Star Trek: Klingon Academy
Before the Borg came along to brighten the often dull lives of Star Trek crews the universe over, there was only one race able to break the monotony of starched uniforms, prime directives and uptight diplomacy: the Klingons.
In contrast with the restrained behaviour of the Starfleet crew, and almost every other race in the Trek universe, these ugly corrugated headed aliens are a bizarre combination of American high school brain-dead partygoers, honour-obsessed samurais and monstrous demons. A bit like rugby union players, actually.
A space combat sim in nature, Klingon Academy differs from your usual blast 'em up in that it accurately recreates the experience of commanding a large vessel, issuing orders to your crew members and completing assignments as a story of intrigue and deception within the Klingon Empire unfolds.
We Couldn't Kahuess
By now, there's a good chance the non-diehard trekkies among you will be falling off your chairs with boredom and planning to turn the page very quickly. After all, the antecedents aren't astounding. Games based on the series have usually relied more on the licence than on actual gameplay. If you cast your mind back to the two games closest to Klingon Academy you might remember that Klingon Honor Guard was a good-looking (at the time) but empty first-person shooter, while the direct predecessor of KA, Starfleet Academy, had enough flaws to fill a worm hole.
With all this baggage, there's more than enough reason to be sceptical. But, from what we've seen of KA so far, we can safely brush those doubts aside. Developer 14 Degrees East, has really taken on board all the criticisms levelled at Starfleet Academy and come up with the game we all wanted in the first place.
The biggest criticism was how the ships handled, moving about like small X-Wing-style fighters, rather than the large cruisers with hundreds of crew members on board they are supposed to be. But, at the same time, you can't slow down the action so much that it would make the game boring to play. We asked Ralph Hernandez, the game's producer, if he thought they had achieved the right balance between slowing down the pace while still keeping it exciting? "I believe we are about 90 per cent there," he says. "There are still some discrepancies we have to iron out. The biggest challenge with this is that everyone has a different perspective on how slow a slow capital ship should be. For this reason, we've taken a great deal of care trying to accommodate both those players who want a very slow pace, and those who want a much faster experience. When we ship the game, both extremes will be happy with the results."
So don't go expecting a trigger-happy FreeSpace experience, but neither should you be afraid of a 'flight sim in space' situation, with several volumes of manuals and Battlecruiser-like complexity. "KA is substantially different enough, such that anyone who plays it will immediately recognise it as a different kind of space sim. One that is simultaneously more sophisticated than the classic space sim, yet easier to play in a lot of respects."
The Undiscovered Prequel
The events in the game are set just before the sixth Star nek film, The Undiscovered Country, and serve to explain in some measure many of the motives behind the main characters. The most important being the one-eyed General Chang, incarnated in the movie by Christopher Plummer, who reprises his role for the many FMV sequences that link the missions together.
Of course, none of this means that you need to have seen the film, or have any interest in doing so, to derive enjoyment from the game. All you need to know is that the setting is in the original Star Trek universe of Kirk and co, when the humans and the Klingons had yet to sign a peace treaty. This means you'll get the chance to blow up some self-righteous Federation gits as well as the other races in the game (Romulans, Corns, Tholians and Sha'kurians). In fact, one of your first missions as a trainee captain is a simulated battle against Starfleet ships, including a glorious finale versus Captain Toupee himself and his Enterprise.
Once you matriculate from the academy, you are sent out into the real world, commanding a group of inexperienced officers and taking part in events that will shape the history of the Empire. The game will progress through linear missions because, in the words of Hernandez, "the ending of our game sets up the events in Star Trek VI, therefore, we can only have one ending. But," he reassures us, "within each mission there are different paths the player may take to arrive at the same conclusion."
How many objectives you complete in each mission, and the manner in which you do, has a major effect on subsequent missions. You'll also be happy to know that there'll be none of the boring diplomatic missions that made up much of Starfleet Academy. This is a space combat sim after all.
