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Star Trek: Starfleet Command III Review

- Special to SFU, by Stylsy December 30, 2002

Editors note: Stylsy is a Senior Editor at Trek Universe Networks, which SFU is a member. And he is also a member of Elite Forces fan site Holodeck 5.

Version 1.0

First thing that I will clear with you is that I have been in the Trek gaming community for a few years now and played and reviewed a number of games. I own and enjoy all of the previous titles in the Starfleet Command series. I will not judge the title too harshly to it's predecessors, and I will bear in mind that the title is of a much different approach to Star Trek Bridge Commander.

Gameplay within the game has been enhanced with a streamlined interface for starship command. Features are now more easily accessible, and some of the chance based physics features have been removed, which I feel make the combat aspect of the game more enjoyable than previous titles. There are enough Trek features that will keep a Trekkie engaged (probes, warp speed, weapon types etc) while not going to in-depth to shy away those new to the game.

Two new and exciting features of the title are officers and ship refitting. In previous titles the different 'hull types' of ships for the races were split into different configurations with different weapon load outs to suit different player preferences. This time, the hull types have a set mass and hard points where players can choose their own weapons and ship systems for their vessels, up to the limit of mass and prestige. This makes choosing the right vessel for your style easier, and you can be proud of your individuality, as well as making opponents a little more of a surprise when you meet them in battle.

The officer system is a lot more complex than the first title, the skills your officers have in various departments reflect on your ships ability to perform in mission. This I have found to be frustrating when your tactical officer is a complete newbie who cant even hit a target. However when they become legendary, you can have a lot of fun showing them off to your foes. This added feature makes combat more interesting, and makes you think about successful strategies.

The storyline is a great concept from the perspective of the Klingons, Romulans and Federation. The story ties in closely to the events just prior to the latest Trek film, Nemesis, with the Romulans wanting Galactic supremacy (when do they never?). Nevertheless it is good to see the Romulans in the limelight again for the first time since the original Armada. While in mission you get the chance to play out different lines of conversation with people, but at the end of the day it revolves around you winning the battle to lead you to victory, this makes the storyline linear and repetitive, but on the positive side there is a well thought out plot to engage in, with some veteran Star Trek actors lending voice talents including Patrick Stewart (Captain Picard), Max Grodenchek (Rom in Deep Space Nine), Vaughn Armstrong (Admiral Forrest in Enterprise) and Brock Peters (Admiral Cartwright in Star Trek IV, VI and Joesph Sisko in Deep Space Nine).

The graphics of Starfleet Command III are something of mixed quality. Many of the beautiful ship models from Bridge Commander have been ported over with many new creations and some based from Star Trek Armada. However, the quality of the models in game is somewhat lacking against that of Bridge Commander, which is a pity. But with enhanced glow effects and the many modding talents in the community, there is much room for unofficial expansion in this area. Damage on ships looks a lot more realistic than previous titles, but the models still use generic textures, which are outshone by the damage seen in Bridge Commander. However the different space terrain including asteroids and nebula are enhanced the paying field putting you in a true 'Trek' environment.

Sound effects in game are excellently crisp and clear and really make an excellent effect on the action in game, from the lashing out of phasers to the effect of pounding an enemies shields or hull. Also, veteran Star Trek game composer Danny Pelfrey has composed another excellent score that will be familiar while a refreshing new sound for Starfleet Command and Star Trek fans alike. In conjunction with the voice-overs in the game, the sound aspect of the title is excellent and brings the experience to life.

The single player skirmish mode is tied together with quick multiplayer combat, which I found somewhat disappointing. Game modes are the same including Starbase assault / defence, free for all and the Battlefest game mode returning from previous titles. However it remains to be seen if the skirmish mode will leave room for additional fan made missions that could be included into the game like the previous titles, as I feel that the game has a distinct lack of generic missions to perform in both skirmish and the generic 'conquest' single player campaign, tainting that ever important replay value.

However with Starfleet Command III comes the Dynaverse 3 online campaign system, which is easy to sign up on with a Gamespy Arcade account. Playing out like a single player campaign, you will encounter human enemies across the map all bent on galactic domination. My experiences have been fun, with lots of servers set up to choose from. However there are some very frustrating bugs in the system, including a 'power drain' bug, which does not allow you to charge weapons or raise shields, server crashes and the ability to get stuck in a map hex after a battle is over. However as ever the dedicated members of the Taldren team are hard at work bringing a patch ready for the game to aid in alleviating this problem, as the community eagerly awaits it.

I would say that the Starfleet Command strategy-simulation genre lies somewhere between the playing experiences of Star Trek Armada and Bridge Commander, giving something new for the Star Trek gamers and general gamers out there. Many veteran Starfleet Command gamers have criticised the game for leaving it's roots from the Starfleet Battles board game, but personally I feel the game moving to The Next Generation game setting means a new and up-to-date playing experiences that many will enjoy, and Taldren have managed to accomplish this.

The game ranks very highly in the Star Trek gaming series for me. It is hard to bring a second sequel to a series, but what Taldren have produced is a game that is fresh for the old, and exciting for the new gamers. Starfleet Command III has a lot to offer to different styles of gamers, and the upcoming patch should stabilise the title more so. Activision should be proud of another great Star Trek title following on from Bridge Commander, and leaves high hopes for the future.

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