Video Game Guest Reviews

Real-Time StrategyFirst-Person Shooters/ShootersSimulation/Space

 

Real-Time Strategy

Star Trek: Away Team

RTS developed by Reflexive Entertainment, published by Activision
Release date: March 2001

Like a few previously released Star Trek games, Away Team takes us to the more militaristic and political side of Star Trek as depicted in some Star Trek Next Generation episodes but for the most part in Deep Space Nine, so there is going to be little in exploring strange new worlds, discovering new civilizations, or encountering unknown anomalies and phenomena.

Storyline

The campaign of the game is set some time after "Insurrection" and the end of the Dominion War but before the return of Voyager to the Alpha Quadrant and "Star Trek Nemesis". Due to the various recent military crises and political conflicts in which the Federation and Starfleet can not openly get involved with Starfleet admiral Nolotai has decided to form an elite group of cover ops specialists in various fields such as command, tactical, medical, science, and engineering to undertake missions and assignments that take place outside the Federation’s jurisdiction.

Led by captain Marcus Refelian, the Away Team operates from the NX Incursion, a custom design Defiant class starship that has been fitted with a special holographic disguise system that allow it to assume the appearance of a variety of starships and enter space normally not accessible for Starfleet vessels.

When during its maiden voyage the Incursion receives a distress signal from a Klingon Bird-of-Prey under attack by a Romulan Warbird, the Incursion intervenes and learns from the rescued crew consisting of several Klingon scientists that their research station has come under attack shortly after the Klingon scientists discovered an unknown contagion. The Away Team is immediately ordered by admiral Nolotai to come to the aid of the Klingons and rescue a number of scientists that are held captive by the Romulans to determine the reason of the Romulan attack and nature of this new contagion.

This is the start of a series of quests that takes the Away Team and the Incursion to a variety of locations such as Starfleet vessels and locations such as Starfleet Academy, the Akira class starship Leyte Gulf, the planet Vulcan, a Klingon research station and the Klingon homeworld, beyond the Romulan Neutral Zone to a frontier outpost and Romulus itself, as well as a Borg cube that has also somehow become tied into this all. What begins as an unusual series of insurrections turns into a crisis that could reshape the political balance of power throughout the galaxy.

Gameplay

Though Away Team may give players the initial the idea that it is a strategy game, it is actually a variant on the genre; it is a strategy-puzzle game. How does that work? Well, while some situations such as patrolling enemies can be overcome through tactics such as an ambush or sneaking around hostiles, in general most problems and obstacles need to be overcome through the use of the right team member’s skill or equipment.

The missions and the locations themselves are in general designed around the use of specific type of characters, if for example an area contains security systems the player needs to have a character in the team that can hack suck devices. If such a skill is not mentioned in the pre-requirements before a mission start the player is not going to encounter such devices/controls and having such a member in the team is a waste of a good slot.

There is a difference however in ‘required skills’ and ‘suggested skills’, the first ones being necessary for a mission’s completion while the last can assist during a mission. The last are optional and can assist during a mission, opening additional paths or providing additional consumables. Often it is best to assemble a party yourself than to go with the team the computer has assembled for you as some characters have both the skills that are required and the ones that are optional, filling up both of these for the mission and opening slots for pure additional team members that otherwise could not be included but have skills/equipment that makes a mission much easier to carry out (for example, the sound throwing device or the sniper rifle is often quite useful and if the player has a slot open it is recommended to take a member with either of these with them).

While all team members are mentioned in their dossiers to have different physical strengths and attributes these actually play no role in the game as each character runs as fast as the other and has the same amount of health which reduces at the same rate when injured. Rather each team member carries their own load out of gear depending on what type of field or area they have been trained for and unique or rare equipment that only some members or one member carries. Ivan Verov for example is the only one who can use the portable Romulan cloaking device, Slovak is the only one capable of using a long range mindmeld that can take over an enemy, Yulana Oxila is the only outside the Science trained members who can use a security hacking tool and she is the only one outside the Medical trained people who can use hyposprays, and these skills and equipment load outs further varies per crew member.