That doesn't mean, however, that there's no scope for variety; that will come in the shape of reconnaissance missions using cloaking devices or playing a major tactical role in greater conflicts.
Smoke Me A Qogh, Skipper, I'll Be Back For Breakfast
Because you are the captain of a large vessel, you have much more on your plate than steering the ship around and shooting at things. The helm is just one of many stations, including communications, weapons and engineering, each one manned by a member of your crew. You have the choice of doing everything yourself, skipping from one console to the next like a frantic kangaroo, but that would be stupid. Can you imagine Picard running around the bridge, pushing an ensign aside to enter new co-ordinates and nudging past Worf to fire a couple of plasma torpedoes? It's much more cool to just stand there and say things like 'Engage'.
It doesn't mean you won't have anything else to do (far from it), but issuing commands will be an essential part of the game. In what we are hoping will be a similar interface to the one in the brilliant SWAT 3, a hot-key system will have all orders just a touch of a button away, ensuring that even in the heat of battle you have every aspect of the situation under control. This is what 14 Degrees East is calling its Verbal Orders System. "It's basically a menuing system worked off the numeric keypad," reveals Hernandez. "At the bottom of the player's HUD (or tactical view), is a row of numbers with the name of a bridge officer attached to it. Hitting their designated number key will bring up a small menu overlay of that officer's options, in the lower left-hand comer of the screen. Each of those options also work off the numeric keypad, and they may in turn bring up other submenus, depending upon the officer you are selecting."
OK, so it may sound a tad confusing on paper, but if you've played SWAT 3 you'll know how intuitive such an interface can be. Plus, as he points out, there are many advantages to be gained from this system. "1) all functions of your ship can be controlled from one localised area of the keyboard (the numeric keypad); 2) there is no need for an extensive key chart, since all the functions will be available through on-screen menu overlays; 3) functions can be mapped to a single keystroke, at the player's discretion; and 4) voice-over will be applied to each order to give the player the impression that he is issuing orders to his bridge crew." So, if ever there was a good excuse to learn Klingonese (other than being seriously mentally ill), this could be it. To make things even more interesting, your crew's abilities will improve as they gain experience from each mission, depending on how you have performed. This makes each member of your team invaluable as they develop into skilled characters you may have to rely on for your life. So stabbing them in the back with a qutluch because you don't like the way they looked at you at the breakfast table is a big no-no.
Board To Depth
But the depth of Klingon Academy goes much further than all this. If you manage to bring an enemy ship's shields down, for example, you'll be able to make an attempt at boarding it using the marines on your vessel to either attempt to take command of it or sabotage it. Of course, this works both ways and you may find that someone is trying to get his foot in your hot rod. We asked Hernandez how this would work: "You'd have to divert power to internal security systems to help combat the invaders. It's really a question of what you prioritise, because you would most likely be fighting other ships in space at the time you might be boarded," he says. "Of course, the perfect solution would be to get the player to switch to a first-person shooter the moment enemy marines board your ship, or if you send away teams to an enemy ship. Unfortunately, that's way too ambitious for an already ambitious game. If we were to do a sequel, however..."
The prospect has a grown Klingon weeping into his blood wine, and we can only hope it will happen one day. As it is, there's already plenty to look forward to. And we haven't even mentioned the multiplayer side of things (where you'll be able to play as any of the races mentioned). Suffice it to say, if you're a fan of space sims, you should start head-butting your friends in excitement -this game is gonna rock (enormous cornish pastie shaped bells).
Not Just A Pretty Space
One of the biggest innovations is the interactive space terrain. After all, what's the use of gorgeous backgrounds if you can't use them?
The star systems the game takes place in aren't just black landscapes with dotted stars painted on them, they are populated with nebulae, planets, black holes, etc. What makes them different from other beautifully rendered backgrounds is that each terrain has unique properties, which will have an impact on the ships cruising through or by them, with the consequent tactical importance they have in the heat of battle.
