Star Trek: Starship Creator
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6  |  Scotty, Beam Me Up Something With More Game
Darryl B. , 9/29/2005 11:06:23 AM
(First off, I would like to wish a R. I. P. to James Doohan, who played Scotty on Star Trek, who just died [at the time of this writing] several weeks before. Engineering onboard the Enterprise is a lot emptier now :( )

Star Trek Captain's Chair wasn't exactly a game, and with the same people who made that game, as well as Starship Creator, you're getting pretty much the same thing: tons of presentation, but not enough game to satisfy.

It's a pretty killer concept, all right, being able to create your own Starfleet starship for your inner nerd, I'll admit. Unfortunately there's not much to doing that: all you do is choose what type of ship (you can't mix a Next Generation crew with the original's, though!), what it's warp nacelles, saucer section, and hull is going to look like, and name it, and that's pretty much it, as far as how it's going to look (more on actually adding parts and systems to your ship later, though).

Whatever ship you choose from the sample fleet, it'll have it's own complement of Starfleet personnel (mostly; there are a few blanks here and there that you'll need to fill), although you can go through line-ups and pick whoever you want and swap out certain positions (don't know how the heck Ro Laren got to be a counselor, whom I found on my sample Defiant ship when I selected it once; was this some kind of a joke?). Yep, due to being able to incorporate actual photographs of people into the game (what raster scan graphics from Trek games of the past?), you can go through tons of photos and read summaries of the people who served in Starfleet at the time the game was created (which Voyager and Deep Space 9 were still on the air at the time, so crew members' of those two Starfleet ships weren't complete). Heck, you can even import your photo and write your OWN biography as well! (Get a life, though, if you choose to do this, or if you do so, but don't take this very seriously, then feel free...) This is the majority of the "game", as it could take you weeks, on and off, reading all of the biographies of everyone (heck, I even found Desperate Housewives star Teri Hatcher's photo come up when she was on a Next Generation episode once). So curl up with a cup of tea (Earl Gray, of course, and hot) and a Tribble and have fun reading!

So, anyway, once you've got your mishmash of various 'fleet personalities on board, it's time to start up a mission, which you're given a summary of what to do, so now it's time to add compartments to your ship. You get a budget for everything, and reading through a mission statement will give you clues as to what you should load up your starship with...for instance, if you have to fly to a nebula to gather information and readings for it, you're going to have to pick the right kind of equipment, probes, etc., that are geared towards detecting life forms (or whatnot), or else you won't *successfully* complete a mission, you won't receive as much money for completing it, and you'll be stuck with annoying boneheads like Wesley Crusher and Reginald Barclay on board. This would not be very logical, captain!

There are also various objectives per certain missions that can't be fulfilled, but you won't be penalized for them: for those familiar with the Star Trek: Deep Space 9 show, the Defiant was there to kick ass, NOT serve as an exploration vessel. So you don't exactly get any science labs or anything to choose from (among other systems) for missions. Like I said, though, you won't be penalized.

Once you start a mission, you'll get some cheesy animations and lousy graphics for times when you have to clear out space mines and all, which it seems like this could have been improved. Sure, I doubt even Starfleet would want a pricey simulation program to have incredibly realistic-looking missions, but for a game, this isn't acceptable. At least there's some pretty good Trek-ish music for parts of missions, but most of the time, they're eerily silent, aside from the few Trek beeps and alerts of systems becoming damaged and all from various space hazards.

Unfortunately, once you get rolling, this is where the "game" aspect of Starship Creator fails: when you go on a mission, the computer does the majority of the work automatically. One mission has you fly out to a certain point in space to determine why there's problems in that sector...which takes FORTY FIVE MINUTES JUST TO GET THERE. I quit my mission (which aborts it; thanks!) just to make sure I hadn't forgotten to install warp engines in my ship, since it just crawled along. Nope, still there. This is absurd to have a mission that is so ridiculously slow that you have to leave your computer running for an hour and a half just to get credit for the thing, especially with there being no way to raise shields, as ships' functions left and right start becoming damaged just on your trip to the area of space, which all you can do is watch them get damaged, then repaired; whee...

Another mission involves intercepting a potentially dangerous Cardassian ship, which I was going "oh MAN! FINALLY, we get some action here! But how the heck am I supposed to fire my weapons?" Indeed, I had to install them on my ship, after all. Well, all you get is a play by play blow of the incident, as the game automatically tells of both ships exchanging fire, and you emerging victorious...oh, well, gee whiz, way to shut the Holodeck down on me and forcing me to play checkers instead.

The game can also be devious, as it's hinted you're supposed to create a new ship and crew with every level (there's five missions per skill level), but that's too tedious, so I just kept on going during one game with the same ship and crew. Well, I guess "space dementia" (as said in the Armageddon movie) set in, as during one mission, I was supposed to pick up some kind of intergalactic dignitaries up, but my [suddenly] boneheaded crew couldn't transport them on board, even though I had bought the proper transporters. "This is embarrassing", the captain said. So, it's probably a good idea to change out your ship and crew at the beginning of every new level, or else you won't earn as much money for not totally completing objectives.

There also used to be missions you could download and use for the game as well -- plus you can write your own -- but creator Simon and Schuster is no longer making games, as there's tons of logos and lists of people involved in the credits for 3-D models, those responsible for crew biographies, representation for the game's creators, etc., etc., etc., so I'm guessing that S & S might have actually lost money on their Trek titles. After all, even though the vector game Star Wars was a huge hit in the arcades, and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Return of the Jedi were fair-sized hits (The Empire Strikes back was a rarely-seen game that was just a conversion kit for Star Wars, rather than having it's own cabinet), Atari still didn't do all that well with those games overall, due to the big licensing fees. However, you can probably still find these missions on the net though, if you look around.

In closing (/beam me out of here, Scotty), hopefully more "game" was added to the sequel of Creator II, as it doesn't seem to me that it would be asking a whole heck of a lot for dialogue to appear onscreen of "use arrow keys to turn, and spacebar to fire phasers" once an action sequence of a mission were to actually pop up.

But then, we've all had our share of Trek games over the years, from anything with RPG elements to FPS shooters, so we should know where to go in order to have more fun for a few minutes than any Vulcan could stand throughout their entire lifetime. 6/10

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