Star Trek: New Worlds
In a remote sector of the Neutral Zone, a Romulan Warbird prepares to carry out a shadowy experiment involving a nearby test probe. Before the crew can begin, a Klingon cruiser de-cloaks and demands that the Romulans cease and desist. In typical Romulan fashion, they ignore the Klingons and fire a mysterious bolt of energy at the probe, narrowly missing the Klingon ship in the process.
The probe explodes with a shockwave of energy, disabling and possibly destroying the Klingon vessel. The Romulans seem to consider the experiment a success. Without warning, the Warbird begins to lurch. A surge of gravity hits the ship hard, sending the crew flying. A crewman reports that out of nowhere, an entire planetary system has appeared from a huge sub-space rip created by the exploding test probe and that they are trapped in the atmosphere of one of the planets. The Warbird attempts to escape the vicious clutching maw of the gravity well, but fails and burns up in the planet's atmosphere -- not before a final, perhaps futile, distress signal is sent.
Your role is to explore and colonize these strange new worlds -- as the Federation, the Klingons, or the Romulans -- utilizing the planets' natural resources to build up, expand, and defend your outposts. You must protect your colony not only from your particular empire’s two enemies, but the indigenous people of this planetary system as well.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
I didn’t enjoy this game, let me just say that up front. There was no excitement in it for me as the tasks were tedious and not very obvious, and I found I couldn’t remember what a particular unit did not five minutes after I got done using it. The only charm came from the game being atitle and even for a die-hard Trekker like me, that only lasted a few moments. Nothing in this game really has anything to do with the universe, other than the inclusion of the three rival governments (Federation, Klingons, and Romulans), and I can’t help but feel that this was the wrong gaming direction to take the franchise.
This game, like all the other Real Time Strategy (RTS) games out there, has a Tech Tree -- more units become available after certain prerequisite units are completed. This can be a bit messy if not handled in a nice, easy-to-use-and-understand way and good games, such as Starcraft, will ghost out units that are not yet available for construction and tell you what is needed to get them. Star Trek: New Worlds doesn’t do either. You can’t see units further down the Tech Tree and there is no way to know what is necessary to build beforehand to get them. Furthermore, I found I was so focused on trying to figure out how to create the units I needed to develop an effective and well-defended base, that any attempt to create a strategy was lost in the details of colony management.
Info messages pertaining to current status (e.g. running out of resources or needing more power for your increasing number of units) appear in a dinky little window as a "page" of info, which quickly gets buried under more pages as other messages pour in. It was very frustrating to scroll through these often times wordy little messages to find the important tidbit that finally made me realize "Oh, that’s what I did wrong."
On the information front, I also found it difficult to determine a unit’s health/status. When you click on a unit, either a building or a vehicle, its health/status is displayed directly above -- not as a bar, but as a series of five icons representing that empire’s symbol (e.g. five arrowheads for Starfleet or five triangular emblems for the Klingons) Now, in order to play this game with some degree of control, you must zoom a fair way out of the default camera view to get a clear picture of the action. But, when you do this, a unit’s status bar shrinks and becomes unreadable. Why they couldn’t do a simple health bar is beyond me.
The other thing that bugged me was that the shape of units was too uniform. There is something to be said for the buildings and vehicles in this game -- they all look the same with no distinguishing characteristics that even remotely suggest what the building is used for at first glance. An exception can possibly be made for the Federation’s vehicle construction facility, which looks vaguely like a hangar. Other than that, the Federation is grey-blocky, the Klingons are reddish-blocky, and the Romulans are brownish-blocky.
Speaking of vehicle construction facilities, I found it surprising that there was no visible vehicle queue. When you have a string of vehicles lined up to be built at the vehicle construction facility -- it’s a maximum of 10 which is pretty standard in RTS games -- there is no way to tell what vehicle is currently being built and no indication as to what’s remaining in the queue.
The multiplayer aspect was equally disappointing. You can only play with other machines that host a game directly or that connect with your machine if it’s hosting. Plus, multiplay is restricted to high-speed connections only -- if you are still stuck with a regular old modem, you are out of luck.. There are also no campaign editors included or available, so multiplayer games rely on the single player maps and missions.
I have other gripes about the game which are pretty minor, but deserve mention because some are just funny. First, the opening movie is anachronistic. Federation starships from the Kirk-era are side-by-side with Romulan Warbirds from Picard’s, Sisko’s and Janeway’s time. Second, the colonies need to have concrete foundations -- my 1917 house is built on one too! Nice to know that some things never change. Last, I have two words for you: electric guitars (in Star Trek? What were they thinking?).
This game is entirely 3D rendered and care has been taken to provide as realistic a view of the planetary environments as possible. Lakes and windows on buildings seem to reflect the sky. You can zoom in or out to view the world from the perspective of a small ground scout to a nice overhead picture of your entire base and surrounding countryside. The lighting, however, isn’t dynamic, and there are no alpha shadow effects, a personal pet peeve I have about many 3D games.
The camera and zoom controls are a bit clunky and took a bit of time to get used to, and I found that I hardly used any of them aside from the default camera angle on the far-away zoom setting after I got done ogling every little detail that was put into the game. (They are very true to the little helper vehicles in the Star Trek movie universe -- even down to the Starfleet Workbees that can be found in the Star Trek Technical Manual.)
The sound effects are vintage Star Trek with a bit of updating, from the familiar original series sonar ping that could be heard on the bridge to the sub-woofer-vibrating boom of weapons fire. The voice acting was not forced and was very clear to hear. The tutorial explanations were enunciated with perfect clarity, if not just a bit too verbose. The music was nice, not too loud to be distracting, but not too silent to be inaudible. It would have provided the perfect ambiance to the game if it weren't for the electric guitar solos. I mean, come on... when have we, as Trekkers, ever heard a guitar solo in any Star Trek movie or series? It just doesn’t fit! Of course, all of these sound options have separate volume controls in the Options area of the main game menu.
PII 300, Windows 95 with DirectX 6.1, 64MB RAM, 400MB hard disk space, 16MB DirectX certified Hardware Video Accelerator, 100% DirectX compatible Sound Card, 100% Microsoft compatible mouse and keyboard.
Multiplayer support: DSL, ADSL, Cable Modem, and LAN.
The documentation is fairly standard, but don’t turn to it if you’re trying to figure out the Tech Tree problem mentioned above. If you do, you’ll be met with severe disappointment and should just trial and error your way through it. Trust me, it’ll save time.
New Worlds is yet another flop for the Star Trek game franchise. Has there ever been a good one? At this point I really can’t recall any. The many failures such as this one cast clouds over the possible sunrise of any good games that may have been released. The level of difficulty is fairly high due to the lack of an intuitive interface and previous experience in other RTS games is certainly encouraged by this reviewer. And patience -- anyone who plays Star Trek: New Worlds must have a lot of patience. I really have a hard time believing that this game comes from the same company that brought us such titles as Baldur’s Gate and MDK.