It’s a problem I have had with Star Trek games for years. Now you would think someone would solve it by now.
I was asked to take a look at Star Trek: Klingon Academy this week. This six-CD game takes Star Trek: Starfleet Academy and justly moves it to the Klingon Empire. Wait, did the Klingons have an academy? Hmm”I’ll let that question hang in the balance.
For all of the advances the software and hardware, why can’t Star Trek games be more simple? Why does the player have to do all the work? I was supposedly the captain of a Klingon vessel through a series of simulations and missions. To issue orders to my crew, I had to use the VOS, which stands for “verbal order system.”
There is nothing verbal about this verbal order system! Nine menus line the bottom of the screen with headings like “Engineer,” “Helm,” “Comm,” and “Science.” Wait, this sounds like a Federation starship, doesn’t it?
So to issue a “verbal” command, the player has to press a corresponding number key, which brings up a menu, like “2” for “Helm.” Then a series of choices faces the captain, like “Warp Out-System,” “Warp In-System,” “Warp to Target,” “Impulse,” and a couple of others. So those take another number key. And so on. And so on.
To warp somewhere, the captain presses four keys in sequence. Never mind that as captain, I’m handling a joystick to fly the ship as well as manning the weapons array. I thought I was a captain, for god sakes! That’s what the crew is for!
I saw one joystick once in one Star Trek movie. Guess which one and who was the pilot and win a tribble! (answer below, but don’t expect that tribble) I don’t believe joysticks are standard issue in the Federation or the Klingon Empire.
Pressing keys, issuing “commands,” flying the ship, shooting the weapons is nearly impossible. Whose crinkly cranium do I need to bash to get some help around here? Never has the captain had to do so much.
While voice-recognition isn’t quite right for dictating the great American novel or even a decent review, why can’t it be used for words like “shields,” “all ahead full,” “cloak,” or other Star Trek universe vernacular?
Suspend your disbelief that the game isn’t quite accurate-or as accurate as some game can be to a fictional universe-and the game can be fun, but extremely challenging. Beside the incredibly obtuse VOS, the “Cadet Handbook” for Klingon U is 288 pages! I’m sorry to say I never read the whole thing. Guess I will fail my midterm.
On the plus side, the graphics are generally strong, the sound effects very good, and the plot compelling.
In particular, the back story is a prequel from the cinematic movie, “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.” Starring Christopher Plummer as General Chang, the little movies almost make the game play worthwhile. Almost.
I guess all the money it took to get Plummer to reprise his role was taken from making the game playable.
And here’s a little note of humor: Even though I had to do the work of an entire crew, on one mission I couldn’t choose the order of attacking three Federation vessels. I was cloaked and wanted to score some hits on the warship that I knew could do me some serious damage. But the computer would not let me target it! I was forced to start with some tiny ships that posed no threat at all. By the time the computer lets you target your only real opposition, they have their shields up and are coming at your uncloaked (as in you have to fire uncloaked) butt full tilt. How much easier it would have been to just pop the warship first and then mop up the smaller ones later. So there I was commanding the entire ship, but not able to pick my order of targets.
I don’t hate Star Trek: Klingon Academy. I don’t like it either. Despite some promising features, the game is wholly too complicated and does not honor the great Klingon Empire.
The trivia answer: Commander Riker flew the Enterprise E on manual using a joystick in “Star Trek: Insurrection.” It looked a lot like a Flightstick Pro.