetition transforms what should be a tense mission in a boring slog.
There have even been some cases in which the scripts require you to do very specific things but the game dialogues and debriefings aren't completely clear on what to do, which means walthrough time!
In general the weird quirks that are somewhat tolerable at first in the last stretch of the game become incredibly obnoxious.
The targeting displays targets differently depending on the dimensions of the target because small craft display shield and armor arcs but bigger ships allow for component targeting but unfortunately when switching between the two types theres a small animation that makes targeting switching much less snappy than it ought to be (and is in any other spacesim off the top of my head) and the targeting of the enemy fighters often acts a bit weird (why do I have to keep hitting three or four times the "target enemy in sight key" even when there is no other craft in sight? I never had this problem with Tie Fighter or Freespace), and of course the Roberts brothers still won't give you the possibility of storing and recalling targets to hotkeys or even a simple "display nearest craft attacking target" key (which makes the final mission incredibly difficult as it's very hard to tell which targets are attacking the frail ships you need to escort while they put charges on the big bad enemy base).
The game seems to have as many hotkeys as any other spacesims but they don't seem nearly as useful as the should be (fpr example why do I need two missile banks keys? Most of the time missiles are grouped by type anyway so they become useless if you only have two or three types of ordnance loaded which is what happens since some of them aren't all that useful IMHO).
Hell, even the dreaded energy triagle from Wing Commander Prophecy (here called "energy ball" but works in exactly the same way) makes its retun, this time there is some hotkey but they only get full power to the system of choice which is really silly considering the way dogfights work.
Ah, the dogfights.
Remember X-wing vs Tie Fighter and Elite: Dangerous? Ye know, that system that basically allow to trade a bit of throttle for better turning rate, usualy with one or more "sweet spots" under which you often lost turning rate instead of gaining it to avoid becoming a fixed turret? Well, here you LOSE turning rate as you cut the throttle, so the choice is between either not being able to get the target in your sights or bump into them, the weapons aren't even particularly effective at long range so dogfights usually end up at knife range most of the time. And this is from someone who has a full HOTAS so I actually have an advantage since I don't need to mash the accelerate and decelerate keys (yes, there is a "match speed" button, but in close quarters means you basically won't be able to get the target in your sights as you lose turning speed rapidly when the target slows down).
But couldn't you just sidestep the problem by giving energy to weapons and shields, you say? In theory yes, in practice the system used to do so basically disables your ability to manouver for a few precious instants since to do so you have to use the joystick itself while the game is still going. I don't need to explain why in a dogfight that's a really bad idea.
I don't know if the plot is unremarkable or just stupid. Basically is "space commies are dicks because they are commies and we know they are commies because they all have russian names and accents with the occasional middle eastern thrown in there" and the NATO analogues give the idea the Roberts might not have quite understood that Starship Troopers is satire, but it's not quite that over the top so it might just be coincidence.
It's a pity because otherwise there is much less filler compared to any Wing Commander game and in general the mission design is more creative and less repetitive, but bad design and the unskippable cutscenes for stuff that in any other spacesim would have just played out during gameplay make it if not a bad game a rather mediocre one.