All team members carry a hand phaser and a tricorder, all Medical personnel tend to carry a medical tricorder, hyposprays, and neural disrupters, and all Security members have a phaser rifle as secondary weapon. The more rare equipment which are often limited in number are for example the various types of mines, grenades (both regular and EMP), and sniper rifles. Some members who are equipped with these items carry a larger amount of some single use items than others.

This does have the tendency that some characters may be underused if they don’t have another skill or item that isn’t required or considered useful to take along on a mission. I for example barely used the extractor with which poisons and medical supplies can be extracted from plants as poisons are not as useful as ranged weapons and hyposprays are much more effective than the plant extracted substitutes. As a result I pretty often ignored the characters equipped with an extractor unless when they are not required during a mission, only adding them to a team when they have another useful skill or item.

Control of the characters is done through the mouse using a system that will feel familiar to players of old RPGs and strategy games. The player can either select characters directly on the map or the character display screens on the side of the main screen with the mouse or drag a selection box around members. Left Mouse Button makes characters walk or run in case the player double clicks, and right makes a character carry out a selected action, or the entire team carry out a selection such as firing phasers combined at one target. On the main screen are also a selection of options that can be used used such as how the characters move (crawling, walking, running), the sight cone button, the sound range button, a button that links to a screen that displays orders and objectives, and of course the Options Menu such as save, reload, quit, etc. All these can be selected with the mouse but there are also quick selection keys on the keyboard.

When a character is selected his or her equipment and skills is displayed through icons right below the main screen. By left clicking on these they can be highlighted/activated while right clicking can pull out all available equipment and skills. If the player for example has all characters selected their general and special skills and equipment are pooled together. Selecting a special skill and the using it like for example the security hacking skill will only make that character with the skill take that action, while the phaser icon will make all characters use their phaser on any selected target.

However the game has the tendency to automatically stick to a certain selected item or skills when the player selects all members of the team. For example, if the player has used the tricorder, an item all the team members normally have during a mission and when all characters should be selected this is the become the default active item, even if the player has for example first selected a character and choose the phaser for use and the selected all the other characters one by one of by pulling a selection box around them. Another frustration I have with the regular weapons is that if the player has a security trained member on the team who is armed with a much more powerful phaser rifle that he or she will still use the regular phaser if the player has all the team members selected and orders them to fire their phasers at a target. Phaser rifles need to be selected separately. Select the phaser rifle while all team members are selected and only the security team members armed with them will fire.

The view cone button and the sound range button give the player some additional tools or options during the game to determine if NPCs or cameras can see team members, or if the team members make to much sounds that they can be heard. By clicking on the view cone button and then selecting an NPC or camera a ‘cone’ is show that portrays the sight angle and range of how far and wide these can see. The sound range button displays the team members’ movement sounds as wave symbols that go in both directions, the more sound the selected members make by for example running the further the wave symbols travel, potentially alerting an NPC who is nearby.

Unfortunately the problem with the the view cone or sound range display options happens when the player should reload to an earlier save of the game. These options are not reset and the player has to manual reset them before they can be used again (the options need to be turned off before they can be used again).

The AI in general is average to bad for for both the player characters and the NPCs which can sometimes lead to stupid but also ridiculous somewhat gameplay and atmosphere defeating situations. The player characters will not do anything when the player is not controlling them, from a positive point of view it means that the team members will not wander off and do their own thing like companions in a more regular computer roleplaying game might do, use skills when it is not appropriate or waste precious limited resources. The negative side is that the player characters will also not defend themselves when they are attacked by enemies, the player is of course informed about the attack on a crew member but it won’t defend itself and fire back at the attacker.

The NPCs have their own flaws. Standard during the game they do one of the following patterns; walk a patrol route, or move between a fixed set of points, or standing watch over a certain location. When the player characters makes an audible sound they can hear, performs an action that is set to trigger the NPCs, or appears in front of the NPCs, the NPCs start to pursue the player or summon reinforcements before pursuing.

