Written by  :  Chris Martin (1204)
Written on  :  Nov 26, 2000
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  4.67 Stars4.67 Stars4.67 Stars4.67 Stars4.67 Stars
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A breakthrough Tactical Simulator...

The Good

Star Fleet I: The War Begins (SFI) is one of the first (if not THE first) commercially produced "Star Trek" tactics game. Released in '86 by Interstel, the object of the game is simply to protect your sector from the onslaught of the Krellans and the Zaldrons.

You start the game and sign in at the prompt. In fact you also need to supply your password in order to start the game. Multiple players are supported, but on a one mission at time basis. Therefore you need to have your own password so other Commanders can't use your stats to play. Starting in a simulator, you proceed to go on training missions. After successfully completing the training missions, you are given command of an actual ship and go out to battle. In order to get promotions, you need to have a success percentage along with a required number of missions before receiving the promotion.

You patrol the sector, defending your starbases and defeating your enemies. On the lower ranking missions, you have more starbases and a substantial amount of time in order to complete your mission. As you climb through the naval ranks, your number of starbases decreases, the enemy becomes smarter (and deadlier), and your mission time has little leeway.

Failure of your mission has its consequences. If your ship is destroyed (from either enemy fire or self- destruction) it becomes unavailable for play. You can't select the vessel, and neither can anyone else that plays. There is a limited number of ships, and if a lot of people are playing, then it can get difficult.

Successful completion of your missions can result in promotion (which opens up harder missions) and, if your success rating is high enough, medals and honors. So the better you play, you have more bragging rights with your friends :)

The controls are all done by keyboard. Selecting your commands are done using the 1-9 keys along with extra key entries, depending on the command. Plotting your course is done by selecting the degree and the c-factor (i.e., acceleration rate). Each sector is equal to 1.0 c-factors so plotting courses is fairly simple. The same technique is used for plotting torpedo courses.

I find that this game is a breakthrough game for 1986. Previously, this game appeared on mainframe computer thoughout the US and was immensly popular on campuses. Because of the calculations involved in such a game, it wasn't until the PC was released (with its computational abilites), that it was a viable game for commercial release.

The Bad

There is only one thing I find annoying. But before I begin, let me state that the reason being is because of the fact that is a text-based interface.

Configuring your shields is a pain in the butt. The "Graphic" for your ship has the ships bow pointed towards the top of the screen, with the 1st shield on the bow, 2nd on the starboard side, 3rd on the stern, and the 4th on the port side. But the graphic only helps when your ship is oriented in the game to 90 degrees (north). If your ship is oriented in any other direction, it's confusing to figure out how to manipulate your shields.

The Bottom Line

This is a first rate game, which is available to download (as freeware!) at the site in the "Links/Searches" section. If you download it, it works best if install to a bootable floppy disk. Although the graphics are dated, the game shines in it replay value.

As a side note, the authors of the original are working on a Win98 version of the game, soon to be released. If the new version is in anyway like the original in its presentation, gameplay or replay value, it's certain to be a hit.

Final verdict: A fantastic old-school game... Download it and Enjoy :)