Star Trek Legacy (Xbox 360)
…300 years of dispute
If there ever was a franchise with some terrible games it would be Star Trek. Ever since the dawn of gaming there have been games based upon the five series’ which isn’t a surprise in retrospect seeing as many a computer nerd able to program games back in the 80’s, probably enjoyed a bit of cheesy TV sci-fi. With time however, there is sure to be improvement somewhere down the line and Legacy is a title that definitely does that, maybe not as much as it could have but nonetheless, it’s a very decent outing for the series and one of the best to date.
STL begins in the 22 century, during the newest tv series’ era which is entitled . From here you are taken on routine missions aiding the federation until you encounter a strange Vulcan ship which asks for your help. Following your aid, the Vulcan warns you that even though you helped her in her mission, it will not save you in the future when she returns. The game then takes an interesting and original route down 3 centuries of Star Trek cannon letting you battle in every TV series era, tracking down and finding out what the mysterious Vulcan is planning.
For a Trek fan, the story was played out a whole lot less tacked on than I thought it would be and successfully managed to tie in all eras of the series appropriately without too much canon trade-off. As far entertainment value and striking engagement with me to play the game, it didn’t do too well. While it certainly got more interesting and captivating towards the end of the game –which is to be expected from a ST script- I felt that the majority of the time I was just doing what the objectives told me to do rather than what techno-babble-motivation Archer/Kirk/Picard offered during the cut-scenes. If there is one thing that I despised about the storyline was that it often took place during real-time, sometimes during key moments in the game which often led to me getting shot at and being able to do nothing about it.
Star Trek Legacy like most of the franchise’s games to this date has you commanding a squadron of ships from the TV shows, going on missions to help the Federation of Planets in some way or another. For the most part, most of the game’s focus lies in battle where you will pit your ships against some Klingons, Borg or Romulan. Essentially what this consists of is circling around you enemy, firing your ship’s lasers or missiles frequently and without mercy as per the TV show. Occasionally and optionally you can also activate a more precise form of auto-targeting which allows you to select specific areas of your enemy’s ship such as its engines or weapons systems. Yes, so it’s not that exciting straight off the bat and as the game goes on you may feel a little bored or hindered by your limited options on how to deal with those pesky klingons but honestly, the developers have made-do with what they’ve given us and created a game that uses the mechanics wisely and sparingly so that it’s not too little. The important thing is, once you get by the rather clunky controls and become used to the orbit, shoot, recharge cycle things will start to pick up and combat will actually become fun and a fine way of testing how efficient you can become rather than how cool you look.
What furthers the gameplay beyond being completely repetitive and dull is the control the play has on his fleet of ships. Throughout the game’s 15 missions you will have the option to choose from a selection of around 10 ships per Star Trek era. This brings the total ships to 30, each with their own style and attributes which creates a good deal of customization placed at the hands of the player and helps cut down the feeling of repetition. Even more, you are permitted to change your fleet of 4 ships before every mission but only if you have the required amount of credit in order to ‘purchase’ the ship of your desire, should it be a cruiser, battleship or any other class from the Trek universe.
When it comes to multiplayer, the game goes even further allowing players to play as any of the 4 races present in the story-mode with the exception of the Vulcan of which there is only one ship, and is not selectable. This allows even more customization by the player and increases the total playable ships to an amazing 60 which as you can probably tell makes for some very diverse and unique playing experiences online. In fact a lot of the game’s greatest and most enjoyable moments come from the multiplayer, even if it is severely underplayed and will have you waiting and waiting just to find one game. And if it blowing up other races ships in the name of making the universe a safer place isn’t why you would prospectively buy a Star Trek game then you will be pleased to know that the other mechanics work just as well, if not better than the combat.
