Video Game Reviews

by TTP

Real-Time StrategyTurn-Based StrategyFirst-Person Shooters/ShootersSimulation/SpaceAction/AdventureLearning ToolsMisc

 

Real-Time Strategy

Star Trek Armada

RTS set in the Star Trek universe, with a few light RPG concepts, and one of the rare RTS titles I've found, that lets you build cities in outer space
Release date: February 2000
Sounds & music: 5/5
Writing & story: 3/5
Graphics & special effects: 5/5
Favorite part(s): It is hard to pick one, but if I had to settle on just one, I'd say the fluid nature of the core game, which allows unlimited expansion, both in the game itself when it comes to building your cities and fleets, and the third party add-on content.
Total score: 5/5

This game is out of this world. Truly one of the best most underrated RTS titles ever created. Very easy to learn and pick up. It is one of the simplest RTS titles to play and there is no real large breadth between noobs and pros as per many other strategy games. Basically you either know how to play, or you don't. In Armada, you will be called upon to build up your space cities, handle manpower and starship disbursement, and then focus on your fleets and mission objectives.

The game is very easy to mod, and I have in fact taken part of many modding teams for it. Out of all the Star Trek games I've played, this one has the best mods and add-on content. The files come all unpacked and only a minimum of work is really needed to make your own objects, or to tweak things around.

The setting of this title is also fairly unique, every other RTS I have ever played is set on planet surfaces. Here, all the action takes place in the vastness of space, so you will have to deal with nebulae, asteroid fields, black holes and more.

There are four main playable factions in the core game, Federation, Romulan, Klingon and the Borg. There are also few partially complete secondary factions included as well such as the Dominion and Cardassians. The fluid nature of the core game allows these factions to function, despite lacking things such as construction ships or starbases.

The main story involves a Borg invasion and the quest of the other factions to stop it. Each campaign is sub divided into four missions. Once all of the main campaigns are complete, you will unlock a special, epilogue campaign, known as the Omega Campaign. The Omega Campaign features considerably more difficult missions, but is somewhat offset that the player is given the three factions to use. Each campaign branch also has some secondary plots which resolve some loose ends from the TNG television and movie series.

The graphics are very colorful, artistic and very nicely done, not a single thing looks bad. A fun thing to do is the camera can zoom in and out and also be rotated. Things end up looking great from all angles.

Another great graphics point is the provocative, almost hypnotic animations that show during construction of a starship or space station. You can spend hours just watching these things come together and are assembled.

Another high point to is the map design in multiplayer skirmish maps.

I would like to comment on the unit acknowledgments/sounds. I know it is a bit silly to talk about such things, but consider the following. I have played many RTS games and the unit responses have interesting intonations. From WarCraft when the Alliance speaks in High Fantasy lit, to the monsters in the same game having interesting voices. Then StarCraft with the rag-tag type responses which plays into the fractured nature of the Terran race in that universe. To the snarling and gnashing sounds of the various Zerg monstrosities. These games also take it a step further and give annoyed/funny comments if you click on an individual unit enough times.

In Armada most of the unit replies are generic, yet all are evocative of the source material. The Klingons sound like Klingons, the Borg sound like the Borg. The real treasure in this comes when you click on a famous unit, such as the Enterprise or the Defiant. To have Picard call for Red Alert as you issue an attack command, or Worf to scream out it is a good day to die as you give him an order adds considerably much to the game's overall immersive and presentation.

It makes me giddier then it probably should.

Piracy encouraged! One of the many unique features of this game is how it handles manpower and object ownership. Just about any object aside from a few that are considered to be unmanned may be captured and utilized as part of your empire as you see fit. Whether you decide recycle it for the extra resources or leave it as is and integrate it into your empire, it is a fun feature.

The only complaint I have, is that the stock game does not contain nearly enough objects (only roughly 6 per side, a title like Armada implies there should be dozens in my opinion), and those it does are often very similar to each other, much like the older WarCraft games. Still it provides a strong base and the modding community negates this deficiency. However this does not diminish that it is always very satisfying conducting fleet actions, or even doing 1on1 fights and watching the ships move and fight.

There is a great proviso to this though, as every single starship is given a unique special ability. Whether it's a sensor jamming field, an engine overload pulse, or any other, these all are smoothly integrated into the core game and none ever feel overpowered. It is a very nice touch, as it also ensures continued interest in trying and flying every ship available, just to see their special power in action. This attention to detail is not found in many of this game's contemporaries and is often overlooked.

Each main faction also has their own unique super weapon, which when used properly, can turn the tide to your favor.

If Blake Stone faded to obscurity because of DOOM, then Armada has much to talk shop about with. This was released very shortly before Blizzard Vivendi's Warcraft: III, thus it is perhaps another title that didn't get a fair shot out on the open market. I myself picked it up out of a bargain bin very cheaply barely two short years after it was released.

I could talk about Armada all day, perhaps all you really need to know is this is so short and sweet, because it's just that good. It remains one of my favorites.

 

Star Trek New Worlds

Star Trek RTS by Interplay
Release date: August 2000
Sounds & music: 3/5
Writing & story: 2/5
Graphics & special effects: 2/5
Favorite part(s): “Star Trek meets StarCraft” – you can tell that joke all day and it is still funny.
Total score: 1/5

Real Time Strategy games at their core owe a lot to the centuries old classic tabletop game of chess. Each one of the players playing pieces is being useful in a certain instance, and the many combinations allows many different tactics employed, in a dynamic constantly changing environment. New strategies are constantly being developed, thanks to the game's inherent flexibility.

While some RTS ideas work and are very solid and elegant, others seem to fail miserably. Not every experiment can be a success. I regret to say that this is one of those times.

Star Trek: New Worlds is a 2000 game by Interplay. The game's story line is set in 2289, and involves the fallout from a Romulan experiment gone awry. This has caused entire solar systems of new planets, abundant in resources and treasure to suddenly materialize in the neutral zone. Thus, it becomes a race between the Federation, Klingons and Romulans, to colonize and claim these worlds for their empires, before they lose their chance. The story tells us with limited amounts of starships, there is no garrisoning this area, or blockading it from the others, this game thus becomes colony based and the action takes place solely on planetary surfaces.

There are three playable factions to control in this game, Federation, Romulan and Klingon. There are also several factions that are only usable by the game's AI, such as the Orions, Taubat, or Melak.

There is an irksome issue with how the campaign structure is handled. There is no difficulty setting; the campaign you are in seems to be the difficulty setting of the game. Klingons are on Easy, Federation on Medium and Romulans on Hard. This is irritating because in most other RTSs that feature multiple factions, the first missions in the new campaign are always toned down. This is always a welcome reprieve, for it gives you an opportunity to learn about each new race, regardless if you end-up liking them, the information is still relevant to you, and only face the hard stuff once you have satisfactory practice with said new faction. This game is already quite difficult to its own mechanics; it does not need to become harder as we go along.

If that does not become finicky enough, the game offers three campaigns for the playable sides, each having 14 missions. Many of the missions are mirrors and are duplicated however. As in one mission, you might play from the Klingon side, and said mission may be re-visited up again during the Federation campaign, only this time you play as the Federation. While it is interesting storytelling perspective to see the mission from another perspective, this is a gimmick best used but a few times at most throughout the course of any given game. In this title, it is used so often, it crosses the border into laziness. As if they could not come up with enough ideas for levels to fill out the game, so they just ended up re-using previous ones.

New Worlds has an excessive amount of problems and not enough successes. The principal one we should talk about is the controls and the game interface. Constructing new structures takes quite a deal of effort and patience. For example, you may decide you want to build a phaser cannon to help protect your base. You have to click 'build', and then click the right scroll button three times in the menu, since there are only three objects shown at any time in the menu, click on the cannon, and then find a suitable location to build it. Dismally, it most likely will not be able to be placed where you would want it, which causes severe problems with city planning. Further complicated by the fact, there are no shortcut keys, forcing you to go through this same rigmarole every single time.

An intuitive interface for building units and structures, and control that thereof, is one of the essentials of a good strategy game, but the controls in this game are supremely bad, sloppy even, rendering it almost fully unplayable. I really do not like how when I try to give just basic orders the camera jiggles into a random position. Not just that, I feel like every time I try to do anything, I have to reset the camera. So forget following units with the camera to monitor what is going on. The lack of units being unable to take formations and the inability to set waypoints makes unit control even more problematic. Why do my units travel in single file lines and have such difficulty with the terrain even though their supposedly flying in a 3D environment?

I feel like I am constantly fumbling left and right with this system.

The units in this game are all various forms of hover shuttles. Hover shuttle, as in it flies, but only a little bit above the surface of the planet, and definitely not going to be among the clouds, let alone leave the atmosphere. Their pathing ability is atrocious despite supposedly being airborne. It is also very off-putting that here we are on various planet surfaces and never do we see any actual personnel, or any other vehicle types. No infantry soldiers of any kind. No future cars or future trucks. This is really a big missed opportunity.

The various races are not distinguished much more then cosmetically, and even then, barely that. Sure, there is a scattered few different ideas going on with each race, such as the Romulans using cloaking devices on some of their units, or the Klingons featuring more firepower in some cases then the other factions, but for the most part their gameplay is largely identical.

There is several highly successful RTS games, which feature similar factions. The first two WarCraft games, Total Annihilation, even Star Trek: Armada come to mind. Chess itself features identical factions. You may be asking yourself why do those titles succeed then and why am I commenting about it here. The reason this becomes bothersome is those examples have other things going for them, and their battle units are not truly identical, or replicas of another, only comparable, but all serve to drive the overreaching strategy forward. Here, in this particular game, there is very little to tell them apart.

In addition, because the units in this game all fall into one all-encompassing category, it is hard to distinguish them strategically or individually. Yes, they have somewhat different looking weapons and graphics but they all are essentially the same. RTS games do well to feature variety; otherwise, their gameplay becomes dull, listless, and completely unexciting. The best involve intricate care in each faction, giving it well defined strengths and weaknesses, usually giving each faction a unique playing style, that while one player may not like, another player would be able to use it effectively, according to their particular skill set, reflexes and personality.

Another way of thinking about it is to consider the following example. My friend and I play a Star Trek: Armada match. My favored race that I am most successful with is the Romulans; his is the Federation. He prefers the Federation's special abilities and is able to use them most effectively. He argues constantly that nothing beats their stasis field super weapon. On the other hand, as the Romulans, I have cheaper costing ships, many different stealth and espionage options. Which one of us is right? Who is guaranteed to come out on top?

The answer is neither, every player is different and to each their own.

The technology tree in New Worlds is abysmal. Anyone who plays RTS knows that the more decent ones at least try to make some kind of sensible direction with it; here this is not the case. To make even a basic level shuttle, you will need multiple structures with multiple upgrades and research completed. It makes for an awful lot of work, and becomes overwhelming chore, just to produce a limited, low capability scout.

The economy system too, has so many issues. There are six distinct raw resources to collect. It is surprisingly difficult to find each resource node, despite the fact the game's back-story talks about planets rich in resources. Once mined, raw resources are then sent to a resource processor. There they are converted into six usable resources, which are then shipped to a storage facility. Only then can they be used for construction. This all takes quite a bit of time, even when upgraded. The problems that manifests is that in an RTS, it’s already spending time to gather resources, players don't want to sit around waiting for to use something they have already gathered, nor do they want to jump through such meticulous hoops. It makes just the act of gathering resources frustrating, and a very intricate complex system that makes things much harder then they need to be. This is further compounded that you also will have to worry about labor demands and basic energy demands as well.

