19:33:57 on May 23
By: Steve Krutzler
Star Trek: Armada - Game Review
Written by Steve Krutzler and Jason Boxman
It seems that Activision can’t announce new ‘Star Trek’ games fast enough to satisfy the wallets of Viacom’s licensing department, and luckily, gaming fans have been the beneficiaries—though it’s mainly quantity over quality. ‘Armada’, the second new game launched by Activision since inaugurating their new license with last winter’s lackluster ‘Insurrection’, promises Star Trek gamers that long awaited chance to do what is so rarely seen in the television shows or movies: wreak havoc in massive battles with tens of starships. But instead of a truly innovative game which pushes the limits of strategy gaming, Activision has really done nothing more than deliver a title which could just as easily could have been a theme pack for the immensely popular ‘Command & Conquer: Tiberium Sun’ strategy game.
For the uninitiated, ‘Armada’ is basically a combination of a city-building game and an action strategy game; you build bases from which to construct massive fleets of units (starships) with which to overwhelm the enemy. Resources for building come from mining dilithium moons, a process completely analogous to the collection of tiberium in the ‘Command & Conquer’ games. In fact, as one plays ‘Armada’, it becomes clear that almost every function of game play is derivative if not a replica of a similar feature in the aforementioned prior game.
But if this is all you’ve been looking for, then by all means ‘Armada’ is an entertaining purchase. You can build many of your favorite TNG-era starships (Starfleet, Klingon, Romulan, and Borg) and watch as huge fleets of them fire away automatically at whatever enemy target you specify. But this is where some of the disappointment comes in; you get to a point where you have so many ships and they are attacking and being attacked from so many different angles that it’s difficult to get a real grasp on the battle and it becomes not much more than the final climax of whatever strategizing you’ve done up to this point, through resource management, unit movement, and attack/retreat/consolidate scenarios. You basically are just watching one big action sequence with little control over what really happens, so usually, the side with the larger force wins.
Different ships have so-called “special weapons,” but since you have to select individual ships to use them, they’re almost worthless in a huge battle. Although you can group similar ship types into task forces (another familiar C&C feature), the special weapons are still relatively useless, and many of them you have never heard of so congruity with the ‘Star Trek’ universe you’re excited to command is compromised. Another disruption with so-called “reality” is that the Borg are extremely unrealistic: cubes are not only the size of a Sovereign Class starship, but only spheres can regenerate (and you have to tell them to do this in the heat of battle!) and the Borg vessels are no more resist to weapons than any other player. So one begs to ask, if the Borg are too powerful to be in the game, why dumb them down to include them? Why not develop different strategies that might be used to defeat them?
The problem with this game is that the player doesn’t really have control over the battles the way they should. You cannot assume detailed control of a single starship like in Interplay’s popular ‘Starfleet Command’, and though fleet control is the focus unlike with Interplay’s game, the total lack of any detailed control takes away half the fun. In short, this game is merely a copy of ‘Command & Conquer’ with different visuals and sounds; there has been no innovation here.
That being said, if this repetition doesn’t bore you like it did us, make sure you have a pretty hefty system with lots of ram, hard drive space, and processor speed to handle all the graphics. Standard installation is well over a few hundred megabytes and if you have less than 128 MB of ram, the more ships you start bringing into combat, the slower the game renders. The game ran relatively fine on a 600 Mhz Pentium III system in Windows 2000 Professional, but don’t switch in and out of the game too often or it’ll crash without remorse. On a slightly slower system (450 Mhz AMD K6-II), the game almost refused to run in Windows 98 and the interval between crashes was only lengthened in Windows 2000. The game ran acceptably on a 500 Mhz Pentium Celeron laptop with 64 MB of ram in Windows 2000, but once more than fifteen ships were brought into the picture, the screen started freezing every few seconds and game play became impossible.
The best thing about this game, as with many titles these days, is that at least it comes with multi-player functionality so when you’re tired of the missions (and the well-animated cut scenes, to boot) or playing the computer in standalone games, you can take on a real human opponent (up to eight) and actually get into some strategy. Unfortunately, if you’ve played games like this before (‘C&C’), you’ll probably be bored with it before you have a chance to face off with a friend.
Post comments below about your own impressions of 'Star Trek: Armada'!