Star Trek: Legacy
|a game by||Mad Doc Software, LLC|
|Platforms:||XBox 360, PC|
|User Rating:||7.7/10 - 6 votes|
|Rate this game:|
|See also:||Star Trek Games, Space Games|
The Even-Numbered is a cliche among anyone with even a vague knowledge of the Star Trek films. It can be paraphrased thus - the odd-numbered films do the same for your sense of Trek devotion as having William Shatner break into your house, slap your dog and empty a sack of vipers into the cutlery drawer. If this is the case for the games, Mad Doc Software have some encouraging form. Armada was a fine, playable RTS that gave fans a great Borg storyline. Then they released Armada 2 - a disappointingly samey rehash of the first. Following the good-bad rule, Star Trek: Legacy should be great. And when you consider the E3 presentation, which evoked the classic Wrath Of Khan, you're carrying one excited basket of chaps.
Legacy has a pretty adventurous selling point, that'll have the more outdoors-wary among us howling and slavering in a way that would cause a vicar to shuffle awkwardly in his chair. Legacy starts you off in the 22nd century and spans centuries, encompassing every Star Trek era there's ever been. Ever. There's an epic, over-arching plot - and that's some arch, mister - that carries you through all the technological developments, all the Enterprises, all the Deep Space Nines, all the Voyagers and all the dinky Defiants.
Klingons On The...
So how do you get all that in? Dr Ian Lane Davis, the Doc from Mad Doc Software, explains. "You'll see the history of the series from the beginning, and move through the evolution chronologically. The three separate eras are continuous in terms of both the storyline and the fleet that you carry into battle each mission."
Streamlining a timeline that's grown so organically must be a Herculean task, especially when a good proportion of the fans would be furious, say, if the Defiant appeared before 2366. But that's not the only problem; the set designers of Enterprise, the prequel series, couldn't bring themselves to make the ships look less futuristic than the '60s classic, which was supposed to be built nearly a century later. How will that affect the game's design? "The designs have evolved a little bit since the retro Star Trek, but a good deal of that retro feeling comes from the older production techniques and models they used, back in the day," explains Dr Davis. "In Legacy, the ships look really good across all the eras. Kirk's ship has never looked better."
You've got to admire the bare-faced balls of someone who's dared to improve the slinky clunk of the classic NCC-1701. But what will combat be like? Point, click, phasers? The static lasers-on, lasers-off battles of the TV series, with an occasional manoeuvre named after someone they just made up? Will it be about diverting power to shields? "We don't plan on making the player feel like they're micro-managing their individual ships too much. Legacy is all about sexy space combat. There's nothing static about these battles; think tactical movements, ships getting torn apart chases, running battles and of course, big, sexy explosions."
From other gameplay on show at E3 - a gigantic battle around Deep Space Nine between Klingons and Romulans, with a side helping of the Federation coming to the rescue that was cut short by the appearance of a flotilla of gigantic Borg cubes - the doctor is living up to this promise. What's more, each of the above will be playable in multiplayer - if you have a pressing need to assimilate someone - and skirmish battles taken liberally from Star Trek history will be available. So don't count out Wolf 359.
So, it's time to ask that guestion. The question that tests the mettle and reserve of anyone with a love for Roddenbury's massive baby. The question about TNG's very own Ensign Scrappy Doo. Were you ever a reader of alt.wesley.crusher.die.die.die?
"Star Trek lias very grown-up themes of humanity, politics and personal drama, and the story is best told by characters who have a firm identity. If the character is young and constantly changing, it's harder to portray the changes and conflicts in the drama." Oh, Dr Davis. Spoken like a true Vulcan diplomat.
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Shatner! Stewart! Brooks! Mulgrew! Bakula! Five captains united for the first time in the history of the Star Trek franchise! Had this been a press release, that's exactly how I would have started it In fact, I may just have left it at that, because let's face it, the idea of having the voice talents of the five major Star Trek captains under one roof would be enough to sell this game to even the most tepidly enthusiastic of Trekkies.
I wouldn't even have to mention Legacy's epic space combat battles, the potentially mesmerising era-spanning plot or the stupefying collection of Starships just waiting to be kicked into warp 19 (it's OK, I'm exaggerating for effect) and sent into battle against alien races. Neither would I have to mention the fact that Id spent several hours in an intimate clinch with the latest code.
Of course, this being a playtest, you'll be wanting a few more juicy nuggets of info, so here goes. Visually, Legacy is looking little short of spectacular, with Starships accumulating real-time damage as they're pounded by pyrotechnic phaser and torpedo displays, while the dark, airless void is dotted with bright planets and mammoth spacestations. Even Deep Space 9 makes an appearance.