The graphics in this game are rendered horribly. The overall terrain is decent but not more than average, and the rest is very pedestrian. Explosions are underwhelming, the actual drawn in effects are not really more than penciled in, and then theirs that issue with the units. The structures are okay looking, but then the combat units are all drawn to unsatisfactory levels, and it often becomes hard to tell them apart, which again makes it impossible to plan strategically if your entire order of battle end up looking so much like each other, you can't tell from a glance what each thing does.

In addition, there is no ability to save the game during a mission, meaning it has to be do or do die. Literally, either finish the mission and beat it in one sitting, or be prepared to start it repeatedly. This does not mesh well with RTS games, as it means your strategy works or it doesn't, with no in-between, and no way to analyze things or save at certain checkpoints and evaluate what you can do better, or back-track to an earlier point and try something else.

Because of the other features bogging it down, some of the more interesting concepts that had some good ideas behind them, fail to realize. You have a pool of specialist officers that you can assign to a building or unit, effectively transforming it into a hero level unit, which confers certain benefits to the unit. This is a neat thought and reminds me of the Hero Planets from Master of Orion series. Because this game is so broken though, any benefit to doing this will never truly be seen as it was meant to, and that is a shame. In addition, you will not see them in person, even when added to something, the units graphic does not change.

You cannot take a sabbatical from the game to do other activities if you needed to, and that is just wrong. This game notably lacks a map editor, which is one of the best gifts for us fans of RTS. Although it features multiplayer, it only holds slots for three players. Not that this game would have been sustainable or worth revisiting, just pointing it out in the interests of completion.

This game gained considerable traction, and sales, thanks to the outlandish comment “Star Trek meets StarCraft”.

As a person who has played many hours of StarCraft I cannot even begin to tell you how false this statement really is. StarCraft was for quite a while considered the most advanced RTS software available. Creative minded mappers are still using it to present day, because it is truly one of the best tools ever developed for RTS. StarCraft also remains decently popular despite its age. You cannot say the same about New Worlds, you just cannot.

The game is a total dud, lackluster. Even the most hardcore fan will be put out by the stupid controls, the bad graphics and poor gameplay mechanics.

 

Star Trek Armada II

Sequel to Armada
Release date: November 2001
Sounds & music: 4/5
Writing & story: 3/5
Graphics & special effects: 3/5
Favorite part(s): I like combining Borg Cubes to form a bigger Cube.
Total score: 3/5

The best game sequels carry the momentum of their predecessor's foreword; introduce new concepts, while retaining enough familiar elements to bring back their fan base. Thus, they keep the original essence, while avoiding repackaging the same.

Strategies need not be super complex to be successful, nor do ones with simple concepts lack depth. Here we have a somewhat awkward middle ground where this title seems to be more detailed, but loses the pace of the first game quite fast.

The core of the game is the same as the first Armada, building cities and fleets of starships in the depths of space and then using your fleets to conquer your enemies. All of the main factions from the first game return, and have new starships and stations. There are also two new factions for the player to explore, the Cardassian Union and Species 8472.

Multiplayer and custom scenarios are more diverse, and now can contain several optional objectives and additional parameters, this gives some match-ups more longevity in certain cases.

There are many new features in Armada II. The economy system has changed, somewhat noticeably. Two new resources that you must take into consideration, metal and latinum. Metal is used in constructing, and latinum you may use to trade. You gain latinum from mining it from nebulas and metal is acquired by colonizing planets or building a mining satellite above said planet. Colonizing also gives a bonus to your population production, which previously was accumulated as per your amount of starbases. You can use latinum to purchase resources via the new trading station. You can also use this structure to transfer harvested resources into something you need; you can turn your metal into dilithium or your dilithium into metal.

A complaint I have is now your total command points/officers now has a hard cap of 600. The unlimited expansion of empires and fleets featured from Armada 1 is thus gone. I know that many RTSs have a supply cap, usually as an engine constraint or design aesthetic, but it is one of the reasons why Armada I stood out so significantly from them.

Armada 1 might have a simple economy model, but that was to allow concentration on more interesting things such as city building, tactical combat and fleet movement. Even the individual starship is worthy of attention, and doing 1 vs 1 fights in Director's Cut is a remarkable sight. The focus on resource gathering serves to make the overall game dawdling, particularly in light of the fact your dilithium and latinum shipments must alternate turns at the refinery. The ships themselves are made more durable, but also more plain and so they are more expendable.

As mentioned, you will now be able to colonize planets, which come in different types and the type determines the resource flow from said planet. Some planets are more beneficial to generating population, others are better for harvesting metal. You will also be called on to use troop transports to invade hostile colonies and take ownership of claimed planets for yourself. If the planet is not already owned, you may use a colony ship. You can also use your troop transports to take some of the trickiness out of pirating enemy ships and stations.

Another new feature is the formations and AI autonomy toggles. This allows you to adjust, to a degree, of how ships act during regular flight, with some composed ideas about how they should conduct themselves. Unfortunately, these all come at the price of removing the Director’'s Cut option that was present in Armada 1.

Director's Cut is a toggle in Armada I, that allows ships to dogfight. They will engage in evasive maneuvers to avoid incoming fire, and do their best to attack there target, without any assistance from you. If you are unsatisfied with how a battle is going, you can attempt a retreat. You could also bait and switch quite a bit. This is an awesome feature and the fleet customizations do not nearly come up to the same level. I just find it irksome to watch ships that I know could move better than this, just sit there launching shots and taking damage back because there not taking care to even move slightly to avoid the oncoming fire. More movement problems are outlined below.

Because the maps are often, many times larger than those of the preceding game the designers decided to include a Warp Drive feature. This allows ships and fleets to fly faster naturally, but it is not without some issues on its own. The first one I have with this is it is triggered by clicking the mini map to the destination. The selected units then move to that location, coming out of warp around obstacles such as nebulas or planets, only to re-enter warp once they clear the obstacle. The problem is, since this is a staple most other RTS games to, I am instinctively clicking it to move, but I do not necessarily want them to go into warp while they do it. It would be nice to be able to specify. I also want them to move on a path that I have determined. They seem to pick the quickest route from point A to point B, even though it might not be necessarily the safest. It could be filled with several hazards or it would take them right into the path of an enemy fleet. You can frantically click the mini-map to adjust their overall path, but that is just a needless complication.

One thing this completely blows the silent approach. Another issue is too many multiplayer games de-evolve into WARP IN (blast everything,) WARP OUT with the invading force barely taking any sort of damage in most cases. I should not have to build a tower in every hex just to keep enemy fleets from rushing me.

Another problem with movement comes from the X-Y axis. The X-Y axis seems to have been added after people complained about space not being truly 3-D. This is problematic, as when I try to move my ships instead of going to the next grid, they are simply moving up or down the vertical axis. The other issue is because things can move so far down; it is hard to tell what things are. A fleet of ships can look benign and is hard to recognize on the lower levels of the vertical axis and I feel this very fatal, to novices and professionals alike. If they are too high up, then your view is obscured. This also allows many structures to be simply flown over; defensive structures and starbases are too easy to avoid.

The new ships and stations for each race range from interesting to dull. The high note is the new factions. Cardassians more or less play out like another faction, though they have some exclusive special abilities and are worth checking out. On the other hand, 8472 has unique concepts and play the game very differently. One such idea is bio matter being a universal resource that dictates there building. There stations are also movable and considered creatures (not unlike the Elven Trees from WarCraft III).

All the special abilities from the first game return, but for the new ships for the returning races, only a few of them were given abilities. Most of the new elements just increase your conventional firepower without much flair.

This is okay for what it is but yet another Armada staple thrown out the window.

They took a very exciting game that has a lot of high energy and fun, and made it slower without necessarily making it strategic. I will not deny that some of the features open up new possibilities but at the same time, they were not exactly needed either. It is not that I am upset that the developers tried to make the game more complex; it is just the results come out as less then preferred.

This game is not bad as far as RTS games go, but as far as Armada is concerned, it feels more like an expansion pack then a fully-fledged sequel. The issues with movement also are big enough drag it down a few points.

The other changes also serve to alter the flavor of the game, and thus has never felt like a true sequel.

 

Turn-Based Strategy

Birth of the Federation

Intensive turn based strategy, based solely on Star Trek: The Next Generation
Release date: May 1999
Sounds & music 3/5
Writing & story: 5/5
Graphics & special effects: 3/5
Favorite part(s): The games full title is "Star Trek: The Next Generation, Birth of the Federation", and it's surprisingly apt to the games contents
Total score: 4/5

Birth of the Federation is a TBS/4X game. In the pre-game setup you choose things like the relative technology level, the size of the galaxy, victory conditions and a few other decisions before launch. You will also be required to pick a faction. Whether you're Federation, Romulan, Klingon Cardassian or Ferengi - a large galaxy full of opportunity beckons to you.

Each side has its own strengths and weaknesses based on who they are in Star Trek Lore. For example Romulans are better at Espionage and Stealth, where Klingons favor ships with heavy weapons loadouts and are unmatched in ground combat/invasion operations, Ferengi are good at generating money and commodities etc, etc.

The interface takes some time to learn. It is not to bad once you know what your doing, but takes some effort to learn how to operate it, and it will prove cumbersome to many players. There are tutorials to help you learn how to handle this however.

An unfortunate part of this game, is the license. Behind the scenes, they only held the license for The Next Generation and in fact were specifically warned and prohibited, to restrict themselves to only use elements that were labeled as TNG. An interesting loophole is that the Defiant from Deep Space Nine is present, as it appeared in the movie First Contact, the movie itself falling under the "TNG" banner. Deep Space Nine style stations are also present, the titular station itself having appeared in one TNG episode. The problem manifests itself in that in limiting the license, they were forced made there own structure for organizing the different empire vessel types, which to hardcore Trek fans will seem odd. It also ends up feeling a bit disjointed and disconnected though, for all factions because of this. The Federation fleet thus will have large amounts of the heavier starships such as the Galaxy or Sovereign, but surprisingly few of the smaller Oberths and Mirandas which are regulated to very minor roles. Not to mention iconic vessels such as the Constitution are very much missed. This kind of reverse thinking is a bit odd, I understand that they were limited with what they could work with though and did the best they could.

The game also features many minor supporting races from the TNG television series such as the Bajorans, Vulcans, Pakleds, Zakdorn and more. Each one of these minor races provides a special advantage to you if you are able to play your cards right and achieve a solid diplomatic relationship with them. Again the license issue hinders the potential of this idea though, as any races specific to DS9 or VOY are not seen nor are they mentioned. It just doesn't feel accurate that all those Delta Quadrant species Voyager made first contact with are absent, not to mention the Gamma Quadrant ones from DS9.

