The results of the Bethesda Software’s Star Trek: Legacy game are like the recent solstice. Depending on your perspective, it is either darkness or light. The game is one of the first official Trek video games in two years, and certainly the most anticipated. It is also the first Star Trek venue of any kind to feature performances by all five Trek captains (in the form of voice acting by Shatner, Stewart, Brooks, Mulgrew and Bakula). The question is what will Legacy’s legacy be with Star Trek fans and gamers? Is it darkness or light? Perhaps a bit of both.
Legacy is a great Trek experience
The Star Trek of Legacy provides much light. Compared with the best Star Trek episodes, Legacy is not lacking visually. The renders of the ships are often amazing, with lighting effects across starships that are often the best of all Star Trek games. The detailing of known ships shows a respect for the designs of Star Trek. The soundtrack by Jason Graves and Rod Abernethy rivals those of the films and enhance the visuals. The main title is unique to the videogame, yet familiar in that echoes the work of James Horner or Jerry Goldsmith by juxtaposing adventure music with beautiful lyricism. It is the kind of music enjoyable on its own, yet enhancing to the gaming experience. The music is inspiring.
Then there is the real audio bonus of the game, the featured voices of Scott Bakula, William Shatner, Patrick Stewart, Avery Brooks, and Kate Mulgrew. Hearing those icons is perhaps the reason Star Trek fans unfamiliar with gaming may purchase Legacy. There is nothing quite like being ordered around by Kate Mulgrew or William Shatner. Report! The Captains guide players through missions with narrative variety, all with the metastory of seeing the beginnings of Starfleet to its 24th Century complexity. While it is great to hear the Captains, it would have been nice to see them as well. While costs and logistics might be prohibitive for video, many previous Trek games have created computer characters to go along with the voices and it would have been something amazing to see these favorite characters again. Yet, there is much to praise about D.C. Fontana’s narrative and characters. The captains are true to their television versions both with performance by the actors and through their written words and deeds. For instance, Bakula and Fontana present an Archer with enthusiasm for space and focus on his role forming the early Starfleet and Federation. All the actors make it look easy returning to their famous roles. Again, these great performance reiterate the need to see the characters. Star Trek is more than mere space battles, and although the game includes scanning planets and transporting Starfleet personnel, it would be nice to see more than the vistas of space or ships.
But what about the gaming?
While there is much about Legacy to applaud regarding its Star Trek qualities, the real purpose of videogames is to enjoy the game. To be challenged, yet to have fun. In this sense Legacy is disappointing. Game play is difficult for new gamers and limiting for experienced players. It takes a great deal of time to learn the controls, and with that, the ships do not move easily or smoothly. Frustration is the companion for Legacy. It is good for new gamers that Legacy provides multifarious hints and tips because they are definitely needed. Experienced gamers may find this limiting, wishing for better player control of the starships. The narratives of the campaigns are interesting and Bethesda has duplicated technical details with aplomb, yet it is frustrating to watch starships experience the bombarding by Romulan vessels while trying to figure out how to get the starships moving correctly. Choices of control buttons are also problematic. A example of this is that the “G” key is used to bring up the option to scan a planet or utilize the transporter. The key has to pressed while pressing the movement keys to select whether the ship is to scan, hail, transport, or utilize the tractor beam. Touch the buttons too lightly, the ship starts moving when the player doesn’t want the ship to move. Maybe Lt. Arex could play this game better. With this regard, the game cannot decide whether to be starship simulator or Star Trek adventure. If web forums are indications, this frustration is not limited to new gamers.
Other discussions of Legacy are replete with similar concerns. GameSpot.com’s Jason Ocampo writes that “Clumsy controls and camera scheme create a steep learning curve; frustrating mission design and lack of in-mission save; crippling bugs and multiplayer doesn’t work.“ IGN.com writes that “The first and most frequently occurring aggravation is the control scheme, both in terms of managing your own ship and in terms of giving orders to the rest of your fleet.” One patch for the PC version is already available, with hopes for more changes from those at the forums of Bethesda. When standing on the opposite side of the world, there is darkness where others see light.
The Star Trek videogames experience the same challenge as the Star Trek feature films. How do the videogames or feature films appeal to the fans, yet attract the wider audience needed for real success? The appeal to fans is there with quality narratives, visuals, soundtrack, and the five captains. The ability to control starships from all Star Trek eras offers a historical experience often lacking with other Star Trek games. The appeal to the wider audience, here experienced gamers, is not likely. Legacy is probably best for those very familiar with both gaming and Trek. These are not mutually exclusive categories, yet Legacy does not appeal to those unfamiliar with videogaming or unfamiliar with Star Trek. The irony here is that the game is fun to watch, not fun to play. Star Trek should always be fun.
Professor John Tenuto has contributed to TrekMovie.com before and now joins us as our Licensed Products Editor (Toys, Games, Comics, Books, etc) . Expect more from John on the cultural phenom that is Star Trek.
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