Your fleet of four ships (you start the game with just one) can be upgraded or sold for scrap metal to fund the purchase of newer, more advanced vessels that pack enough firepower to bring down a Borg cube the size of a moon. Just as well really, as the Borg, coupled with the Romulans and Klingons, seemed responsible for the majority of the game's combat in the levels that I sampled. Being able to redirect my ship's power on-the-fly and issuing my mini armada with orders added a tactical edge to the brutal action, while the option to use Nebulas to thwart the enemy added a genuine sense of immersion to the proceedings.
If youre a die-hard fan, you'll be pleased to know that all of your favourite Starships have been recreated in loving detail and are available for you to command, including the Defiant, Intrepid and Mildly Insubordinate. OK, I may have made that last one up, but you get the picture.
However, it's not all positive. Despite later battles being breathtaking in their magnitude, the inherently cumbersome handling of my craft, coupled with some asphyxiating camera controls and a lack of perceivable speed when the view fixed behind my ship, restricted the excitement levels somewhat. Thus, I was forced to spend half my time looking for the enemy while firing off-screen with my phasers. Let's just hope that Mad Doc iron this out in the month they have left to complete the game, as once I was facing the action, the battles proved highly evocative of the space jousts that made the movies' action-sequences so thrilling.
While questions marks hang over the game's camera interface, the rest of Legacy appears to have bags of potential. Whether it'll be a Wrath Of Khan or : Nemesis though, is yet to be seen.
Your Average Star trek episode, say a Next Generation one sometime around season five or six, runs thusly. First, new planet discovered. Second, slightly dull dispute about crop irrigation or something. Third, dull warbling about the prime directive. Fourth, Counsellor Troi senses discord or infinite sadness. Fifth, they find out it was the Romulans all along. Sixth, the episode's special effects budget is expended when something in space blows up. Seventh, Data looks bemused.
Your average mission in Star Trek: Legacy, however, runs a bit differently. It may start with those assuring blue episode titles in the top-left corner, but what follows are more breaches and explosions than any budget could allow. Space battles are here by the space bucketload... Which must make for a wonderful game, must it not?
Legacy can and will make you want to hurt things. No, I take that back - Legacy will make you want to kill things and then hold them between your teeth while you repeatedly slam them into broken glass. I might be a tad hysterical here, but it's taken.something thats dear to my heart (Star Trek in its several generational forms), then haphazardly wandered towards a gameplay model that would have made me mildly gleeful, and proceeded to throw a veritable sensor array of glitches and oversights into the works that stop the show far short of a recommended purchase.
Make It Not
The story, as it is, isn't bad (see Unfinished Symphony', opposite) - and it certainly is nice that they've roped the whole four pip' captain gang in for voice duties. But the game is just so unwieldy (less so on 360, so read into that what you will), its controls so flailing in their driftyness and its map screen so sluggish and ill-conceived that just thinking about it earlier caused me to dry-heave.
Once youve got used to the idiosyncrasies of Star Trek combat (predominantly based around exactly which angles you can fire from - a factor not helped by the game's poor tutorial system), it's fair to say that its levels are relatively varied - even if they always do revolve around interplanetary fisticuffs. Each one begins with the relevant captain speaking as the voice of their ship (there are no cut-scenes beyond ship exteriors - giving a one-vehicle, one-voice Thomas The Tank Engine ambience to affairs), and a variety of twists and turns play out from then on.
A significant problem then arises, however, since the lack of an in-mission save feature coupled with wavering difficulty levels and sections that can last anything up to a half-hour leads to quite remarkable levels of frustration. Call me prissy, but when I play a rock-hard level four times over for half-an-hour at a time and I get killed in its closing act EVERY SINGLE TIME, then I think I deserve to get a little upset.
What's more, the action itself is rather shallow, tactic-less and difficult to follow -something compounded by the fact that issuing decent orders to the other three ships in your entourage is nigh-on impossible. Sure, you can take each over individually - but trying to get any battleplan going other than my own constant bundle in on that big bastard there!" ruse is rarely an option.
Far from a slow, gradual drip of goodness into your federation flotilla meanwhile, the game unlocks uber-ships to buy remarkably early in each generation of the game -providing the most non-gratifying instantgratification you may ever experience.
In even the bleakest most mundane of Enterprise episodes though, there was always the morale-lifting possibility of Jolene Blalock needlessly being infected with something and being shamelessly stripped of clothing, greased in sci-fi lube and placed in a decontamination chamber. Does,Tm sure youll be wondering, Legacy have a saving grace - a metaphorical erect Vulcan nipple peeking out of the murk?
Well yes it does - but only in what the game could have been. Even the most steely-hearted of Trek-tans won't feel a tingle of excitement as they hear the enthusiastic bark of Shatner, go into battle with a Bird of Prey, see Deep Space Nine orbiting Bajor or first bear witness to a Borg cube. But, sad to say, the lumbering combat, laborious controls, frankly bizarre collision detection and remarkably glitchy graphics really put a bit of a kibosh on things. Disengage.