The new narrative adventure game Star Trek Resurgence has been getting positive reviews from players and fans since it was released for PC and Console in late May. A highlight of the game (as noted by the TrekMovie review) is the strong storyline set in the Star Trek: The Next Generation era. The game is the first release from Dramatic Labs, a new company created by many of the creative leads from the Award-winning Telltale games, including lead writers Andrew Grant and Dan Martin. As big fans of the franchise, they chose Star Trek to be their first game. TrekMovie had a chance to talk to Grant and Martin about how they approached building the world of Resurgence and how it tied into the lore of Star Trek. Note the interview contains game spoilers.
Giving players choices in Starfleet
Why set the game on a new ship with a new crew instead of taking what may have been the easier path of using the Enterprise or USS Voyager?
Dan Martin: Well, it’s all about the player because when you put them into the shoes of say, Janeway, or Picard, they stop having the agency to play the way they want to. They start thinking, “Well, what would Picard do?” And they make the choice that they think Picard would make because they’re playing as Picard. Whereas in our situation, we create new player characters and surround you with new characters and a new ship so that you don’t know necessarily what they do. We give you a character to define for yourself in a lot of ways. And so the choices you make might be informed by what would Picard do, but just as often, you’ll say what would Sisko do in this case, because that’s who I want to embody, in this particular moment.
Andrew Grant: Watching some of the playthroughs on Twitch, it’s really fascinating seeing how people are really defining [the two POV player characters] Jara and Carter for themselves. That’s why we went to so much trouble to create all of this original material. It gives us dramatic license for people to be defined at every turn if they want to, or to follow sort of the Star Trek ethos, and be true to that as they’re making choices throughout the game. So they really take ownership of the experience. It’s really their character.
This game is all about player choice, however, it isn’t the kind of game where you can choose to “play evil” as it were. Did you find it a challenge to create choices, while staying within the Starfleet guardrails?
Dan Martin: Number one, we’re Star Trek fans, that’s why we wanted to make this game. And so we’ve never wanted to go way off script in terms of what would a Starfleet officer do. But the legacy of Star Trek is built around these questions and choices. And great episodes are made where Spock and McCoy are pulling Kirk in two different directions. Logically or ethically, it could go in either direction, and Kirk has to make that decision. And it felt like the perfect fit to do that with a player character, where you probably thought I would go the other way. And now you get to make that choice and see how it plays out. I think that we start out pretty by the book, but towards the end of it, there are some big swings that you can take it kind of go towards the edges of what Starfleet might approve of. But I think that we earn it and I think that we get there by the scenario that we build, and sort of the little intellectual outs that you might use to say, “Well, this isn’t so bad,” because of this or that.
Andrew Grant: To me, this is why it’s sort of the perfect match of franchising format. Because of those shades of grey. It’s not just black and white. There are so many facets to and possible solutions to all these problems that we’re presenting. And so we’re not necessarily bound by the Star Trek ethos, but I think it’s an opportunity to really sort of unpack a lot of these complex questions about the return of this ancient civilization. Yes, the Scions are a threat but the technology that they could be they could bring with them that could solve so many problems that’s just the interesting layer to this whole issue. And at the same time, we want to be true to the characters. Jara is an incredibly accomplished officer so you don’t want to present her with options that would sort of betray that.
With most games, the goal is to win, but here it seems more about the journey. Do you even think of notions like the right way or the wrong way with these choices?
Andrew Grant: That’s a great question because it’s really all we talk about in terms of constructing a scene. And we really discard the choices that are just clearly biased one way or the other, because we want to make them equally valid and equally balanced. So that if you feel like you want to side with one side or the other or follow orders or define them like you are we’re going to empower you to do that. And again, that’s what creates that sense of both immersion and ownership. This is my character that I’m defining at every juncture as I’m making those choices.
Dan Martin: And sometimes we surprise ourselves. We find a choice that we’re like, “Oh, man, this really feels like there’s one way to do it.” But there’s this balance of the information you give in the character reactions that you tie to a choice that can take something that feels “Oh, that’s easy.” and start to pull you in a different direction.
