Star Trek: Starfleet Command
Not content with cashing in on the Star Wars boom, game developers have turned to that other sci-fi favourite, Star Trek, to turn over a few coins. Most attempts to date have been instantly forgettable, except to die-hard Trekkies, but Starfleet Command might just change all that.
It's based on one of those detailed paper and dice board games - Starfleet Battles- but you don't need to know anything about that to enjoy this latest Star Trek encounter.
No doubt die-hard Trekkies will be queuing up to get this PC K version of their old favourite, but there's plenty to offer for the rest of us as well. If you're looking for a good real-time tactical spaceship combat simulator that combines the excitement and character of an arcade-style game like Wing Commander mlh the in-depth detail of a strategy game, Starfleet Command might be just what you're looking for.
So how does a turn-based game get magically transformed into a real-time strategy arcade game of epic proportions? As with all board-to-computer transformations, the PC takes all your tactical decisions, such as course, speed, sensors, shield strength and weapon power, and those of your opponents. After handling all the time-consuming behind-the-scenes combat calculations and tables, it comes up with the combat results and displays them on-screen via a real-time video spectacular in splendid 24-bit colour and stereo sound. Not that you or I care. We just want to know if it works. In short, it does - and spankingly well.
Watch This Space
Starfleet Command puts you in charge of one of 300 different spaceships from six races with 50 distinct, beautifully rendered hull designs, each one more gorgeous than the next.
The view camera 'follows' just behind your craft as you fly around a glorious Technicolor representation of outer space, complete with black holes, asteroid belts, planets and space debris. You can vary the views but the standard 'follow' mode will quickly become the only one to consider when bits of your ship start coming adrift and the explosions blend into each other.
Superbly-detailed phaser shots and torpedoes streak between vessels, exploding against the hulls in an eyeball-singeing maelstrom of cosmic death and destruction. The detonation when a ship is finally destroyed is something to see.
In most cases, weapon hits produce visible - if temporary -effects, such as clouds of vapour and raging fires. Bits of damaged ships, flaming hulks, disruptors, shuttles, mines and tractor beams are all thrown in with more interesting terrain' obstacles, like black holes and massive asteroids.
Ship Handling For Beginners
You don't need to be a Trekkie to play Starfleel Command, and you don't have to play as the Federation, either - you can be Ftomulan, Klingon, Hydran, Lyran or one of the Gorn Federation. All you need to do Is refer to the manual and follow the first half-dozen tutorials, which take you through the finer points of spaceship command. Part of the appeal of Starfleel is that you can fly your spaceship - and up to two others in later missions - simply by using the mouse to change course, target enemies and fire weapons, so you can jump straight into the game and start blasting.
There are plenty more options in the left-hand panel, where you can access loads of screens covering battle damage, charging rates and the like. But that doesn't mean it's easy. There are so many things to watch - from shield damage levels to weapon recharge rates - that unless you slow the game right down using the control panel, you'll need five pairs of hands to micro-manage your ship.
As well as different ship designs, each race has its own weapons, from the standard phasers and photon torpedoes of the Federation to the Klingon's disruptors, the Romulan plasma torpedoes and the Lyrans' unique expanding sphere generator. Each weapon works best at a different range and you'll find that each race has developed its battle tactics accordingly. While phasers are a good long range weapon with a short recharge time, some are deadly at close range, like the hell-bore. Other options include pseudo torpedoes and the sneaky Romulan cloaking devices.
There's more to the game than weapons, though. If you're up against a tough dreadnought or some powerful weapons, you can boost the power to some shields while dropping others, but be careful - the enemy AI always seems to go for unshielded sides. You can also launch shuttles and probes to detect distant enemies and decoy enemy ships. Tractor beams can be deployed to disable and finish off damaged ships.
You can gradually upgrade sensors, shields, probes and even the crew. A good helm officer, for instance, will mean your ship handles much more quickly in battle.
While Starfleet Command is the first real-time space-combat simulator, it isn't fully 3D. It looks and feels 3D, but it isn't. Movement takes place on two axes - left to right, backwards and forwards, or any combination of the two. There's only very limited up and down movement and then only to stop ships colliding. While it still looks the business, the lack of a completely 3D environment does cut out one or two tactical options, especially when several ships are involved.
The single-plane battleground aside, Starlleet Command runs only in 640x480 or 800x600 modes. While it's not a major problem, it's a pity it couldn't stretch the new generation accelerators a little more. Starlleet is one of the best space sims I've seen and while it's not quite up to the turn-based classic, Star Trek: Birth of the Federation, it looks far better. But the lack of resource management and any real strategic or operational element means there's a question over the game's long-term appeal, especially as will take you weeks to master the intricate interface and all the tactical options. By that time you might have decided that blasting spaceships is just, well, blasting spaceships, and moved on to something deeper and more challenging. Impressive it is, but pretty graphics aren't everything...
One Day, My Son...
You can't be a Big Cheese until you've replicated the tea for a while
You can play Startteet in multiplayer, campaign or skirmish modes. The skirmish mission design, a feature called Dynaverse, takes into account your own rating so they always remain challenging. Starting as a mere lieutenant in one of the six races, you begin on the lowliest starship, generally a frigate, and gradually work your way upwards. You can earn prestige points along the way, which you can then use to upgrade your ship, recruit elite crews and so on. There are even special missions and extra bonuses depending on your performance. In campaign mode, each race has its own unique Star Thek-based storyline of around ten regular missions, plus another dozen or so created by the Dynaverse engine In multiplayer, you can play head-to-head or in Battlefest mode with up to six players of different races.
Processor: PC compatible, P-100
OS: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game Features:Single game mode
Star Trek: Starfleet Command Screenshots
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