A faint signal.
Take two of the toughest story lines to tell in Star Trek – one about exploring the unknown, and the other about the nigh-invincible Borg – execute them both at once, and you’ve got the recipe for Star Trek: Legacy. There are plenty of terrible episodes which spend only an hour on either subject, so imagine trying to weave such a tale over twenty hours.
I am at least pleased to report that Star Trek: Legacy does a fine job juggling Star Trek’s nastiest bad guys and a bundle of key moments from the show’s continuity. Bethseda’s biggest Trek game of the year is a great presentation, but the experience stalls pretty badly as the fancy lights and sounds give out under weak missions and writing.
[image1]Legacy takes place over the course of two hundred years, as the captains of the five television shows investigate the origins of the Borg. You take a flagship like the Enterprise and three ships of your choice through twenty seven combat missions, pausing only to buy the newest ships between battles.
The list of playable ships is impressive, spanning everything from lowly science vessels to sleek gunboats. Brand-new alien ships look a little fugly, and every ship feels fairly similar, but it looks like Mad Doc has provided every major vessel from the past forty years and then some.
As expected, Legacy boasts the best graphics and audio of Bethesda’s recent Star Trek titles. Every inch of the space backdrop appears to be covered in some hand-painted detail; when the hull plating gets chipped off your spaceship, you can see the deck-by-deck cutaway underneath, and the game is topped off with great-looking warp speed and explosion effects. The only ugliness occurs when a large object blows up; space stations and ships like the Borg Cube implode into giant laughable chunks.
Star talent like William Shatner and Patrick Stewart have recorded some exceptional voice acting, but what could they have thought about the amateurish script? Esteemed Trek scribe D.C. Fontana manages to keep the overall story on track, but the terrible jokes and insurmountable techno-nonsense will have you on the mute button within the first minute of play (no joke). A few scenes are so poorly written that only hardcore Trek fans will understand what’s happening.
[image2]You can command your ships on the overhead map screen, but the real game happens when you take the helm: navigation feels extremely natural, though special orders are awkwardly spread across the keyboard. The mouse wheel makes a cool throttle button, but targeting and the awkward point-and-click elements feel strange and conflicted. At least Legacy
doesn’t let you haphazardly fly into obstacles
or fire on your teammates
But where those other Star Trek titles forced players to keep moving so they could tactically wear down specific points in the enemy shields, any such strategic element is gone in Legacy, where everything moves quite rapidly in all three dimensions. Shields now take the same damage from every side, and you really don’t know where your weapons are on the ship. Basically, Legacy is a game of pointing your ship directly at the enemy. It’s fun, but not as smart.
The individual missions stretch on with no save feature. One mission builds up towards the destruction of a hidden space station, rewarding your conquest with four more stations to destroy… ugh. For some strange and fortunate reason, it’s easy to get into the game files and change how much damage you deal or take; it’s cheating but Mad Doc is pretty cool for explicitly helping you adjust the game. It’s just too bad you have to break it to really enjoy it.
Besides, there are a few levels that you can’t cheat due to questionably difficult design. I’m stuck on a fairly infamous mission that plays like a game of Asteroid or Missile Command
. It’s a place where no Star Trek game should ever go, boldly or otherwise.
[image3]The two multiplayer modes are entertaining but stripped to nothing. A meager four players can jump in for a straight-up skirmish mode; a more clever cooperative game has players defending Deep Space Nine from increasing waves of enemies. That’s all you get, suffocating under a curiously limited set of options. While it’s fun to dogfight with others or be the Borg Cube for a while, it doesn’t seem like anything that would captivate players for long.
A couple of bugs bring the action to a halt, like a Select All Ships button that rarely selects all ships, and a jumpy camera that goes cuckoo when your target explodes. The extra features are plagued with problems, too, like oversights in the interface (why do so many ‘back’ buttons go straight to the main menu?); I was looking forward to at least watching the bonus movies, but none of them worked. That’s highly illogical.
On that note, don’t even bother trying to run Legacy if your computer is three or more years old; your laggy cursor will make the game practically unplayable. I’m running a decent video card on a 2.0 gHz processor, not the fastest rig, but I could hardly use the map screen because of the terrible frame rate.
Legacy looks great and sounds great, it has a few good hooks and a solid story to tell, but it fails on most levels to be a compelling experience. Maybe this game will really connect with the kind of Trekkie who loves every show and minutia of the universe, but it isn’t quite fun or tight enough to beam aboard.