Thursday, 8 December 2016

Star Trek - Won! (Sort Of) and Final Rating

Written by Joe Pranevich


Last time, Star Trek: 25th Anniversary went out not with a bang but with a whimper as I was unable to defeat the “final boss” of the game in epic ship to ship combat. TBD took a crack at it too, documenting the expanded version of the “Vengeance” storyline, but also failed to win. This would be a sour note to go out on, but we have one final trick up our sleeve: Fry has managed to beat the game and tell us how it was done. It’s teamwork!

After his brief look at the ending, I’ll jump into the final review.

Two minutes later and I’m dead.

No sense beating around the bush, here is Fry with his concluding notes:

This fight took dozens of attempts, so the first step was creating a save immediately at the start of the fight, so I didn't have to go through any puzzles or dialog to get back to the battle. I then created a new save in a new slot whenever I downed an enemy ship, as that's a good point of forward progress. Another key was using the keyboard commands, particularly (D)amage control and the number keys for setting your speed.

The fight starts with you in good position on the Fake Enterprise, so you want to immediately power (W)eapons and lay into it with phasers and torpedoes. With a little bit of luck you can destroy it before it wriggles out of your sights, though probably not before the Elasi pirates show up. Put your (S)hields up when the pirates arrive or you lose track of the Fake Enterprise.

When you have an opponent in view, mash left mouse for phasers. I found it difficult to get enough of a lead on a moving target to hit it with torpedoes, so I didn't use them until I had an especially good shot lined up (typically either head-on or close up behind), then I would mash both mouse buttons to unload both phasers and torpedoes. If you have a target on screen, keep adjusting your speed to maintain a good shot - low speed or reverse if they're very close to you, high speed if they're far away. If you don't have a target available, going to maximum speed seems to help reduce the amount of incoming damage.


Fry didn’t score as many commendations as I did.

Once the Elasi pirates show up, you'll start coming under fire. I turned on (E)mergency power the first time I started taking heavy damage. Using (D)amage control seemed to get critical systems repaired much faster than just leaving Scotty to his own devices. If any of your phasers or torpedoes goes out, get those repaired immediately. Keep your viewscreen repaired well enough that you can see what's going on. After that, work on Engines/Shields/Hull, probably in that order. I didn't have the mental bandwidth to try to review the ship's status, so I just put Scotty to work on whichever one felt most likely to be applicable until he reported he was done (which happens immediately, if the system is fully repaired).

Special thanks to Fry for providing that summary! Once you succeed in defeating the enemy, there’s nothing left to do. An admiral congratulates us on our victory and provides an overall score for the game. That’s it. The CD-ROM edition closes out on a titlecard honoring Gene Roddenberry, but this doesn’t make the experience less underwhelming. I did not miss much. Onward to scoring!

A brilliant visionary. We still miss him.







Final Rating


Puzzles and Solvability

When it comes to puzzles, Star Trek was fine but not fantastic. There were a few great puzzles: my favorites were the chemical mixing to cure the Romulan virus and the base-three math to gain access to the military base at the end, but there were some clunkers as well. I still do not understand the eclipse puzzle from the first episode and far too many solutions were just a matter of figuring out whether Spock or McCoy could do something that Kirk couldn’t.

Alternate solutions that involve redshirt deaths!

Another nice aspect of Star Trek was the points system. I loved that so many puzzles had alternate solutions. The fact that you had to keep your redshirt alive to get maximum credit was a great repudiation of the trope from the original series. If the puzzles were a bit deeper, this would have been a huge mark in the game’s favor. As it is, it just offset the worst offense: the battle system.

What can I say about the pointless battles in nearly every episode? They feel tacked on, like someone else on the design team was working on a combat sim and just threw it in because it was ready. The last battle, un-winnable for me and others, ends the whole affair on a sour note.

My score: 4. Some good and bad puzzles, but the combat system was ill-considered.

So many buttons, so little time.

Interface and Inventory

The interface feels like someone had described what contemporary interfaces were like to a graphic designer… over the phone. We interact with the game in three disconnected ways (combat, bridge, and away mission) and none of them are well-polished. I posted a graphic of the action icons and even readers who were playing along couldn’t name them all. It’s a mess. Add to that an inventory system that crosses the line from “inconvenient” to “broken”. Looking at items is inconsistent and using two items together can fail for no reason if you are in a different room than the author expected. I can guess why it might have been coded this way, but that does not excuse the fact that it was.

