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Star Trek: Starfleet Command is nirvana for Trekkers

May 12, 1999
Web posted at: 9:12 a.m. EDT (1312 GMT)

by Nash Werner


(IDG) -- This summer, devoted fans of Task Force Games' tabletop masterpiece Starfleet Battles will find nirvana in Interplay's computerized adaptation, a real-time strategy game called Starfleet Command. Like the miniature-based SFB, SFC will thrust you into huge starship battles set in Star Trek's "classic" era--a time in which the Jem'Hadar, the Cardassians, and the Breen weren't the major threats they are in modern Trek (as in recent DS9 episodes).

In SFC, you play the role of a young frigate captain. Your career in this quadrant will be either long or short depending on your skills as a captain--not everyone can be a James T. Kirk, but you're going to have to try. As you progress in rank, you'll command larger-class vessels, and eventually be responsible for an entire fleet.

Based around a branching mission structure, SFC will give you a variety of hullobjectives in Campaign Mode, or none at all in Skirmish "Quick Battle" Mode. The variety of mission types depends on your selected empire, be it Klingon, Romulan, Federation, Lyran, Hydran, or Gorn--each empire will have specific mission types. In any case, be prepared for a wide range of missions; you'll have offensive hit-and-run missions, defensive garrison/patrol missions, and even race-specific missions unique to each empire.

At first glance, you'll notice that SFC uses 3D-modeled ships, but careful examination will reveal that SFC is played entirely on a 2D plane--a flat, invisible surface of sorts fits nicely for those who recall how the original board game looked and played. This design decision was made to keep the interface simple; after all, monitoring and controlling your ship's systems, plotting courses during battle, and having to maneuver in the X (horizontal), Y (vertical), and Z (straight line from you to your screen) axes would make controlling the SFC interface insanely difficult.
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True, some gamers may kick and scream about the lack of truly 3D maneuvers (you get just the X and Z axes--no moving up and down), but the core audience of SFB fans will love the look and feel. I only wish the ships looked like lead miniatures, and off to the side of the playing field I could see my friend Charlie's dull pencils and multi-colored dice. But for a Star Trek game set in real time and concentrating on fleet battles, SFC looks very good.

Some of the best features in SFC have to be the game's ship-based weaponry. The SFC design team has done a great job simulating the look and feel of each weapon, and they're all here: the Romulans' Cloaking Device and Plasma Torpedo; the Hydrans' dreaded Hellbore, a weapon that automatically deals damage to your weakest shield; and the Federation's trusty Photon Torpedo (no Quantum Torps in those days). In fact, SFC is so accurate, casual Trekkers and moviegoers will be baffled at the fact that the Klingons didn't have Photon technology during the "classic" era. starfleet

And of course there'll be multiplay. You'll be able to play SFC over the Internet with a maximum of six players. You can opt to form alliances and work as a team, imagine an early Klingon/Federation alliance, or engage in a huge free-for-all of death. Along with your standard degree of capture-the-flag variants in a multiplayer game, the SFC team has decided to leave the top off the pot, just in case they wants to add more multiplayer missions after release. SFC producer Erik Bethke even joked about the possibilities of a "Pass the Tribble" mode. I have four words for Erik: multiplayer missions are crucial.

So as I twiddle away the time between now and SFC's release date, waiting for the chance to captain my very own starship, one thing comes to mind: This is a good time to be a Trekkie computer gamer! We'll see two strategic Star Trek games released this summer, and I'm sure more are on the way. All I need now is some Romulan Ale.

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Web site dedicated to all Star Trek computer games

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