Review by mikaa
Reviewed: 11/14/06 | Updated: 11/20/07
Star Trek: Starfleet Command v0.8 is more like it...
I'm a Trekkie. There, I got that out of the way. Ever since the days of my youth, I have been a hopeless Star Trek nut, gobbling up every micro machine, novel, episode, and game that I could lay my hands on. Some of these said games were great (Star Trek 25th Anniversary on Game Boy was suprisingly good, as was Star Trek Invasion PSX), while others represented the typical Star Trek game (Star Trek Starfleet Command SNES, Star Trek TNG (Game Gear, Game Boy, SNES, Genesis, yes, I played them all - told you I was hopeless), and Star Trek Shattered Universe (PS2 version).
But where the normal video game Star Trek releases were hit or misses, the PC scene saw countless games, with one series standing out in particular: Star Trek Starfleet Command. A "real-time" combat sim, the initial game saw you choose between several classes of ship from a handful of races, then pit them against each other via multiplayer or AI. While quite fun, Star Trek Starfleet Command III would eventually superceed it as the difinitive Star Trek PC game, with wider customizations, more ships (though it WAS post-TNG ships, not my faves), and more foes (Borg!?).
When Star Trek Legacy was announced at E3 2006 for PC and X360, I was concerned. I did not (and still do not) own a X360, and my computer cannot handle the new game without severe drains to my cash funds (by severe, I mean whole new system), so what was I to do, being a die-hard Trekkie?
Simple - jump at the new DS game the minute it was announced.
It was not hard to get excited about Tactical Assault: developed by some of the original designers behind the first Starfleet Command, using the DS as a mouse pad/key pad, and Movie-era ships (which comprise of most of my favorite ship designs)! And with new ships and a story supposedly written by DC Fontana, of "The Enterprise Incident" (and other TOS/TNG fare) fame, I was estatic!
Not so when I caught wind that the game was to be US$39.99. Fortunately, it dropped to US$34.99 just a few weeks to release, and a downloadable trailer appeared via DS Download Stations and Bethesda Sotftworks's web page, and I HAD to get it - no question now.
Oh, did I mention that Bethesda Softworks was behind the new Star Trek games? As in the company that delivered the insanely good Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion? As in a company that had a terrific record?
So, release came, I bought the game, and dove right in to single player Skirmish mode. Skirmish mode is the standard VS mode, where you choose your ship, choose up to four foes/allies, allow others to join, and then fight it out. While nothing special, I learned a few things about this game just from this mode. One, I apparently HAD to play the story mode just to unlock the Romulan, Gorn, and Orion ships, as well as the Excelsior Class for the Feds (which, at the moment, looks to be one of the most powerful things in the game, unless some TNG Klingon ship shows up).
The other thing I learned about the game was the touchy touch controls. VERY quickly I found myself overturning (or overdrive spinning every so often) due to the merest TAPPING of the screen. While the touch controls are fairly nice, I'll gladly stick to the conventional controls (D-pad for turning and speed, Fire, Comms, Scanning, Warp, and Cloak where applies), as they are far more reliable.
Combat is the tired old beat-your-foe-to-death situation. For some reason, while shields appear in shades depending on their power, there is virtually no display for the strength of the hull, making this one frustrating experiance when you are getting pounded and you do not know to run or keep fighting your foe. This is a far cry from the strategy in the original Starfleet Command (nevermind III), where suicide shuttles and missiles (?!) added depth. This game is simply bare-bones fire to the death, no extras.
Also, before I go to the main section, I must comment on the ship designs. The in-game models look suprisingly good, considering the DS is supposed to be crap with 3D, and even the limited damage maps look terrific. And seeing a warp pylon flying off your foe's ship is a fun thing that not even Starfleet Command III displayed. But while the Federation ships largely match the design line of the varions series (including the use of at least one main non-cannon ship, the "Destroyer" ship, aka Belknap Class), the Klingons somehow managed to squeeze in a Vor'Cha class warship as a Destroyer-type ship (the Heck?), and their Dreadnaught looks more like a whale with a Bird of Prey forward hull. The Romulan ships, though, have a very nice blend of old TOS with newer TNG designs, and actually reflect the designs of the Birds of Prey from Star Trek: Enterprise. Their Dreadnaught, though, looks more like a Romulan Bird of Brey and an X-wing's offspring...
Story mode supposedly offers plot branches based on how well you perform in missions (aka, how hard the mission was when you beat it, or if you did the right thing), but if there are drastic changes, I do not know them. The story is fairly basic Romulans posing as Klingon ships to undermine peace talks (watch Star Trek VI for more of this fare, it's almost the same), though the extra dialog amongst your fellow ships mirrors the Original Series's commradery.
Audio is almost devoid of any classic Trek themes (what, no Klingon theme a la the Motion Picture? What happened there?), and most of the tracks are quite dull, even by my standards (I cut slack for many games, but this is dull). Sound effects are equally dull, barely matching their Trek counterparts.
Oh, and that Wireless Multiplayer that all the Flash-ads and mags promote? It's stock DS wireless, NOT WFC gameplay. Had the game supported Wi-Fi, this might have fared better on multiplayer, at least.
And while I'm dissing the game, note that the main story is quite difficult for novices, and even experianced gamers will find some missions and objectives near impossible. This is made worse by the fact that you CAN hit allies by random chance; sometimes my Torpedos and Phasers would pass my ally, and other times I would blast my charge to atoms for no real reason. Wierd.
In all, this IS pretty fun with multiplayer, and the story is well written. Alas, this is certainly not a game for everyone.
Final Score: 6 of 10
* Best Features: Actual TMP (Motion Picture) era ships, nice ship designs, nice script, standard controls
* Worst Features: Music, touch controls, glitches, Vor'Cha somehow went from a TNG warship to a TMP destroyer
* If You Liked: Star Trek Starfleet Command I and III (PC), Star Trek Legacy (X360, PC)
* Guilty Pleasure: Playing countless Skirmish bouts just to relive old battles from Star Trek Lore, such as the Enerprise Incident and Diane Duane's novel "Doctor's Orders." Told you I was hopeless.
Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Product Release: Star Trek: Tactical Assault (US, 10/26/06)
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