Do you have trouble, like I do, remembering that you have to hit the ‘up’ arrow to fly down and the ‘down’ arrow to fly up? Do enemy Frigates blast your Space Behemoth from the sky while you are trying to bring your massive weapons systems to bear on their puny hulls? Then perhaps you may find Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Dominion Wars (hereafter called Dominion Wars) to be an enjoyable game.
The premise is simple – Deep Space Nine (the Federation’s multicultural space station) is sitting at the entrance to a stable ‘worm hole’ that leads to another section of our galaxy. This new area is called the Gamma Quadrant (while our well known Federation space is called the Alpha Quadrant). The Dominion controls this Gamma Quadrant, and being a society bent on expansion and conquest, takes a dislike to the Federation Alliance as it stands in their way. This becomes the starting point for Dominion Wars. You can play either the Federation Alliance or the Dominion and their one Alpha Quadrant member, the Cardassians (who still do not like it that the Federation set up Deep Space Nine in their back yard).
The controls are not intuitive (at least not at first) and the tiny CD insert game manual and the in game training are only marginal in getting you ready to do war with the Dominion. It will take a couple of times through the initial missions to get the feel for the ship and battle controls and a little bit more to be able to beam teams onto enemy or friendly ships to take them over or help them out.
But if you persist then the controls will become easier to use and battles will flow more smoothly. As was said at the start, there is no need to worry about flying controls as the ships do that for you. You tell them (you are usually controlling a small fleet of ships) where to go and what battle stance to be at – fire at will, fire on my command, hold fire etc – and what range to try and stay at – long, medium or short, depending on the weaponry of the ships. Then it is merely a matter of finding the enemy and engaging by a series of clicks on your ships and then again on the target ship.
This becomes easier after a ship in the fleet gets an enemy in sight, as an icon above the ship that has them in sight will allow you to target that enemy with your other ships easier. Then double click on the ship you wish to see the battle from and watch the destruction of the enemy. This becomes a bit more complex when multiple enemies are sighted and you need to split your forces to protect your freighters or for other mission reasons. You can click from ship to ship and give or change their commands or reinforce their shields change flight plans or targets etc. This also becomes easier over time.
The missions are linear and there is no skirmish mode (individual unlinked scenarios for practice or when you do not have time for the next campaign mission) so there is no such thing as failure. You either complete the assigned mission or play it again until you get it right. This is a good thing early on as you can get the feel of the control interface and not worry about completing the missions until you are comfortable with the controls. Later on it will allow you to try new strategies without the fear of punishment if the strategy does not pan out.
Completion of a mission will garner your chosen captain (which you can pick from among the Star Trek personalities presented in the game) experience, which makes them better at carrying out your commands during missions, and will give you additional cash to spend on the next mission to acquire new ships or enhance your existing fleet.
You can add crew to ships as well as weapons, and computer and armor enhancements before starting a mission. You will start with fleets of small ships and eventually work your way up to the Galaxy Class starships that are so familiar to fans of the TV series.
You can also play against other people via direct Internet connection.
The graphics are awesome and the ships actually look like their TV show counterparts. Watching the introduction sequence will prepare you for what you will see in game.
Some controls did not work as advertised however. One instance was that I was unable to group my ships as per the instructions given in the tutorial, so I had to just give a lot more movement commands and be aware of where the various ships were to be able to respond to threats most efficiently as they popped up.
The voice sound level is fairly low and if the washing machine is running or your son has his TV on at his computer workstation, you will have real trouble hearing what is being said in game, even with the speakers turned up to full and the voice volume set to max. The advertised hard drive space is for the minimum install, with the full install taking in excess of 500 MB. For some reason when I put the CD in it would always take me to the installation wizard, which I would have to quit out of and double click the desktop icon to start the game.
These problems aside, I found the game to be fun and exciting. Perhaps because the actual flying of the ships and targeting of the weaponry was taken care of for me, I really enjoyed being in command. While it may not appeal to the space jockeys out there, it may appeal to us nonflyboys that just want to be in strategic control of the situation. While having stand alone scenarios to play would have been a great addition the game, is very playable and enjoyable as it stands and deserves the three and half GiN Gems.