For example, you could hide in a nebula when facing insurmountable odds so enemy ships can't detect you or, If you are being attacked by a much larger ship, you could draw them into an asteroid belt. You can even fight inside black holes (not recommended) and bombard planets. All of which adds a considerable amount of depth to the usual track down opposition, blast until destroyed gameplay most of us are used to.
Download Star Trek: Klingon Academy
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
The world Is made up of many diverse types of people. There are those who lead an average life, some would say a normal life, working, sleeping, eating, drinking, and watching the occasional TV show. Then there are those who take a vague interest in something, such as science fiction. They quote the odd line from Star Wars, remember fondly the cheesiness of Battlestar Galactica, and smile wistfully at the memory of cardboard scenery and bubble wrap space suits in the early Star Trek episodes. Finally, we have those who are prepared to take their interests that little bit further than most and in the field of science fiction, there are none more infamous than the Trekkies.
If you fall into category three, you'll be particularly excited about Klingon Academy. None more so, than those of you who spend your weekends donning long-haired (sweat absorbing) panty liner padded wigs, furrowing your brows stupidly and speaking to each other as though you're trying to hack up a lung. All this while claiming to disinterested passers-by that your self-taught grasp of Welsh helps you pronounce Klingon more accurately. I digress. Yes, you people are going to love this game, even though it's hardly amazing.
The reason for this confident assumption is that everything about KA is true to the Klingon culture, such as honour, warrior spirit, the ships and the terminology, ft's all accurately replicated here, and the six disks of excellently acted FMV enhance this feeling even further through an involving story line.
THE GAME'S AFOOT
After savouring the delights of gutting people with strangely shaped knives in Klingon Honour Guard, you now have the opportunity to try your hand at commanding and flying an array of Klingon vessels. The Shakespeare spouting General Chang, possibly the most charismatic Klingon of all time, takes centre stage. What more could you possibly want? Christopher Plumber? Well, if you're a Star Trek purist, you'll be pleased to know that he reprises his role as the irrepressible, pig tailed, one eyed megalomaniac. You even get to find out how he came across his cycloptic disposition. Don't worry though, I won't spoil it for you by telling you.
Set just before Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, KA installs you as a cadet in General Chang's military school. It's Chang's belief that a war with the Federation is imminent, and, rather than waiting idly for the inevitable, he decides to simulate the conflict to test you. After this, you're put in charge of your very first starship, and you must embark on a series of missions designed not only to take the Federation by complete surprise, but also to test you to your limits through encounters with other races.
We've all heard this before in space combat games haven't we? Some puffed up general, gibbering on about how your first missions will push you to the boundaries of your abilities, only to find you're half way though the game within a couple of hours. Not so Klingon Academy. In fact, quite the opposite. Out of all the space combat games we've played, this is one of the hardest and, without wanting to sound conceited, we've played quite a few.
This is somewhat of a double-edged sword, though. While it's always great to find a challenging game which takes weeks of perseverance to complete, there does need to be some semblance of balance, and that's exactly what KA lacks. Each mission takes, on average, about half an hour. This is not necessarily a bad thing if the game isn't too challenging, but is totally infuriating if it's simply too hard. It's not a problem when it happens with end missions, but having to replay the first few over and over again can be the most off putting thing in the world. You spend 25 minutes on it, only to die right at the end. Then it's back to the beginning again. It's the type of annoyance that could well put many of you off early on.
