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Star Trek Away Team

Score: 70%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Reflexive Entertainment
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 6
Genre: Miscellaneous

Graphics & Sound:

The graphics in Star Trek Away Team are very much in the style of the genre -- overhead, three-quarters angle backgrounds with sprite-based characters moving around. This has been in use since the original X-Com. STAT doesn't have the tile-based rigidity of the aforementioned games, and it certainly looks a lot nicer. Every area that you visit, from the Klingon warbirds to the 'land of the Borg', is quite detailed and intriguing. There's a decent amount of visual clutter, which is nice, but not too much -- which is fitting in with the generally Spartan setting of the Star Trek universe.

The sound is pretty solid, and very much Trek. You'll hear phasers, turbolifts, and all of the sounds you'd expect to hear from a game set immediately after Deep Space 9. The voice acting is competent, but the people sound a little too stonewalled for my tastes -- as if they were more acutely aware that they were voice acting for a game instead of a dramatic show. Data has an excuse for this, but the rest of the cast doesn't. The music is there, but it's not particularly memorable. Indeed, I had to start the game back up to see if there was music in the game before I sat down to work on the review. It can be stirring at times, but for the most part it's too understated to be of much notice.


And, while Star Trek Away Team tries to continue the string of solid Star Trek based games coming out of Activision and Interplay recently, it ends up stumbling more than it sprints.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again -- I'm not a Trekkie, nor have I ever been. I've watched quite a few episodes of every incarnation of the series [more DS9 and TNG than anything else, since that was back when I still watched television], so I'm pretty well aware of the dynamics of the characters and shows. Star Trek Away Team often follows in the footsteps of its predecessors, which is both a good thing and a bad thing.

It's a good thing because the plot stays within the well-defined world of the Star Trek universe. There's nothing more irritating than playing a game that simply leaps out of the world it is set in, breaking that cohesive whole. It's a bad thing, though, because the world could have been stretched a little farther than it was in Away Team. There's only so many infiltration and recovery missions that we can do before it grows tiring.

The basic conceit of the game is similar to any of the squad-based games that have come out in recent times. It's real-time, so you have to be able to react quickly to any situations you're placed in. You generally pick people to send down in the Away Team -- this number varies depending on the mission, and some people are required for certain missions -- and then try to complete the mission presented to you. There are generally a number of primary objectives, which must be completed, and a few secondary objectives, which are not necessary but which give you bonuses as you progress through the game. You must also keep every member of the Away Team alive.

That's all well and good in itself, but the problem comes with the execution. The team members have no AI whatsoever, blindly following whatever commands you give them and doing nothing on their own. This means that they will get the tar blown out of them by enemies unless you explicitly tell them to attack. While I understand that this is a good default for a game that often relies on stealth, there are enough run-and-gun situations in Away Team to warrant an an 'aggressive mode' or something similar.

Relieving some of these issues is the addition of a Pause Mode, which lets you stop the game at any time and issue commands to your team, who then executes them when you unpause the game. It's a lifesaver for some of the combat situations. You can also see 'sound cones' and 'vision cones', which show you how far the sounds you are making travel and how far your enemies can see. These are especially handy in scenarios that rely on stealth.

That, however, brings me to one of my problems with the game -- the inability to really suspend my disbelief. I could get in character and see myself as part of this Away Team, until I realized that I could see every unit on the map, whether they were in my line of sight or not. And I could see just what they saw, by use of the vision cones. Part of the charm of squad-based tactics is the element of surprise, but when you can see everything at once, that's taken away. Sure, they'll occasionally teleport some units into your way, but that's a fairly rare occurance.

There are also some technical issues, especially with pathfinding, but I'll wait to get into that. The game supports multiplayer, but it's only over a LAN.


There are two selectable difficulty levels -- Normal and Easy. Even on Normal, the game is pretty trivial until you get to the already-infamous tenth mission. After that, the game gets quite easy again. Creep and save is the name of the game, even in the simpler missions, although you don't actually have to save at all during the various stages. Indeed, some missions take a surprisingly short amount of time. It's relatively rare that the objectives change much, and the objectives that you're given are usually not too hard to figure out. The fact that you're given an automap that shows where all of the objectives and opponents are doesn't make the game any harder. Careful use of vision and sound cones will help you get through the game with all objectives, primary and secondary, met with relative ease.

Game Mechanics:

Most of Star Trek Away Team is mouse driven, although keyboard shortcuts are pretty much necessary for proper use of the vision cones. Moving the units around is a simple task, but it's hard to differentiate between your squad members when they're tightly packed. Clicking on their faces on the side panel makes that point moot, however. The game will auto-pause if you get attacked from off-screen, which is nice, although I still wish that there were an 'opportunity fire' mode that you could turn on in cases where stealth is unnecessary. The menus are easy to navigate and understand, and most of the game has that cool Trek 'pointless graphical goodness' feel to it.

Star Trek Away Team is not a bad game, but there are other squad-based games out there that do it a good deal better. With the lack of any real character AI, not much variety in the various plot missions, and a fairly quick play time with limited replayability, chances are good that you'd have more fun with, say, Jagged Alliance 2 or perhaps the recently-released Fallout Tactics. Hardcore Trek fans may find a good deal to like here, and if you've finished all the other squad-based games available, you may find Star Trek Away Team to be a pleasant diversion. Just don't go into it expecting too much.

-Sunfall to-Ennien, GameVortex Communications
AKA Phil Bordelon

Minimum System Requirements:

P2 266, 64MB RAM, Win9x/ME/2K, 500MB HD space, 4x CD-ROM, 16-bit sound card, mouse, keyboard

Test System:

Athlon 1.1GHz running Win98 SE, 512MB RAM, GeForce 2 GTS w/ 32MB RAM, SoundBlaster Live!, 8x DVD-ROM

Windows Stupid Invaders Windows Starfleet Command: Orion Pirates

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