…FTL and Espionage
When you finally shut off all your weapons and transfer power to your engines what you will get is an experience that is at first and at best quite breathtaking as you power up the warp drive and speed through the rather vast maps, faster than light itself. Unfortunetely this feeling doesn’t last too long. You see, even though traveling at such speeds is extremely fun, the developers obviously made a decision to limit FTL travel to one speed only rather than the full 10 scale range seen on the TV series. So yes, much to my (and probably a lot of fan’s) disappointment, there won’t be any light speed records broken in Legacy. Another moment of hit and miss with the game again lies in travel below light speed. Fortunately the developers allow you to slow and speed up your engines but the level at which you can increment your speed is sadly limited to just a few incremental settings at which put you at speeds which vary from ship to ship, depending on it’s engine power to begin with and also where your putting all your power in the ship to (weapons, shields or engines).
So up until this point we have had epic space battles and super speed space travel covered so what’s left? Well, during a few of the games story-mode missions and even when you aren’t prompted, the game allows you to be quite the futuristic ninja, sneaking through shadows –or space clouds- and coming down on your enemies with a few photon torpedoes straight to their saucer sections. Sound like fun? If not, you probably just need to find the inner geek inside, but if like me you love all this kind of mumbo jumbo techno baloney fused with modern warfare tactics then you’ll find yourself at home with Legacy. At certain points in the game you are even able to use a klingon ship’s cloaking device in order to infiltrate an enemy stronghold and capture information of their defenses whilst trying to remain undetected. You might not think it but it’s moments like these that create a much needed break from all the laser fire and frantic battles and help ease the pace with a good old nerve racking espionage run.
This brings me onto the game’s AI which at times can be brilliant and can catch you when you least expect it, but on the other hand can be as thick as a brick. I don’t know how they managed it, but what was typical whilst I was playing through on the normal difficulty setting was that the smaller ships were generally fast and clever at tracking you down and doing their best to stop you and your fleet but when it came to defending their bases and larger boss-like ships, most of them didn’t react properly, often chasing one ship while the other 3 are free to shoot away at it’s defenses. Sure it wasn’t frustrating in the way that a really good set of AI algorithms would be, but nonetheless, it was sloppy and quite distracting from the immersive feel of Legacy’s otherwise very nice, believable design. For 90% of the time though, don’t worry, it’s really not that bad. In fact, it’s better than I had expected and served the game well but only because it’s a space combat simulation. Had it been human conflict the AI probably wouldn’t have served its purpose.
You are not welcome here! So say Mac Doc it would seem because there seems to be a complete lack of them in Legacy. It appears like the developers have made the game entirely from a technical limitation stand point, singling out what would take up too much development time, and simplifying it to make an arcade space combat game rather than a space flight simulation title. Sure it creates a fun game to play about with but it couldn’t have hurt to at least come up with something better and more realistic to happen to when you collide with a planet other than you bumping off it like it was a giant spherical wall. I must admit, I wasn’t expecting much to happen as I first flew towards a planet but what did happen did little to impress me as much as the other elements of the game had done. To make matter worse it isn’t just planets that such collision occurs but even asteroids and ships replicate it exactly and it’s nothing short of disappointing when you go to crash into an enemy ship much smaller than you hoping to blow it up and you just kind of… bump.
This is not the other area of the game that feel broken, in fact there’s quite a handful of things, and yes, this is the Xbox 360 version I’m reviewing. If it’s not audio tracks improperly overlapping making each inaudible, or ships refusing to take orders or doing anything but what you want, then there’s cut-scenes taking place right in the middle of battles, taking control right out of your hands whilst you enemy continues to blast away at your hull. Frustrating? Yes, even more than you think. Throw in the fact that you also can’t save your games in-mission at all, instead having to restart 20 minute missions completely from the beginning should you lose all your ships in the closing stages. Well, at least it makes the game last longer.
