Kirk, Spock, ships, Gorn and tricorders.
They’re the foundation of the new Star Trek video game (STTVG) released in the past week.
The game isn’t going to become the next Mass Effect, Assassin’s Creed, Skyrim or Halo and spawn an immense fanbase that consumes every DLC or add-on offered down the road. While it likely won’t attract a huge following, STTVG is something the franchise hasn’t had in almost a decade: a decent playable video game.
Nearly every video game in the Star Trek franchise is compared to three of the only stomachable entries to date: Elite Force (and its sequel), Bridge Commander and Armada. Those three are the stalwarts in an otherwise disappointing lineup. Compared to them, STTVG is in the middle of the pack.
There are a few obvious problems throughout the game: the AI pales in comparison to other modern games, exploration isn’t really encouraged and environments are too apparent in their effort to make this a cover-shooter game.
Big bulky panels to hide behind in the middle of a busy corridor? Yeah, not too practical on a working starship. Energy hubs to refill your weapons? They just happen to be the same style as yours, despite being a galaxy away.
The AI component deserves the criticism it’s received online, and is one of the most frustrating aspects all throughout my time in the game thus far. I chose to play as Kirk, as any self-respecting manly man would. Spock was worthless when it came to combat, hardly killing any enemies and ruined many of my attempts to complete stealth missions for in-game achievements. I needed to start from my last checkpoint a few times because he was stuck in the middle of an open platform or was still underwater, somehow still alive after not breathing for about 10 minutes. Those Vulcan lungs are out of this world.
I’m impressed with the way STTVG brings the Gorn back into the Star Trek lexicon. They’ve largely been absent since The Original Series episode “Arena” back in the 1960s, where they were just slow-moving zombies in green stiff rubber suits. It would’ve taken them about a year to walk (I use that word loosely) about a mile. Kirk could have won the battle simply by running away.
Instead, the Gorn are ruthless monsters that would make a worthy adversary in another movie. But for now, they’re a perfect enemy in this game. Unfortunately, the close-ups aren’t too pretty.
Graphic detail on the Enterprise and with the main characters is great. The ship looks excellent, Kirk and Spock are detailed very well, and most of the space station environments at the beginning are nicely done. A close-up of the Gorn commander, however, was like looking at a terrain texture from the 1990s Monster Truck Madness game: pixelated, 16-color tone and quite simply a gross oversight. It’s disappointing compared to recent lead villains like Saren or Harbinger from Mass Effect. Visuals are so important in today’s games, and STTVG looks like something from 2008.
Visuals and a failure of an AI are hefty blows that drag this game down into the pits when compared to other video games on the market today. It’s unfortunate that the studio didn’t have the funding to make something to truly compete with others.
That said, STTVG is in the middle of the pack when it comes to Star Trek games. It’s not an Elite Force, where your relationships with crewmembers is explored and you truly build a team. It’s not Bridge Commander, where you’re fighting in a starship. But, it’s not as frustrating as Legacy and hardly the failure that was Hidden Evil.
Instead, STTVG, compared to other Trek games, is in the middle of the pack, and probably toward the top. I mean, you’re playing as Captain Kirk or Spock. C’mon, that’s never happened in a more immersive setting like this! It’s a no-brainer, and should have been the basis for other Trek universe games.
Like Elite Force, you’re able to explore different areas of the ship while on several missions. I love that. Seeing different parts of this Enterprise, running through the shuttlebay, using the different displays and even going down into the turbolift network, it’s all part of feeling like you’re on the ship with the crew. Mass Effect does this perfectly, and encourages it throughout the game. Just look up the fish tank and see all the hype around it.
While the new Star Trek video game is far from perfect, it does have a good level of fun attached to it. Hopefully the production companies behind this game release some updates in the near future to help smooth things out. Since the game was delayed to tie in with the new movie release, producers should have taken the extra hours to smooth out some of the (very) rough edges on the game. As a result, this isn’t a game you shouldn’t rush out and purchase. It’s not worth $60.
There is real potential for a good Star Trek game to go mainstream if given the proper funding and care. It’s happened in the past, and can easily happen again with the right story and a high level of production quality.
Unfortunately, this game won’t be the one.