The NPC AI can be rather easily tricked with device such as the sound thrower or holographic projector. This is often the easiest way to get NPCs out of the way from the path the player wishes to send the Away Team without it triggering the NPCs AI reflex to summon reinforcements that after a while also start to patrol set parts of the map if they don’t find the player characters first. Thing is that it can be very easy to lead NPCs to a dead end of the map and keep them there by occasionally using the sound thrower which makes them run around on the location before they settle back in relax mode and return to their previous patrol or location assignments. Sometimes the NPCs even get stuck somehow and won’t move away from the spot unless the player triggers them in another way.

The Borg in this game is pretty true to its on screen equivalent regarding tactics and adaptability. In general drones ignore the team members and continue patrolling hallways or whatever else they are assigned to do. Only when the player starts tampering with systems like door controls or attack drones the Borg become aware of the player and start attacking them (the Borg drones BTW are armed with phasers in this game). Phasers and other regular hand weapons only remain useful for a few shots and after that the Borg drones become immune for them (and unlike Elite Force the player does not have a regular weapon that can be modified to fight the adapted Borg drones). Secondary weapons however remain effective and quickly become the default tool, from direct weapons like the sniper rifle, close range weapons like the neural disrupter, to the various grenades (the EMP grenade does not destroy Borg drones but temporarily stuns them) and mines.

Graphics

They are ‘functional’, that is the best way to describe them. Visually the game isn’t bad looking but it is also not really that good looking either. Even for the time it was released in the graphics were rather underwhelming. The various content such as the characters and the backgrounds are nice looking and because it is not older 3D graphics it won’t date that quickly either, but when it comes to sprite based graphics there have definitely been better looking games.

The variety of NPCs is pretty minimal. The player’s own team only varies in uniform color to distinguish what profession or career they belong to. The other NPC groups such as regular Starfleet, the Klingons, the Romulans, and the Borg only have one or two NPC designs that are encountered through the game.

The levels are very evocative of what has been shown on the television shows and the movies, recreating the corridors and rooms of Starfleet vessels and buildings and what has been shown of Klingon, Romulan, and Borg ships and installations, and adding new material such as Klingon and Romulan bases and city grounds and surroundings. It is actually a shame that we don’t get to explore the Klingon and Romulan ship and building corridors and rooms like we do with the Federation ones.

Star Trek fans will probably enjoy all the small details that have been put into the maps such as a parked Klingon Bird-of-Prey and Klingon ground transports, or a Romulan ship that first appeared in one of the Star Trek Armada games (giving a continuity nod to that series).

Sound

When it comes to the quality of the sound such as voices, musics, and effects the story is as with the graphics; it is done well and acceptable but it does not really stand out among other Star Trek games or games in general. Michael Dorn and Brent Spiner perform the roles of their characters with little or add to complain about. But because of the small role in the game their characters play there is not much room to do any performance that expands on their on screen acting. It is the level of voice work expected from them to do for a game.

This also goes for the rest of the voice actors, they do their work well and competent and add accents to characters to whom it fits; Ivan Verov for example has a Russian accent to his lines, the Vulcan characters sound like Vulcans, there being a sort of tone of control or coolheadedness in their voices.

It will just not set new standards compared to other Star Trek games.

Conclusion

This game’s biggest appeal is its premise and a pretty exciting sci-fi thriller storyline that slowly builds up during the campaign but leaves the player wondering about who is really behind the crisis until the end. But the rest of the game, especially the gameplay leaves something to be desired. It is functional but there are a number of shortcomings and flaws that can and will lead to frustration sometimes. Most strategy game fans will most likely be turned off by this game because of the forced tactics or strategy design that pervades throughout the game. There is little room for alternative approaches or ‘outside the box’ thinking as the designers of the game have often designed one or two clear paths to complete a mission, and if the player goes of the path it can often lead to that some objectives can not be achieved.

Star Trek fans might get some entertainment out of this but I can not recommend it to other gamers.

