With a well-defined universe, an entire galaxy to explore, and 51 years of material to draw on, it should be a piece of cake to make a Star Trek game. You would think a sci-fi powerhouse like Star Trek and video games would be a perfect match, and for a time they were. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Interplay, Microprose, and Activision all published some fantastic games using the series’ license. As interest in the franchise waned though, caused by lackluster ninth and tenth movies, and declining audience numbers for Enterprise, the flow of multiple Trek games per years slowed to a trickle, and then stopped almost entirely.
The last Star Trek game to receive critical acclaim (garnering a 4 out of 5 review at GameRevolution) was Star Trek Elite Force 2 in 2003. Since then, the license has passed through a few hands, resulting in some decent games (Star Trek: Legacy, Star Trek Online), and some stinkers (Star Trek: DAC, Star Trek, Star Trek Timelines). The most recent Trek game, Star Trek: Bridge Crew, was actually a lot of fun, but since it’s VR-only, it didn’t have widespread appeal. It’s telling when the best Star Trek games by far since then have been mods for other games like Sins of a Solar Empire (Star Trek Armada 3) and Stellaris (Star Trek New Horizons).
I for one never thought we’d see another Star Trek series on the air, at least not while there was life to flog out of the Abramsverse entries. I guess Star Trek Beyond not making triple what it cost to produce made it enough of a failure in Paramount’s eyes that it hasn’t decided to create a new movie yet, so CBS felt reasonably comfortable in making a series that wouldn’t have any competition. Five episodes have aired of Star Trek: Discovery so far, and while my assessment of the show is that it’s “okay,” it seems to be popular, even when you can only watch it on the CBS All Access premium service.
I think first and foremost Discovery’s popularity can be attributed to the fact that a rabid fanbase is thirsting for Star Trek more than it being well-crafted, but I digress. Apparently, there’s a demand here for more Trek, and it’s time to set the horrible treatment the video game license has gotten for the last decade-and-a-half right.
Discovery might not be the best series to set a game in right now since there’s not a lot of material to draw on, but something in the spirit of Star Trek: Legacy (with better execution) could touch on the new series. Imagine a trip through the entirety of the franchise, with a few missions thrown in on the USS Shenzhou before the Battle at the Binary Stars, and maybe a little time with Captain Lorca on the USS Buran during the fateful battle in which he lost his crew and the maiden voyage of the USS Discovery.
Despite Star Trek Discovery taking place in the original canon, there’s almost nothing that ties it to the time it’s supposed to be set in. When watching it, I could be just as convinced its taking place in 2456 as I am that the in-universe year is 2256, ten years before Kirk’s first five-year voyage on the USS Enterprise. In a video game though, CBS could help mesh the series that came before into a story including Discovery that makes the transition from Enterprise to Discovery to The Original Series feel much more natural and organic.
A new Star Trek video game done right would be a great way to enhance Star Trek: Discovery’s attachment to the rest of the canon. Furthermore. the franchise needs to shake the stigma that a game with “Star Trek” in the title is going to be horrible. In the 1990s Trek was king of TV sci-fi and the games released were typically amongst the best in their genre for the time. With the new series it’s time to return to that golden age, and boldly go where someone has gone before.