TechnoFILE is copyright and a registered trademark © ® of
Pandemonium Productions.
All rights reserved.
E-mail us Here!

Interplay's Star 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 combat.

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.

Between missions, 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 phasers.

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.

Starfleet Academy Produced by Interplay Productions
for Windows 95 and Power Macintosh

Steven Bilodeau is a columnist for the Edmonton Journal. You can find more of his columns at

Steven Bilodeau can be reached via e-mail at And for more computer news, visit JournalExtra, the World Wide Web site of The Edmonton Journal, at


Tell us at TechnoFile what YOU think













Support TechnoFile
via Paypal

TechnoFILE's E-letter
We're pleased to offer
our FREE private,
private E-mail service.
It's the "no brainer"
way to keep informed.

Our Privacy Policy

May 14, 2006