(Marten van Wier)

 

First-Person Shooters/Shooters

Star Trek: Elite Force 2

FPS set in the Post Nemesis era of the Star Trek universe
Release date: June 2003
Sounds & music: 4/5
Writing & story: 3/5
Graphics & special effects: 5/5
Conclusion: An okay but somewhat average shooter that will appeal to fans but does not have much longevity or appeal to outsiders.
Total score: 3.5/5

When Star Trek Voyager Elite Force was released to much acclaim of many game review magazines and websites who called it the first ‘good’ Star Trek game (of course there were well designed Star Trek games before that but they never gained attention by the majority of gamers, being more something for fans of the franchise) Activision realized it was on to something here when the sales numbers came in. Not only did the game appeal to fans of the Star Trek franchise but also non Star Trek gamers as it provided a solid FPS experience similar to other popular FPS on the PC.

For the sequel rather than asking Raven Software again instead Ritual Entertainment was hired to make the sequel. Ritual’s developers clearly learned from the original Elite Force and expanded on it, getting the sequel in general right but also sadly also coming a bit short here and there.

Storyline

Elite Force 2’s storyline starts at the last part of the Voyager finale ‘Endgame’ and can almost be seen as a segment of that episode we the audience did not get to see. After having flown into an unstable Borg transwarp conduit leading to the Alpha Quadrant Voyager has been intercepted by a Borg sphere sent after it by the Borg Queen. Trapped inside and its systems hampered by dampening fields the only way to free the ship is to send the Hazard Team to the sphere and disable the field generators.

The infiltration team led by Lt Munro is transported over but ends up separated because of interference from the sphere, so the first goal is to find all the other team members and then carry out the mission. After some trials and mishaps on the sphere during which Ensign Chang is almost assimilated by the Borg the Hazard Team manages to disable the generators that are preventing Voyager from escaping, but just as the team is beamed back Munro ends up separated again and ends up in the heart of the sphere where he must confront a new powerful Borg drone before he took can be transported to safety. The Borg sphere arrives in the Solar System and is intercepted by a task force that opens fire on the sphere while Voyager damages it from the inside, both attacks resulting in the destruction of the sphere after which the Voyager crew is finally home again.

As the Hazard Team is considered redundant now the team is dissolved despite protest of Munro and the others and the former members are reassigned to new positions throughout the Federation. Munro himself ends up teaching tactics at the Starfleet Academy for the following two years. Two years while going through a training sessions with Ensign Korban, Munro’s performance and skills are noticed by captain Picard who is at the academy for a visit. Impressed by what he has seen Picard inquires where Munro picked up these skills and if he would ever consider going back on active duty again on which Munro responds that that is on his mind every moment of the day. Picard has Munro transferred to the Enterprise to re-establish the Hazard Team and brings its former members as well as new members together. Soon after the Enterprise receives a distress signal from the USS Dallas where former Hazard Team member Telsia Murphy was assigned as a security officer, the message warning Starfleet that it is under attack by unknown aliens.

The Enterprise immediately heads to the Dallas’ location to render assistance to its crew and determine the nature of this new threat. With this premise the crew of the Enterprise and the Hazard Team visit a variety of locations that range from the mentioned Dallas, two space stations including Deep Space Station K7, and a number of planets while they try to find out where the new alien threat is coming from and how to stop it.

Familiar aliens such as Andorians, Romulans, Nausicaans, Ferengi, renegade humans, and two new sentient species made up for the game are encountered next to the exomorphs who represent the bulk of the enemies in the game.

While the game’s story would never be able to compete with that of an episode I find that the storyline even falls somewhat flat in comparison to its predecessor or other Star Trek games at the time like Bridge Commander. There is never really any mystery or a sense of tension as the story is revealed in a traditional and rather standard manner and at the end there was not much of a sense of fulfillment. It is simply there and it is an excuse to run around with weapons. In a way some parts like the exomorphs even feel like a copy from the much better Elite Force 1's reavers.