All that said, I eventually got used to the interface and accomplished most of what I needed to play the game. We have seen worse.

My score: 3. Three interfaces, none of them very good.

Story and Setting

In the original Star Trek, there were tubes on the set labeled “G. N. D. N.” for “Goes Nowhere, Does Nothing” and that pretty much sums up my experience with this game. It’s not bad exactly, but it doesn’t go anywhere. I know that the original show was not serialized, but we have different expectations in computer games. The lack of connections between episodes left us with no stakes or rising tension and the climax was easily the worst scenario of the bunch. There were good moments! I enjoyed the light-heartedness of the Harry Mudd episode and the narrative complexity of the Aztec one… but I struggle to find good things to say about the rest.

Filler text that is better than the actual episodes.

The library computer deserves special mention because it both succeeds and fails in establishing the setting. At the beginning of each mission, I consulted the computer to learn about what I was up against. Sometimes this provided essential (or at least helpful) hints, but much of the time it was infuriating. Why? Because the stories in the computer were better than the episodes we were given. It told us of Elasi worlds in rebellion, an Andorian colony in a fragile peace with their pirate neighbors, and multiple clans vying for power. I can appreciate that the snippets show that the world of Star Trek is larger than just the part that we play, but it didn’t work for me. Chekhov, the playwright not the navigator, once said, “If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there.” I am not saying that all games need to follow this, but it was grating just how many Chekhov’s guns were left hanging.

The final nail in the coffin for this game is the last episode. TBD’s look shows a more developed plot and puzzles, but the original game felt incomplete. The writers wanted to create a crescendo with no build-up. They invented a 20-year vendetta against Kirk and expected us to have an emotional stake in it. We didn’t. The episode could have showed that relationship and made us care. It didn’t. That all leads to the game’s final moments: a combat sequence that is too hard against an enemy that we don’t care about. If there is an award for “Worst Ending”, this game will win hands down. No wonder they redid it in the CD-ROM edition!

My score: 3. Disconnected stories building to a lackluster ending.

One of the prettiest scenes in the game.

Sound and Graphics

The graphics in this game are technically good but aesthetically dull. I went back and reviewed every scene to see ones that popped out as imaginative or that did something memorable and came away realizing just how bland much of the art is. It’s nicely colored in the same basic pallet as the original series. It utilizes basic scaling effects in a few of the episodes plus a full 3D-rendered space combat system. But looking back on the art, not much of it did more than serve the utility of the scene it was describing. The first screen of the game (above) is nicer than most of the rest of the game.

In contrast, one element that the game got right is using original Star Trek sound cues whenever possible. Many of the scenes featured only ambient sounds rather than music, but it felt right.

My score: 5. Good but not great art and sound.


Environment and Atmosphere

Although I found the aesthetics dull and the story disappointing, I have to give the designers a lot of credit for successfully translating the feel of the original Star Trek universe into a game. We had a good use of characters, consistently realized technology from the series, and the overall ideas were very Trek-like, even if the execution was sometimes less than stellar. I even liked the overuse of primary colors as respecting the old school feel of the series.

I do not like that a quarter of the game, including both the first and last scenes, are combat sequences. Not only do these not make the game feel like an “adventure”, but they also fit the least well in the Star Trek canon as I envision it-- the Enterprise is not a dogfighter. There is a lot of room for many genres of games in Trek and we will later have real-time strategy games, first-person shooters, a MMO, action games, and so many others. I am not opposed to a Star Trek space combat sim, but this one was glued awkwardly to an adventure and the result displeased fans of both.

My score: 5. It feels like Trek, except for the combat which feels like a poorly executed Wing Commander.


Dialog and Acting

An area that shined beyond its material was the dialog. The writers nailed the “voice” of the characters, so much so that I hardly needed the CD-ROM edition to hear them all in my head. The frequent banter between the characters as I played was a highlight and I loved all of the little asides when the characters (including Spock!) were high on laughing gas.

My score: 7. Character writing shined. Bravo.

You deserved it, Captain.

Final Tally

Adding up the scores we get: (4+3+3+5+5+7)/.6 = 45! I expected a better score, but the game has tremendous highs and lows. The interface was poor and the stories went nowhere but it was nice to be in the company of these characters again. I hope the sequel learns from its mistakes.

