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First Impressions

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Because I could devote excessively more time than Jirka to testing of new space tactical simulation Star Trek: Starfleet Command 3 (SFC3), I utilized this opportunity and examined borrowed beta version of the game properly. That way you can learn in this article what impressions this game has left in me after less than twenty hours of playing. Do not expect that I will take to parts in detail everything that waits for you during your game. Something thereof could still change in the final version and I also have to put something aside for my review.

This article may also be unique in that that I will not refer to foregoing volumes of this series in it. It is because I have never played them and hence do not have the slightest idea about changes this game passed through. Since the intention of creators was to simplify this game and make it accessible to new players, I think that this my perspective could better identify with a perspective of a man that would like to know whether this game is the right thing for him or her or not.

With this ship I finished the Klingon campaign  Black hole in my way foretells nothing good  Battle with an enemy in an asteroid field and a nebula in addition  We're nearing the Unity One Starbase

As you undoubtedly know SFC3 divides into three campaigns – Klingon, Romulan and Federation. All of them revolve then more or less around new Klingon-Federation Starbase called Unity One. Creatores of this game recommend to play campaigns in above-mentioned order, i.e. to start with Klingons, then check out Romulans and finish the game with Federation campaign. Although this could be against the hair for lots of us (including myself), it is really best to reserve Federation to the end, because campaings (judging by first attempts) have growing difficulty (and on the top of this you will better enjoy the story). Because I managed to successfully finish the Klingon campaign approximately after thirteen hours of actual time, I can mention about it in brief. No matter which of parties concerned you will be playing with, you will always start your journey with one of the feeblest ships of fleet. In Klingon Defense Forces this function is performed by the K’Vort class ship. Weapons are indeed almost good for nothing, in the same way shields cannot hold up much, in return her maneuverability is unsurpassable. Of course that you will not command this one little ship through entire game. For successfully done missions that are either assigned to you in agreement with progressive campaign and that are given firmly, or for missions you will encounter en route and for which you can decide voluntarily, you are rewarded with so-called prestige points. You can use these points either for purchasing of new ships of higher classes or (and above all) for upgrading of your momentarily owned ship. This option, so-called refit, is a really great feature that manages to lash you to the screen with ship setup for a long time. Although all those who have never worked as chief engineers of starships might get frightened now, the truth is that this option is very enjoyable and very simple and understanding of it will take you not even five minutes. I could talk about refit here pretty long and any longer, I will however shorten it for today’s purposes. You execute ship setup on six screens (shields, primary weapons, heavy weapons, hull systems, bridge systems and engines). The basic restrictive element of ship refit is her mass, or mass of individual ship systems. You would surely like to arm yourselves with the heaviest weapons, the best armor etc. from the very beginning, but if your ship cannot carry such a loading, you can only dream about these devices (for the present). Since several systems influence and exlude each other (e.g. primary and heavy weapons), more than inexhaustible number of variants you can put together offer to you here. Do you want to have super efficient disruptors? Fine, but just forget about polaron torpedoes or ion cannon. Simply, as I have already said, I could tell here for a long time and I would not see the end, let’s better get a bit further. You can purchase some other items for your prestige points that will definitely not go astray on the battlefield. Among them there are shuttles (that you can instruct and launch out of ship eventually), mines (can’t get rid of thrusting pursuer? Drop a mine behind and let’s see what he will think about it) and most of all – marines. You just have to tell them which system they have to destroy after their boarding of enemy’s ship and they will do so (or try it at least). First of all you have to inactivate enemy’s shields and come near to a very close transport distance. In the finale your marines can manage to overcome crew of enemy ship and gain domination over the it. Suddenly you can command your own mini-fleet. As it wouldn’t be enough that you have problems with yourselves, you have to take care about your fleet now as well. Fortunately even this is solved very transparently, so that only a few clicks suffice and everyone in your fleet knows what he has to do. I cannot neglect another feature that is the officers. Unfortunately I cannot help myself, but I feel that in this place this whole thing evaporate in void. Though it is true that the more experienced your officers are, the better performance they offer, in fact you do not have to take care of them too much. Personally I performed reshuffle only before first two missions. Since then my officers were evidently better then those offered at various starbases and it did not take long time and everyone became legend. Adviced dilemmas whether to give up your mission or to lose your legendary tactical officer came to nothing – at least for Klingons, because their rule is unfinished mission equals to game over. And when things go badly there is always a save/load function (although fortunately only between missions and not during them). As I have sighted, for Federation it doesn’t have to be such severe with game over, so maybe these rasping decisions to be or not to be will get enough room there.

Fighting for the defence of Unity One  Klingon Fek'lhr vs. Federation Sovereign  Last instruction from the Collective and Conquest campaign can begin  Borg Sphere is a difficult adversary

The most important part of the game are, of course, the battles. Most of missions begins with such innocent submission that will Bridge Commander-like capsize in regular scuffle, when surrounding space is filled up with mines, torpedoes, disruptor or phaser beams are everywhere and inside all of this the omnipresent shuttles tamper. It will certainly take you a while, before you will learn how to navigate your ship properly, but then it will begin to behoove. The surroundings in which battles take place is depicted very nicely. You won’t miss smaller obstacles like asteroids, bigger obstructions like planets and blinding shining stars. Add to it black holes and variously colored nebulae and the scenery is set. Graphical effects during battles are also smooth so that when a disruptor beam just take a nip of enemy’s shields, it does look like in TV shows. I have to confess that I was afraid right of these battles, but after a few hours of training I mastered several effective tactics and started to fully enjoy the battles. Of course a bigger ship with crushing firepower expressively contributes to the real batle pleasure. Supporting sounds effects are standardly on the level, we’ll see if the audio track stock played during battles expands in the final version.

That would be really very briefly to the course of campaigns and now just a few general things. Tutorial is a necessary part of this game and no one else than captain Jean-Luc Picard (voiced by Patrick Stewart) will guide you through it. Thus, the tutorial is obviously effected from the Federation point of view, but two guide lessons through Klingon and Romulan battle tactics are also present. Excepting basic three campaigns the quaternion of so-called Conquer campaigns exists in the game. In these your goal is to dominate the Galaxy. Four? Sure – don’t forget the Borg! There are several modifications of old vessels and few wholly new ones added to their fleet. Everything is however strictly subordinate to the geometric architecture of the Borg, so just take a think on what shapes of Borg ships you haven’t seen so far and maybe you can imagine what awaits you. Not an unsubstantial part of SFC3 is the multiplayer that takes place in the universe of new Dynaverse 3. I was unfortunately (well, I would be knocked down so rather luckily) not able to try this option, but it is in there and waiting for you! When you cannot connect to the Internet just now, you can comfortingly train whether in a LAN skirmish multiplayer or perhaps just in a single player skirmish against computer AI adversaries. Such a preparation will surely come in handy to you.

We will see how long a Pirate Shuttle witstands the Borg Diamond  A fratricidal duel of two Akiras  Free for all - primarily against me, however

Beta version I keep at disposition contains several smaller faults that are unnecessary to be construed here, because they are with the utmost probability a history at the present time. I did not deliberately state plenitude of other interesting information in this text that I will save for the review of the full version that will hopefully show up as soon as possible. Even now I can responsibly declare that Taldren made excellent work and maybe the authors will be pleased by the fact that they have already acquired a new member of the great Starfleet Comand community.

Martin Kovar,
Star Trek Games.CZ

Added: 11-03-2002

Useful links:
Taldren: www.taldren.com
Activision: www.activision.com
Star Trek: Starfleet Command 3 homepage: gaming.startrek.com/games/sfc3


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