Personally I would much rather have had another story set during the Voyager seven season run in the Delta Quadrant than in the now rather tried and done TNG and DSN Post Dominion War Alpha Quadrant which is starting to feel tired.

One last thing before I forget, at some point the game’s story suddenly jumped to conclusion regarding the end game revelation without there being any build up, making me think that I actually missed a part earlier which now became important. However when replaying the game I never actually found any this information ingame. This does create the bizarre situation that some characters are prescient.

Gameplay

Elite Force 2 did not do anything different than contemporary shooters, but what it did it did well in general. Most of the action consists of standard First Person Shooting but there is also a brief turret section and occasionally the player has to solve puzzles through a mini game that is similar to the old Pipeline game. There are not much tactics required other than occasionally taking shelter behind an obstacle when facing enemies that have ranged weaponry themselves, or just stepping out of the way. Other enemies attack the player straight on and do little to protect themselves from the player’s fire, though some of them can become temporarily invincible or invisible, forcing the player to remain on the move. For the most part of the game the variety of enemies can sometimes be rather limiting, being either one type or another, only rare does the player face both regular humanoids and the new exomorph enemy at the same time.

The game handles very well in general and does not do any lesser than Elite Force 1. In some ways it even improves such as having a useful tricorder and more variety in weapons, but players are bound to stick to a few preferred ones as some of them consume a lot of energy. The levels are way more detailed than those of EF1 but sometimes seem to suffer from many problems in this era of FPS such as often forcing players to go through a series of corridors which the player can not deviate from, and they are rather small. Even the ‘open’ levels are not as open as the player might get the impression of first as the player has to take a certain path in order to continue.

The number of weapons have increased since the first game and phaser rifles now come in a variety of versions but I question if some of these were necessary over the standard phaser rifle as one is basically a shotgun and another a phaser automated rifle, features that could have been included in the regular rifle. Other standard weapons include a sniper rifle, a grenade launcher, and a missile launcher type weapon. The number of alien weaponry is a bit smaller, it includes an energy weapon that can also release an explosive gas cloud which can be ignited, a minigun type weapon, a disruptor type weapon with unlimited energy the player gets for one mission, a more powerful disruptor weapon, and a bat’leth the player uses during two fights. There is also a hidden energy staff weapon which tends to be the most effective against a lot of enemies. I found myself most switching between this weapon and a handful of other weapons while ignoring the rest of them.

What I found really disappointing is how small a lot of the levels are in comparison with Elite Force 1 and other shooters, and to top it off the player is sometimes interrupted by a cutscene when he/she has performed an action such as activating a console or to introduce a new enemy which eliminated any feeling of 'organic' gameplay. The campaign of the game is also relatively short.

There are a few choices in the game but these only change what NPC the player chooses to romance but for the rest do not change much in the game at all. It is most likely that once you have finished the campaign two or three times like I did (perhaps taking some extra time to find all the secrets and collectibles) that Elite Force 2 will quickly be uninstalled and disappear on the shelves amongst other shooters.

There is a multiplayer mode but as I am not a MP fan myself I never tried it. Gamespy server for it has been taken down a couple of years ago but fans have made their own for matches and these should not be difficult to find.

Graphics

Graphically this game looks a lot better than its predecessor as the models are much more complex and include far more details and are less block like. If anything the problem might be that some of the model designs are simply quite bland and unimpressive. NPCs such as the various humanoids tend to rather meld together as none of them really stand out in design, only character NPCs get some variety. Backgrounds also have been similar improved and have far more features with less use of blocky objects with just a texture on it to resemble a machine for example. The Borg sphere for example is quite well done as are some of the installations and planets the player visits. Its actually some of the Starfleet facilities and ships like the Enterprise and the Dallas which come over as quite bland sometimes with only a few places that seem that people work and live here. Some locations are a bit unimaginative though like the sewer complex underneath an alien city, an abandoned industrial block through which the player has to navigate through hazardous machinery, and two similar types of alien manufacturing complexes.