With an average guess of 58, a lot of you may be surprised by this score. I hope I’m not kicking a childhood favorite, but it just wasn’t what I hoped it would be. With that, Fry is the winner! Not only did he correctly guess the score, he did so after changing his mind down from a higher one.


Having played some of the enhanced edition, I would have scored it three points higher: one each for story (because of the improved ending), sound (for the higher quality music), and dialog (for the voice acting). That would have been a respectable 50 points, but still not a “Top 10” placement. My “Full House” for 1992 is shot already, how about yours?

That’s it for me for a while. I’ll be working on Zork until we reach game #85: Hook.

Let’s distribute CAPs!

CAP Distribution

150 CAPs for Joe Pranevich
  • 100 CAPs - for blogging through Star Trek 25th Anniversary for everyone's enjoyment
  • 50 CAPs - for blogging through the Dungeon Missed Classic for the enjoyment of all
85 CAPs for Voltgloss
  • The Grue Up Award  - 5 CAPs - For finding that Starcross is also in the Zork universe in the Zork Marathon intro post
  • Lighting the Way Award – 5 CAPs - for explaining to another commenter how to work around bugs in the 646-point version of Dungeon
  • True Companion Award – 20 CAPs – for playing along with Dungeon
  • Truer Companion Award – 20 CAPs – for playing along with Star Trek
  • Adric Award – 35 CAPs - for going above and beyond what's expected of a true companion and giving extensive coverage of the differences between versions as I play along and hints when I needed them
82 CAPs for Fry
  • True Companion Award - 20 CAPs - for playing along with Star Trek
  • This is How You Do It Award - 9 CAPs - for commenting on numerous posts with his solution and providing hints to other commenters
  • A Winner is You Award - 20 CAPs - Actually won the game for us and wrote about it so we could include it in our Final Rating
  • Right In The Face Award – 6 CAPs - for taking a guess at Star Trek's interface icons
  • The Cat Skinning Award - 6 CAPs - for explaining possible multiple paths in episode 5
  • I Came Here to Save You Award - 11 CAPs - for providing save files to help us win Star Trek
  • Psychic Prediction Award - 10 CAPs - for the lowest and correct score guess for Star Trek
72 CAPs for MrValdez
  • True Companion Award - 20 CAPs - for playing along with Star Trek
  • Extra Credit Award - 7 CAPs - for writing in specific detail about his Star Trek experiences 
  • Sponsor Award - 20 CAPs - for generously donating the prize of Gemini Rue
  • So That's Your Story Award - 25 CAPs - for sending us What's Your Story answers
45 CAPs for TBD
  • Want Some CAPs Award – 5 CAPs - for knowing the correct response to "Want some rye?" in the Zork Marathon intro post
  • True Companion Award – 20 CAPs – for playing along with Star Trek
  • Veeennggeeeaaaannnnnncccceeee Award – 20 CAPs - for finding the differences with the extended version of Star Trek's last mission and then writing about them
43 CAPs for Andy_Panthro
  • True Companion Award - 20 CAPs - for playing along with Star Trek and commenting about his progress regularly
  • You Can Be My Wingman Any Time Award - 6 CAPs - for providing requested hint for combat in EP4
  • Right In The Face Award – 6 CAPs - for taking a guess at Star Trek's interface icons
42 CAPs for Aperama
  • True Companion Award - 20 CAPs - for playing along with Star Trek
  • The Georgia On My Mind Award - 5 CAPs - caught the "Devil Went Down to Georgia" reference
  • You Can Be My Wingman Any Time Award - 6 CAPs - for providing requested hint for combat in EP4
  • The Look Beyond the Ball Award - 6 CAPs - for providing Fry a much-needed clue for EP6
  • Here's Mudd in Your Eye Award - 5 CAPs - for providing Mudd puns as requested
25 CAPs for Laukku
  • The Ha! You Myst Award – 4 CAPs - for announcing the new version of Scumm VM
  • The Texas Ranger Award – 5 CAPs - for the Syberia 3 delay announcement
  • The Zero Retreat Zero Surrender Award - 5 CAPs - for announcing that Zero Escape is coming
  • The Finn Fun Award - 5 CAPs - for linking to a Star Wreck parody!
  • The Twice as Fine Award - 6 CAPs - for giving us some Full Throttle Remastered info
21 CAPs for Ilmari
  • Once More With Feeling Award- 7 CAPs - for knowing that Deadline was the first game with feelies
  • He's Dead Jim Award - 5 CAPs - for knowing about dead Leslie and other guest cast members
  • The More Finn Fun Award - 4 CAPs - for linking to a Star Wreck parody!
  • Just a Little Lower Award – 5 CAPs - partial points for nearly guessing the Dungeon score
16 CAPs for Niklas
  • The Not Related To Jack Award – 5 CAPs - for recognizing the art used for the second Dungeon post
  • Right In The Face Award – 6 CAPs - for taking a guess at Star Trek's interface icons
  • Just a Little Higher Award – 5 CAPs - partial points for nearly guessing the Dungeon score
12 CAPs for Griffin
  • Can You Give Me a Hint Award - 12 CAPs - for giving numerous hints for Dungeon
11 CAPs for Rowan Lipkovits
  • Moryoku-tekina hito Award – 6 CAPs - for info on Japanese Zork games in the Zork Marathon intro post
  • Lurking Grue Award – 5 CAPs - for iInfo on a Zork reference in "Suspect" in the Zork Marathon intro post
6 CAPs for Gren Drake
  • The One Code is Sometimes Enough Award - 6 CAPs - for telling us about a second way to open the door in the Aztec episode
6 CAPs for Kirinn
  • The Temporarily Decloaked Award - 6 CAPs - for giving the sad news of Star Trek: Discovery's delay
5 CAPs for Corey Cole
  • The Robbed That Smiles Award – 5 CAPs - for giving advice for dealing with the Thief in Dungeon
5 CAPs for Reiko
  • I Call It Mister Pointy Award - 5 CAPs - for recognizing the pointy stick as an Adventure reference
4 CAPs for AJ Rubenstein
  • Did You Bring Protection Award - 4 CAPs - for info about Star Trek copy protection

