Starfleet Command 2: Empires At War (SFC2) is a real-time tactical combat simulator set in the Star Trek universe, and the player will get to take the role of Captain or Admiral during skirmish or campaign missions for their species' empire.
Released by Interplay in 2000, SFC2's graphics are good even by today's standards. Not perfect or awe-inspiring, but they still accomplish their purpose well. The voice acting is surprisingly good, and there is some segments that include the voice of George Takei (Sulu from the Original Series).
This game picks off more or less when SFC1 left off; the universe has plunged into a General War with all of the major space empires attacking each other in a massive conflict. In the midst of this crisis the Organians (keepers of peace who vanished in SFC1) return - but they have brought another alien empire with them for the purposes of imposing a forced peace on the rest of the galaxy.
Naturally, the other races resent the idea of having to submit to the new school yard bully, and the war merely escalates. The player, whether in campaign or skirmish mode, can pick any of the races involved (except the Organians, who have no ships) to fly/fight for. There is also multiplayer support (though only LAN nowadays), so multiple players can fight against/with each other.
If playing in the campaign, the player will be a junior captain serving in his species' fleet, and will have a small amount of prestige and a small warship to begin play with. To get a bigger ship, the player needs to have enough prestige, and prestige is only gained from completing missions. Prestige is also necessary for replenishing supplies like marines, missiles, mines, etc.
This leads to my one gripe about the campaign game; the missions don't give enough prestige to cover the cost for drone/missile-heavy ships. This is really harsh if you are playing the missile-reliant Mirak. You'd think that after capturing an enemy planet your faction would just give you replacement missiles without charge. Alas, the cost-reward structure is such that I almost never could use high-end missiles and turn a profit, even after obtaining all mission objectives, capturing ships, and taking no damage.
However, the crucial element in this game is the real-time tactical combat between starships, and it is here the game really shines. Be forewarned; this game has a steep learning curve due to the complexity of the various game mechanics. Learning what a HET is (high-energy turn), what it does (instantly changes your direction after a brief power up), how a Wild Weasel works (if you go slow enough and don't fire it'll make you effectively immune to missiles for a limited time) are just two examples that come to mind.
In short, be prepared and willing to learn if you want to get good at this game and get the most fun out of it. Once you do learn the intricacies of the game, however, you are in for a real treat.
There are far, far to many ships and weapons systems to describe here, but every race plays differently from the others; which is an excellent mark for the game. Even ships of the same class and type look, feel, and require different strategies depending on your species and your opponent. Federation ships, for example, are very sturdily built, and tend to have better sensors and shields. In contrast, Klingon ships often feel more fragile, but have better turning rates and mount different weapons systems.
SFC2 is one of those rare sequels that nearly gets everything right; it kept the things the fans loved about the original, while expanding upon those items to bring in another masterpiece. It has a few flaws, but they are minor when one considers the sheer magnitude of things that got right. I would highly recommend this game to anyone who in interested in tactical space combat, or who is a fan of the Star Trek universe.
Final Score: 4 out of 5
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