Sound

Voice, sound, and music wise the game is competent though it never stands out in any way.

Known Star Trek actors like Patrick Stewart, Tim Russ, and Dwight Shultz return to voice their respected characters, and Star Trek regular Jeffrey Combs, Robert O’Reilly, Vaughn Armstrong, J.G. Hertzler and a number of other actors who have played in Star Trek episodes as well as having done much voice work such as Tony Jay, B.J. Ward, Tony Todd, and others. Their work was not bad but I would not call it very compelling either. I think that some actors are rather hamming up the accents like Tony Todd who does Korban and B.J. Ward who voices Katarina Scott.

The various sound effects such as weapons, creatures, and explosions are good and there is really little to say on those.

Regarding music I like the tracks for this game, most of them are quite fitting with the location they are designed for. Several sort of industrial or foreboding tracks for locations like the Borg sphere or a space station that has been overrun by hostile aliens, more relaxed tracks for places like the Starfleet Academy, a track with somewhat of a jungle vibe for an ancient abandoned world, and so on.

Conclusion

In conclusion I find Elite Force 2 a good if somewhat unspectacular FPS game in comparison to Elite Force 1 which I was much more hyped for at the time. It is not as if the developers did not try to make the sequel bigger and better, giving more variety to the players. But at some point the game simply starts to fall somewhat short. It is a bit ‘seen this, done that before’ and this time at a somewhat reduced scale despite that the game is technically a lot bigger than its predecessor. The room for possibilities is there, it is simply never lives up to that promise.

(Marten van Wier)

 

Simulation/Space

Star Trek: Bridge Commander

Space simulator with adventure elements set in the TNG/DSN era of the Star Trek universe
Release date: February 2002
Sounds & music: 5/5
Writing & story: 4/5
Graphics & special effects: 4/5
Conclusion: A very fun game that players will want to replay from time to time and which life has been greatly extended through modding.
Total score: 5/5

Star Trek Bridge Commander was along with Star Trek Voyager Elite Force (and Star Trek Away Team) one of my most favorite Star Trek games released by Activision when they held the license, and I eagerly awaited its release when the title was announced by Totally Games and the first screenshots were shown.

Bridge Commander starts with in my opinion of the best premises and introductions to a Star Trek story; a mystery!

Storyline

The player assumes the role of the First Officer of the USS Dauntless, a ship on a routine visit to the Vesuvi system, a star system in the Maelstrom sector that is notorious for its many anomalies that make colonization a difficult task. Everything seems routine after captain Wright has left the ship to visit his son-in-law on the colony below when your science officer Miguel Diaz informs you that his instruments are detecting unusual readings from the Vesuvi star. When it suddenly explodes captain Wright orders you to leave immediately before his shuttle is destroyed along with the colony. Just before the Dauntless leaves the system Diaz informs you that he is detecting something warping out of the system but can not tell what exactly.

This is the start of your adventure as a new Starfleet captain as you and your crew deal with the aftermath of the disaster while trying to find out what caused it and prevent it from happening again. Operating from Starbase 12, Starfleet's main base of operations in the sector you travel to various systems where you carry out various assignments. Routine patrol missions, aid to colonies, diplomatic missions and research missions, and confronting hostile vessels. During this you get to interact with famous TNG characters such as captain Picard and commander Data and meet classic Star Trek species such as the Klingons, Romulans, the Cardassians, the Ferengi (sadly no Borg), and a complete new species that in my opinion fits in well in the Star Trek universe. The player gets to command the Dauntless, a Galaxy class starship, and later on the USS Sovereign, a sister ship to the USS Enterprise-E and the first of the Sovereign class starships.

Gameplay

This game is the most accurate recreation of what it would be like to be a Starfleet captain. And in many ways it does manage to portray that with a few exceptions here and there that will be noticeable for the player. The player has full access to the various systems of the ships such as science, engineering, tactical, navigation but does not have to manage to handle all these post themselves as each is manned by an officer the player can give orders to to carry out certain tasks. These tasks can be given through conventional mouse controlled menu but for those who have the right headset orders can also be given through spoken commands, something Bridge Commander was advertised for at the time.

