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SummaryIt's sure pretty, but the net result is far too short
The Good--The graphics are great... The bitmapped explosions with transparency are some of the best ever. Sometimes, you'd SWEAR you're watching one of those epic DS9 space battles. --The new ships are pretty interesting, as Gizmo did a good job in "fleshing out" the ships for all the races (and created a few new ones to plug the gaps). --Plenty of familiar characters as your captains (if you watch DS9 you'll see a LOT of them... and NOT just the regular crew and characters). --The AI is adequate (they fire automatically unless overriden by your commands).
The Bad--Extremely short. The promised 30 missions was actually more like 20 (10 for each side of the conflict). --You can't really choose four different sides, just two (Dominion or Fed/Klingon alliance). --In big battles the frame rate drops to a crawl. --Only one resolution (800x600). --Difficult to control more than a few ships (the onscreen controls only shows six ships, the rest you have to "scroll"). --Completely inadequate documentation (just one CD cover booklet). The website has more info than the booklet! --Inadequate tutorial: just a couple FMV sequences
The Bottom LineSTDS9: Dominion Wars is a real-time third-person starship tactical combat game from Gizmo Industries, developed for Simon & Schuster. It is a very valiant effort that attempt to capture the "flavor" of DS9 starship combat while providing a fast action game, and it has done quite a few things right, but it has several problems that prevent it from joining the ranks of Starfleet Command series as "Star Trek games that does not s**k".
The game comes in a single jewel case with a 4-page booklet stuffed into the cover. The US version also came with Star Trek Starship Creator Warp II (and its instructional POSTER). Nothing else was in the box.
The install takes 510 megs, no alternate install sizes.
The intro sequence is really cool. They took the DS9 opening sequence (that comet) and played with it a bit, to segue into a series of space battles, introducing almost all the new ships.
Once you're into the game though, you wonder why the main menu looks so.. underwhelming. It works, but it looks as if it didn't get enough care and attention as the intro sequence. You get "New Game" (which is really "Start New Single Player Campaign"), "Load Game", Multiplayer, Prefrences, and some other config options.
The single player game starts you on a simple mission in the Badlands. You get a briefing from your commanding officer (for the Feds, it would be Admiral Ross. The the Dominion, you get either Gul Dukat or Weyuon). After reading through the assignment and the mission objectives (primary and secondary) you go to the fleet setup screen.
The fleet setup screen is simple in concept, yet significantly affects your combat. You have five classes of ships (class 1 to class 5) for each race, higher is better. Some races have more than one ship for one of the classes, and sometimes you may get an extra allied ship (Feds may get a Romulan or Ferengi ship, Dominion gets a Breen ship). Each ship may be limited in QTY. Each ship carries a price tag in credits.
After you pick the ships, you have to assign captain to each of them. There are five ranks of captains, from lieutenant to admiral. A captain can never be UNDERqualified for his ship (i.e. you can't have a class 2 Commander as a captain of a class 4 vessel), so you have to choose carefully, as the higher their rank (and experience, and ratings) the more each captain costs.
If you still have money left over, you may consider adding some of the special devices that may be available. Each side gets certain "devices" that enhance certain aspects of combat, like better shields (metaphasic shields), better torpedoes (quantum torpedoes), improved targetting (better chance to hit), and so force. Each of these, of course, also carried a price tag.
Finally, you can choose to carry more crew, like extra security/marines, extra engineering, and so on. The extra crew can be helpful in capturing other ships, for instance.
Once you are satisified with your ship selection, crew, captain, and devices, it's time to launch the fleet.
The combat portion of the game is your typical RTS controls... One set of dials and display takes up lower 1/3 of the screen, while the top 2/3 is your 3D display. There's a "radar" on the lower left corner.
Ordering a movement is simple. Select the ships you want to move (or select a group), then click either on the "radar" or click somewhere in the 3D view for a destination. While the view point is 3D, the game field is actually 2D. As this is how DS9 portrays space combat, this is not actually a problem. The ships will proceed at best sublight speed to the destination. If that's not good enough, click on the WARP button on the speed bar and your ships will jump to warp (complete with the sound effects as the "stretching" look) and drop out of warp when it closest the distance. The sensors, shields, and weapons will go temporarily offline as you go into and out of warp, so dont' do this too close to the enemy.
Ordering an attack is equally simple. If an enemy ship comes into range, merely clicking on it will tell all selected ships to fire upon it as you see fit. You can even change friendly engagement tactics to options like joust, hit-and-run, follow, and so on. (Strangely though, I've had best luck with NO tactics at all) You can even order your ships to aim for the shields, or weapons, or engines, and so on. . Taking out the shields can be helpeful when attempting to capture ships.
Each ship only have two shields: forward and rear. You can choose to have equal shields, reinforce forward, and reinforce rearward.
Dominion War also provides quite a few other Star Trek touches, like transporter usage. If you knock down enemy ship's shields (or the beaming ship has a transporter shield penetrator device) you can beam some surprises onboard the enemy ships, ranging from anti-personnel device (or the the Dominion, a Biogenic weapon) to marines to even good old-fashioned anti-matter charge (complete with 10-second count-down). Some of the devices you can get at fleet setup would go here (including devices that enhances your marine's effectiveness).
All the ships are rendered in exquisite detail, as are all the background graphics in the 3D view, complete with shield bubble. Damaged ships trailing a cloud of drive plasma, sporting a broken and charred hull, and more. The explosions, probably digitized from real TV footage, is one of the best in ANY game. Ships, when destroyed, spin lazily out of control before exploding into scrap... All the phasers and torpedoes originate from the CORRECT firing ports on each ship.
On the other hand, the game is a wee bit too short, with only ten missions per side and no mission editor. Also, it seems some of the complexity was removed. There was no difference between 3 types of crew (command, engineering, security/marines) you can purchase, and the devices weren't explained in the manual.
What's more, there are some serious and not so serious bugs. Occasionally the game just freezes after long sessions. As the AUTOSAVE and the in-mission save does not work, you may ending up losing a few hours of play. It's also interesting how does the Feds get Dominion or Cardassian medals after good missions, and vice versa.
All in all, Dominion Wars has the promise of being a first-rate Star Trek game, and for the most part, the finished result delivers that at least partially. It really portrays the combat quite well, but it COULD have been so much better with a bit more polish.