…Particles the size of a bus
Graphically Legacy is a good looking game. It’s not perfect nor ground-breaking but just like the gameplay and game modes; it serves its purpose well. All the ships are as accurate as can be to the TV series and fans will be more than pleased with the design and attention to detail that has been put into them. Furthermore the maps themselves along with the planets and stars all look fantastic; creating a very immersive atmosphere that creates a feeling of vast space even though sometimes the maps can be quite small. One thing I must pick at however is the space-stations. Simply put, they look out of place and very plastic looking in comparison to everything around them. There was also a feeling that things were quite out of proportion when you approached them, although this also happens with the planets too due to the silly collision resolutions. As a whole however, the game’s models all look very nice and are a of the game itself.
Animations on the other hand are hit and miss. On the plus side such effects as the ship’s shields, laser fire and photon torpedoes all look absolutely fantastic. Not only do they cater for die hard fans of the series but they lend well to the computer screen making a great stand alone game for weaponry effects. On the other hand, when things are blown up, things get clunky. Not only do the explosions not pay off that well, but things just kind of break up into 4 or 5 pieces -upon which they become collision-free- and float around for a few seconds before disappearing into nothingness. Safe to say, it was another disappointment upon first seeing what happens to things when they finally do blow up. As you play the game more and more however, you get used to it and it doesn’t seem that much out of place, which is fortunate because it is quite sloppy on behalf of the animators and physics programmers. Again, I think it was a technical sacrifice to save time and/or money. Oh and if it was because of budget restraints it’s probably because they thought the next section was more important than gameplay and graphics.
…Here’s where the budget went
The sound department really went all out with this game and it probably cost them quite a bit. You see not only have they went to painstaking detail in order to replicate the sound effects from the TV series, but they went and hired all five captains of the 5 series’ to come in and do voice-overs for the game. As a whole, the cast performs the job well with only a few flat points most notable from Kirk and Picard (probably because they occupy the most audio time). What lets the voice-over work down however is that even though there are 5 captains here, that’s all the crew there is. There’s no Chekov or Sulu, no Data or Worf, nothing. So just when you think you’re getting treated to real in depth representation of Trek, you’re let down when you her some random guy doing the voices of your helmsmen for all the eras.
Other than that things with sound are spot on as mentioned with sound effects sounding fantastic and very close to what they sounded like in the TV series. The music in addition as sparse as it is, is very well suited to the gameplay and style of Star Trek and helps further create a believable environment even more than all of the other media elements of Legacy.
…Star Trek for the Next Generation
If there’s another thing that really propels Legacy into greatness it’s the refinement that went into creating a well balanced progression of difficulty whilst playing through the story mode. Things will start out very easy in the early missions (the first a kind of disguised tutorial) leading up to some very challenging and tricky adventures at the closing stages. Legacy makes sure however, to build your skill levels up in preparation for each new level, making sure that if things get complicated, they won’t push the player away frustratingly nor will they get bored from lack of challenge. The only thing that hinders the game’s balance is it’s unfair save system which –as mentioned above- allows you only to save after or before missions and nowhere during them.
On the other hand, the game is mediocre at best when it comes to eating up your time. I found it very hard to play for more than an hour or two at the very most at a time without having to take a break with another game. Even more so disappointing is that the game probably only has around 50 hours gameplay in it, which is decent for a budget price and for fans of the series (who will probably get more hours out of it) but due to it’s rather short storyline and mediocre replay value the game falls short. Another thing that shortens the game’s lifespan is its buggy multilayer which takes forever to load up a multiplayer match (either that or hardly anyone plays it) and so even though there’s quite a good amount of hours to waste away online, it’s very hard to do so.
In conclusion, Star Trek Legacy has some original ideas and mechanics and is more or less a solid way to spend your time, especially if you are a Trek fan. However, it’s nowhere near being what the fans have been waiting for all these years, even if it does feature William Shatner and Patrick Stewart all in the one disc. With some impressive visuals more or less original design in modern day gaming and gameplay that grows on you and challenges throughout, Star Trek Legacy is a more than worthy title for you to playa round with, fan or not of the series.
Story & Game Modes… 7
Gameplay & Control… 7
Graphics & Design… 7