Command the Enterprise on a five-year mission to discover the cause of Federation ships turning renegade and put an end to it. Good luck, captain, you surely need it.
First of all, this article will be slightly different than the previous ones. Different, because this time around I’m gonna write as it comes to me, without keeping any structure whatsoever, i. e. things will be all over the place. Basically, I’m experimenting a bit, and hope it won’t end up being too awful.
Now, this title seems to be one of those games you either love or hate. Ok, I might be exaggerating a bit, but can imagine a lot of people dismissed it as being confusing, dull, repetitive and, erm, confusing. But I spent some time with the game (yeah, I know, how romantic) and played it on three different systems, namely C64, Atari ST and PC. Interestingly enough, the C64 port is the one I do prefer. And in my humble opinion this game is a hidden gem. Unfortunately, it’s got some rough edges, too.
Screenshots (click to enlarge)
Designed by Mike Singleton, best known for the epic Lords of Midnight, you take command of the Enterprise and its crew, investigating strange occurrences in a region dubbed ‘The Quarantine Zone’ by Starfleet. Several Federation starships unexpectedly turned renegade and switched their allegiance to the Klingon Empire. Your job is to find out what happened.
And you better be successful. The problem is, after the Enterprise entered the zone, Starfleet sealed the whole thing with a massive sphere around it. So if you ever want to return home, you better find out what happened and, more importantly, stop it.
To help you accomplishing your task you have all the main characters of the original Star Trek crew at your disposal. The gameplay itself mainly consists of plotting a course to a star system and scanning every planet. Certain planets support life, so you assemble an away team and beam down. On the surface, you have to make your way through several ‘rooms’, each one blocked by an obstacle, and every crew member in your party has a different solution how to deal with the situation. If you’re successful, you proceed to the next room and might end up finding useful items.
At any given time the Enterprise can get attacked by Klingons, Romulans or those renegade Federal starships. That’s when you switch to the tactical display, lock on the target and fire away.
The game is not an easy one, and in the beginning it might be a bit confusing to figure out what you’re exactly supposed to do. During missions you might want to repair and restock your ship, which is only possible in systems aligned to the Federation.
To further complicate things, certain systems contain ‘Catastrophe Pods’, which will attach themselves to the ship, giving the player a certain amount of time to get rid of them, otherwise it’s game over. The systems, by the way, are procedurally generated.
The interface can get a bit tedious at times, e. g. simple tasks require several clicks and changing the window. Now, that wouldn’t be much of a problem, but the thing is, the game runs in real-time. For instance, by the time you select a target, switch weapons and lock on the enemy, you lose precious seconds and end up taking damage by incoming fire.
Now, the game is fun when you know what to do and got a great atmosphere. You really feel like you’re in command of the Enterprise. And while the graphics might not be the best you’ve ever seen on a Commodore 64, they do have a certain charm to them.
Oh, and I’ve never beaten the game… damn those ‘Catastrophe Pods’.