As an RTS experience set in outer space, Star Trek: Armada II is much like the original game in functionality. You often control the Enterprise, and as far as gameplay and enjoyment, the sequel exceeds the original since it's more difficult. Unfortunately, though, the creators tossed a few good features from the original that would have made a big difference.
The fully animated video sequence that followed and preceded each level in the original is missing and has been replaced with the captain's voice narrating the objectives of the mission and plot with camera shots of the ships moving about. While not inherently bad, and typical of many other games in the genre, it's more exciting to watch the story unfold through action sequences. Also, Armada II doesn't have the full cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation or focus on Captain Picard, whose voice was used throughout. But, you still have a plethora of options available for unit creation, and the Instant Action mode has limitless possibilities.
You can still change perspectives, allowing you to fully enjoy the action, and Armada II has an action window that depicts battles on the right hand corner of the screen. Clicking on it takes you directly to the scene, where you can quickly get into the action, and you can zoom in or out using the mouse scroll wheel. In single player mode, units you create are often limited to the circumstances of each mission, but as you progress, more technology and research becomes available.
An interesting and unique aspect concerns researching both defensive and offensive tools for your armada, such as researching a shield generator for the sovereign-class ships that can be used in battle. You eventually acquire three separate research stations: a Federation research facility, science station, and Vulcan research institute, with the latter used for researching and developing more powerful armor, weaponry, engines and life support for all of your ships. In Armada II, you don't have a need to research and develop new ships; they just appear as you progress.
The single player game is nicely designed with three campaigns putting you in the control seat of three different races: the Federation, Klingons, and the Borg. Federation missions come first, and you can't move on to others until they're completed in sequence. The Federation missions start easy and don't become difficult until the last Borg confrontations, where you must think and act fast to construct your base and build ships to defend yourself from their constant attacks. After completion of all ten Federation missions, the Klingon missions open up. The storyline moves in a very interesting way because each race is involved in the same conflict. When you begin the Klingon missions, you continue from where the Federation missions ended, but from the Alpha Quadrant.
Each race has the same number of units that operate in similar fashion, but weaponry is different and gives certain races advantages in some situations. Overall, though, the races are very equal in power with units that perform the same functions, but the differences are enough to offer each race a totally different sound and look. Playing the various races is enjoyable, since you feel as if you're controlling something alien.
While single-player mode makes for a really good game, Armada II shines in multiplayer and instant action modes. The former lets you play as any race against up to eight people using a LAN or Internet connection, while instant action lets you choose from any race, map or battle condition against an AI opponent. Both modes are assets, providing limitless gameplay with full capabilities and technologies of all races available. Naturally, though, the multiplayer mode offers even more strategic possibilities due to the unpredictability of other human players.
Graphics: The graphics are nicely done and smooth zoom features offer close views of your ships during the action. Very little slowdown occurs when multiple ships are on the screen.
Sound: The sound consists of the classical Star Trek soundtrack with the voice of Captain Picard, and despite the lack of full motion video sequences of the crew, the voicing is a plus. Sounds change with the different races and make each one unique, including the sound of your cursor highlighting an option.
Enjoyment: The game offers two levels of fun. First, the single-player game provides a story and overall goal. Second, Instant Action and multiplayer modes deal with eliminating the other player(s). Regardless, the first mode would benefit from more solid storyline and full-motion video sequences.
Replay Value: Multiplayer adds a solid replay factor to Armada II, and the tough AI component in Instant Action mode offers plenty of chances to replay missions.
Star Trek: Armada II is the sequel to the best-selling Star Trek RTS, Star Trek Armada. An innovative game, Star Trek Armada II adds a new level of strategy and realism to the original by allowing players to command from a 3D tactical view. Set in The Next Generation universe, the game's story unfolds through three single-player campaigns played as the Federation, Klingons and Borg. Additionally, the Cardassians, Romulans and Species 8472 will join the fray throughout the single-player campaigns.
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