One annoyance I do have is the way the game handles space battles. In any given conflict, you can have the computer resolve it automatically and hope for the best, or you can enter into the fray yourself. All players involved are given a list of possible moves, they pick one, then the computer executes the chosen actions. This will continue on until one fleet is destroyed or retreats. The problem with this method, aside from the lack of direct control over ships, is that it's all fairly generic. You will never see 1vs1 duels, not to mention trying to track an individual ship is rendered pretty pointless. Not to mention, it seems like a bit of luck is involved. Obviously the fleet with more ships and better technology will often win the day, but sometimes you get unlucky and you can potentially loose dozens if not hundreds of starships, in a single fight, even if you seemingly went into the fight with the upper hand.

The game's backstories and overall plot are well written, if barely present. There's not really much of a story line, other then details about how your faction formed. The game itself has no real main story driving it.

The AI in this game is very strong and capable, and handles itself quite well, though there are some odd things that do come forward. Ill give you examples. The Federation will demand bribes if you're not playing as them, to prevent them from going to war. To be fair, every species does this at one point or another, but it's out of character for the United Federation of Planets to do so. Also, every war I ever started as the Federation, always upset my citizens, no matter how justified it was. The Klingons carpet bombed my borders, and were commencing a full invasion. So I said fine, and I declared war, intending only to beat back the invading force. I cant tell you how many riots and civil unrests occurred within my borders, all unhappy with this decision. Well I only did it to save their lives.

Another match I was playing as the Federation. I had a decent sized empire, with the Romulans on my longest border to the northeast. I saw that they owned the Vulcan System, and that they were in fact a subjugated planet (Which is basically a forced alliance through invasion).

Well so I declared war on Romulans, fought a bloody scourge campaign on my way to Vulcan, and then liberated them. I then firmed up peace with the Romulans, who were quick to accept an end to the rather brutal nature of my brief war campaign against them. I thought the Vulcans would be happy I freed them and they would give me their sub-faction bonus. Instead they seceded within a few turns. A few turns more, and they were back under the Romulan flag again. I guess it's where they wanted to be so I let them go.

The main thing that drags this game down though, is that, this is clearly just another 4X game, dressed in Star Trek wrapping paper. It's not that it's badly done, and can get intriguing at times, but there's nothing that really makes it stand out in anyway or advance the evolution of games. Gamers had seen this rock paper scissors formula before in Civilization and Ascendancy.

Check it out if your die hard about Star Trek, or love the 4X style. The slower nature of the game and the large learning curve in the beginning is a turn off to the average gamer however.

 

First-Person Shooters/Shooters

Star Trek: Elite Force

FPS by Raven, published by Activision
Release date: September 2000
Sounds & music: 4/5
Writing & story: 4/5
Graphics & special effects: 3/5
Favorite part(s): R3ACTOR Server, I miss you guys, where are you?
Total score: 4/5

This game has a special place in me, for I was deeply involved with the famous R3ACTOR Server before that closed in early 2004. As the name implies, this is a FPS game set in Star Trek. More specifically, this is set in the VOYAGER series, presumably around season 6. Powered by the Quake 3 engine it is quite well done.

All the main actors from the TV series give their voices. Only missing in the original retail release was Jeri Ryan as 7of9, but the expansion pack will overwrite and correct this omission.

The premise here, is that you are a member of the crew of the USS Voyager. Part of the Hazard Team, which is an elite team trained by Tuvok, to handle and deal with and overcome situations that would overwhelm a normal Away Team. Your mission is to protect Voyager, its crew, its interests, and help them achieve their goals.

This game being a shooter, similar in vein to Half Life or others, features weapons, which are based on both the Star Trek franchise, and some additions you'd expect from the standard shooter game such as redressed shotguns, grenade launchers, and of course Gatling guns and rocket launchers to round out the arsenal. Each weapon also features a alternate firing mode as well.

There is also some unique gear to be found and used as well, from site to site transporters, portable force-field generators and more.

The enemies, unfortunately came off as kind of boring to me. Aside from the Borg, none of them really have anything unique about them and attack in mainly the same way. Early on you find a weapon called a "Scavenger Rifle", which is sort of a light machine gun/mini grenade launcher hybrid. You quickly come to understand that this is a de-facto weapon of most of the enemies you will face. It gets boring really quickly that way. The Borg have both their own unique weapon (which appears in multiplayer in certain modes, and seems modeled after the one the Borg used in "Descent" of TNG), the Borg also will adapt to every weapon in the game given enough time.

The strongest point of this game is the multiplayer. Featuring standards like Capture the Flag, Deathmatch/Team Deathmatch, and King of the Hill, the multiplayer also has some unique options not found in other games.

The first of these is specialties which plays similar to the much fabled Team Fortress. The difference? Well all the Classes are mostly unique, with their own advantages and disadvantages, it changes the behavior of some weapons and gear, to form a game which relies on strategy as much as it does action.

The second is Assimilation, which for whatever reason, was very rarely played, unless it was on R3ACTOR. Assimilation is exactly what it sounds like, players are divided into two teams, survivors, and the Borg. The survivors must find and eliminate the Queen, while the Borg's goal is to assimilate all the survivors. This gets really fun as the Borg adapt, can teleport to a limited degree, and have a few other advantages. If your assimilated, you will re-spawn on the Borg team as a drone.

Most multiplayer modes may be combined. So for example you could do Specialties Team DM or Assimilation CTF. This allows for a lot of replayability and intrigue.

Conclusions, I think this is an overall strong game, very solidly built, with some mild annoyances. I do know it offends some fans of the larger Star Trek franchise, such as how fast the Borg move and some other ideas. I feel that this game suffers because some Star Trek fans didn't grow up playing shooters like I did, so the fast paced action was a little off-putting, to a franchise that prides itself in being mellow and easy going. However on the other side, fans of games Half Life or Quake will feel comfortable.

In the end I really recommend it, it's one of the few decent Star Trek games.

 

Star Trek: Elite Force Expansion Pack

Licensed add-on content for Elite Force
Release date: May 2001
Sounds & music: 4/5
Writing & story: 5/5
Graphics & special effects: 3/5
Favorite part(s): It may be morbid, but vaporizing main characters can be fun at times.
Total score: 5/5

This is a very special expansion pack, and so it has warranted its own review. Sure, expansion packs are nothing new to games, but few are such an intriguing presentation. On first glance this could be like any other, adding the obligatory new multiplayer maps and bug fixes.

It re-dubs all of 7of9's dialogue with Jeri Ryan's voice. This is just the tip of the iceberg though. The real core of this expansion is centered around the Virtual Voyager Tour.

The Virtual Voyager Tour is a large hub of interconnected maps and levels based on the titular starship, which operates independently of the main campaign of the Elite Force game. You are given complete and total freedom to travel around the ship, visiting locations such as the Bridge, Mess Hall, Engineering, even the Officers' Quarters, and more. Just about every room or set you can name from the seven years of Voyager is present and included. You are able to use the turbolift or the transporter room to help you get you around.

There are several mini quest lines to complete, such as collecting all the weapons in the game, obtaining tricorder scans of the entire senior staff, among others. The purpose of most of these seem to give the player a reason to walk around and get into every nook and cranny the starship has to offer.

You are also given a tricorder. The tricorder is not of much real use, mostly just thrown in for gaffs. By pressing the fire key you can scan various objects, to learn their name, dimensions and weight. The alternate fire brings up a small radar on the HUD. Since the radar vanishes if you switch to another inventory item, its purpose is for fun rather than tactical.

You can visit the holodeck where there are four new scenarios to complete, each one independent missions of the other. Each scenario has unique points of interest and concepts unto themselves, and yes, one of these is modeled after Tom Paris's alter ego, the swashbuckling space hero Captain Proton.

There is some also some small twiddles and other incorporation's strewn throughout the full breadth of the ship, such as sending the ship to red alert or launching a shuttle. I won't give more away as I am sure you will have more fun walking around at your leisure and discovering them for yourself.

There is also five new multiplayer modes, my favorite being Action-Hero.

Action-Hero gives one player the full Elite Force arsenal, high health and armor, and able to regenerate ammunition and health, the other players team up to take him down. The player who makes the kill is awarded 5 points instead of the standard 1, and becomes the new Action-Hero.

There are also dozens of new multiplayer maps and character skins thrown into this package as well.

There is no disguising what this is, a fan-service title, especially for those who love the TV show. The main bulk of the material may or may not appeal to the mainstream gamer.

Say what you will about the Voyager TV series, this is on the stronger side of expansion content, Star Trek or otherwise.

 

Simulation/Space

EGA Trek

DOS based starship simulator - one of the most unique and unnoticed Star Trek games of all time
Release date: 1989/1990
Sounds & music: 2/5
Writing & story: 5/5
Graphics & special effects: 3/5
Favorite part(s): I love the sarcastic remarks from your crew about the Death Ray
Total score: 5/5

EGA Trek is a rather obscure title. This game is an updated form of some of the earliest PC games. It takes inspiration from the many Star Trek text adventures and the original televison series, and goes in its own direction.

EGA Trek is the first fully realized Space/Simulation game set in Star Trek. Coming out at a time where this genre of games was in its infancy, and really only known to feature real world vehicle simulation and had not as of yet branched out into space, let alone directly modeled after conventions found in a beloved franchise.

EGA Trek's story is simplistic, you take command of an Enterprise like ship, and travel the galaxy, doing missions. The main bulk of them comprise of search and destroy invading Klingon and Romulan ships. There is also answering distress calls, and performing general service missions such as but not limited to, delivering supplies, surveying a stellar object, or evacuating a planet to mix things up a little bit. Nicely all of these side missions always provide rewards on completion.

There are five levels of difficulty that may be chosen. Depending on the difficulty level you select at the beginning, it determines the AI level of competence of enemy ships, their overall durability, aggression level, their distribution and population.

No two games ever play out the same as each new game randomly generates the sectors/events. This is unheard of, for the time of release and is worth considerable praise.

Depending on the version you have, things might be renamed. Paramount got wind of this game, and demanded all Star Trek references removed. The only difference in the versions is some of the naming conventions (Klingon Empire becomes Mongol Empire, the Federation the Union, Romulans are known as Vandals, Disruptor Bolts are renamed Plasma Bolts, etc.), however they are graphically the same and gameplay is identical. In other words, regardless of version, you're not missing out on anything.

All the starship features you'd want and expect are here. Warp Drive, Sensors, Phasers, Shuttles, are all included. You even have the much fabled, ubiquitous doomsday weapon, the Death Ray, to be used in times of last resort.

As noted above, this game is the final culmination of many very early Star Trek games that featured no graphical user input and relied solely on text. As text games were becoming phased out, this is a great thing for many fans, such as myself, as it was my only chance to experience this sort of game. It also is notable by featuring a very detailed presentation of simulation of starship control, when such games would not arrive until the very end of the decade.

One irksome point though is that on the higher difficulties you end up receiving so many distress calls, it becomes very hard to explore the galaxy at your leisure. This is compounded by the fact that higher difficulties tend to penalize you very severely for ignoring distress calls. On the highest difficulty, it's very easy to fail such missions just by not being fast enough to enter the right coordinates into the helm. Still though, this is a very minor thing that does little to detract from the fun or entertainment value of this product.

I rate it strongly because its core gameplay is very strong, stronger then even some of its more evolved counterparts. Despite the limitations of the time, the game has weathered the test of time very well, graphics aside. Fans of the original television series will appreciate the style of this game as it is clear it was modeled after said series.

Strongly recommended.

