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Review: Star Trek Legacy

1971 is the year some ‘trekkies’ remember as the year the first Star Trek game was released. It was a text-based console game, but it was the start of the outer space video games as we know them right now. 2006 is the year of the 40th anniversary of Star Trek and everyone was hoping for a decent space game to come out. Now it’s finally here in the form of Star Trek Legacy. Was the wait worth it?

Enterprise NX-01 in orbit
You start the campaign commanding the Enterprise NX-01.

What all trekkies hoped for came true, which is a well thought out story. You start the campaign as Captain Archer, who discovers a mystery that you will solve in the eras of Captain Kirk and Captain Picard. During this large time frame, mysterious pieces of information are collected, which will all resolve in the completion of the puzzle at the end of the game. To make the story complete, Bethesda placed some extra content on the disc. Now don’t get too excited as there’s nothing special about this. Instead, it’s more of a disappointment as they’re just hand drawn storyboards with a lot of voice-over work. To complete the story this way may sound a bit cheap, and that’s exactly what it is. Although the drawings don’t look bad at all, it just feels incomplete. It would have been better if they used the in-game graphics and implanted cutscenes presenting this information, or even a CGI movie, as long as they’re not plain drawings.

There is at least one thing about this game that can be safely said: The Star Trek atmosphere is delivered, and the feeling you get while playing this game is huge. Being the captain of a fleet of star ships is just great, flying with warp speed really gives you the feeling you’re going fast. The ships don’t turn and maneuver really fast, but they don’t do that in the series either. You just can’t fly a 800m wide starship around a corner real fast… This slow playing style can be pretty annoying, especially in the beginning when you’re in the Enterprise starting era and don’t have the best of the best in your ships collection just yet.

While playing the campaign you can buy new ships straight from dry dock to add to your collection. You buy them with so-called command points which you earn while doing missions. Unfortunately, there is no way to configure them whatsoever, nor can you give them a name. Also when buying new ships, it’s not possible to see the class of the ships you currently own. You have to write that down if you want to collect them all. When you start off with the campaign, you might experience problems getting into the right atmosphere. This is cause by Captain Archer’s (Scott Bakula’s) annoyingly dull voice. You might have a hard time getting past the first 5 ‘pre-Kirk’ missions. Something else which can be pretty annoying is the fact that the missions share the same pattern: Just blow away everything in you path. Not much strategy required, not much thinking required. Where is the exploring and researching? Where are the diplomatic missions? That’s what Star Trek is about right? “To boldly go where no man has gone before”. “To seek out new life forms and civilizations.” Luckily if you just keep playing, you’ll eventually reach The Next Generation era, where you get more researching and material gathering missions. Unless you don’t have any other games or are a die-hard trekkie, it’s really hard to get yourself going through those boring and slow missions. The entire game could have been a lot bigger, there are only 15 missions total, taking about an average 20 minutes to complete.

Space Battle
A large space battle during the campaign.

But the biggest flaw of the campaign has yet to be revealed: Since some missions can be quite long (30 minutes or more isn’t an exception) and annoying at some points, you would at least expect a decent save system. But the total opposite turns out to be true. You cannot save during missions! This means if you screw up towards the end of a mission (as with most games, the harder part of it) you have to start all over again, you could easily be throwing away hours of playtime. Another strange thing about the saving system: You can’t replay missions. You have start a new campaign if you wish to do a mission again on another difficulty or to get an achievement perhaps.

Taking some time away from the game and then returning can lead you to notice the controls are incredibly difficult to pick back up. Every single button on your controller is used for a different function. There even are combination buttons like LB + X, LB + B etc… It’s really hard to get the right feeling for it. For instance, when you lock onto an enemy, you should not touch your right analog stick anymore. Since the camera is programmed to follow (lock) the enemy vessel and the right analog stick is set to move the camera away from its position or ‘lock’. You have to select the enemy again, immediately release the stick and then fire off your phasers and torpedoes.

The torpedoes need to get a special lock on the target in order to hit. The range, speed and target size will determine the effectiveness or if it will hit at all. Phasers work best close range. To see when weapons are effective there’s a targeting reticule with all the info you need on firing your weapons. A white reticule gives your phaser lock on your target, which you get more easy than torpedo lock (red reticule). This targeting system works great as long as you’re properly aligned with the ship you’re attacking it shouldn’t be a real problem.

Space Station
This Space Station has some nice detail.

If you’re done with the campaign, there are two other game modes to check out! The game contains both offline skirmish play and online Multiplayer gaming. In both game modes you can play with all ships from all eras. You can play with Romulan, Klingon, even Borg ships and form up your ideal squad.

On Xbox Live you can play with 2-4 players, while in skirmish mode you can only play on your own. There are 2 game modes in both Multiplayer and Skirmish mode. Simple Death Match and Coop Wave. Coop Wave is available both online and offline, here you have to engage an endless wave of enemies with other players. They both can be fun, although on Xbox Live people tend to flee when they take too much damage, and sometimes it’s quite hard of follow them to make the final blow. In both game modes there are quite some options, you can buy your own ships here from a set number of command points. You can chose from a number of different maps, make teams, even decrease the number of ships available to buy by selecting a certain era you want to fight in. However, these 2 games modes are just not enough. They could’ve thought of something surprising, like some form of territory capturing perhaps? Also 4 players in a large space battle is definitely not enough. Although a single person can control a whole fleet, the large space battles are just not as exciting without individuals piloting the many ships…

Though the back of the game’s box states 2 players can play offline and online multiplayer games using the same console, you’ll soon realize this feature was cut out of the final version of the game after the boxes were printed! A lack of split screen action is disappointing nonetheless. Since you won’t be playing alongside a friend, on Xbox Live we’ve found it difficult to find a decent game, even worse: It’s damn hard to find a game at all. However, upon creating one of our own, it only took a few minutes before someone joined. Still, it looks like this game isn’t really popular on Live.

