To boldly go where no Trek game has gone before....
After a star goes Nova - killing your Captain and wiping out a few planets in a system you are assigned to take his command as Captain and investigate the cause behind this incident. This story was written by D.C Fontana
This is all done in the standard Trek style of orange and dull purple interfaces - it works - a bit cluttered from the added in animations - but it works.
The opening render is quite ok - untill I had a closer look...firstly Captain Wright looks a lot like the Picard model - with more hair and secondly in the very nice opening credits bit of your ship being repaired one of the engines are floating in mid air. Overall the 3 rendered movies in the game are very well done but lack the polish on them to make them great.
No groundbreaking - but serviceable. The ships models are loaded with detail and look very very nice, the textures on the ships are done very well as well and all add to the Trek Movie experence. The bridge is ok, it's not as interesting as detailed as the ships - and I've noticed that there appears to be a few faces missing from parts of the bridge resultining in bits flickering all the time. The people in the crew are not that interesting to look at - you have 2 aliens and 3 humans at your disposal while varied - they are just not that interesting to look at. Also the face animations are done with texture map swapping - so this leads to very bad lip synch as there are only abou 5 different forms of mouth movement. The other characters in the game seem to be all right at first - but as you progress you get the sneaking feeling that the Klingon with the scar across his eye is really just a modified texture of another captain you see. The same applies to the Cardassians - they all appear the same with small differences like greying hair and eye colour.
The explosions are a bit dull - they are not bright and colourful but small and bland.
One of the more interesting features of this game is the realtime damage - this means that you can bore out holes anywhere on the ship - not just like in the dreadful Klingon Acadamey where it was all preset - but with enough time and paitence you can effectively remove the bridge from a Bird of Prey - and the other half floats off. When a ship is destroyed large chunks are blown out and off so the end is a floating hulk.
The phaser effects are ok - there's even an animation of the phasers pre-firing - arcs of energy go around the phaser banks. And the torpedoes look well enough too. The planets and stars are pretty low resolution - a sun looks really cool - untill you get upclose where the wow effect sort of looses it. The nebulae are well done as well. A nice touch is that any light glow - from engines or window lights have their own glow to them - and the ship also has light rippling off them as well. Also the lighting effects are really good in this game - everycurve is lit up. And there is also the Warp Stretch.
Overall the graphics are not that bad - they work - but could have been better.
The voice acting on this game is very good - this game is very story driven and you meet a host of characters from a nervous Fergengi to an insane Cardassian. Patrick Stewart (Picard) and Brent Spiner (Data) lend their voices for a surpriseingly large amount of the game time, and their role works in this story. Multiple affirmative commands and so on have been recorded so you get a bit more that "yes captain" each time an order is confirmed. The weapon sounds aare good - I cannot comment on if they are true to the TV series as I have never seen a Trek episode - but they are effective. The sound quality seems a little low - even on EAX setting. The music is very well done - a good Trek feel to it - the music also changes depending on the situation - but with a little jarring - not smooth and perfect though.
Overall the sound really adds to the atmosphere and a great job has been done on this game in terms of sound.
A mixed bag. This is an interesting approach - normally a player does all the work -but in this game you command others to do all the work for you -this works very well. You use the mouse to center on an officer - a small display tells you who they are and what they are doing then you click on them to do percise orders. The strategy in this game lies in subsystems on the ships - a subsystem is something like an engine or shield generator. By destroying one of these systems you hinder the opponents ship - they do the same to you. Another strategy feature is power management - by allocating more power to your systems your ship can preform better. If your warp core is hit then you can only allocate so much power to the systems. The battles between enemy ships are long, these are 40,000,000 ton starships - not zippy starfighters so a battle is like a fight against two slow moving giants. This means it's a fight to see who can deal the most damage to the opponent's ship A.S.A.P. This all works very well as you are balancing shield power - weapon power and repairs all in the midst of battle. The game focus mainly on battle so 75% of the game involves you attacking another starship. The other parts of the game involve ferrying supplies or sneaking about - there are also a few missions where you are leading a large scale assualt on enemy bases.
Overall the gameplay is varied and has a good enough plot to keep you interested -there's enough combat related happenings to keep you on your toes - or screaming in fustration.
The fact that this is mainly a mouse game - though keyboard commands are there means that there's a lot of clicking - and in the heat of a battle it is very possible to misclick a button and have your tatical stop everything - or another misclick might deselect a crewmember. The buttons are a bit on the small and fiddly size. Also the game does not allow you to create much of a personality for yourself. Your second in command does all the talking. Also the game is very linear - there are a few moments where you can choose to do things - but apart from that it's mostly follow their commands or fail the mission. Failing missions are another annoying aspect I noticed in one mission that a shuttle accidently killed it's self by going into a planet - for some odd reason I was relieved of Command and the game ended.
Apart from the strange gameplay niggles the game still stands ok.
The Bottom Line
What really let this game down is that it's meant for Star Trek fans alone. While a non Star Trek fan like myself can enjoy it - we would not take it in with as much enthusiasim as the fans would. And I can say most fans would go nuts for Chrome Dome Picard to help them in their first mission.
A good game - far better than most of the other Trek games - but still needs a little bit of ironing to become a great.