 

Starfleet Academy

3D starship simulator by Interplay
Release date: September 1997
Sounds & music: 3/5
Writing & story: 3/5
Graphics & special effects: 4/5
Favorite part(s): n/a
Total score: 4/5

This is a Star Trek game, done by Interplay, released in 1997. It was modeled after the earlier Super NES game, Star Trek: Academy Battle Simulator, and has many of its characters, and objects are named after objects found therein, as some of the missions are also seemingly lifted. However where that game was more primitive, and seems to rely on the combat engine from Judgment Rites, another Star Trek game made by Interplay, this game is a brand new entity.

The graphics are mixed. Each individual ship model as well as the solar system terrain looks decent. However the weapons look weird and it feels weird that they look different than the Star Trek staples they're supposedly modeled after, especially considering in all FMV sequences, they look how one would expect.

This game features three Star Trek alumni, Chekov, Sulu and Kirk all played by their original actors, whom you will interact with between the missions in FMV sequences. They also are responsible for advising you and giving you many of your mission briefings.

This game had a problematic development and release cycle; these might’'ve contributed to the following paragraph. This game has some weird aspects to comment on. Such as I remember reading preview articles for it in Computer Gaming World, and it talked about being able to explore the Academy in first person view between the classes, and that classes included much more than just simulated starship missions. I remember reading I’d actually get to go visit locales in San Francisco such as the Fleet Headquarters or the Bay Area. All of these however are left out of the final game, as I believe they spent most of their time trying to fine tune the Starship Missions, and decided everything else was just secondary, and then ultimately unnecessary. It's too bad; I really was looking forward to that free roam exploration mode, or sitting in classrooms of the future, oh well.

Well I put this off long enough; let us talk about the missions themselves. They are scripted well, and have your usual twists and turns. One thing that does drag this down is the ships were meant to be crippled after taking a certain amount of damage, except it seems as though this concept wasn't fully realized or completed. Case in point, you can lose a major system, but as long as you don't need it for the rest of the mission, you're fine. Hell I even had my life-support system destroyed in one area, and managed to still beat the mission by going about it fast before my life support fully shut-down.

The missions, although not exactly bland, are very repetitive. I have to comment on something here. While like most, I find Star Trek weapons impressive, and revel at the chance to use them myself, there is also the fact that the Federation, its job has always been one of ensuring galactic peace. To that end, there is many so called "slow" episodes of the show, when they don't fire their weapons or end up not using them. In this game, we again are told by Sulu early on, that Starfleet is not just about combat prowess, but about exploring the galaxy, performing scientific investigation and basically just learning and growing. Unfortunately every single mission features combat, and only one single time I found a solution where it involved no fighting. The first time I did play this mission in question though it did have me fighting some people.

I understand that it might hard to keep your audience involved without action of space combat, but a sister game, also by Interplay, Starfleet Command, released a few years later, featured fully authentic Star Trek missions. Then again Starfleet Command also featured fully realized Starship Systems, here, even the weapon systems they are simplified and though unintended, feel just tacked on.

The game contains a few multiplayer modes, each supporting up to 32 players. Theres the standard deathmatch mode, flying a ship of your choice vs your enemies. There is Galactic Domination where you hold various planets, and try to take your opponents. There is Net Profit where you fly freighters and compete with people for contracts.

The game has a relatively obscure expansion pack, Chekov's Lost Missions. It adds 7 new single player missions and two new multiplayer modes. It has a few bug fixe and strives to make the game more multiplayer user friendly, including additional support, updating the connection methods, and shipping with a early version of Interplay's Mplayer client.

I did spend many hours playing this, despite its shortcomings. I did enjoy having such a streamlined control over my vessel, and the fast paced action. The game features 4 different endings, based on your choices throughout the game, and spoiler alert, one of the endings leads to a hidden bonus mission. Overall, it’s not a bad little game and definitely entertaining, with its arcade style action and fluidity, for both the hardcore Star Trek fans and the mainstream audience.

 

Star Trek: Starfleet Command

Starship simulator by 14 Degrees East
Release date: August 1999
Sounds & music: 4/5
Writing & story: 5/5
Graphics & special effects: 2.7/5
Favorite part(s): The alien HUDs and the alien ships in general
Total score: 5/5

An early realm of the gaming front was presented in table-top role playing games and strategies. Pioneered by D&D/AD&D of course, it went on to produce many sister products, including MechWarrior, its various spin-offs, among others. Based heavily on information and dice rolls, it is a slew of some very unique concepts that not as of yet been supplanted with something else.

Very richly layered, it's also not hard to see why this genre has endured and prospered for so long. Perhaps it was those epic game manuals and rulesets, that in addition to information also contain endless illustrations, diagrams, charts, rundowns and many other fun things to look at and absorb. Many of them have seen subsequent updates, evolutions and spin-offs as well. AD&D itself is up to its 4th edition, MechWarrior is up to 3rd.

Regardless of edition though, they share one thing in common, they are all well-crafted, show considerable time and thought, and have top notch presentation.

A very notable game from this area is Starfleet Battles (SFB). Heavily based on TOS/TMP and plugging in its own ruleset to govern things, it created a game very action paced, strategic, and gamers could roleplay their favorite ships and missions from the Star Trek franchise, just by rolling dice.

Many years after this, when computers had advanced beyond the basic stage and programing became more evolved, the public'’s eye turned to the world of Video Games for entertainment, developers were looking for ideas, things that could breakthrough and become epics. Interplay's mantra had long been "Games for Gamers", and it shows in most of their works. They decided to adapt the first edition of SFB into a virtual PC game. They then licensed a smaller company, 14 Degrees East, to handle the development. Starfleet Command is the result of their labor, which is an in-exact digitized copy of SFB, some things were left out in favor of greater gameplay, this thankfully here isn't a troublesome thing and fully understandable.

No one knew at the time they would be also creating one of Star Trek's most prolific and enduring video game series.

The gameplay is slower than many of its contemporaries, and space is rendered as a 2.5 D plane rather than full 3-D. It's often compared to ACADEMY (see above), but I feel this herein is a unique take on the idea of simulating a starship and should not be measured against others with which to determine how "good" it is.

There are seven factions to pick from. Federation, Romulan, Klingon, Gorn, Hydran and Lyran. There are a few minor factions included as well such as the Orions, although you cannot access their ships directly during campaign missions. In skirmish match ups you are able take control of them however. The core of the game is centered on the multiple campaigns for each of the main factions. What's really neat about these campaigns, is they chronicle your career as an officer.

Each of them also has at least one, but often times multiple Elite Special Fleet agencies, which will offer you membership should you accrue enough notoriety. You can opt out of course, but the missions for the Special Fleets are where the bulk of the game's main story is told. This adds a lot to the replay ability factor. These missions are often much more interesting, entertaining, challenging, deadly and award greater prestige upon successful completion. Every Special Fleet has its own story arc and campaign as well.

The game also has six or seven smaller quick skirmish modes, intended for quick play. Some of these may be customized, some are more scenario driven and options are locked.

In the campaigns you will earn currency known as prestige from successful missions, which allows you to buy new equipment, personnel and even a new ship. Eventually to you will be able have up to two ship companions, so if one is ever destroyed or lost, you can keep proceeding with the mission.

The amount of sophistication in the orders and the AI for your flagship and ship companions is top notch. Though it takes some practice to coordinate them with your flagship, it still ends up feeling rather good and the AI does not screw up as much as one might think it does. Rather the AI tries to follow your orders, to the best of its ability to do so. The only real oversight that comes into play is the AI's pathing tracks are not as reactive as a human mind, so on occasion they will collide into objects, or fly through explosions or otherwise chaotic space that I myself am easily able to avoid.

It's annoying but it's not as bad as it might seem, just practice with them fully before you complain.

This game is very strong in its ships listing too. There are four loose classes, frigate, light cruiser, heavy cruiser, and battleship. Each contains two or three different spaceframes. The fun begins that each spaceframe usually has many multiple variants, which change things like its internal technology, efficiency of said technology, their equipment loadout, weapons loadout, and their overall role. Thus two ships may re-use the same model and belong to the same general family class, but might have drastically different uses.

All told this brings the number to about 50 or so ships per main faction, give or take, this is a robust number considering most simulators brag about 4-9 different classes.

You can fly everything from minimally armed medical ships, troop transports that excel at capturing targets owing to carrying more soldiers and transporter rooms, but have fewer weapons overall. There is also more military based craft, from the smallest police/patrol picket ships, all the way up dreadnoughts and super battleships.

One last note on the ships is, I really appreciate how carefully the equipment is decided for each object. Everything feels nicely balanced, and nothing ever feels overpowered. To that end there are several systems that were not seen in ST canon, but come directly from SFB. Additionally the ST ship systems that are retained, are seemingly adapted and made to be more versatile and much more interesting. The phaser weapon is not exclusive to the Federation as one might expect, but used by the other races as well.

I'm sure there are some purists, who claim to be true fans and would not like this approach, but it's handled quite well, and all though phasers were later firmly established to be a Starfleet staple, at the time SFB was composed it was more of a gray area. There is a reference to Klingon phasers in both TOS and TAS. Also I'd like to point out that some fans erroneously claim Kirk and Chekov in the movie STIV use their communicators as phasers, they don't, it's the one and only time we the fans see a Klingon hand phaser.

If you think about it, in the real world, despite many different factions, one weapon need not be exclusive, especially if it is indeed versatile. Here in COMMAND although Starfleet uses phasers as much for offense as they do defense, the other factions use them as well, though not to the same extent. After all, why deny yourself such a useful weapon. Phasers are key to some of your counter techniques as well, able to knock out hostile torpedoes and missiles if you can bring them to bear in time.

The game is graphically below average than most others of its kind, but I got to say, in this title I don't mind it as much, as the point largely is to focus on the information. The ship models all look good, but lack damage rendered models. Some of the space objects also look decent. However space itself remains a bit bland, as do most of the weapon effects. This is a minor thing and it's not something worth spending too much time complaining about but worth noting nonetheless.

The tradeoff is, a particularly high graphics note that cannot get enough attention is each faction has individualized HUDs. The screenshots I have included are just the tip of the iceberg. It's very rewarding that although my important buttons are in roughly the same place on all ships, its written in alien writing and the overall instrumentation panels are given unique arrangements and color schemas.

The game became Interplay's best seller in gaming history and received gold status in the gaming community. It was re-released as Starfleet Command: Gold which adds some new content, new missions, new ships and some other things. It also fixes various bugs and glitches from the original release.

This is a very rich game with considerable depth. Some might have a problem with the interface but then there is always the built in Academy Training Missions to help prepare you. The interface is also is a little slower, much more detailed then many of its contemporaries. The inquiry that has often been asked is this game an RPG or a Starship Simulator.

The reply I would like to give is, it is both, and does both terrifically well.

 

Klingon Academy

Follow-up to Starfleet Academy, developed by 14 Degrees East, published by Interplay
Release date: June 2000
Sounds & music: 5/5
Writing & story: 5/5
Graphics & special effects: 5/5
Favorite part(s): Starship carnage
Total score: 5/5

Here it is; some thoughtful considerations to the follow-up game to Starfleet Academy, Klingon Academy. As the name implies you are now a student of the Klingon Empire. To help you in your quest to graduate and bring honor to your family name, you will be taught by none other then some of the greatest warriors in the history of the empire. Led by General Chang and his friend Gorkon, and their elite staff, this will be your finest hour, fully realized command of a starship.

