Usually, in the realm of electronic gaming, when the words in the title include "Star Trek," you usually have a game that is synonymous with "crap." While there have been some great games for the series, like Interplay's Star Trek: 25th Anniversary and Judgement Rites, for every game that gets it right, there are ten games that get it wrong...sometimes so wrong one wonders why it was made (Star Trek: Pinball anyone?). Fortunately, there are developers and publishers out there who wish to properly represent this venerable license rather than simply milk it for some profit, and one of these is Interplay. Once again, in a sea of ST crap titles, they have given us (with help from developers 14 East and Quicksilver) a title worthy of the name. Star Trek: Starfleet Command (SFC from now on) is the first game in a very long time that is a true, serious Star Trek title in ages. This title, rather than giving us a hokey plotline with our favorite characters from the shows, is a serious attempt at letting player make their own character in the ST universe. Does it succeed at what it sets out to do? Let's find out.
Once the game is installed and the introductory animation has been viewed, the player is given their choice of race, of which there are six. We have our old favoritesthe Federation (great at defense, weak at offense), the Klingons (great offense, weak defense), and the Romulans (good offense and defense). We also have three lesser known races, including the Gorn, Hydran, and Lyran. These races are from the board game from which SFC gets much of its inspiration, Star Fleet Battles. If you've not played Star Fleet Battles, it's a board game with a huge set of rules which tries to account for multiple ship-to-ship combat in the Star Trek universe, and boy is it deep. SFC continues this tradition by giving us a very deep tactical and strategic game to play with.
Once you've chosen your race, you give your alter-ego a name and choose your mode of play. There are three modes, multiplayer, skirmish, and campaign. Multiplayer mode allows you play through an IP address or Mplayer. There are several multiplayer options available, and they should all tax your tactical thinking. Connections over a modem such as mine seemed pretty stable and quick, which is a blessing these days.
The next mode is skirmish mode. This mode allows you to play single missions either created by the designers or by users knowledgeable enough to make missions themselves. This is a good place to have a quick diversion without needing to worry about a campaign. These missions may also be played in multiplayer.
The final play mode, and the one where everyone will be spending a lot of time, is the campaign. Unlike other campaigns in strategy games, the campaign in SFC is wonderfully dynamic. This means that missions are generated randomly based on several factors including economics, politics, and mission status. The engine for SFC, called "Dynaverse" does a good job of generating missions, but they can sometimes get repetative (how many Orion Pirates ARE there, anyway?). When beginning a campaign, you have a certain number of prestige points, a green crew and a small frigate under your command. Prestige points are basically the currency of SFC. With these points, you repair, upgrade, and trade in your ship for a new on. You also upgrade your crew and buy supplies for your ship, such as missiles, shuttles, marines, and so forth. Once you've prepared yourself for the next mission, and gotten briefed, you're off to the mission proper. When one completes more missions, they get more prestige points, with which they can get better crewmembers, ships, and what not. The player can also be drafted into special service with their selected fleet, which adds a lot of plot-driven missions to the campaign.
This is where the game really begins to shine. If you thought you had a lot of options before the mission, just wait until you get into the missions themselves. There are tutorial missions for all of the races, although the Federation has the most of them. The interface is the same for each race, but they look different. The Federation tutorial is a great place to start, because the game has tons of options during play. It's good that there's a tutorial in the game, because the manual bites. If I may be blunt, the manual for this game is lousy. It explains EVERY SINGLE ship in the game, as well as basic commands, but that's it. It doesn't explain rules, facts, tactics, or anything else.
Anyway, back to the game. The tactical game itself is played over a 2D grid with 3D objects. One might think that 2D wouldn't do what should be a 3D game justice, but 3D would just put it over the level of frustration, as the game has enough for you to do with only two dimensions. While one has a crew in the game, you'd think they just sit there, twiddling their thumbs. Why? Because you control EVERY ASPECT of ship operations, including navigation, weapons, defense, shields, marines, tractor beams, and so forth. While it's true that a better-trained crew will mean better performance, everything is still up to you. This allows for a lot of depth, but can be frustrating to those who don't like a lot of complex commands.
The presentation of the game is grand. The graphics in the game, with nebulae, starfields, planets, starships and what not, it just gorgeous. The details on the ship are also incredible, for example, like porthole lights on starships. The weapon effects and explosions are also superb, with authentic ST looking weapons fire and gigantic explosions, which are fitting for the big ships you'll be destroying. The sound effects are also quite authentic to ST, with klaxons and weapons fire. Voices are absent throughout most of the game, except for the tutorials (the Federation tutorial is voiced by George Takei, who played Mr. Sulu). There's a lot of great looking graphics and great sounding sounds that go along with the deep gameplay.
Overall, this is a tactical ST fan's dream come true. To be able to create our own character in the ST universe and follow out a dynamic campaign with one own's ship is almost indescribable. If you like ST at all, this is one game you have to have. It's pretty, fun, and deep, and has great gameplay that we all wish every ST title had.
Graphics: Beautiful graphics and lots of great little gaphical details.
Sound: Authentic ST sound effects.
Enjoyment: VERY highly enjoyable.
Replay Value: Dynamic campaigns, multiplayer options, and user-created skirmish missions add to the replayability.
People who downloaded Star Trek: Starfleet Command have also downloaded:
Star Trek: Starfleet Command 2 - Empires at War, Star Trek: Starfleet Command 3, Star Trek: Bridge Commander, Star Trek: Armada, Star Trek: Armada 2, Star Trek: Starfleet Command 2 - Orion Pirates, Star Trek: Legacy, Star Trek: Starfleet Academy
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