Reviewed: December 19, 2006
Released: December 14, 2006
“Space…the final frontier…” We all know the rest by heart, or at least you should if you are reading this review. Star Trek is easily the most recognized franchise in TV, movie, book, and video game history and what better way to celebrate the 40th anniversary of this cult phenomenon than with a video game that doesn’t suck.
Before you start thinking that I am setting the bar a bit low with that last comment, keep in mind there really hasn’t been a decent Star Trek game since Judgment Rites (and that was on 5” floppies and required a separate speech pack – at least before the Limited Edition CD-ROM came out in 1995. It’s certainly not from a lack of trying mind you. There have been countless attempts to cash in on the lucrative Star Trek name, but much like Star Wars, these space franchises seem to bear some sci-fi curse.
The most obvious problem with developing a game based on a popular franchise is trying to appeal to the huge fan base. So when Bethesda and Mad Doc set out to create Star Trek: Legacy they did something fairly ingenious. They spanned the entire scope of the Star Trek lore, covering each and every series, all the famous captains, and all the popular ships, thus delivering something for every possible Star Trek fan.
Legacy spans all the generations of Star Trek starting with Captain Jonathan Archer in Enterprise then moving on to Kirk, Picard, Sisko, and Janeway, all in their respective timelines and with all the appropriate ships and enemies for their specific era.
There are more than 80 ships spanning these three generations of Star Fleet ranging from nimble scouts to powerful battleships and destroyers. You always play the captain and pilot the flagship of the era in which you are playing out the story, and during the course of your missions you will add new ships to your fleet.
You will earn command points, which you can spend between missions to pick from a variety of era-specific starships. You can only command four ships at any given time so it’s strategically important to pick the right group, so you can balance speed, power, and defensive capabilities.
Legacy is a unique hybrid of action and strategy. If it weren’t for the potential of managing up to four ships in your own mini-fleet, the game would be more action. I was admittedly a bit worried when I saw they were taking big ships and turning them into maneuverable fighters. I had always envisioned starship battles as something more along the lines of submarine warfare – like in Wrath of Khan – slow and tactical.
Mad Doc approached the concept by keeping the action fast and exciting while layering in some strategy and tactics, both in the 3D screen and the 2D map views. The command interface is incredibly intuitive, which totally surprised me. I was expecting some massively complicated command structure (like in Lord of the Rings), but it only takes one mission (the tutorial) to catch on.
There is a 2D map that shows you and your fleet as well as any known hostiles, objectives, and other celestial bodies like planets, asteroid belts, and nebulae. You can move your cursor around this map and select targets or you can do everything in the 3D view. Even Khan, and his lack of three-dimensional thinking could navigate using this system.
In the main view you fly your ship with the left stick and move the camera with the right. The B button toggles between full impulse and “engines stop” or you can hold down the B button and select quarter or half impulse speed with a vertical slider. When you are ready to head for distant targets the Y button toggles warp drive.
The A button is your multi-purpose command and brings up a radial menu of options like scan, hail, transport, dock for repair, tractor beam, etc. Just hold the A button down and move the stick to select the command.
Picard might favor diplomacy but Legacy favors battles and you will be fighting your way through hordes of Klingons, Romulans, Borg, and just about any other bad guy from the Trek universe, including some treacherous Vulcans. Combat is incredibly simple thanks to the wonderful control system.
When you enter an area with enemies you can tap the RB button to target the nearest enemy or hold it down to show a list of all enemies and select with the left stick. This will snap the camera to a target lock view until you manually change it. In this view you can fire phasers and photon torpedoes (right and left triggers) as long as you have a firing solution. Phasers are close range and can be fired in 360-degrees while torpedoes can only be fired forward and to the rear.
Enemies have shields and armor or hull integrity. You need to wear down their shields with the phasers then punch at their hull with torpedoes until they blossom into a gaseous cloud of fire and debris. Unless you take out their shield generator they will slowly regain their shields and you'll have to start over.
You can selectively target ship systems by clicking the left stick. This allows you to target engines, weapons, shields, etc, which is useful if you want to disable a ship and not actually destroy it. Of course, during combat you will take plenty of damage yourself. Holding down the LB will bring up your own ship status and you can click on various items like hull, engines, weapons, and make your own repairs. If you need to make major repairs or reload your empty torpedo bays you will want to dock with a repair station. Sometimes you will need to beam a crew over first to activate it.
It won’t be long before you find yourself in command of two, three, or even four ships. You can access and take direct control over any ship by pushing the D-pad in the direction of that ship. You can also push and hold to toggle each ship as part of the global command system. When ships are lit up any orders you give like move or attack are followed by the others.
This works well in some situation and not so well in others. It’s great to have four starships all pummeling the same Romulan cruiser. They go down fast. But often you need to spread your forces out. In one early mission you have medical ships that are branching out to various planets, and you need to send one of your ships to cover each of them.
