Game Review - by James Allen
I'm not a huge Star Trek fan, either of the original series or the newest metamorphosis The Next Generation of Deep Space Voyagers. However, I am a fan of real time strategy games. The two are married in Starfleet Command 2. You are a captain of a ship, and go about the universe perpetuating your civilization while eliminating the others. You can pilot any one of a mind-boggling number of "authentic" Star Trek ships, and even control a fleet of three. Star Trek games are notoriously horrid (excluding some recent releases); can Starfleet Command 2 use the Star Trek license to its full potential, or is this game illogical?
Starfleet Command 2 includes 8 playable races to choose from: the Federation, Klingons, Gorn, Hydrans, Interstellar Concordium, Lyrans, Miraks, and Romulans. Each have their distinctive ships and weapons, and the variety of these is astounding. It would take quite some time to take the helm of all the playable ships in this game. This kind of thoroughness shows the depth at which the Star Trek license was used. There are three single player games to choose from: tutorial, skirmish, and campaign, all of which are pretty disappointing. The tutorials give and introduction to the game, but cannot replace reading the 250 page manual, which is completely covers everything in the game, sometimes more than once. The skirmishes consist of just one type: destroy everyone else. You can customize the skirmishes to add replay ability, but why aren't there more than one type of skirmish? With all the multiplayer games out there, I'm sure we can make some variations on a theme. Star Trek Capture The Flag? That would be darn cool, but isn't to be found in Starfleet Command 2. The campaigns are also a letdown. You join one of the sides, and fly around the universe, selecting from a list of several random missions each turn. The surprising thing is that there is no contact with a superior authority: you are free to do what you like. This may work in pirate games such as Sea Dogs, but not in a space military simulation. The worst part is, especially when you start out, most of the missions are impossible to complete, as the forces against your small ship are insurmountable. It seems that the higher powers would assign you specific tasks, rather then letting you choose to fight a heavy cruiser in your frigate. I'm all for open ended game play, but in Starfleet Command 2, it just does not work.
Multiplayer was supposed to be the draw of Starfleet Command 2, but, because of forces out of the control of the developers, is a shadow of its idealistic self. What's supposed to happen is Dynaverse 2, a dynamic universe (clever, huh?) where all the races battle each other over the Internet, and individual players determine the ebb and flow of the virtual universe. This sounds really cool, but isn't up to operational speed as of yet. Once it does get working, Dynaverse 2 will be an interesting place indeed. [Editor's Note: The patch that adds Dynaverse 2 support was released after this review was written and is in working order.]
Sounds are different for each species, and give a total feel to the game. Most of the explosions and weaponry effects sound as you think they would. Starfleet Command 2 even includes George Takei (Sulu) to give instruction on the tutorials. The nature of the voices sound very appropriate for each side; the sound adds to the completeness of the game.
The gameplay in Starfleet Command 2 is so complex, yet easy to pick up. Every aspect of a starship can be controlled, and there are so many strategies to use during your battles, you can win (and lose) the same confrontation many different ways. As the captain, you are in charge of coordinating all of the aspects of your vessel, although most tasks are relegated to your officers. Each of these officers is in charge of several aspects of interstellar mêlée. Your helm officer is responsible for emergency maneuvers, high-energy turns, and following or orbiting objects. The repair officer can fix damaged parts of the ship. The science officer can send probes and conduct deep scans. The security officer controls the marines, which can be used to damage or take over an enemy ship by transporting to it. Your weapons officer oversees all the weapons, and can lay mines or cloak the ship. The most important focus of Starfleet Command 2 is energy resources. Each starship has a finite amount of available energy, which must be allocated to movement, weapons, shields, tractor beams, sensors, and all other systems. The proper allowance of energy to the appropriate systems is crucial in securing victory. You'll routinely need to sacrifice one system for another, and deciding which one usually determines who wins and who is blown up. The gameplay is really fun and challenging, and with so many options, it can seem daunting at first, but is enjoyable once you get the hang of it.
Graphics are simply amazing. The level of detail is astounding, and you actually feel you are watching a battle unfold in space. All of the thousands of objects are so exquisitely detailed, the weapons and explosions so dramatic, the graphics give a feeling of total atmosphere that is hard to replicate. There are even different graphics sets for each race. You really have to see them for yourself. Wow.
Starfleet Command 2 is a satisfying real time strategy game. If you are a fan of Star Trek and enjoy these kinds of game, you shouldn't miss it. Even for the general public (myself included), Starfleet Command 2 contains enough features to warrant giving it a try. Once Dynaverse 2 is up and running, Starfleet Command 2 will be an accurate simulation of the worlds of Star Trek.