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.