A reader dreams of his ideal Star Trek game and is frustrated that modern games focus on action rather than drama.
Ill begin with a conceit, I am a Trekker, a devout fan of the franchise series Star Trek, from its humble beginnings to its current iterations on both the big and small screen. Beyond that, over the past few decades I have experienced many variations of my beloved show, both official and those made by fans as a mark of devotion to its message of positivity and optimism.
One of my earliest Trek games was the shareware title Rescue for the Mac, an unofficial game that had you flying around as the Enterprise avoiding various threats and trying not to annoy Q with the threat of a Borg cube. This then continued into various fan-made plug-ins for another shareware title, called Escape Velocity. This was my first experience of the modding community and how they changed the games graphics to portray the ships of Starfleet in all their glory.
After this began a string of official titles that, to an extent, captured some of the magic of Star Trek with, in my mind, the epitome being Star Trek: The Next Generation – A Final Unity. This was before a general decline in standards as each subsequent title effectively copied another games best features, fundamentally altering or destroying the legacy of Trek. The first person shooters of Voyager and Deep Space Nine, the recent tie-in with the new movie franchise – all focused entirely on the combat and fighting, a disrespect to the legacy of Gene Roddenberry.
Recently I had the misfortune to try the latest Star Trek release, Fleet Command, an absolute abomination of a game that sadly represents the worst aspects of freemium gaming, from the entirely deceitful trailer showcasing an experience completely removed in every sense of the word from the final game and packed full of ways to buy and spend money to improve the gaming experience.
Any hint of new worlds and civilisations is lost to a graphical interface that would shame the operating systems of the 1990s with the crude portrayal of the Star Trek universe. Visually the game looks remarkably cheap in terms of the space exploration and ship animations, the battles between ships reduced to two circling dots, which in no way imaginable match or mirror the presentation shown in the trailers.
Within the game there are hints to its scope and potential, a glimmer of a possibility in its attempts to be a broad Elite style game with multiple planets and trading points to launch missions from, but unfortunately this is lost in a wave of microtransactions and booster packs.
When I played the new Elite: Dangerous I was almost convinced at the time this was the direction I would be delighted for a new Trek game to take but delving further into the title I began to realise I didnt need the entire galaxy to explore. The best episodes and movies have been confined to a small area of space, maybe just a handful of planets, as few as two. Make the ship once more an important aspect of the plot, commanding the vessel to traverse the frontier, overcoming galactic phenomena on your flight path and not just a visual extension of a gun shooting anything and everything out of space.
With a restricted location range you can add depth to the crew and pluck the best aspects of Mass Effect, or any BioWare game, to flesh out an established or even brand new crew. The necessity to world build is removed, over 50 years of screen time provides a rich and engaging lore to choose from. One of the reasons I enjoyed A Final Unity so much, and felt it captured the Trek spirit, was its willingness to avoid the temptation of just making a combat simulator. It has combat elements, one of the first encounters takes you into battle, however very quickly the bulk of the adventure revolves around completing a quest that takes you into the unknown.
To summarise, where Star Trek succeeded on the big screen was taking large concepts and themes, faced with a restrictive budget and presenting a powerful depiction of Gene Roddenberrys original vision. The Wrath of Khan had a considerably reduced budget and scope, in its simplest form three planets, two ships, and one great rivalry. Star Trek doesnt need to showcase and cover the entire universe to tell a great game, the best episodes and movies always had a tight, personal narrative and theme.
I would love to see a game from a studio that didnt feel the need to recreate the galaxy and be awash with disposable characters and ships to buy for bonus money. Give me a tight, focused narrative, a bit of spit and polish and a focus on a functioning crew and Ill be sold. What do I envision the perfect Trek game to be? the characterisation of Mass Effect, the puzzles of Portal, the graphics of Elite, and the narrative structure of The Last Of Us. So, not a lot to ask for.
By reader ATBonfire (Facebook)/around.the.bonfire (Instagram)/ATBonfire (WordPress)
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