As you can see from screenshots, Bethesda has done a really good job on the graphics. The backgrounds (space, planets, stars) look awesome as well and the viewing distance is just tremendous. The ships models and textures look great, and give you the feeling you control the real ships from the series. But like all the other elements we’ve discussed about this game so far, there are downsides on the graphics.

The Defiant flying in an asteroid field
The Defiant flying in an asteroid field.

First of all, the ships look fantastic. The special effects they use in the series are all in the game in a really nice way. Warp, torpedoes, phasers, it all looks exactly as seen on TV. They take damage in a nice way, you see them literally burning and smoking on all sides. That is, until you get in a battle and actually get your ship or the opponent’s ship destroyed. When a ship breaks apart it’s like you’re watching Commodore 64 graphics - the ship falls apart in a few chunks of texture and then fizzle away slowly.

Something else you’ll notice about the graphics are the totally wrong proportions between the ships or space stations and the planets. From a distance the planets look huge and detailed, but when you get real close (you don’t even have to be sickening close to notice it) you’ll see that the planet is really small compared the ship. The graphics also tend to go down rapidly as you move in closer and closer. Talking about moving closer in on an object; there’s something really strange and stupid about it. When you fly up to, for instance, a planet you just bounce off the surface of the planet. In fact this also is the case with all the ships and space stations, just can set a collision course and your ships will automatically steer away. No crashes or anything like that, you can’t hit each other! The planets also lack gravity, you don’t get pulled in to anything when you’re up real close, you only notice that there’s a planet in your way when you’re traveling at warp since you drop to impulse when up close to a planet. The lack of these kinds of details only make things worse than they already are.

Bethesda has had some experience with famous voice actors before in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Patrick Stewart played the voice of the Emperor at the beginning of the game. In this game they’ve used all 5 original Star Trek captains to be the voice actors. In fact, they’re the only voices that talk much while doing the campaign. Some of them are really talented, you can easily hear that since it’s a pleasure to listen to Patrick Stewart (Captain Jean Luc Picard) or William Shatner (Captain James T. Kirk). As I’ve mentioned earlier while talking about the campaign, the starting missions are done by Scott Bakula (Captain Archer) and are extremely boring to listen to. It sounds a lot like he’s just reading them from a book without showing any emotions.

Exploding ship
A Ship falling apart in chunks of C64 graphics.

The sound effects and music are typically Star Trek. Phasers, torpedoes, energy beams, they all sound like we’re used to. It’s a pretty cool experience to fire off small bursts with your phaser and finishing someone off with a torpedo while hearing and seeing this all followed by a big explosion.

While this game was postponed many times, it still feels like it’s not finished yet and rushed to the market ASAP. The campaign is too short and should have included all 5 eras completely (and not just 2-4 missions from Deep Space Nine and Voyager). With loads of boring and straight forward missions and of course the missing feature to save during the mission itself, the campaign would have been not worth the game at all. Fortunately, the graphics, sounds and the many detailed ships make the campaign worth playing if you’re a die-hard Trekkie. Multiplayer isn’t much better either, since it’s sometimes hard to find a game and it still lacks decent camera support and controls. This is a good example of a game that could have been so much better if they’d spend more time on it. Let’s hope we’ll see Star Trek Legacy 2 with a bit better of… uh… everything?

Final Score: 5 out of 10 - Below Average (How do we rate games?)

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9 comments on 'Review: Star Trek Legacy'

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Comment by Caleb 117 on 2007-02-08 22:43:42 | Reply

I really enjoyed this game. I haven’t had enough time to play through a whole lot of it, but it is fun. Definitely for Trek fans only! Best Star Trek game I have played in a long while though.

Comment by koncreat on 2007-02-08 22:58:35 | Reply

I liked the game with the exception of the controls. They were terrible. Trying to give the other ships commands is terrible.

Comment by Studley on 2007-02-08 23:53:37 | Reply

Wanted to love it, hated it. You can’t create a real Trek atmosphere just by getting the captains to read some lines while random ship flybys are shown. The controls aren’t properly explained in-game; I could never work out how to move my ships in a group, so most of them sat there lifelessly while they were shot to pieces.

Didn’t think the graphics were particularly revolutionary, the gameplay offered little more than “target-shoot-repeat”, the engine/shields/weapons balancing thing doesn’t work that effectively and was done better in TIE Fighter 15 years ago. And yes it feels slow. The whole thing was such a chore that when I lost mission 2 or 3 right at the end, and it wanted me to play through the whole thing all over again, I just gave up and sent the game back.

I don’t think we’ll ever get a really good console space shooter, they just never seem to work. The Rogue Squadron games are the closest we’ve had to date, but they’re still not as good as the LucasArts Star Wars games on the PC, or Elite, X, HardWar, Freelancer, or even Bridge Commander.

Comment by HoLyWooD444 on 2007-02-09 00:39:03 | Reply

alot wrong with this game, but if you’re a trekker than it’s a must buy . the online battles are worth the purchase price . the goodness

Comment by PaulWillocks on 2007-02-09 11:44:08 | Reply

If you have this game you are a nerd. Star Trek is laugh out loud crap.

Comment by The_Glovner on 2007-02-09 13:11:30 | Reply

Word.

Comment by Arbiter on 2007-02-10 00:44:56 | Reply

Uh… you two dorks are posting on a video game site. Think before you cal others nerds, when you’re obviously two dweebs too…

The controls are pretty futile, 5’s about right.

What kind of a dork, freak, nerd idiot dumbass would want this game??

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