Captain, I find these new command consoles… perplexing.
I do not often spend much time engaged in the trivial pastime of computer gaming. However, when Birth of the Federation arrived at the Game Revolution office, it logically became my duty to review the game. I looked upon it as a chance to hone my skills by engaging my mind against a potentially accurate simulation of galactic expansion. I soon discovered that this task would take every bit of my patience. In fact, it required the full application of my highly trained Vulcan mind just to figure out the interface.
Birth of the Federation draws heavily from some noteworthy predecessors. The management of planetary resources, galactic expansion, and technological innovations all remind me strongly of the famous game, Civilization. Additionally, the galactic map grid and randomly generated star chart make it seem like an update of the old text-based game Net Trek. I have not seen that game since my youth on planet Vulcan, during my brief studies under the learned T'Pau. She forbade it to be played and deleted it from the academy computers.
Thus, I was pleased to discover that Birth of the Federation was another turn-based strategy game, a genre I feel has been wrongfully neglected recently in favor of shooters with big guns. The goal of your strategy is clear; take control of any of five advanced races - Humans (Federation), Romulans, Klingons, Cardassians, or Ferengi - and attempt to expand their power and influence throughout the galaxy.
This may be done by means of diplomacy, money, subterfuge, and the traditional means of the more emotional races: phasers and photon torpedoes. The problem lies in actually trying to achieve any of these goals. Depending on your chosen race, the game's interface is designed to look like the computer interfaces aboard their respective starships. But, while it is pretty, its use is obtuse at best, and it may take you hours just to figure out the simplest tasks. I find this commitment to form over function to be illogical and of little practical value to an aspiring space explorer.
While you explore, you will encounter many 'minor races' as well. I consider this part to be well done. Many of these races were originally discovered during my own explorations with Admiral Kirk, while others have been more recently contacted by Captain Picard and others. It was fascinating to experience first contact with these cultures a second time. Adding their strength to your empire, by hook or by crook, is instrumental to victory.
However, even the most diplomatic of empires will sometimes have to fight, and your ships must be able to enter combat as well as explore the galaxy. While you have only rudimentary control of your ships during combat (you can give basic orders such as 'strafe', 'charge', 'evade' and 'retreat'), the graphics do become slightly more exciting. The ships and combat itself is rendered in full 3D. Unfortunately, the framerate gets choppy and the battles tend to be quite short and unexciting, with the more powerful fleet quickly destroying the weaker.
In summary, I found Birth of the Federation to be an unsatisfying intellectual experience. While random maps and five advanced sentient races ensure many hours of gameplay, the confusing interface and sub-par graphics could only entice the most dedicated of Starfleet cadets. At times, I found it to be even more tedious than one of Sarek's many readings of the FalCUikal Kya'shin, a treatise on Vulcan Meditation. With the vast galaxy known to the Federation as the setting, it is illogical that Microprose has managed to create such an uninteresting game.