Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Star Trek: Bridge Commander review

    This is a retro-review. I'm pretty sure no one is going to go out of their way to purchase a 2002 game, even if they could get it to work in 2016. However, it's fun to talk about your memories of games sometimes as well as what you think was enjoyable about them. Besides, who know what is available on the internet if you look far enough.

    Star Trek: Bridge Commander actually holds up remarkably well because it makes the surprisingly good decision of keeping all of the action on the bridge. The Captain (i.e. you) never leaves save to change ships mid-game and all of the animation is done on your conversations with other captains via hail or with your bridge crew that is remarkably well-developed.

    The animated space-fights are pretty much identical to the ones available today in Star Trek: Online, mostly because they were based on Bridge Commander, which means it's still pretty darn enjoyable. Dozens of space battles against Romulans, Cardassians, and unknown alien races may not be what Gene Roddenberry envisioned for his future but it's certainly a lot of fun.

I like the Star Trek: The Next Generation interface for the ship.
    The plot is the U.S.S. Dauntless getting assigned to a semi-settled region of space called the Maelstrom. Your commanding officer is killed by the sudden unnatural explosion of a nearby star while on in a shuttlecraft. Promoted to take his place, you are assigned to investigate the cause of this interstellar incident as well as to try to bring peace between the various factions feuding in the territory.

    At one point, a seemingly minor diplomatic incident breaks out into open war as a group of Cardassian renegades start a war against the Federation and reveal they possess a fleet capable of fighting them--conjured from seeming nowhere. Dealing with these renegades and figuring out what they have to do with the destroyed solar system becomes the heart of the plot. It's a classic Star Trek mystery and it feels like a well-plotted season of adventures if a bit combat heavy (okay, a lot combat heavy).

The graphics hold up pretty well despite fifteen years of difference.
    I really like the bridge crew they give you for the story. While none of them are especially well-developed, I can tell you about all of them. Chief Brex is funny and prone to giving quips about technical aspects of the ship as well as their opponents. Keska is racist against Cardassians and favors the maximum amount of force in any given situation. Miguel Gomez is the most normal member of the crew and prone to blaming himself for everything going wrong (like Ensign Harry Kim).

    Your XO, Saffi Larson, is also an ambitious by-the-book individual who resents the fact she's been chosen to be your first officer when you're roughly equal in merit. Also of people disliked Saffi for the fact she clearly didn't respect you very much and the fact she was always trying to get the oddball crew to shape up but I found her an enjoyable character. Indeed, I'm somewhat sad this never had a proper sequel as everyone was very enjoyable in it and plenty of their voice actors are recognizable today.

Make it so, Commander Data.
    The graphics are dated up close but, really, only Saffi Larson is close enough for it to matter. I also think they did an excellent job for the most part as everything looks like it did from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Indeed, I kind of resented moving from the Galaxy-class starship Dauntless to the more advanced U.S.S Sovereign because it was a nice feeling flying around in a ship identical to Captain Picard's.

    Speaking of which, both Sir Patrick Stewart and Brent Spinner add their voices to this game and their characters play reasonably large roles in the story. At one point, Commander Data is even added to your crew as his expertise is necessary to resolve the issue of the exploding sun(s). Other voice acting is well done even if largely within archetype: Cardassians are ruthless fascists, Romulans are arrogant xenophobes, Klingons are all about honor, and Ferengi are shifty as well as untrustworthy.

We come in peace, shoot to kill.
    Despite the fact violence is almost always your only option. there's a number of places where this is subverted and the best ending depends on you doing your best to avoid conflict. There's some heartwarming moments where you work to overcome war and conflict in a decidedly Star Trek way.

    Even so, I would have appreciated more clarity the Cardassians are just a renegade splinter faction as it seems the Federation has gone back to war with them despite the fact they're the only people keeping post-Deep Space Nine Cardassia from starving to death. Overall, I enjoyed making friends with races who are initially hostile to the player character but whom can potentially warm if you behave in a noble and Starfleet sort of way--or you can just blow them the hell away because that's the way you roll.

    Fans who enjoyed modded games should note this is one which has been heavily-so over the decades and there's still an active community for it to this day. These mods include graphics improvements, more missions, more ships, and plenty of things which I think people will enjoy. Or you could just play Star Trek: Online because it's the same game.

    But BETTER.


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