Players: 1+ Player Game | Release Date: 12/13/00 | Genre: Strategy
The successful and unique Starfleet Command released in 1999 offered many trek fans a chance to get dirty fighting in those epic battles they have seen in the show. Unlike some other uses of Star Trek licenses, a very through job on the original game. At first glance, this game looks to be the same as its predecessor. However, after a few hours with it you will see the improvements and changes that have been added could be appreciated.
So, what's new in SC2? The developers have paid attention to the e-mail and forums of their fans. There are a large number of changes that add to the feel and ease of the star trek universe. The most obvious addition is in the campaign. Unless your a tabletop gaming nerd like I am or a diehard trekkie you've never seen the Starfleet Battles table game this came from. The new map is called Dynaverse II, a new AI that attends to the fighting going on in all sectors. Allowing the feel your part of a conflict. In the map screen the known universe is arranged oh a hex board. You can move around in your races area of influence and pick up on missions to complete. Some missions you can skip. some you are forced to accept or suffer a penalty if you insist on forfeiting. In the previous installment the same board looked as though it were some paper cutout project and you had no choice in picking a mission. In SC2 you can capture planets, attack star bases and actually work toward expanding the influence and power of your race. Two new races were added in SC2, the Mirek Star League and the Interstellar Concordium. The ISC being a interesting plot device and a good story to base this sequel around. Many of the campaigns in this game deal with the known universe battling the ISC invaders. The 8 races have a more diverse array of weapons and more ship designs with the ability to change the configurations of each. This allows players to play more with the styles they enjoy. In addition, instead of having to buy certain configurations of shuttles/fighters and being limited to how many you can have, you can have your engineers change their configurations in battle. If you want 12 suicide shuttles, you can make 12 suicide shuttles, and change one into a sensor decoy after a short time. Tractor beams can now pivot the target around, which is handy to turn your enemy ship around to transport marines to let loose a barrage of weapons on the weakest shield, or better yet push your opponent closer to a black hole or asteroid if your a more "hands on" captain. Perhaps best of all if the ability to change the time index, to speed through the idle traveling time when your enemies or mission check points are far away.
A unique RTS, Starfleet command imparts the feeling of ship combat well. The elimination of the Z-axis puts this game into the 2D realm, offering a top down look instead of a "Homeworld like combat." The benefit of a 3D chipset really shines as the visuals of the space backdrop look fit to put in a display. The weapons and sounds look as good, if not better, than the animations in any trek show. The ships change looks as they get battered and the explosions are enough to satisfy any testosterone charged player seeking to revel in the sight of their opponents fractured saucer sections and nacells spiraling off into space. The sounds are well done and work with the sights to draw you into the game further. The game or a "Do It Yourself" combat sim than a "make it so" fight. While sometimes this makes it hard to keep up, it allows a tactical advantage to players that take the time to learn their ship and control shortcuts like hotkeys. Many of the changes and tweaks you can make to fight your way to victory have to be done manually, and the depth of options can push away some players without the patience to learn the system. Fortunately there is a in depth tutorial that lets you learn these systems hands on.
There are several quirks in the game, even missions in the heart of your empire somehow get met with resistance, but lets face it, safe missions are boring missions. Sometimes the triggers that change the end of a mission from a defeat to a victory get mistaken. Some races in the ISC campaigns come to hold peace agreements with the invaders, and long-term war between the federation and Klingon doesn't hold true with the television show. Would it have killed to have the Klingons speak Klingon instead of English? The designs in the panels are sometimes a little confusing just for the sake to add a few cosmetic changes. The load times have changed into waiting more than a minuet to reset a poor mission or command choice. In addition the game suffers from the crash bug syndrome, even post-patch the game crashes about one out of four times played, requiring more minuets waiting for the save games to reload.
Despite these problems, this truly unique game has improved enough to merit the sequel. The system has been added to wonderfully and will undoubtedly satisfy that urge to blow up some egg sucking alien scum.