Begin 2 is a fleet command simulator set in the Star Trek universe. You control a fleet representing your galactic power, which can be the United Federation of Planets; the Romulan Star Empire; the Klingon Empire; or the Orion pirates, and choose a number of starships to field against an opponent. There's no goal or story in the game; the object is to defeat your opponent while sustaining as little damage as possible.
To begin a game, you must choose the number and class of starships both you and your opponent will start with. You may send one ship against another, or two whole fleets engaging in combat. There is no balance requirement, so there is room for experimentation; you could send 50 of your power's weakest ships against one of your enemy's strongest, or even send a lone ship against a whole fleet to see how long you can last.
Most ships come equipped with phasers or photon torpedoes, although using those weapons effectively is not limited to merely selecting a target and ordering your ship to fire. The firing arc of phasers can be set to narrow or wide; wide arcs have a chance to damage ship systems, while narrow arcs deal more hull damage. Additionally, ships with multiple phaser banks may be ordered to attack different targets at the same time, which is useful for taking out small ships. Photon torpedoes are most effective at close range, and require a little strategy to use, since one cannot simply close in on a fully armed ship and fire without losing their shields. Boarding parties may also invade ships if the target's shields are down, and may take over the ship or neutralize its crew.
Each ship has a variety of systems related to operating in battle, such as weapons, shields, and engines, and damaging them will cripple a ship. Also each ship has limitations, including hull strength, maximum warp and impulse speeds, and the number of phaser banks and torpedo launchers. Engines may overheat if they are pushed too hard or damaged, and weapons need to recharge and reload. You can order a damage report to see the overall status of a specific ship you control.
The game is run completely on text commands, however there are graphical representations of ships and systems. As commands are entered, units of time will pass. The game is paused between commands, so you'll have time to plan your next move. The game is played on a two-dimensional map, so it's not possible to ram enemy ships; rather, it's assumed that your ship flies over or under another.
As mentioned before, the game is based on the first Star Trek series, however Trekkies will find little about the game related to Star Trek. Kirk, Spock, Scotty, Chekov, and Uhura will respond to commands as appropriate to their stations when controlling a Federation fleet, and of course ships have phasers and torpedoes. The rest is left to the imagination. Despite these, Begin 2 is a good combat simulation.
Begin 2 is a classic shareware space combat simulation set in the Star Trek universe. Inspired by the Starfleet Battles board game (which was also an inspiration for Interplay's Starfleet Command), Begin 2 is the best game I've played that utilizes turn-based gameplay with simultaneous execution of combat, featuring combat between up to 50-plus ships at a time.
What really makes this game shine is the true-to-Star-Trek complexity of the orders you can give to your officers: you can dock at space stations, lock tractor beams on friends and enemies, launch probes, and try to take over enemy ships by beaming over marines. You can also communicate with your allies, ordering them to escort a friendly vessel or hold fire (whether your allies feel like following your order is another matter altogether -- an Orion pirate ship on the verge of disintegration will choose to leave you to deal with the enemies while making a hasty retreat, while a Romulan warbird will ignore your retreat command and self-destruct, trying to take as many enemies with it as possible).
The 1984 version is text-only, while the far-superior 1989 one (the version for download here) has simple graphics. There is no mouse interface -- all commands by the user have to be typed in, which is part of the game's charm, as the commands have a very Trek-type feel to them. "Lock phasers on Enterprise" or "Tell Excelsior to torpedo the Whirlwind" are all valid commands. Despite the game's complexity, the learning curve is not as steep as it might have been, since only a few maneuvering and weapons commands have to be learned in order to start playing. A comprehensive manual and a handy command guide make learning this game enjoyable.
This is a game that is dying to be updated with a mouse interface, a campaign/mission mode, and better graphics. It is a true old game classic, with small but loyal following. Highly recommended!
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