Heads Down Display
Klingon Academy is no ordinary space combat game. Rather than controlling a fighter, you are in charge of an entire cruiser and its crew. Along the bottom of the screen are the numbers one to nine, each one corresponding to a section of your ship eg helm, engineering, weapons etc. Before, during and after a battle, you must issue orders to these departments, so that your vessel can function as efficiently as possible. It's a nice idea, with just one simple draw back. It doesn't work. KA tries to be two things in one, and unfortunately fails on both counts. Rather than concentrating purely on the tactical side of space combat, it tries to be a space shooter with tactical elements. However, because the ships are so large, move so slowly and are subject to Newtonian physics, the space battles are slow and cumbersome. Just finding the enemy can be a chore. To make matters worse though, it's a total nightmare trying to issue orders to your crew during a dogfight. You end up looking down at your keyboard and back to the screen to find the right combination of buttons to issue your order and then back at your keyboard to execute the command. Of course, by this time, the enemy have flown out of view and destroyed half your ship. Not even the hot keys help that much. You also get the option of just controlling your ship's weapons while your helmsman does the flying, but even this is a bit on the dull side.
Credit Where It's Due
Of course, it's not all bad, far from it in fact. Enemy AI is excellent, and you'll often see them using evasive manoeuvres, even on the easiest difficulty settings. The game's sound effects are excellent and the music rousing. The story line is gripping and well acted. Briefings are in depth and rarely are you in any doubt as to what your objectives are. Then there are the tactical possibilities like flying backwards, using space terrain such as planetary rings to your advantage and utilising your cloaking abilities to launch surprise attacks on unsuspecting enemy vessels. If you or enemy shields drop, then boarding becomes an option as a means of taking over a ship. You're given a huge diversity of ships to fly, plenty of weapons to fire, and even an Internet Deathmatch mode. Then of course there's the accurate reproduction of the Klingon race, which is developed even further by this game.
To Buy Or Not To Buy?
That is the question for those of you not quite so keen on the Star Trek universe. KA does offer something new, but it's far too laboured an affair for us to recommend over the likes of FreeSpace 2 or StarLancer. If you're a Star Trek fanatic, you should find plenty to enjoy here.
As for the rest of you, you just need to ask yourself if you want to play a slow paced, hugely difficult space combat game about Klingons, but one which, with perseverance, can be very rewarding. Perhaps General Chang would have summed it up with a Shakespeare paraphrase.
Hath not a gamer hands, organs... Preferences, dislikes? Interest us, do we not buy your game? Challenge us, do we not persevere? Bore us, do we not seek a refund? To buy or not to buy? That is the question.
Interplay may have lost the Star Trek license for the next decade, but, like Hamlet, it's intent is to be the king of infinite space once more--something that would make Klingon Academy's Shakespeare-quoting General Chang proud. Christopher Plummer reprises his role as the ripple-headed leader from the sixth Trek flick in the follow-up to Starfleet Academy,
Klingon Academy takes place before StarTrek VI, and Chang is training warriors to overthrow the Federation. As his protege, you'll rise in rank to command 15 different craft from the Bird of Prey to massive capital ships complete with hundreds of crew. KA's action involves fighting in nebulae, boarding enemy vessels, and slicing through those goody-goody Federation ships with very palpable hits. And for the first time in a Trek game,you'll see entire decks fly by as your enemies come apart in chunks. Interplay lets slip the dogs of war this spring.
By joining the ranks of the elite Klingon Academy, you prove that you have what it takes to become one of the finest starship commanders in the galaxy. Founded by the famous General Chang, the Klingon Academy is the pre-eminent training center for warriors of the Klingon empire. To be invited is an honor... succeed and you may become a legend!
Star Trek: Klingon Academy stars Christopher Plummer and David Warner, reprising their roles of General Chang and Chancellor Gorkon respectively. Set just previous to the events detailed in Star Trek VI, the Klingon Empire is in a state of turmoil. Over the recent months, a traitor has attempted to seize control of the empire, there’s been talk of another civil war, and Gorkon has begun preaching a policy of peace with the Federation. As the star cadet of the Academy, you come to the attention of General Chang during the initial war trials and eventually come to stand with him as he defeats a heinous threat from within the empire.