Andrew Grant: And then another layer, we introduced the feedback system for the first time in this game, so that you get sort of like a visceral response to the choice that you’ve made. And it’s been really interesting to watch as players get either disapproval from someone they really respect, like Spock, and their like, “How can I make a choice that’s going to win back his approval?” It’s a really interesting dynamic as you work your way through the story.
Immersing in Star Trek
Did you look for particular Star Trek characters or archetypes as you filled this world with the additional characters?
Dan Martin: I think in terms of the character archetypes, one would be Miles O’Brien, the hardest-working man in Starfleet. He was a big inspiration for our lower decks characters. They’re enlisted, so it’s not even like the TV show Lower Decks or the TNG episode “Lower Decks,” where they were ensigns. This is actually a different category of Starfleet personnel. The people that are climbing through Jefferies Tubes and rolling up their sleeves and getting their hands dirty. On the other end of the spectrum, for Captain Solano, the USS Resolute is a fine ship, but she’s not the Enterprise. She’s not the flagship. Every Starfleet officer wants to do their best, but some of them have different approaches to what their best is. And we wanted Solano to be flawed in certain ways because that’s more interesting to play against. There’s more room, particularly for first officer who has responsibilities up and down the chain of command. You might have questions about what your captain is saying and wants to do and you’re getting good advice from the other senior staff. When is it appropriate to push back? And how do you push back? And that was why we chose a first officer instead of a captain as our other POV was that room to make decisions for yourself.
Andrew Grant: And because it’s a player-driven narrative, it’s not only Solano that you are interacting with. You also have to sort of contend with and balance the opinions of the rest of the bridge crew simultaneously. Each has strong opinions about the choices that you make and you’re shaping those relationships as well. And then I think, from Carter’s point of view, you have to work under a Vulcan, which was something that definitely stood out to us as an opportunity for some really interesting playable space. And Chovak is a fan favorite in the game.
The game is filled with Star Trek easter eggs. Is that all from the writing or do the artists put in their own? And do you have favorites?
Dan Martin: I think it’s an ethos to begin. We wanted to make it authentic. We wanted to make it a bit of fantasy fulfillment. Like watching Picard season 3 and they go back to the bridge of the Enterprise D and all those panels light up and it’s got the carpet and the wood trim. For me, it felt like I was going home as much as for the characters. It is a real place in my mind. I can close my eyes and walk the corridors of the Enterprise D. We wanted to give that experience to people where they get to open their eyes and walk the corridors and handle the tool that O’Brien use and all of that. So this stuff is written into the script, and we have a phenomenal art team that then takes it and runs with it and does all kinds of research to find what is the right thing to put here? What is the font? Favorite things? I guess I liked that we made the First Contact spacesuits very accurately, but we fixed it so you can turn your head in the helmet and the helmet turns. I think that was a design flaw that we managed to fix.
Andrew Grant: The script was really just the tip of the iceberg. It was really the entire team who are such Trek fans that brought all the little details, from the color of the carpet to the wood paneling on the bridge. They created all these moments that for fans to be immersed in this world so that they would recognize pieces from a bunch of different shows. And even cinematically, our cinematic director seamlessly fuses transitions between the two POVs so that feels like an A and B storyline from the show.
Dan Martin: And they also bring in different looks and different types of Star Trek. There are certain scenes that have the look of a TNG conference room scene. There’s at the Starbase and leaving spacedock that pays homage to the TOS movies. And then there are action scenes where the camera is moving in ways that are very modern. And fusing that style into something that kind of honors it all goes a long way to making it feel like feeling fresh and familiar in the same way.
Tying into Trek Lore
Spock is a pretty significant character throughout the game. It must have been a bit intimidating to write all that dialog for such an iconic character, especially as you had to write three responses to player choices.
Dan Martin: Sometimes writing three different versions, you have three versions you like and then you get to have them all. You get to have your cake and eat it too. But writing for Spock absolutely felt like a huge responsibility because he’s so important to the franchise. We wanted to make sure we got it right. We watched a lot of Star Trek with everybody on the crew. So we understand Spock pretty well. And the other big thing was finding out Piotr Michael, who voices Spock because I think that if we didn’t have somebody that could embody Spock and act as Spock, we wouldn’t be able to have him as much of the game. Piotr is getting all the credit in the world, as he should, for the performance he brought.