8 comments:

  1. Was always fond of this game. It'll be interesting to see how Judgement Rites does in comparison; they improved a number of things for it. Judgement Rites also has the distinction of being the last time DeForest Kelley played the part of McCoy.

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  2. I did enjoy the game overall, final frustrating battle aside. I hope the other Star Trek adventures can improve upon this one.

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  3. Joe: I wouldn't be so sure about not getting the Full House, if I were you. You were one of the few people who guessed that Mixed Up Fairy Tales would rate higher than Star Trek.

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    Replies
    1. Well, I have a soft spot for the Coles...

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  4. I canna take it Captain!

    Puzzles and Solvability a 4? Too low and I've seen much worse

    Interface and Inventory a 3? Its difficult to learn at first but it is logical in application unlike some which have scored higher. Should be a 5

    Story and Setting a 3? Star Wars fan detected

    45 is too low for this game. Its at least a 50 for me. Thanks for the write-up, its been good reading.

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    Replies
    1. I've never believed in the concept that Star Wars fans and Star Trek fans hate the other entertainment.

      I'm a fan of both and I suspect most people who like one also like the other.

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    2. Thanks for enjoying! These final scores are pretty much the hardest part of the game and I can't say they are nearly as scientific as I might like. I really beat myself up over this score too and I kept flipping numbers up and down right up until it was posted. It was really hard to decide.

      In the end, I kept "P" down especially because of the fact that neither TBD or I could win. Others did much better than we did, but this is the first "unsolvable" game I played and it was "unsolvable" for all the wrong reasons. Fry came in and kicked our asses, btw.

      The interface was almost a 4. The damned inconsistent inventory really bugged me. It seems like object interactions are scripted to rooms rather than to objects so not being able to use objects together consistently was a big deal. This was especially true in the first couple of episodes where you had a lot more object-combination puzzles. By the end, we didn't have too many of those.

      And finally... the ending KILLED me on the story. The last mission just fizzled out and made me feel down about the whole experience. It built up to nothing. And there's not even an ending! Just "here are some commendation points!" and it's done. I suppose I could have given more because the individual episodes (barring the last one) were interesting, but it didn't really gel.

      As for the Trek vs Star Wars... well, when I was a kid my brother and I would play legos and do space battles. He always built Star Wars-style ships with wings and cockpits and I always built models of Star Trek bridges (not even the whole ship... I was flying space combat missions with a ROOM). This was around 1990, I suspect. Trek will always be my first love and I am looking forward to playing the sequel.

      Thanks for reading!

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  5. Its a shame I wasn't able to continue commenting after the first episode. The past month was rather busy and I couldn't find the time.

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