This is not a true sequel as its often called, rather it is a follow-up set in the same universe.

All of the features that were unfinished in Starfleet Academy, return here, and refreshingly, fully realized. The power and damage systems have received an overhaul, making the game much more strategic while losing none of the action. The damage system in particular is one of the high points of this game. It takes great lengths to accurately portray damage and attrition. A certain system might receive a percentage of irreparable damage, permanently reducing its ability. This also becomes reflected on the external view of your ship. The game also introduces new concepts such as Sensors vs Stealth and sending away teams/boarding parties to sabotage or attempt to capture the target, you manage these with your Security Officer.

Considerable praise goes to the new Verbal Order System or VOS. The VOS allows you to control most functions of the various stations of your ship with a short two to three number combination, directly from your command chair. It can't handle every situation, and sometimes you still have to head over to the 9 different departments to gain the information you need or for full finesse and control. Still, it's suitable for about 95% of any given situation. Also it is unobtrusive as possible, which makes it very useful during battle. This is unprecedented.

Notable improvements include better scripting in the missions, your view screen is now the length of your computer monitor, new stellar terrain to explore, more types and larger variety of weapons, and there are now often weapons on all sides of your ship. Primary weapons are accurate, recharge very quickly and are dependable. Secondary weapons do more damage, reload slower and are less precise. Their is the Heavy/Advanced category which involves siege weapons that severely damage or cripple most targets if not destroying them outright, and tractor beam inspired weapons leading all the way up to the infamous Tholian Web Cannon. Then there's the Gunnery Chair.

The Gunnery Chair is an amazing invention that functions as a weapons scope, your officers will fly your ship while you are given full weapons control, it spins to track any target. All ships come equipped with one, regardless of their actual weapons load-out, and it is a tool that should never be under utilized.

The game also features a reactive carnage model for all objects. Some might argue that it is too reactive, and I do agree it sometimes feels like things are coming apart way too fast. Your hull integrity and warp engines are particularly vulnerable to this. I like it though, it serves to make this title very unique, and there is no other Trek game there has been or will be that features such attention to damage, showing you what all those sparkling well polished models look like after a bad week in space. Watching an object break down piece by piece as it experiences hull failure is absolutely captivating.

High praise indeed!!!

The ship selection is impressive, more diverse and much longer than the previous entry, and there are in fact a few hidden Easter Egg ships that can only be discovered when playing in free play mode.

Most of the list of the models were pulled from the sister title of Starfleet Command, all altered slightly to fit the new module of this particular game. Ships in contrast to Starfleet Academy are also now much more carefully designed and each has well defined strengths and weakness. A welcome return is that the ships more often than not, only fly as well as their pilot. That being said, I love how this game is about one's skills rather than just guaranteeing hits like many other Star Trek games love to do. On the note of ships, just about any object from the campaigns is capable of being added to the free play mode/quick battle script. If that's not enough, the modding community saw a big boom in 2001 and third party ships and objects can be added fairly easily. Unfortunately most of these mods are imbalanced when compared to each other; however there are a few ways to remedy that situation as well.

The graphics have all improved so much, and look positively stunning. I appreciate that the weapons actually look and are authentic this time around. All of the object models look great. The space terrain is alluring, I still remember the first time I did the training mission and I rotated my ship around and the Klingon Homeworld came into view. My first reaction was “oh wow”.

This being a Klingon story, Chang and Gorkon are backed up by an amazing supporting cast. The story is much stronger and more mature than the one featured in Starfleet Academy. Everyone is decked out in ridged foreheads, Klingon battle armor and long flowing hair for the occasion. The few Humans and other Aliens interacted with during the course of the game, it is audio only. This is a subtle but exceptionally nice touch that the only people we do see are indeed the Klingons.

As in the previous game, you will interact with the various characters via FMV sequences. A very nice touch is that you don't cut away, you stay in first person perspective permanently, this serves to integrate you more into the story then the previous game and works perfectly. Chang and Gorkon play off each other very well, and the supporting cast is great.

As you might've guessed, this game is intended as a prequel to the 6th Star Trek movie. As such Christopher Plummer and David Warner reprise there roles from that movie, that of Chang and Gorkon respectively.

There is even a "movie utility" which allows you to view all cut scenes back to back in an 90 minute episode. Just in case you get lazy I suppose.

This game has two strong campaigns, and the nice function from the previous game to setup skirmishes with just a few mouse clicks are perhaps the strongest and best parts of this game. Quick battle skirmishes also allow you free play, able to travel almost anywhere in the Academy universe, which is a little known fact about this game.

We were promised a mission builder; that somehow never materialized. Someone please find this.

For everything I have mentioned and more, this game deserves no less, than a complete and perfect score.

One of the franchise's best.

 

Star Trek: Starfleet Command III

Starship simulator by Activision
Release date: November 2002
Sounds & music: 3/5
Writing & story: 4/5
Graphics & special effects: 4/5
Favorite part(s): It is fun to fly the ships popularized by Armada, in a new perspective.
Total score: 3/5

Activision acquired the Command property as part of the license they secured from the now defunct company Interplay. They then worked with Taldren, who had previously facilitated Starfleet Command II, to help foster this into their own entity. One of the first decisions that was made was to move the Command series from the TMP era the TNG era, as Activision felt it would make it more familiar to their audience. Another choice was to throw out most of the SFB concepts, races, and ships and build a new game that was only marginally reminiscent, and had more to do with canon.

Many significant changes were made, and though it still is a Command game, it has very different presentation than previous entries in this series.

The instrumentation panel and HUD resembles the one in previous Command games, albeit with reduced functionality and depth. All the alien HUDs unfortunately are now gone.

The most notable changes to combat is shield facings are reduced from six to four, and many of the more complex features of weapons are eliminated. Also absent are most of the specialized weapons from each race. The weapons behave less like SFB and more in line with what Trek fans expect after watching the movies and TV shows.

A new feature is the full customization of starships. Everything from armor, to the quality of the ship's attitude thrusters can be modified. This comes at the cost of reducing the number of variants. Now each faction is given about 11 different spaceframes, fully customizable by the player. The player is left with choosing what to install in each hard-point, and the quality that of. Better equipment costs more prestige and weighs more, and naturally, one cannot exceed their ships tonnage. This is a fun feature, that creates an indelible personal connection between the player and their ship, more so than many other titles.

There is one bothersome oversight to this idea however. Larger ships have many more hard points and superior tonnage compared with the smaller ones. Thus, it means the largest of ships such as the D'’deridex or the Galaxy can completely outclass ships with a more compartmentalized construction such as the Saber. It becomes little fun to fly a smaller ship late in the game, if you know you are going to have to run away from any fight, because you simply have no chance of winning. Compounding this is that most missions involve destroying your opponents.

Gone too are the elite fleets and branching story arcs from the earlier games. You instead can travel the Dynaverse looking for opportunities. You have the option to play through three structured campaigns, doing Dynaverse missions on the side, and when it is time for the next story mission, you will be moved to the appropriate sector and locked into that. The campaigns are meant to be played in a specific order for the full story line. This is a noticeable contrast from the earliest game in this series, as it allowed you to pick any race, and go through their story arc. You can play the campaigns out of order but it is like reading a book backwards. You also have the option for free play, traveling the galaxy at your leisure and your ultimate mission is to defeat the rival empires.

The story in this game makes some implications for the feature film "Star Trek: Nemesis". There is even a bonus mission where you can fly the Scimitar on a shakedown cruise. However this game is NOT a direct tie in to the aforementioned movie, nor was it made to promote said movie. More likely the publishers were attempting to create a bridge between the movie and this game, perhaps to give it greater appeal, but the actual story threads are tenuous at best.

The individual missions are all very generic, with a strong emphasis on battles, and not much else. It is just there were many different missions in SFC1 with numerous objectives, with many possible solutions, and SFC3 lacks that variety.

Another significant transformation has been applied to the wingmen. No longer will you buy them; rather as you journey across the galaxy, you might find AI ships requesting to join your fleet. You will only get requests from ships of the same size, or smaller, again penalizing those of us who like leaner ships. You can still give orders, though this has become extremely diluted from prior games, to “Attack my target”, “Form up” and “Retreat”. In addition, you can no longer beam over to them and assume command yourself, they are their own independent entities controlled by the AI.

The graphics and special effects have very much improved and look very good; likewise, the space terrain and all the models look good. The only graphical complaint I really have is the damage models do not really convey that impression to me, and look more like broken toys than damaged ships, but that is just my opinion.

Auxiliary craft have become extremely curtailed. Each faction has exactly one standard shuttle it uses. The player no longer has access to the specialty shuttles or the fighters that were present in earlier Command games.

Not all but many spaceframes used for the ship models are taken from Star Trek Armada, which had come out a few years prior. Some of the ship sub-systems are likewise inherited. I always found this to be a neat idea, because it allows you to see these ships in action, from another perspective.

This game does have a few bugs as well. Sometimes when you complete a mission, the victory programing syntax fails to load, meaning your only choice is to exit back to the main menu, which forfeits the mission, forcing you to restart it, even if you had beaten it. Another one I found was sometimes, more often in the Dynaverse, though it can happen mid mission sometimes to, is control lock ups/lock outs. The game keeps playing but the buttons on the interface seem to stop recognizing clicks and shortcuts. Often times the only way to get out of this is to end the program. These are not common, and definitely not show stoppers, but frustrating to deal with nonetheless.

Though a good game, I have detracted several points. While still a fair ship simulator, it is supremely thinned in almost all areas and therefore does not have nearly as much intrigue or lasting power as the earlier Command games.

 

Action/Adventure

Star Trek: Judgment Rites

Space adventure by Interplay, sequel to Star Trek 25th Anniversary
Release date: November 1993
Sounds & music: 5/5
Writing & story: 5/5
Graphics & special effects: 3/5
Favorite part(s): It's a real treat to have all the characters voiced by their respective actor
Total score: 5/5

This game is a hybrid, in which you play as the ship and crew of the USS Enterprise from the 1960's television show Star Trek. I say hybrid because 20% of it is devoted to space combat, the other 80% is set on away team missions.

The space combat is decent, if uninteresting. You are awarded points at the end of each mission depending on how well you did. These points in turn increase your crew's performance during space combat. However there are only two story space battles, the rest come if you set a wrong course. On that note, I believe it is a form of copy protection but if you travel to the wrong sector, you will invariably be ambushed by 1-3 enemy ships and must defend yourself. If you survive, you'll be allowed to pick a new course. The problem I have with it is that if you are on a certain mission, then your destination will correspond to that. If however you try traveling to that very same sector in the next mission, it just leads to an ambush with no option to visit locales you have already been to. Seeing as combat is treated as more of a mini game then a fully fledged feature, this is kinda weird concept to have included.

The combat is very simple, maneuver, fire phasers and torpedoes, try to avoid getting hit. It is however a bit bland as every combat situation plays out more or less the same, and despite being in the vastness of space, you have limited room to maneuver, and forget trying to outrun enemies, they always are able to keep up. If you find yourself taking heavy damage you can order Scott to give you emergency power, which temporarily boosts you and crippled systems come back online, but only for a short time. You can only use your emergency power once per combat scenario so it's best to use it wisely.

