With the Star Trek
franchise at your fingertips, there's really not many ways to go wrong when making a game. The universe is already there for you to use, with storyline, characters, and vehicles included. The only thing really worth worrying about is the gameplay. Though Star Trek Armada II
meets the former challenges well, the latter may seem slightly flawed for some.
The plot revolves around the Borg, who are inhabiting seemingly uninhabitable worlds. It's the Federation's job to find out what they're doing and to get rid of them. Though there are six different species in the game, there are only Campaigns for three of them: the Federation, Klingons, and the Borg. Multiplayer will allow you to fly under the banner of any race, including the Romulans, Cardassians, and Species 8472, and supports up to eight players. The missions ease you into the game, giving you menial tasks at first, then later on ramping up the action. Nothing spectacular, but it works.
The gameplay is not unlike that of Homeworld's, with your area of operations be a cubic chunk of outer space. There is a relative middle plane, but you can deviate up or down (or is it down or up?) from this plane if you so choose. Unlike Homeworld, you seem more restricted to this middle plane, as it is a guide for you to place your buildings.
Resources are a bit different from your normal RTS, but thankfully aren't too complicated and give some new life to an old system. Floating around in space are dilithium spheres, which can be mined for dilithium, an essential resource used for warp drives. A planet will yield metal and people, depending on its class. Metal is used on most everything, and people are used to man the ships. The last resource is latinum, which is acquired by building a trading station. Once built, it will attract Ferengi traders, which will in turn increase your latinum count.
Combat is everything you'd expect from a RTS, with a few little additions. A ship's crew plays an integral role in combat, as a highly crewed ship will shoot faster, and can withstand boarding parties better. If one of your ships is down on crew, personnel can be transferred ship to ship. There are also designated assault ships that will weaken an enemy's shield and then send its boarding party over to capture it. This is not a sure bet though, as each race has different skills when it comes to man-to-man combat.
Ship management takes on an almost new meaning in this game. There are so many different things concerning ship status that it might overwhelm some. No longer does a single health bar reside over the top of each ship. Instead, it is broken into four parts, each representing a different system. You usually have to zoom in all the way to see them clearly, which is a drain on the action.
Ship attitudes for movement, attacking, and special weapon control are each broken into three stages. Trying to know each status and attitude for every ship is downright impossible, but a lot of the weight is taken off when ships are assigned to fleets. Fleets are simply the groups you can put ships in, using the numbers 1 through 9. The attitude you set for one ship in a fleet will carry over to every ship in that fleet, making the management job a little bit easier.