In general the AI is pretty competent but leaves something to desire when it comes to combat. The tactical AI can be somewhat conservative or reluctant which can lead to problems when dealing with multiple enemies at the same time, or having a time limit in which a certain task must be carried out.

Another frustration for the player might be the first officer Saffi Larsen (voiced by Star Trek veteran Martha Hackett). She can be a valuable source of information and of course can provide the player the mission details in case they forget, but from time to time it seems more that the first officer is actually in charge and the player a lower ranking officer. She also tends to berate the player in case they do an action in conflict with the mission or make a mistake.

When the player takes direct command of the starship during a battle the player directly experiences that it handles much different than a nimble starfighter in other space sim games. Movements such as turning take far more and the player must keep this in mind when engaging enemy starships or space stations as a collision is easily made when getting to close to these.

On their turns weapons in general are evenly distributed across the ship with there only being a few dead spots. Most ships have primary weapons with consists of phasers, disruptors, compressors, or positron weapons, with secondary weapons usually being torpedo like weapons. Some ships however also have tertiary weapon systems such as the Klingon Vor'cha and the Romulan warbird and both these species and the new species can also make use of cloaking devices. Unique to the Starfleet vessels is that they can make use of different types of torpedoes that come in various strengths. The regular photon torpedo, the quantum torpedo that has more punch, and a unique phase torpedo that can bypass shields and do direct damage to a ship.

One neat feature is that the player also has the option to practice combat in a simulator during the game or directly from the start menu. On this menu the player can select what bridge to display and what ship type to command. These range from the ingame available Galaxy and Sovereign class to the normally not available Akira class, Nebula class, and Ambassador class, as well as various ships belonging to the ingame species, and a number of nondescript cargo ships.

It becomes pretty obvious during these simulated battles that most of the Starfleet vessels were designed as powerhouses while many of the alien starships feel somewhat unbalanced with the exception of two or three ship types. It is understandable why this balancing was done for the sake of the game's campaign but it does make it less appealing to fly any non Starfleet ship as these tend to be less powerful and easier to destroy.

Graphics

Graphic wise this game was already somewhat behind on the times when it was released. The ships, space stations, planets, and various stellar bodies and backgrounds are still fine but the age could really be seen in the models of the various characters which lacked the details that characters in various First Person games already had. The lip movement of the characters did not even run synchronous with the voices of the actors.

When playing the game I sometimes had moments that I just took a break on the various missions just to look around as I really enjoyed the colorful space backgrounds the graphic artists had made. I know they were all just some static image but they still look very nice and make you wish you could actually travel to them.

Sound

The voice cast consists of several Star Trek television show and movie veterans, the most recognizable will of course be Patrick Stewart, Brent Spinner, and perhaps to a lesser degree Martha Hackett), but the rest of bridge crew and other characters are also voiced by actors who have had previous Star Trek experience or have done acting or voice work for many other productions. There is no lack of professionalism when it comes to the cast, if anything some of them may overdo the voice work a little sometimes with the accents but I guess that comes with the work.

The music is very fitting to a Star Trek game and the universe in general. There are calm and relaxed music tracks during travel and peaceful parts of the game, tense/build up music during situations like a stealth mission, a dark/brooding music track, and action music during combat. They would fit well in any episode of the series but I don’t think they will stand out too much for a lot of people.

Conclusion

In conclusion I find this game one of the better Star Trek starship simulators out there, preferring it over Klingon Academy as I feel Bridge Commander handles the controls of starships better.

It has an interesting if somewhat dragged out sometimes storyline, looks pretty, sounds good, and is in general fun to play. Still it does have a few flaws that make it not a good space sim game next to a good Star Trek game which I feel makes the game not so interesting for people who are not so into Star Trek. But for any Trek fan who loves video games this is a title they should definitely try out if they want to feel what it is like to fly a starship.

(Marten van Wier)

 


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