The real meat of the game lies in the landing party missions. You are generally given Kirk and a few other crewmen. You move around pick up objects, solve puzzles and mysteries. This is very reminiscent if not identical to the old Sierra adventure games, complete with each object being useful only in a certain instance, for example no using your phaser to cut your way through locked doors.

There are a few alternative options sometimes, but overall the roundup remains the same. An example of this is in one mission Kirk and company are kidnapped and taken to a space station as prisoners. They quickly break out and work to escape. Naturally station security is deployed to stop them. You have two options then, you can use your phaser to either stun the guards, or you can vaporize them. Obviously killing them isn't really the Star Trek way and you will lose points on your end mission score for choosing this.

Notably what sets it apart from other adventure games is both the interactions and ability to talk to your crew, and the use of tricorders, which may or may not provide helpful clues to resolving the situation your in.

The game is very evocative and written as it was another season of the 60's television show. All of the regulars voice their iconic roles, and so it is worth it to waste a lot of your time just talking to various crew members, if only to hear their voices.

Another note on the writing, the story is extremely unique and well executed; I was never bored by it. I would also like to praise the dialogue, every character sounds like one would hope from watching any given episode of the original series.

The graphics in this game are cartoony and intended to be as such. I am not sure as to why; perhaps they were concerned that they couldn't make accurate likeness enough.

The only issue with this game is the same one that plagued all those adventure games of yesteryear, in that you may think you have a solution, but the game forces you to take only one path through it, this in turn limits replayability and interest.

All in all it's enjoyable and entertaining.

 

Star Trek: The Next Generation Future's Past (SNES Version)

Adventure game by Spectrum Holybyte
Release date: March 1994
Sounds & music: 2/5
Writing & story: 3/5
Graphics & special effects: 2/5
Total score: 2/5

This game is a bit silly. In one way it has got the same basic game mechanics as Judgment Rites, as that is an adventure game set in the ST universe. On the other hand, where Judgment Rites is widely considered one of the best ST games of all time, and revered, this one, while not a total failure, is just tolerable.

A small mini game comes up now and then, where you are flying the Enterprise-D through combat. This would later be expanded and more fleshed out in Final Unity and Generations, but here it is quite simplistic. Enemy ships fly at you quite fast, firing; you fly at them, similarly fast, firing back. The only real strategy seems to be that phasers work better on shields, and torpedoes work better on hulls. Regardless though they seem about the same and there is no finesse or skill involved. Simply get them, before they get you. You will ricochet off invisible walls at the edge of the grid, photon torpedoes have wicked sharp homing capabilities. It is definitely an odd diversion, though it does serve to break up the monotony of the main game.

The story involves the Enterprise-D patrolling the Romulan Neutral Zone. You will also confront the Chodak, an adversial alien culture invented specifically for this game. You soon receive a distress call, which pulls you into investigating a mysterious device known as the IFD, which was sent foreword from the past, and now is affecting the present. You end up collecting various artifacts to prove yourself worthy. It feels a little like it took elements of "The Chase" and "Gambit" episodes from TNG.

The game has two basic sets, the bridge, and the landing party. There are several bridge stations, though they have little interaction and each one is mostly empty. For example, sensors will give you facts about the object on the main view screen, though these are just random tidbits, and do not really seem to have any bearing on the game. The library computer has many TNG references, though this is just an idle distraction. The main concern is navigation, where you will set new courses and engineering, the latter, which would be much expanded in this game's sequel, but here it is a simple bar graph where you allocate ship resources. Presumably, this is crew or energy to different systems. You only need to fiddle with this if you take a lot of damage during a space battle; otherwise, the main things to keep your resources in are your Shields, Hull, Engines and Weapons. This will serve to help you resist damage during combat, and thus last longer in any fight. You are able to repair damage much quicker by docking with a starbase, if one is nearby.

The game also will have you warping to different locations, and taking landing parties/away teams to perform missions. The game gives the illusion of free travel, but since you cannot do anything unless it is related to the story line or you in the wrong chapter, this option is unfilled. Each mission is treated in Adventure Game format with puzzles, clunky mazes, and a few instances where you will be menaced by enemies and get to shoot it out with your phaser.

The missions to me became tedious though. Why this works in Judgment Rites so much better is that you can talk to your party members, and get very logical good responses from them, even if it turns out to be less then helpful. This does not seem possible here. The characters walk around very slowly, and the added in maze elements can get extremely frustrating. I should not have to consult a third party map in order to find my way to the mission objective. It becomes generic and monotonous.

I mean, I get it. A parallaxing environment scrolls underneath the characters, the treadmill effect that simulates walking back and forth, when in fact the character remains stationary, and the screen moves underneath them. It is certainly not the only game to use this method. Case in point, the dull mono colored walls and floors become so boring to look at, when I play Judgment Rites, there is a smooth transition going from room to room, and each room is beautifully rendered, when I play Elite Force I genuinely feel like I am walking through the Voyager starship at times. Here though some mission surfaces look better then others, there is just way to much padding and unused space your simply required to walk back and forth through multiple times.

An interesting element of this game though is being able to pick your own away team for missions. The game's sequel would expand on this as well. Certain members have different key advantages and or special talents. For example, Data can survive hostile environments; La Forge is helpful in missions that the screen is dark. Worf is the best fighter; Picard is the best negotiator and so on. There are also a host of random crew that usually are only used if a main cast member is injured, these are throwaway ensigns and red shirts though and lack the special abilities of the main cast. One particular is to be careful sending Picard on any mission. Though he has decent statistics, if he is killed, the Enterprise will be pulled off the mission to the nearest starbase while he recovers from his injuries and the game will end. Any other character will simply heal in sickbay, given enough game time, though it might knock them out of selection for a mission or two.

Since you never know what an exact mission will entail on the first playthrough though it is hard to pick optimal people. This becomes an irritation when you get close to finishing a mission, only to realize you needed La Forge to operate a computer or whatever else comes up.

The sound effects while decent from the SNES are not really Trek evocative. They play a few random jazz numbers in addition to some digitized versions of the TNG theme.

TThe graphics are up and down. The character models are all right though again 16-bit graphics are hard to make accurate personas. The space battle sequences while you get the gist of the overall idea, they are not really stylized or colored much. Space battles have very tiny models coasting through a star filled amphitheater, and so it did not really convey the way it should.

On this note about the game constants, this game was released on two different platforms, the SNES and the Sega Genesis 32X. The SNES has a better sound chip, but weaker graphics, whereas the Sega 32X has a little bit more texture and colors, but sounds that are more earsplitting. The game for its Sega release is called "Echoes of the Past". Other than that, the two releases are largely identical with only superficial changes here and there. Some have commented to me that the SNES handles the space battles better where the Genesis has better landing party missions, but I have not noticed any real difference than the aforementioned comments about graphics and sounds. Gameplay wise they handle about the same to me.

Do I like this? I do not know. I feel like people will tell me this has been too hard on it. I know that the SNES did not have the same hardware that PC users had, so I am not sure. I did not play this until long after it had come out, so I may also be spoiled by everything I have since then. I think the problems lie in that the game tries hard to emulate Judgment Rites and fails to find its own identity.

What really escapes me is the large amounts of useless objects that were included. Although their is many planets and assorted destinations in the HELM database computer, only a small handful of them are involved with in any way with your missions. The rest, although you can travel to them, their is no interaction with them possible, and no landing party featured.

In the end, it is fair, but it is more of like a dress rehearsal for its sequel, A Final Unity. Alternatively, a rough copy.

Emblematic but not fully cooked.

 

Star Trek: Generations

Adventure game by Microprose. Part three of the Chodak story arc (however, just barely).
Release date: May 1997
Sounds & music: 4/5
Writing & story: 4/5
Graphics & special effects: 3/5
Favorite part(s): Well, Stellar Cartography was my favorite scene in the film, and it becomes your command center here.
Total score: 3.5/5

The "Star Trek: Generations" film has had a long road with me. For a long time it was my favorite, because it had so many characters, it was colorful, it was dramatic, it was sad. It eventually developed an odd beat in my mouth, as I got older, because I realized many logistical problems. Both with the filmmaking, and my opinions about ST at large. As of this writing I am leaning towards that, it does come across at times as more of a fan fiction script than a genuine movie script, but this is notwithstanding. I do like some parts of it still. I hate to sound jaded, and I do not mean to imply "Generations" is not a film worth liking, the point is I have changed, a lot since I first saw it in late 1994, and so to the film has a different taste to me than it once had.

Speaking of change though, this game offers a re-telling, expanded alternate take of said movie. Though the overall plot is the same, the story has gained many fundamental changes. For example, the film's prologue is shortened considerably, and no game control is given during it. When we make the jump to 2373 aka the TNG portion, instead of the promotion scene with Worf, we begin with a Captain's Log by Picard and a briefing by Data in Stellar Cartography. Soran seems to have many different allies, and much more support than was presented in the film of the same name.

Despite forming a loose trilogy with its two predecessors, this game is very different. It is a bit more action oriented and less so with the puzzles, though the puzzles and maze hunting elements are still there. Notably this game feels like a Star Trek themed Dungeon Siege, thanks to the change to of a personal perspective for away missions. You use the mouse to aim and fire your weapon. This is not a true first person shooter per say, rather it is grid based where you can move in the four compass directions, with no diagonal movement, or strafing, which again recalls Dungeon Siege. Away missions no longer involve a full team or selectable characters, each away mission is handled by a single person, and the game has it entirely preset who will go. The away missions interface is a source of many complaints, and I to agree that it is much too large. It is a nice interface and it works, but it does not need to compromise as much space as it does, taking up 50% or more of the visible screen is unnecessary, seeing as there are only a few buttons to use. The graphics for the environments during these sequences are not notable, though they do their job. In addition, this game has changed the setting of the main bridge from the past two games, into Stellar Cartography to better match up with the movie

Stellar Cartography is an interesting choice, and it is nice that the developers did not feel obligated when they could have easily omitted it and went with the bridge. It is a fresh take and adds greatly to the unique nature of this game. While here you will chart the path of the Nexus, conduct simulations to see possible changes in its course. You will also monitor Soran's movements, as well as receive hints from other characters on what your next move should be.

Space battles are still somewhat iffy. The object models look okay, but I never really got the sense they were flying through space. You give the 10-15 orders you would want to but control is not intuitive. For example, piloting is based on four or five orders you may give your helmsman, rather than ship responding to you directly. I do not know who's piloting but it feels like they're drunk. Phasers and torpedoes also do not really convey with their odd graphics.

The main gameplay becomes repetitive. It's simply maze hunting for Soran, performing random other unrewarding tasks along the way. There also may be other armed enemies, though these are very push over, and you probably will not ever be killed unless you allow it to happen. When do you confront him, you must shoot him your weapons. Soran it seems is quite the escape artist, and you will almost kill him many times before the game's climax.

Though there are a few different weapons, this is not a fully developed FPS as a gamer might expect, so they really do not handle differently, despite perspectives otherwise. Enemies are also generic, and not defined. Also like many FPS games or adventure games, you can find food to restore your health bar.

