Summary: The history of Star Trek gaming is spotty, so in celebration of this week's Star Trek anniversary, JCal goes over the highlights of the franchise on the PC.
This year no less than three Trek games will be released, all of them published by Bethesda Softworks Star Trek: Legacy, the PC-Xbox 360 space based strategy-action game, is due out later this fall from developer Mad Doc Software. Two more titles, the space combat game Star Trek: Tactical Assault for the PSP and DS and Star Trek: Encounters, a space arcade action game for the PS2 will also be released this fall. Still in the works is Star Trek Online, a massively multiplayer game that’s being developed by Perpetual Entertainment that currently has no release date.
However, it seems like in the mid 1990 through to the early 2000s there were more Star Trek games released (especially for the PC) than there was room on store shelves. As you might expect there were some horrible games that managed to get on store shelves (Star Trek: New Worlds; Star Trek: Away Team) and other promising games got cancelled before release (Star Trek: Borg Assimilator; Star Trek: Secret of Vulcan Fury) but there were also some solid entertainment in the flood of Trek games that were out there. Most of the titles are not for sale anymore but we decided to list our top favorite Trek games over the years in the hopes that some of you might seek them out on eBay. Also you can find free demos for most of these games at your favorite download sites.
Star Trek: Armada series: Activision brought the Trek series into the space based RTS genre in 2000 with the first game in the Armada series, promising huge space battles with tons of ships on screen. While the internally developed game was a mixed bag, the 2001 released sequel Armada II was a noticeable improvement and was also the first game created by Mad Doc Software. With full 3D space battles and a huge story that pretty much covered all of the races of the Next Generation timeline, it was a game that retains a cult following and paved the way for Mad Doc to continue with their space combat-strategy game Star Trek Legacy this fall.
Star Trek Deep Space Nine: The Fallen: Simon and Schuster Interactive got the rights for a while to the DS9 series and their best effort was the third person action game The Fallen which was released in 2000. Developed for the PC by The Collective in one of their first games (they went on to develop a number of other titles based on Indiana Jones and Buffy The Vampire Slayer), The Fallen looked and felt like one of the series’ trademark deep episodes with three playable characters (Sisko, Worf and Kira), solid action gameplay and impressive level designs.
Star Trek: Bridge Commander: Activision decided to bring Trek space combat to a more personal level with this 2002 game, developed by Totally Games. The team responsible for a number of acclaimed Star Wars space combat games like X-Wing and TIE Fighter got people to truly feel like Captain Picard, commanding a massive starship with impressive graphics and fast paced action combined with an adventure game feel for the storyline. While the game didn’t get the acclaim that Totally Games’ Star Wars titles received, it was still a memorable and different way to handle space action combat.
Star Trek: Starfleet Command series: Based loosely on the Starfleet Battles board game series, this series began with developer Quicksilver Software and publisher Activision in 1999. Set in the game’s original series timeline, this 2D space strategy series forgoes resource management for combat as you move up from a mere cadet to a full captain as you take on a variety of missions and deal with a number of original Trek aliens. Developer Taldren took over the series for the sequel which Interplay released in 2000. The main addition was to have been a persistent multiplayer campaign but at the last minute Interplay lost its multiplayer host and the game shipped without that features (they were officially included in a patch released several months later). Activision took on the Starfleet Command franchise with the third game in the series, which Talden once again developed and released in late 2002. Set in the Next Generation timeline, the game attempted to streamline the sometime confusing features and gameplay of the first two titles in the series. Unfortunately Taldren shut down operations a couple of years later. Still, the Starfleet Command series still enjoys a small but loyal fan base and perhaps Bethesda will revive the series with a new game sometime in the future.
Star Trek: Elite Force series Perhaps the best Star Trek game ever released, Star Trek Voyager Elite force was developed by Raven Software and published by Activision in 2000. While Voyager as a TV series may not have been the greatest in the franchise, the game was very entertaining as you take on the role of an elite special forces type which is formed to combat an alien threat that Voyager has to deal with. The Quake III Arena engine was used to create some excellent visuals for the time and the storyline (which included more than a few surprises) were both consistent with the show while at the same time never forgetting to create an impressive game experience. Elite Force II broke away from the Voyager setting to open up the Trek universe when it was developed by Ritual and released by Activision (in their final Trek game) in 2003. While not quite as memorable as the first game, Elite Force II also added some improved graphics to the Quake III Arena engine. If Activision had to abandon the Trek franchise, at least it wasn’t with a poorly made game. Again we hope Bethesda Softworks will revive the Elite Force franchise for a third run, maybe with Ritual at the helm.
Star Trek: 25th Anniversary A unique and interesting graphic adventure game, it was released – naturally – to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Star Trek. With space combat and the ability to run with up to four characters on the ground, it tried hard – and generally succeeded – at bringing to life the feeling of a Star Trek original series episode. It was followed by the very ambitious Star Trek: Judgment Rites, and even had a CD-version with original actor voice-overs for the characters. (Editor’s Note: I feel old writing about this. We’re talking 1993 here! I had a 486DX/33 with 8MB of RAM, a 1MB S3 card and the killer Sound Blaster Pro then… sigh)
With Bethesda Softworks now at the helm of the Trek game franchise and Perpetual preparing Star Trek Online, it’s clear that on this 40th anniversary week, game fans and Trekkers (or Trekkies or whatever) have a lot to look forward to. During this week FiringSquad hopes to have new interviews with the creators of all the upcoming Star Trek games so stay tuned.
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