There comes a time in a grown Star Trek fan’s life when you just want to hop in a ship and blow the crap out of Khan. And when that time comes, do not look for relief from Star Trek Legacy. Never billed as an arcade-style shooter, Star Trek Legacy is actually the polar opposite: a surprisingly tactical real-time space game in which players control up to four ships in their attempt to achieve primary and secondary objectives. Once players accept that Star Trek Legacy is strategic in nature rather than a fast-paced space shooter, it’s tempting to think the experience would become much more enjoyable. But the most important aspect for any strategic game stands in the way.
Good AI is imperative for any strategic game to succeed. For starters, without good AI, the micromanagement becomes too tiresome for gamers to pay sufficient attention to the strategy. And the AI in Star Trek Legacy is spotty at best. By pressing the “back” button, players can bring up a top-down level map that shows enemies, objectives and landmarks. Selecting each ship individually or the entire fleet, players can issue commands about which enemies to focus on, which landmarks to warp toward and which planets to hide behind (if they need time to regenerate their shields).
The problem is, once a command is issued, there’s a 50/50 chance the AI will completely ignore it. For instance, on numerous occasions we used the strategic map to order a cruiser to attack a Romulan ship, only to see the cruiser get to its destination and fly aimlessly straight ahead, ignoring the enemy altogether. And that includes ignoring the Romulans’ phaser fire, which was absolutely tearing the ship to shreds.
Now, Star Trek Legacy is more than a real-time strategy, because players can at any time switch to any of the four ships in their fleet and take control. So, in the scenario above, we took control of the ship, told the crew how to prioritize repairs (shields, engines, hull, sensors, etc.) and begun opening fire on the Romulan ship. Problem solved, right? Not exactly. Bad AI once again rears its ugly head once the repairs were made and we switched to another ship. Somehow, the craft we just left forgot the order in which it was supposed to make repairs. In fact, it forgot it was supposed to make repairs at all, as did each of the other ships in our fleet…for the entire game. As a result, we spent more time revisiting ships and re-issuing the same orders time and again than we did actually taking part in the battle itself. Multiply that experience by four ships and dozens of missions, and you’ve got an exercise in tedious micromanagement.
The enemy AI can also be pretty bad, most notably when you attack them from a distance (they often fail to return fire). However, what the enemy AI is missing in intelligence it makes up for in sheer brutality, as the game hands players some insanely hard scenarios on the higher difficulties and in the later levels. And considering there’s no way to save your game mid-mission and there are no checkpoints, it’s important to set aside at least 45 minutes for each mission, just in case.
After each mission is complete, players earn “command points” based on the number of enemies they killed and the success they had (or didn’t have) achieving secondary objectives. Using those points, players can buy new ships between levels, and the four-ship maximum for the fleet requires players to sell ships (and regain some command points) as they add better-class ships to the team. It’s pretty novel to see an Enterprise-era battleship flying alongside a Next Generation-era cruiser, but the novelty wears off once you realize just how slow, weak and defenseless the ships are from previous eras. Best to spend those command points while you can, because in the later levels success definitely depends on having the right mix of ships (read: not all scouts).
The story in Star Trek Legacy is by far the brightest part of the game, as it tells the backstory of how the Borg came to be. It’s really quite a fascinating concept, and the way it weaves itself through the three generations (Enterprise, The Original Series and The Next Generation) is well thought out. At times it requires suspending a certain level of disbelief, because the references to previous eras seem to roll too easily off the tongue, but in terms of concept and narrative quality, Star Trek Legacy definitely brings the goods.
But it’s the inconsistency, not the narrative, that really defines the end product. The AI can be really good on one mission and really bad the next, or even good versus one enemy and then braindead for the next. The graphics and lighting can be stellar on one ship, but then suffer from horrible pop-in on the next. The audio can be great in the cutscenes and from your primary ship, but then insanely repetitive and five minutes too late from the rest of the fleet. With a bit more bug fixing and attention paid to the AI, Star Trek Legacy could’ve been a fantastic strategy game. Without those things, though, it just becomes a sad gameplay letdown and a disappointing presentation for what could’ve been a great narrative link from one era to the next.
- Overall: 6.5
- Spotty AI results in way too much micromanagement, which is a true shame for any game, but especially for a strategic one bearing the Star Trek license.
— Jonas Allen