Not all missions need to succeed, and in fact, the game universe evolves around you based on your choices and some other considerations. Soran and his allies will also make moves against you or to their own ends as you work to stop them. This in turn can give you an extra playthrough or two, just to see all the various consequences of doing different things.

The game is also noteworthy for uniting TNG cast + Malcolm McDowell and William Shatner, all appear in archive footage, and recorded new dialogue for this game. This is enough to give the game a big boost on its sound score. Some of the dialogue is recycled from the movie of the said name, or other Star Trek productions but this is not as bad as it sounds, no pun intended. The other sound effects and music are fine, for what they are, but not really much to talk of.

The Chodak also appear, very briefly, and seemingly wrap up their long story arc that began all the way back with 1994's Echoes of the Past. Though they would be seen once more, in another Microprose title, Birth of the Federation, their appearance there is so scarce, and you can play many BOTF games without ever encountering them.

The immaculate thing about this game is, fans have often speculated and dreamed about TNG Season 8, what would it have been? TNG was scheduled for eight seasons, but due to the ST boom of the early to mid-90s, despite everyone expecting it to happen, they instead made the leap to do the TNG movies instead. This game is just the right amount of evocative. It might be taken as Season 8 unofficially, especially in light of the fact that the TNG portion of Generations was supposed to take place a year or two after All Good Things. So this does serve to have a gap or so filled in, even if the conclusion does differ from the climax of the movie of the same name somewhat. The campaign against Soran unfolds very nicely and has some unexpected twists, even if you have indeed seen the movie. On that note, the game has two different endings, and two different final missions, depending on how you handle the last space battle.

I had more fun playing this than its predecessors, perhaps because the action was more gripping to me. I also really liked conducting my investigations from Stellar Cartography, and that Stellar Cartography itself functions different than the bridge. Its presentation is also unique, and that gives it a big lift. It is also notable being one of the few games that allows you to use the Enterprise-D as you see fit.

This game is worth mentioning that it came out two and a half years after the release of the movie. This also seems to have worked in its favor, as it does not feel like a rehash at all. Rather it is as if they took that movie as a base, and said, let us re-work it and make an entertaining video game out of the story.

The only real let down is the game must follow the story of the film generally by its nature, and in doing so it is constrained. In this way the game gets in its own way. The mystery elements are not true mysteries especially if you have seen the film, and the gameplay elements thus do not have true freedom in their implementation and thus it is linear.

While not as open ended as some others is nonetheless very enjoyable.

 

Star Trek: Hidden Evil

3rd person action/adventure by Activision
Release date: November 1999
Sounds & music: 2/5
Writing & story: 3/5
Graphics & special effects: 2/5
Favorite part(s): n/a
Total score: 2/5

Released a year after the movie "Insurrection", this is an adventure/shooter game. You take on the role of Ensign Sovak, a human raised by Vulcans, assigned to the Enterprise-E. Billed as a sequel to Star Trek: Insurrection, you will be called upon to assist Captain Picard and Commander Data in their efforts to protect the Ba'k’u from both the Romulans and Son'a rebels.

The storytelling has a few more twists and turns, but nothing too epic, the Romulans are involved in something shady with Son'a accomplices, what a surprise.

While I don't out and out hate this game, a review must report facts. This game is below average. It is not the worst thing I've ever played, but it never comes across as more than just ok.

The game has 3-D characters traversing pseudo 3-D environments, which are really 2-D. You'll be running around solving puzzles, doing errands for Picard and Data, and shooting bad guys. You have a small health meter, once it's gone it's game over. It can be restored via hypo-sprays and health packs but these are few and far between. The best option then, is to not get hit. There's a few different weapons throughout the game, the type II hand phaser, the Romulan disruptor and more. You can even use the Vulcan nerve pinch if you're able to get close enough to your enemy or if you're able to sneak up on them undetected.

You also have a tricorder, which was one of the biggest boasts of this game. Hopefully, it can give you clues into solving the current puzzle. In practice however it is mostly for show though, all scan reports are pre-written and while some are more interesting to read than others, none really leap off the page and this is hardly engaging. I really don't need to read a whole paragraph about how a corrugated Federation box containing food was made, I just don't care.

This game features the voice over talents of Brent Spiner and Patrick Stewart, who reprise the roles of Data and Picard respectively. They will give you most of your missions. A problem for me is though, is that Picard and Data just feel tacked on into the mix, and don't really contribute all that much. This has nothing to do with the actors, it is a comment about the game itself. As they are presented, they just don't feel like themselves, very devoid of character and one dimensional, seemingly only there to give this product a little bit more authenticity. They don't do a lot in this story, other than using you as an errand boy or delivering exposition. If you want to have a conversation with Data for example, you have to run and do the current thing you’re asked to. If you choose to try and contact them via your communicator while on the way, they have exactly one recorded thing to say to you, which varies depending on the task at hand, but it all boils down to the same "Hurry up and do what I told you to do in the cut scene and come back".

I read an interview in a gaming magazine that came out soon after this game's release. It was with Christopher Gorman, whose likeness and voice talents are used to portray the protagonist of Ensign Sovak. He said all dialogues were recorded separately, months apart, which he never even got to meet Brent Spiner. This might account for some of the dis-congruity during the cut scenes. Another cut scene problem is some feature FMV from the movie Insurrection, which, in all honesty, is kind of off-putting. It would be one thing if this was set during the movie, but it's not, it's supposed to be a sequel.

I already paid money for a movie ticket to see "Insurrection" in the theater, someone else paid money to gift me a VHS copy of the movie, I paid for a "new" game.

The graphics in this are bad. Even for its time they are really bloaty and never really become distinct. The environments while they don't suffer from the chunkiness of the 3-D character models, are a bit bland with not much in the way of decoration.

Thankfully for us fans, this would prove to be the fluke of the bunch, and Activision would release much better Trek titles going forward. I feel like this however, it's as if someone were to pull apart and deconstruct the 9th film, take the various ideas, spill them on to a table, and was told to make a game out of them. You get to shoot your phaser and other weapons. You're able to talk to Picard and Data. You can take scans with your tricorder. What fan hasn't wanted to do these things?

All in all though, the basic elements were there to make a potentially great game, and probably sounded great during the planning phase, it just each concept has poor execution and they are joined together very poorly, and it didn't end up coming together all that well.

 

Interactive Learning Tools

Star Trek Encyclopedia Edition II for PC

Digitized reproduction of Star Trek Encyclopedia by Denise and Michael Okuda, published by Simon & Schuster
Release date: October 1997
Sounds & music: 2/5
Writing & story: 5/5
Graphics & special effects: 2/5
Favorite part(s): The historical mini movies, narrated by Mark Lenard
Total score: 4/5

When I was younger, I really wanted my own copy of the Star Trek Encyclopedia. I never ended up getting it though; whenever I was in bookstores, they seemed never to have it. I found it once, though I did not have the money to buy it, so I ended up standing there for a few minutes reading random articles. I remember it being a thick book, and probably still is the biggest and heaviest book I have ever held.

I remember a family member chastising me for disappearing, and so I put the book down. Eventually in the year 2000, my Dad brought me home this. This is going to be one of the more interesting essays I get to write. Mainly because of the unique nature of this product.

The package contains four CD-ROMS. There is a large amount of content, some of which you may not expect.

Some of what is in store is listed here.

In addition, the second CD-ROM contains access to many special features, which are surprisingly useful. A partial list follows.

There is some minor grumbles that much of this material is available in one form or another in one of the various hard cover books, the Encyclopedia or others. It also borrows many of the graphics developed for Starship Creator when providing illustrations. This is most noticeable in the various component definitions and with the starships' port side declination and dorsal side declination views. Another one is because it relies on some other books but then transposed such as it were; there are occasional errors or oversights in the database. Though the user can correct these if they choose, it is a little irksome, not because one is wrong, but it is diminishing to the integrity of the piece if you know right away you just read a misstated fact. I will encourage you to try and be accepting though as most of these are rare.

For example in Zefram Cochrane'’s biography it will state that he invented his warp drive machine in 2063 (as seen in the movie "Star Trek: First Contact"), yet if you went to the article on warp drive it would list his contributions dated as occurring 2061, the date being pulled from the now much contradicted Star Trek Chronology book.

The most exciting thing for me is the videos. I spent more time I would care to admit watching the videos on discs 3 and disc 4. YouTube had not been invented yet. Although not including full episodes or movies many entries have video clips taken from across the entire franchise embedded to help better illustrate there definition. There is also some very special videos in this package, including official trailers for all of the TNG and DS9 episodes in the listed in the show guide, and my previously mentioned favorite part. Several highly detailed chronicle pieces that are all narrated by Mark Lenard and he leads an intellectual soliloquy on the following topics.

Naturally, this does not include ST content that appeared post 1998, excluding the last four movies and the television series Enterprise, among other things. As such, it would seem that the Encyclopedia retrospectively feels unfinished. It does however allow users to write their own entries.

This product is also the outgrowth of an earlier title, the Star Trek Omnipedia. Many of the specialized features on disc 2 were already presented in this work, the Omnipedia also features a limited catalogue to ST productions, as it was published in 1995 and does not cover things post this date, and lacks the full search assisted database present in this product.

It is hard to say in the informational age of wikis whether or not this product has as much value as it once did. Some of the videos are unique to this product as are some of the various twiddles, which are amusing for a bit. Despite not being a game it is still entertaining for a little while, and as with almost all Simon & Schuster Star Trek based works, really good to have for reference.

 

Star Trek: Starship Creator

Star Trek interactive reference by Simon & Schuster
Release date: October 1998
Sounds & music: 1/5
Writing & story: 3/5
Graphics & special effects: 2/5
Favorite part(s): n/a
Total score: 2/5

Simon and Schuster had a long relationship with Star Trek for many years, among other things, publishing many novellas, reference works and other writings. In the Computer Game Boom of the 90s, it was a logical choice to adapt many of their works into PC format, in which they included additional features. Taking it a step further they decided to try their hand at also creating games, this is one such entry.

This however can only loosely be described as a game. It invites people to take their hand at building a ship, customizing its external and internal components, and then sending it on missions. Unfortunately this raises me to the biggest pet peeve I have with this game. You can spend hours pouring over all the information, and struggling to make a working ship, and then, you're not even allowed to fly it yourself. All missions are pre-scripted and intended to play out exactly the same way each time. This was a big letdown for me, as one of the reasons I wanted it so badly back in the day, was because I thought I would be able to use a joystick, or at the very least the mouse and keyboard for hands on piloting of my vessel. This gets grating because it requires you to just sit there watching your ship slowly travel to the mission destination, and hope it succeeds. I used to start a mission and then I’d go make food, come back, eat, have a smoke and still the mission would not be ended by the time I got done.

Another thing that drags it down is the Import/Export exploit which was discovered soon after the game launch, and it removes all challenge from the game. You might say it's okay I won’t use it, but once you do, as my roommate pointed out, with most cheat codes, it is a slippery slope and you'll find yourself abusing it just to buy the expensive items or crew you want for a specific ship.

Another issue is the lack of components for the external hull configuration. As most Trek fans are quick to point out, building a new Trek themed ship often involves using pieces from other models, to both show lineage and design progression, or at least familial relationship. This is absent as the list of components is far too short, and to add salt to this wound most of them looking almost identical or if not identical, they are oddly shaped. No one wants to fly a ship that has a hole in the edge of its saucer section, or has discolored nacelle pylons, I'm sorry.

