The folks that made Star Trek: Armada have obviously been playing Starcraft and many of its more successful real-time strategy brethren, for Armada uses all the right bits and pieces from the genre and throws them into one game. Unfortunately, all the best ideas thrown together dont make the best game. Armada is littered with problems big and small, and together make the game often as frustrating as it is fun. If it werent for these issues it may have been one of the best RTSs to come out this year--but it's not.
The story is that
everyones favorite space thespian, Captain Picard, must thwart a Borg invasion of
the Alpha Quadrant headed by his old pal and vinyl wearing look-alike Locutus. Meanwhile,
Whorf deals with a hostile coup to the Klingon throne, and--not to be ignored--those
nefarious Romulans are wheeling and dealing with another superweapon. You are to take on
these problems in twenty-some-odd missions with thirty plus units at your disposal.
Armada consists of four campaigns--one
Federation, one Klingon, one Romulan, and one Borg. These must be completed in order and
lead to a final showdown level in the Alpha Quadrant. All of the Races are very evenly
matched--in fact, they're so much alike that there isnt enough difference between
them to make for very many interesting variations in strategy. This is rather
disappointing as this game, and its subject matter, could easily accommodate some
pretty wild strategic funk. The gather-build-attack model is very basic--get dilithium to
build everything, save for the use of officers and crew in manning your ships and
structures. Transporter technology offers the possibility of boarding ships whose shields
are down and attempting to physically commandeer the ship for your own use. But this
ability is the only real original strategy here.
Armada doesnt disappoint with its graphics. Damage effects, shields, and special weapons are as fun to watch as to use. And despite the fact that the game takes place exclusively in outer space, the maps never get boring. Instead of land obstacles such as mountains and water, you navigate around asteroid fields, nebulae, stars, and planets. Often the most challenging aspects of a level were finding a route through fast moving asteroid belts on their far flung orbits or taking advantage of defensively useful nebulae in order to bide your time against numerically superior enemies. Wormholes are scattered around and can transport you to the far edges of the map, and getting a good idea of the placement of the wormholes can make of break a level.
The interface used
in Armada should be very familiar to anyone who has spent any time with realtime strategy
games in the last couple years. Not to flog a dead horse any harder, but its
remarkably similar to Starcrafts interface. Newbies as well as veterans of
RTSs will have little difficulty figuring out anything here.
The voice talents of
Patrick Stewart, Michael Dorn, and Denise Crosby are used in the game. This will no doubt
thrill Trekies and Trekers (shameless plug: if you have not yet seen a Klingon order a Big
Mac go rent Trekies tonight). The cut scenes are really impressive, and serve to flesh out
the rather confusing plot.
The biggest problem with Armada is its distinct
lack of polish; it probably should have remained with the developers another month or two.
Worst of all is its stability. In fact, I havent seen a more crash-happy major
release in a long time. Those with NVIDIA graphics cards, like me, get the worst of it.
The Esc key often serves as a game terminator and pressing the space key during boot up
will kick you back on to your desktop and quit the game (I have no idea how I figured that
one out). The v1.1 patch will fix the crashing and the random freezing, but a few problems
still remain. There are a number of graphical glitches that can ruin the mood, especially
after the great cut sequences. Other nagging problems included super-slow mouse movement
and some questionable AI. The combination of these two caused me to cuss a little,
especially when my ships were directed to a certain spot on the map and ended up turning
around to fight without direct orders.
For the Star Trek
fan, this game is the best shot yet at bringing to life the diverse elements that make up
the Star Trek saga--and one of the best games based on it yet. But for those who
dont get a kick out of Klingons, and can probably do without the super-confusing
plot obviously made for Trek die-hards, you might as well get out your trusty old
Starcraft disc and log onto Battlenet.