Virtual captains again venture out to the vast reaches of Federation space through this next episode in the Starfleet Command series. Though billed as an expansion pack, this is a stand-alone release that does not require any of the original games to play. In Star Trek: Starfleet Command - Orion Pirates, missions revolve around the underground cartel of pirates and privateers featured in original series episodes like "Journey to Babel" and "The Menagerie Parts I and II." The pirates are organized into eight different families and players have the option to fly for any of these. There is also the noble choice to fly for Starfleet and try squelch the nefarious business of the Orions. No matter where the player's loyalties fall, the game offers 12 single player missions and several multiplayer battles to challenge his or her mettle.
Orion Pirates, the expansion to Starfleet Command 2, is a strategy game that involves thought and tactical maneuvers. Taking over command of one of the eight star empires from the original game you are able to choose between fighting against the Orion Pirates or joining forces with them to conquer the universe. During game play, players will control various ships and all of its systems while taking it into combat against enemy vessels.
This is another addition to the original Starfleet Command PC game, which is based on the long-popular Star Trek universe board game, Star Fleet Battles. The original game moved the Star Trek universe from the board to the 3D environment of your PC, much to the ecstasy of Star Trek fans everywhere.
You control any one of the many selectable starships from the Star Trek universe and head out into the vast reaches of stars and space, either in the single-player campaign mode or online in the Dynaverse II environment.
It adds a new selection of Star Trek universe members to choose from over its predecessor, Star Trek: Starfleet Command II: Empires at War; the eight pirate cartels of Orion. According to Star Trek lore, they are believed to be a clandestine arm of the Orion government, a rather dubious member of the Federation.
And they are pirates in the true sense of the word, flying through space marauding their way to great economic gain and glory. Each has its own background and history in the Star Trek realm. The eight members of the cartel are the Orion Cartel, the Crimson Shadow (The House of Korgath), The Camboro Cartel, Prime Industries, The Tiger Heart Cartel, The Beast Raiders, The Syndicate, and the Wlydefire Compact.
As with its predecessor, more is better. Having a whole new group of available members to select from increases the re-playability of the game, especially in the multi-player world. But while it was nice to have more choices, not being a Trekkie knowledgeable on all the Star Trek universe history and its members, I found a certain level of comfort staying with the tried and true Federation or Klingon sects.
Having more selection is a nice improvement, but the online multi-player Dynaverse II universe is one of the biggest reasons to recommend this game to die-hard Trekkie gamers.
The multi-player is finally stabilized with the Dynaverse II finally realizing the potential that Interplay had hoped to reach with Empires at War. In Empires at War, you were supposed to be able to play in a multi-player Star Trek universe, gaining the ability to access improved starships with any of the available races in the game. However, because of a last-minute pullout by the multi-player host, Interplay was forced to scrap those plans for the most part and provide just a bare-bones multi-player environment.
Playing against a horde of Trekkies in their battle-ready fleet of ships, the thrill of being able to be victorious against human competition is a truly special feeling. Kind of makes you want to jump around singing the SpongeBob Squarepants theme song.
The shame of getting your ship blown into tiny bits of space flotsam, however, can make you feel worse than getting kicked in the groin with a wooden peg leg. (Take that patch off your eye and put that parrot back in its cage, you pirate-poseur!)
Single-player mode isn't as much fun as playing online in the Dynaverse II world, obviously. It does have a campaign feature, which sets you off on pre-designed scenarios, allowing you to get a real feel for the game and its controls. You can gain valuable game-play knowledge to prepare you for your online ventures. If you are a Star Trek fan, the single-player game is enough to recommend this game for purchase.
Included is a scenario from my favorite Star Trek movie of all time, The Wrath of Khan. While playing as the Federation's Enterprise, I got flashbacks of a pumped-up Ricardo Montablan as Khan, failing to extract vengeance against his nemesis, James T. Kirk. Ah, memories.
Game controls involve a lot of keyboard and mouse interaction. The basic controls, such as weaponry and shields, aren't too hard to pick up. But other functions, such as tractor beams and transporting, definitely need some practice to gain comfortable mastery over.
Your strategy is pretty simple: destroy or be destroyed. One of the keys is outfitting your starship with sufficient amount of weaponry to beat the hell out of your opponent. Customization is one of the great features of Orion Pirates. You can choose what kind and what amount of weaponry as long as your vessel can fit it.
The flight and navigation of your starship is an important element to being successful. You have to know when to turn and run to fight another day, when to stand your ground, or when to cloak yourself. You will need some dedication to the nuances of how your starship and its crew operate to become a top-flight starship captain.
Being a strategy game at heart, battles can drag on as you look for the best way to defeat your opponent. Sometimes it comes down to who can outlast the other's barrage of weapon attacks. The biggest annoyance with the game will come to those used to the frenzied pace of the battles of Command & Conquer or Starcraft-type strategy games. It can be frustrating waiting for your ship to re-power up the weapons for your next attack on your opponent while he is busy wailing away at your defenses.
The look of the game is nice, but nothing too spectacular. The ships of you and your opponent look good, with attention to the detail of each particular craft. While much of the game action is in the white and black of space and the stars, when you happen to come across nebulas, black holes, asteroids or planets, they are given the same nice graphical treatment as the game's star crafts.
If you are getting pummeled with heavy photon fire or missile attack, the damage starts to show on your battered starship. You know you are in big trouble if you have chunks of your vessel missing with no repair options left. It might be time to set your ship's self-destruct option and go down with your vessel in a blaze of 23rd-centry glory.
With its fully realized multi-player world, this is as close as any of us 21st century dwellers will ever get to attend the Starfleet Academy. If you are a big fan of the Star Trek universe and revel in the details and strategy involved in knowing the many races and ships and how to use them in battle, then Orion Pirates is the game for you.
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