However what this game does do well is it contains accurate information, pulled from the many reference works which also were published by Simon and Schuster, which have long been considered the standard for background information. It is fun reading about the various components, and being able to look at your ship blueprints. Unfortunately here too though, is the internal components are clearly defined for each ship class, with little variation other than cheaper gear seems to work less efficiently and the cheaper products always seem to fail in the missions.

A high note, is the ability to assign officers to your ship, all taken from Trek lore, and not just including the main characters, but many guest characters to. I did love reading their personnel files as I made my choices; I only wish that my choices would have a larger impact on game play. This is another problem with the module however, is the only hint that you've chosen bad, will come after your ship is launched and you will get contacted and your captain will literally ask you for a more experienced officer. You can tell him to shut up and go about the mission, but again, weaker components almost always fail, as do the officers who aren't a prominent or main character.

This product later saw an Expansion CD which adds about 25 new missions, and three new space frames to build a ship with, Oberth, Akira and Prometheus.

Overall, I rate this low, because it should not be considered a game as it was billed as, but another interactive tech manual by fan renowned publishers. Those looking for a true starship simulator may be misled by the title, as I was, you will not find it here, and should look elsewhere.

 

Miscellaneous

Star Trek Pinball

Pinball with Trek by Interplay
Release date: February 1998
Sounds & music: 4/5
Writing & story: 0/5
Graphics & special effects: 1/5
Favorite part(s): Klingon themed table
Total score: 1/5

When I was young, my parents and siblings would visit the Jersey shore almost every summer. It has never been the dirty uptight place that the television show of the same name made it out to be. The beaches were always enjoyable, the water was always fun to go in and ride the waves. I loved making sand castles with my brother and my father. Every day at the shore was culminated, late afternoon we would knock the sand and ocean water from our bodies, put on new clothes, and after an early dinner, we would hit the famous boardwalk.

This was always the part of the trip I looked most forward to, the boardwalk was littered with games of chance, exotic stores, restaurants, rides and more. In those days it was also home to four or five different arcades, which were about the size of a two car garage, the largest one at the center was roughly double that. In an era just before home gaming really took off, the arcade featured many different stand up cabinets, attractions and possibilities. My Dad always preferred the pinball tables, and I myself eventually took a liking to them myself.

My favorite pinball table of course was the one modeled after The Next Generation television series. Many different ramps, rails, bumpers, plastic ship models strewn throughout. It had LED lights and a display that tracked your score, balls remaining, and would often display iconic images from the show. Scoring points and doing well and you would be rewarded with iconic sounds and voice bits from Picard, Q, Riker and more. You could even hit a certain ramp and end up fighting a Borg ship which would threaten to eat your ball.

Truly, a masterpiece work of art and craftsmanship, and a marvel of technology and mechanical engineering. All of my biggest interests in one package. But I digress.

Long after this, in 1998, Interplay came out with Star Trek Pinball, in a move many suspect was an attempt to manipulate the market and make a quick buck, rather than release a truly good game. The fact is Interplay at the time was deteriorating, stretched too thin, rotting from the inside and getting more and more desperate, and now was facing both losing their status as one of gaming's top publishers and losing their Star Trek license to Activision.

I received this one as a gift for Christmas. My copy was bundled with a version of Shattered Steel, which is another Interplay game, though it is not Trek related. It was a common practice of major PC game retailers in those days, to do bundle packs. Essentially you paid a little more than the average price for one game, and would get two games from the same publisher or two that were similar in nature.

Well, about this product, it's pretty self-explanatory. In Star Trek: Pinball the player is given three pinball tables, each with Trek theme, complete with sound bites, flashing lights, and splash pictures from the original series. You control the flippers with either the mouse or the keyboard. It's entertaining for a little bit, but the tables are not really all that imaginative, with very few ramps and bumpers. It's some fun for a little while, and perhaps the most hardcore pinball fans might have a greater appreciation for it, but it lacks lasting power. I can't shake the idea that you could have put any franchise's pictures on the table designs and used sounds from it, and it would've been exactly the same. Or maybe drop the Star Trek tie in all together, go forward without a specific tie-in, and just focus on making really good pinball tables for the home PC, thereby making it more accessible to a mainstream audience.

I played it for about four or five days, then stopped. There's not much one can really say, about what's not there. Star Trek themed pinball tables were always fun in the arcade. Maybe the idea has potential if that had made more of an effort into the design of the tables, or included more than just three, this game could have been so much more. As it is, the tables seem hastily cobbled together, and just lazy overall designs.

It gets a point because the smattering of sound effects and colored lights are enjoyable, but then quickly wears itself out, otherwise it would be a 0/5.

 

Star Trek ConQuest Online

Defunct game by Genetic Anomalies published by Activision
Release date: July 2000
Sounds & music: 2/5
Writing & story: 0/5
Graphics & special effects: 1/5
Favorite part(s): n/a
Total score: 0/5

Star Trek ConQuest Online is another one of those titles that sounds better on paper than it comes across in actual implementation. The idea behind this one is that you are a member of the Q Continuum, in conflict with other Q. Since the Q are basically immortal, immaterial and omnipotent there's not really much you can do to one another. Thus, only in games of chance can you as a Q truly find your amusement or do anything seemingly meaningful.

Note this is NOT a game where two Q end up dueling, manipulating the prominent characters and the large breadth of the Star Trek franchise in their attempt to overwhelm each other. That would actually make a damn fine video game. This is a game where the Q are used as an excuse to justify having players throw smatterings of random Star Trek ideas at each other in an attempt to prove who is the better player. There's an important difference there that must be recognized.

I should begin by admitting I never got into Pokémon, Magic, Yu-Gi-Oh, or any of the other card based gaming fads that were highly popular in the early to late 90's. I'm not saying they're bad, but I have no basis to comment on how good they might be either. I am not criticizing players of these or the games themselves. I collected the MMPR cards mentioned below but I never ended up playing the ongoing game. I have a lot of friends who are into these entities, but it's just not one of the things that I am.

The bulk of this game's core fundamentals are similar to those found in Magic: The Gathering or Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Customized Collectible Card Game. For those who are unfamiliar, basically each player assembles a play deck and has a repository deck where more cards may be drawn. They generally have hard limitations, such as only so many hero cards, regular cards, special cards, etc., can be used in any given match up, despite the fact their repository deck might have a surplus of many more. From there they are used to try and beat their opponent and triumph in various scenarios. Some cards might be attached to another card to boost a certain value on said card. Likewise there are some cards that lower certain values of an opponent's card or otherwise curse or de-buff your opponent.

ConQuest being digital, is centered on using various artifacts, in lieu of cards to conquer the neutral planet, and then your opponent's home world. Each usual matchup is played with 41 tokens, with an additional 10 being used for what's called "advanced play". The major difference between the physical card games, and this product, is this product would make you pay, and keep on paying. Kind of set a precedent for Star Trek: Online. But I digress.

You have a large variety of tokens, each token has different rules that govern it. For example you can give an isolinear chip artifact to a unit artifact to double the amount of moves it is allowed to make in a single turn. Certain artifacts are much more valuable than others, and have different abilities/augmented abilities. For example a Worf artifact, is a legendary hero, and carries much more weight and importance, than a generic Klingon Warrior item.

The game contains a few tutorial missions. They give you sample play packs and teach you the concepts of the game and how to use the controls etc. Once that's done, it was time to go online.

Going online first you would have to pay a membership fee of 10$ and put in your credit card information. This also granted you a starter pack. You'd then have to put 30$ to buy booster packs, which are smaller than a starter pack, intended to bolster to and refurbish your pile. Nothing forces you to buy boosters, but then a player using solely a starter pack is at a notable disadvantage to another player who has many booster packs with which to assemble their play decks. Another problem is you never know what tokens you’re going to get with any given pack. If luck is with you maybe you'll get some valuable or rare tokens. More often than not, you'd get generic tokens like "Security Guard" or endless amounts of "Isolinear Chip" booster token.

The game also included an auction mode, where players could trade or sell unwanted tokens for real world money. It's a not a bad idea, but then if you're serious about playing to win the game, you're not ever going to want to auction highly valuable artifacts such as Spock or the Enterprise-D, unless you have an abundance of them, and even then probably not. Most auctions I saw during my time playing this were for throwaway artifacts of those aforementioned in the previous paragraph.

I bought it for 3$ at a game store in the mall in early 2001. Considering most games at the time sold for about 25$ at the time, and if it was a number one hit or from a top developer, it could be as much as 60$. So I thought 3$ was a bargain, a new video game and a Star Trek themed one at that. Now I know why they say let the buyer beware.

I only played my friend's account of this online. Although I did own it, I did not have a credit card in my own name at the time, and even if I did, I doubt I would have been willing to spend the kind of money required.

Why refurbish? You will lose tokens, with each match up. Just like the children's game of marbles, winner takes all, and it means you would have to keep opening your wallet and buying more and more packs, just to keep playing.

You might notice a lot of my terminology refers to things in past tense. That is because this game is no longer able to be played as it was intended and has no support or endorsement. As per the collectible card games that served as inspiration, I'm sure it's still played in some circles, but it's no longer in wide disbursement and it's not as if Activision still supports it or is supplying decks to it.

The sound effects are terrible and minimized. John de Lancie, as much as I love the actor, his narration does nothing to save this doomed endeavor.

The graphics and special effects are nearly non-existent. They didn't bother to include very much to look at. The artifact graphics could have easily just been pulled from micro-machine toys and miniature Star Trek collectible figurines. Nothing's really wrong with how those look, I collect them and put them on display on my counters, more or less it just shows no effort was put in when it comes to this game. The main problem, however is explained below.

Graphics aren't always the most important aspect of a game, and I'm not one who judges them too harshly. I grew up and saw games evolve from text adventures, to black and white, to CGA, which was neon pink neon blue and white graphics. Then came EGA which was roughly equivalent to one of the better drawn Saturday morning cartoons of the time. Then came 256 color VGA. Even the amazing things consoles boast about and are able to render in today's decade and age. I still play Wolfenstein 3-D and Blake Stone, their graphics true are long since outdated by today's standard. Yet they are still very artistic and decorated very nicely in their own right. One of the all-time fan favorite Star Trek games, Judgment Rites, was deliberately done in cartoon style, with maybe 26 different colors in the entire palette, and yet still doesn't come across as looking half bad.

The final nail in the coffin for this point however, is that there's just no graphical information to inform you of what you'd really need to know to make effective game play decisions. A damaged ship and a healthy ship look almost identical. An artifact your about to lose looks no different than one at full strength. Planet surfaces are misshapen messes with little or no detailing. Space consists of a few generic stars and planets. This is completely unacceptable for a game released in the year 2000.

I rate this as a 0/5. The elements teeter from being barely okay, to just plain awful. It is weak all around, lacking substance, with nothing to redeem it. Also it is no longer supported or endorsed, so you can't even play it multiplayer anymore, which was the main point of it. You can only play the tutorial missions.

This being said, this game has no value and should not be purchased by anyone, under any circumstances.

 

See Also

Video Game Glossary - classification system of the games reviewed here

 


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