Trek combat enhanced
Beam us Up!
By Steven Bilodeau
Until now, Star Trek
games primarily involved puzzle-solving adventures. Typically, you had
to take on one of the character's roles and successfully manage a situation.
Most of these games had a tactical space combat component, but it always
felt like an obligatory add-on to break up the monotony. There's lots
to be said for this combination, but nevertheless there's been a strong
desire amongst gamers for a full-fledged computer simulation of starship
Interplay picked up
the gauntlet and has been working for three years on Starfleet Academy.
You assume the character of David Forrester, a third-year cadet in Command
training. Your teachers include the legendary Captain James T. Kirk as
well as Captain Sulu and Commander Chekov. On this five-disk game, they
take you through more than 20 missions which test your combat skill and
diplomatic acumen. Some missions involve reconnaissance, others are strictly
combat-oriented. The most interesting ones are taken directly from Star
Trek episodes. You'll take on a Khan-scenario from the second movie ("The
Wrath of Khan"), encounter cloaked Romulan ships in a recreation
of "Balance of Terror" and so on.
there is a storyline presented in full screen movies. You're not just
going through these missions alone, but are in command of a team of cadets.
As you progress through the game, you are asked to make certain decisions
regarding them that decide the course of the game. Should you be stern
with them or chummy? When one gets accused of sabotage, how far do you
go to try to clear his name? It is during this portion of the game that
you "interact" with Kirk, Chekov and Sulu.
All of this familiarity
forms the game's greatest strength. The uniforms, characters and setting
combine with the starships to make an environment that is fun to come
back to. You want to take your starship on another mission, and when you
see a Klingon ship in your targets, it just isn't the same as some generic
enemy in another game. Like the Star Wars games, here the enemy is known,
not just described.
The game comes in
two versions in the same package -- one for players with 3D accelerators
and another for regular Windows 95 play. Both offer enhancements for Pentium
MMX systems. This is one of the few titles I've seen that looks pretty
much the same whether it is 3D-accelerated or not. The ships are sharp
and detailed, though not as much as those seen in X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter.
Sounds are, for the
most part, true to those from the episodes and movies, except for the
While in battle or
during the movie cut-scenes, you'll be treated to a perfectly suited soundtrack
written by Ron Jones, the composer of some of the best music in any of
the Next Generation episodes.
It's too bad they
didn't cast their actors with the same thought in mind. I really disliked
the actor who plays Forrester. He was much too amateurish, both in his
actions and his speaking. The other cadets are played by actors who also
seem to be struggling through their first year of acting school. Moreover,
the characters are written so that it is really hard to like them. These
two factors combine to make the "story" portion of the game
almost unbearable at times. The bad acting made me want to skip through
it and get back to the fighting.
In addition, the format
of this type of "interactive" story has built-in troubles. When
you're in a conversation with a character, it stops and allows you a choice
of two or three responses or questions. There were occasions when I wouldn't
have chosen to say any of their selections, and others where they had
left out the "obvious" answer.
This problem found
its way into the combat missions, too. They're designed to flow in a certain
order. For instance, if you're ordered to escort a shuttle back to Starbase,
you cannot just put a tractor beam on it and warp out of the combat zone.
If you try that, you'll go to warp all right, but you'll end up back at
the battle zone. The designers should have let you take this way out or,
alternatively, have some logical reason that prevents you from leaving
without finishing the fight.
When you finish the
game's missions, you can design your own using a combination of 29 different
ships including Romulan, Gorn and other Star Trek ships. Multiplayer support
is built in so you can engage in combat over modem or network.
As much as I have
criticized this game, I have to say that playing it was lots of fun. I
kept coming back to it and playing for hours on end. It's a game I would
recommend, but not as much as I had hoped I could.
Produced by Interplay Productions
for Windows 95 and Power Macintosh
is a columnist for the Edmonton Journal. You can find more of his columns
can be reached via e-mail at StevenB@msn.com.
And for more computer news, visit JournalExtra, the World Wide Web site
of The Edmonton Journal, at http://www.edmontonjournal.com.
Tell us at TechnoFile what YOU think