Starfleet Command III
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|Star Trek Games
Like a borg cube tumbling inexorably through space, the Star Trek media machine keeps boldly rolling on, assimilating many previously staunch detractors in its path. Star Trek games now encompass practically every genre, but with its hardcore simulation aspects, the Starfleet Command serious is one for the older school of Trek fans. Developed by the same Taldren team responsible for the first two incarnations, SFC3 is the first to be set in The Next Generation (TNG) era.
The 3D look-and-feel has been completely revamped to disguise the fact that this is very much a two-dimensional space battle simulation, which is heavily influenced by the old Star Fleet Battles (SFB) boardgame. You take on the role of captain -imagine yourself as Kirk or Picard if you like - and tackle various missions from defending a convoy to running down pirate intruders or blasting it out head to head with a Romulan battlecruiser.
Despite looking almost identical to SFC2, an awful lot has changed. The interface has been simplified and streamlined, as has the gameplay. For example, there are now just four shields to a craft rather than six, the power priorities panel dispenses with micromanaging things like life support systems and several controversial items like missiles have been forgotten.
Fortunately, the original SFB rules have also been improved. For instance, a weapon that did four points of damage from two to six hexes (the units by which distance is measured), dropping off to two points between seven and 12, will now have a smooth transition throughout its entire range calculated on-the-fly. Oh, and point-blank is now anything inside three hexes.
SFC3 ships are now fully configurabje but based on sensible rules about mass, number of hardpoints and Warp Core size, so to some extent you can design your own. Multiskilled officers can be traded and improved with experience, allowing you to carry out better manoeuvres, while things such as high-stress turns, maximum speed and cloaking now depend more on your ships’ and officers’ abilities rather than on pure luck.
Borg Is Beautiful
You can play as one of four races, namely the Federation, Klingons, Romulans and, wait for it... the Borg. Yes, it’s true, you finally get to pilot your own Borg cube around space. And the first three races have their own multimission single-player campaigns and almost 50 individual scenarios.
Cardassians, Ferenghi and pirates will figure in the Dynaverse system, and the server-based Star Trek universe is full of missions and plotlines into which sad old starship commanders can immerse themselves. I say that because at the time of writing this, it’s not ready yet, but look out for an online review of this next issue.
SFC3 is probably the Star Trek technophile’s ultimate space battle game. It’s all about firing arcs, shield strengths, power priorities and piloting skills, but fortunately, micromanagement is kept to a minimum. It’s fast, furious and more fun than it has any real right to be.
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Shifting gears to the next generation timeline, Starfleet Command III starts with events leading up to the movie Star Trek: Nemesis. Following more of a solid story line than its predecessors, many changes were made to this latest release including leaving behind the multiple races that were either non-factors or never seen on the TV series. Playable factions now include only the Federation, Klingon, Romulan, and Borg empires with campaigns that intertwine along the same plot. Most of the rest of the game has also seen some change and although some parts can still be frustrating, the overall action is still as solid as ever with a number of gameplay improvements.
Starfleet Command III still follows the same general game flow with missions advancing the plot dispersed around a handful of scanning or quick engagement missions. As before, prestige points are given out after missions are completed which can be used to buy or upgrade different ships. Returning to Starfleet Command III is the RPG style of officer skill as well with an officer's abilities increasing as battles are won.
What is also present in Starfleet Command III is the gameplay that attracted so many to its predecessors. Although the controls are still going to be confusing to players new to the series, many changes have been made to reduce the complexity. The ship's power management for one has been greatly simplified as you're only concerned with weapon and shield power allocation and the ability to jam and prevent jamming has been completely removed.
The capability to warp however has been added to speed the game up a bit but now you can only control one ship at a time as opposed to the three you could in the past. Fans of the Starfleet Command series will be glad that the AI continues to impress with its ability to use strategy and tactics while engaging. Enemy ships will try to protect their weakened shields, maneuvering so your firing arcs are on their stronger side in addition to firing at your weakened shields instead of taking the shot whenever they can.
Starfleet Command III corrects many of the major problems it's had in the past and brings out a more stable game. With a working dynaverse and improved graphics, fans that were disappointed with Starfleet Command II shouldn't discount Starfleet Command III. Although the controls can still be difficult to manage at first, Starfleet Command III is worth the effort.