Star Trek: 25th Anniversary: Ship Combat   3 comments

I made it through the first two episodes. The game is nice enough to tell you your score upon finishing an episode, and both were in the 90s, so I’m valiantly trudging through episode 3 now.

I’ll lay out more about each individual episode in detail on my next post, but I wanted to get ship combat out of the way first.

Every episode so far has had one scene where the Enterprise battles another ship in real time; you aim and fire phasers / photon torpedoes with the mouse, and use a radar display to detect where the enemy is when it is off the main screen.

It’s been decent as far as adventure action mini-games go, but to give the short explanation: it plays a lot like Wing Commander, and I always tended more to the X-Wing end of the space combat game spectrum.

Wing Commander was an early 90s game that used bitmapped sprites for ship display. For the technology at the time, this looked rather good.

X-Wing, on the other hand, used just polygons.

There are some gameplay ramifications between the approaches. Wing Commander tended to have a “neutral” dogfighting area, where in every direction there was the same type of space, so a lot of combat involved jockeying to get the superior position on an enemy ship. There were “capital ships” and “escort missions” and so forth, but because of the sprite-based technology, the locations of various ships didn’t provide a “topology” to space as much as “more things to shoot at”.

X-Wing’s polygons allowed things like capital ships being literal architecture in space, where you might need to fly around in a specific way to hit the shield generators on a destroyer. It also enabled flying through gates of an obstacle course or past turrets on the Death Star. The general effect was to give a stronger “geography” to each map. (Some of this wasn’t technology at all, but game design approach — Wing Commander could still have pulled off a lot of the same types of missions as X-Wing.)

I enjoy X-Wing more because just a small change in the geography of space can have a large impact on each level, whereas the dogfights in Wing Commander often feel (to me) the same.

So far, each Star Trek dogfight has been the same setup: two ships facing off where you try to get your ship pointed at the other one before it points at you. The actual combat in the Star Trek TV show has always been omnidirectional, so already the game’s setup feels a bit off; the fact space all around is essentially the same means there isn’t much variety as a game like X-Wing.

I shouldn’t rag on this too much, certainly when most adventure game action sequences fall between “annoying” and “abysmal”; the ship combat in Star Trek: 25th Anniversary feels legitimately game-y, at least.

Posted April 23, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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3 responses to “Star Trek: 25th Anniversary: Ship Combat

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  1. I remember this game. I downloaded it and started running it in DOSBox on my old Mac. Never got very far in it though, mostly because I couldn’t figure out the controls.

  2. Pingback: Star Trek: 25th Anniversary: Demon World / Hijacked | Renga in Blue

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