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Review by: Jonathan Houghton
Published: January 19, 2001
Ever since the introduction of Gene Roddenberry’s “Star Trek” universe to the interactive entertainment industry more than ten years ago, game companies have produced a myriad of titles that explore the lives of heroes such as James T. Kirk and Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Although we have seen a great many adventures based on Starfleet’s exploits, one genre has yet to come into its own — the starship simulation. Many fans would give their spandex uniforms and shiny brass communicator pins to be placed in the captain’s chair of a Sovereign Class vessel, armed to the teeth with quantum torpedoes and modulating phaser banks. And indeed, several titles have tried to capture the essence of starship combat, the most notable of which are Starfleet Academy and the original Starfleet Command. Continuing their longstanding tradition of boldly going where no other licensed “Star Trek” developers have gone before, Taldren Entertainment, in association with Interplay, has released a sequel of sorts to Starfleet Command.
Based on the popular Starfleet Battles board game, Starfleet Command was designed to be a realistic simulation of starship combat with enough action and strategy to please the most ardent fans. Starfleet Command Volume 2: Empires at War is an extension of the original title, which was released almost 18 months ago. This update includes refinements to the graphics engine and a streamlining of the gameplay by removing elements such as individual crew recruitment that were deemed unnecessary. Fans of the first release will quickly recognize SFC2‘s realistic depiction of starship battles. What they won’t be familiar with is the new between-mission interface.
No “Star Trek” title would endear itself to aficionados without one of the hallmarks of Paramount’s fictional universe — a solid storyline. SFC2 returns to the roots of Alpha Quadrant history during the glory days of the Federation, shortly after the Khitomer accords were signed between Starfleet and the Klingon Empire. Resurrecting a plot element from the original TV series, Taldren has brought back a group of super-beings known as Organians, whose powers are not dissimilar to those enjoyed by the Q of “Next Generation” fame. When the Organians were last seen in the Alpha Quadrant, they had brought an ultimatum of peace or destruction to both the Federation and Klingon empires.
Though their ultimate goal was peace between all races, the Organians overlooked the capacity for pure evil inherent in many sentient beings. After forcing a treaty between the Federation and its enemies, these galactic peacekeepers all but disappeared. Fast forward 25 years and this mentally superior race has returned, bringing with them a group of powerful conquerors from the far reaches of space known as the InterStellar Concordium, or ISC. In a misguided attempt to bring peace to the Alpha Quadrant, the Organians foolishly introduce a group of races whose methods for bringing about an ending of war include subduing everyone to their will. Much like the evil Dominion in the Gamma Quadrant, the ISC is bent on overpowering all other races existing in the Alpha Quadrant. The various empires have no intention of letting conquerors waltz through their territories pacifying everything in sight… so war ensues.
As in the original Starfleet Command, you will ally yourself with one of the eight available races for the duration of the war in both single-player campaigns and multiplayer games. These political groups include the Federation, the Romulans, the Klingons, the Gorn, the Mirak, the Hydrans, the Lyrans and the ISC. Each race’s vessel designs have specific strengths and weaknesses that impact the gameplay: Gorn ships are the most heavily armed, yet take a long time to turn, for example. Federation and ISC space craft have a better balance between firepower and maneuverability than the Gorn, while Klingons and Romulans rely on speed and quick turn radii rather than raw weaponry to defeat their opponents. After selecting your desired race and a campaign, you start at the lowest command rank and with a weak starship. When you assume control of a ship in SFC2, you also take on the roles of every officer, including Science, Weapons, Engineering, Communications and others. Unlike the original Starfleet Command, you will not need to recruit specific crewmembers for the posts on your ship.
When you first arrive at the movement screen, it is extremely wise to check the news bulletins for information about which races are currently at war or have active treaties, since you should be aware of whose borders you may be crossing. You navigate your starship through a hex-grid representation of the Alpha Quadrant, with each hex being owned by a different race depending on their territorial boundaries. While maneuvering your starship through these hexes, you will be able to accept missions such as patrols, escorts and strikes against enemy forces. Some missions will also be thrust on you at random.
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