There was also one instance where I was up against impossible Romulan odds and my entire fleet of ships were all nearly destroyed, but thankfully there were four repair bays near the space station. But if you simply click on the repair bay while all four ships are “linked” they will all line up and go through the bay you picked one at a time. Instead, you have to pick each ship and point them to their own bay so you can all repair at the same time and come out ready to fight.
There is a nice variety to the mission structure. You have your exploration, your escort missions, and your straightforward battles. Sometimes the odds seem impossible and you are forced to really think up some clever ways to get out of a jam. One mission had me going up against at least 50-80 Romulans. There was no way I could ever beat them, even with all four ships. But there were these abandoned Vulcan listening posts and if you “hailed” them they would blow up and disable any nearby ships. So you get to fly around and lure as many Romulans as you can near these stations then hail them and BOOM!
Legacy is quite difficult and I admit to doing most each and every level at least two or three times. You learn from your mistakes and you find new ways to do things. There is a nice campaign mode that delivers a solid story fully narrated by each of the captains (and the original actors who voiced them), and written by “D.C.” Fontana, and her writing partner, Derek Chester. There is also a fantastic story in the Extras menu that tells all about the origins of the Borg set to some amazing illustrations.
A skirmish mode allows you to jump in and start fighting outside the confines of the narrative. Just pick your race (Federation, Klingon, Romulan, Borg), choose your era, fleet size, starting command points, time limit, and number of respawns allowed and up to four players can battle for control of the galaxy. Multiplayer skirmish is also available online via Xbox Live.
This is one pretty game, a fact you will instantly become aware of when you watch the gorgeous opening movie that is basically a composite of moments from the various TV intros. The menus are simple, easy to navigate, and feature the familiar Trek font and LCARS design.
Once in the game (campaign) you get your mission briefing, usually as part of a game-engine cutscene that just loves to show off the ships, space stations, and surrounding celestial bodies with dramatic camera sweeps and fly-bys. Each mission is also titled just like an episode.
The ship models are outstanding, both in their polygon construction and the exquisitely detailed textures used to show off the metallic seams as well as multiple levels of damage and destruction. When the larger ships and space stations explode they break apart in huge fiery chunks revealing a mesh of inner construction and fiery destructive details, glower embers, sparks, etc.
Celestial bodies look like they were taken right from the Hubble photo library. Gaseous nebulae swirl and have a very volumetric fog quality about them. One of the first of these actually causes damage to the Enterprise and you see all these sparks and fizzles as the cloud reacts with your shields. Planets are varied and have realistic landmasses, glowing atmosphere (where available), and slowly rotate.
Combat is exhilarating with flashing streaks of multicolored phasers and orange pulses of photon torpedoes snaking their way toward their target. It’s really great to get a lock-on and watch a torpedo take some elaborate spiraling path toward its target. Explosions are their own reward in Legacy.
Obviously, the selling point of this title is the voice cast and Legacy is the first and likely only game to reunite all five captains. William Shatner, Patrick Stewart, Avery Brooks, Kate Mulgrew, and Scott Bakula all turn in some good performances. It’s always interesting to hear the differences when actors are reading lines into a microphone rather than playing off another actor. Scott Bakula sounds good when reading his logs, but comes across a bit stiff and awkward in conversations that are obviously pieced together from separate recording sessions. The only voice I missed was Majel Barrett as the ship’s computer.
Sound effects are ripped straight from the Star Trek audio library so engines, warp drive, phasers, photons and tractor beams all sound the same way we all remember them. Explosions aren’t as impressive as I would have liked but given the fact there is no sound in space I guess I should be glad for what I do have…and it sounds great.
The soundtrack is classic Star Trek with plenty of original theme music composed by Rod Abernethy and Jason Graves. The music keeps you in the Star Trek mindset in the menus, opening movies, and even during the game. It’s totally original yet oddly familiar.
Expect a solid 15-20 hours to beat Legacy’s campaign mode and there is no telling how much time you can spend in the skirmish and online battles. With four diverse factions and more than 80 ships, plus a whole mess of rules and options you can tweak, the possibilities are virtually endless.
For those planning on earning all 1000 achievement points, you’ll have your work cut out for you both online and off. Not only will you need to complete the campaign, you’ll need to do it without losing a single ship under your command. There are also lots of challenging objectives, some even mission-specific, like disabling 12 Romulans with a single blast, and you can even unlock special ships to add to your gamer score.
I was awfully worried when I heard they were making another Star Trek game. I knew Bethesda had already released Encounters for the PS2 and Tactics for the PSP, but we didn’t get to play either of those, so I was going in unprepared when I loaded up Star Trek: Legacy.
It was definitely a great moment for this gamer (and Star Trek fan) when I saw that Mad Doc had crafted a fantastic action-strategy title that not only captures the essence of Star Trek, but delivers a diverse amount of content that spans 40 years of history and three eras of Trek lore. This is a must-own title for anyone who claims to be a Trekkie.