Klingon Academy, the latest Star Trek title released by Interplay and developed by 14 Degrees East, is the follow-up to the successful Starfleet Academy, that introduced Trek style ship-to-ship combat to the computer screen. Starfleet Academy, while being received well, was criticized for a poor control and interface system, lending to it going on the ‘poor Star Trek games’ pile. Is _Klingon Academy _different? Yes, but not terribly so.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Unfortunately, like its predecessor, Klingon Academy is a flight simulator. The captain's chair, while giving you precise control over the ships systems, is nothing more than a sophisticated HUD (Heads Up Display), with imaginary officers that shout "Aye, aye Captain!" and "Hull buckling!" I wish my car had a computer that did that and in that same annoying Klingon voice!
Seriously though, let me elucidate on the controls of Klingon Academy. First, you’ve got a HUD, which is pretty standard in most flight sims. Designed to give you an encapsulated view of your world, it defines every status indicator necessary to play. In addition, the HUD of Klingon Academy also has a series of numbers and headings across the bottom of the screen. These summarize the Voice Order System, or VOS, which allows you to control every aspect of the ship, from the cloaking device to the amount of power that you allocate to the sickbay.
All in all, these features coalesce into an impressive and equally frustrating interface that makes the game incredibly difficult to use. The VOS usually requires the input of a three to five numerals, forming a code that activates an effect, like raising the shields. Example: 1 (Helmsman) 4 (Set Speed) 1 (Full Impulse). All in all, quite cumbersome. Thinking about it a little more, I’m reminded of the game Independence War, which was a similar station jumping game.
AI / Difficulty
Believe it or not, the interface and piloting control of the ships are not the worst thing about Klingon Academy -- that honor belongs to the AI that controls your enemy. For some reason, when you hand the piloting control of your vessel over to the Helm officer, he’s got this funny habit of setting the ships speed to zero and getting you pummeled as a result. Combine that with the fact that the only maneuver the enemy captain knows is RAMMING and you get a frustrating, nay absurd, difficulty level.
By the fourth time I was rammed to death by an Oberth class Federation vessel in the first mission, I’d finally gotten the point.
Klingon Academy’s graphics are nothing less that stunning. Providing you have the requirements necessary to push them to the limit, you’ll get treated to a level of quality never seen in a Star Trek game before. Watch as your disrupters tear a new hole in Starfleet Vessels and revel at the quality of the cutscenes, which astound and impress with both their design and direction. The quality present in both the game engine and in the cutscene animation is very high and I was very impressed.
As an added bonus feature, the designers at 14 Degrees East have included a Movie Viewer utility which, when used, lets you watch every cutscene in the game from beginning to end, as you’d see them between movies.
If you can stand the loud, obnoxious Klingon warriors in this game, you can tolerate anything.
Minimum: P166, 32MB RAM, DirectX certified sound and video card, 100% Microsoft compatible keyboard and mouse, Hardware acceleration, Windows 95/98, Direct3D, DirectSound
Reviewed On: AMD K6/2 400MHz, 64MB RAM, Diamond Viper V770 Ultra, Creative Labs Soundblaster AWE 64, 24x Creative Labs CD-ROM, and a Microsoft Sidewinder 3D Pro
Given that their Cadet Handbook is thick enough to beat whales to death, I’d say that 14 Degrees East wanted you to be prepared for their game. Providing excellent detail in both story and gameplay, this is one set of documentation that won’t leave you flying blind.
Good graphics, excellent documentation, and plenty of Klingon scalawags can’t save Klingon Academy, not entirely at least. Like the original Academy game, Klingon Academy is not a true strategic ship combat game, it’s a flight sim using the Star Trek vessels as fighters and, ultimately, is just as unsatisfying as Starfleet Academy. When Interplay finally realizes that Star Trek ships move like naval battleships and designs a game to reflect that, they might have a success.
On the other hand, you’ll have hours of fun with your friends forcing your computer to mindlessly repeat the words, "Aye, aye captain!" in an annoying Klingon accent!