Andrew Grant: It was an honor and such an opportunity we were so excited about to write for such an iconic character and Piotr Michael really delivered in terms of making Spock’s presence felt.
The main story of this game is all about the Tkon, a civilization established in the season one TNG episode “The Last Outpost.” Was there any concern about going all in on what is not exactly considered a good episode of TNG?
Dan Martin: Well, it’s always nice to have something you can improve on, I guess. We were talking about a bunch of different possibilities early on in the development of this game. And we looked at a bunch of different kinds of storylines and threats and when we came across the Tkon it just felt right. Weirdly, for such an early TNG episode that gets a fair amount of criticism, it still felt like it had kind of the DNA of The Original Series. There’s a little bit of “Arena” in it. And the Tkon in the various licensed works haven’t been explored a ton so it was a space where we could define things a bit and we could explore. And Portal 63 in the episode is mercurial. He’s interesting. Maybe he looks a little bit silly and we kind of tried to update the look for 2023. But he seems so powerful and kept moving and changing and it felt as a player he is a character you’d want to interact with and be able to change. It also spoke to what the Tkon Empire could have been could do. And the question becomes: what if they came back?
Andrew Grant: That blank canvas with the Tkon was really an opportunity for us to create our own lore and define the Tkon Empire in a way that would serve our narrative. And of course, Portal, in our story is just such a cool character that people love to interact with.
“The Last Outpost” did allow you to give Riker a key role in the story. Was bringing in Jonathan Frakes something you always knew you wanted to do?
Dan Martin: When we chose that episode, we didn’t know if we’d be able to get Jonathan Frakes to join our cast. But you certainly hope. And there’s something to be said about the most famous first officer in Starfleet interacting with your character who is a first officer. So that felt like a really nice parallel. Luckily enough Jonathan Frakes was into it and he brought his A-game. Every bit of Riker charm and charisma is in there.
Andrew Grant: As you said, but because of the inspiration we took from “The Last Outpost,” including him was just an organic fit. It wasn’t like we were shoehorning the character for the sake of a cameo. It just felt organic and he’s instrumental in our narrative.
It’s been announced there is no DLC, but does that mean this is the end of the story for Jara and Carter, and the Resolute?
Dan Martin: It’s the end of this story, but there are some things left on the table to explore. It’s hard to end something. And that’s kind of, you know, part of why we ended up writing the comic book because Andrew and I didn’t want to leave the Resolute so we wrote a prequel. But there were so many things that we wanted to bring some conclusion to, but you have to pick the things that are going to matter the most to the player at that moment and leave you saying, “I want to play it again and see how it could go differently, making different choices.” But there are definitely questions left, at the end of the game that would be very interesting to answer, I have my own ideas about it. And then also the Resolute is a great ship, a great looking ship. I want to go back on that bridge and see what’s happening there. So, it’s up to the fans.
Andrew Grant: Yeah it is in the hands of the fans and they seem invested in these characters and this crew and the ship. We are open to the possibility of the ongoing adventures of the USS Resolute.
Is there anything in the works already?
Dan Martin: Patches for the game to make sure that we can give the most optimal performance of this game right now. That’s the number one focus. That’s priority number one.
Any update on when those may arrive?
Dan Martin: As soon as possible. Andrew and I don’t generally do the patching work. We do the trolling on social media to find the issues that people are running into and making sure that that’s routed to the right people.
Andrew Grant: It’s for sure a full-time effort. Everyone is working to get the patch out as soon as we can.
Star Trek: Resurgence is available on Xbox (Xbox One, Xbox One S, Xbox One X, Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X), PlayStation (PlayStation 4, PlayStation 4 Slim, PlayStation 4 Pro, PlayStation 5), and PC (via Epic Game Store). The release price is $39.99. More info on how to buy the game along with required PC specs and more FAQs are available at startrek-resurgence.com.
Check out the launch trailer (warning it includes spoilers)
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