Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Mad Doc Software
Release Date: December 6, 2006
What I am about to undertake is a risky endeavor. A review, naturally, but in this case the title in question is connected to a franchise that is championed by some exceptionally fervent patrons. That I am not a "Trekkie" (nor even, in fact, a "Trekker") should essentially preclude my qualifications for judging the merits and/or flaws of Star Trek: Legacy, yet soldier on I must. Please bear with me if you are a reading this and you are a disciple of Roddenberry. My purpose is not to profane the works you consider most hallow; I am merely here to observe the quality of execution.
Now, at its core, Star Trek: Legacy is a third-person perspective, 3D space-combat title that places you in command of a growing fleet of Starfleet Federation intergalactic vessels. While this sounds like a strategic title, it isn't; it's action through and through. In between missions, you can purchase new types of craft, eventually allowing you to command every variant of the NCC-1701 Enterprise, among other ships seen in the Star Trek universe.
That is the basic layout of the game, and the story arc covers all three major eras of the mythology. These are broken down as "Enterprise," "The Original Series," and "The Next Generation." This latter time-span includes the events of Deep Space Nine and Voyager as well as TNG. Along the way, you will find yourself up against Klingons (naturally), Romulans, and the Borg. As an outsider looking in, this seems to have almost everything in order, fans should be ecstatic. However, as we have so often seen with franchise adaptations, the ingredients mean nothing if the cook is inept.
The troubles begin within moments of loading into the tutorial. To start with, the entirety of the game takes place outside the ships themselves. The entirety. That means that you will never see any faces, there is no human (or alien) connection whatsoever to these events, just disembodied voices emanating from your ships. I am open to correction if I'm wrong here, but I have always been under the impression that one of the greatest drawing cards Star Trek has is its characters and the bond fans feel towards them. Removing that bond completely strikes me as an egregious oversight, subtle though it might be.
Rather than give you a smooth tutorial that provides all you need to know in one clean package, the developers have opted to try to wrap up your lessons in a mission. I imagine this was done to make you feel immediately drawn into the action, but it fails miserable. To begin with, the constant start-stop-start-stop stutter is aggravating at the very least, especially when several "tips" are given in a row. Beyond this, the pop-up windows don't really explain much of what you actually do need to know. There is certainly a lack of proper explanation regarding the differences between your tactical map and in-game control. Finally, the tasks asked of you have a strange habit of completing themselves. Defeats the purpose, no?
Graphically, Legacy is disappointing on several levels. To begin with, the models have a very low polygon count, blocky almost to the point of being "first-generation." This is good for performance, but looks very dated. Also, the textures wrapped around these models is lacking in detail, quickly blurring into pixilated blobs if you work your camera close enough to a given object. The overall effect is not cutting-edge in the least, and this is at maximum graphical settings across the board. The over-use of "nebula clouds" seems inconsistent with the vastness of space, too. Simply put, there's so much stuff floating around that you often feel as though you're drifting through the intestines of an amorphous cotton-candy blob. Don't get me wrong, nothing but darkness interspersed with the occasional bitmap of star-shine would be mind-numbing retinal boredom, but this is so far in the opposite direction as to lose its efficacy. Speaking of over-use, I almost forgot to mention the lens flare. I haven't seen this many bright spheres forced into my view since P2P programs first gave the world easy access to Photoshop and all of its preset plug-in effects.
Following this are the starships themselves. I've always been led to believe that the interstellar vessels used by Starfleet were massive, self-contained craft that were as much city as they were spaceship. The models for the craft in Legacy do not convey this effect in the least. They look about as big as a truck, hardly the awe-inspiring engineering behemoths they're supposed to be. In combination with the controls, the effect is completely underwhelming. This inefficient use of scale isn't restricted to your craft either; the celestial bodies are all painfully small too. Asteroids? Perhaps. Planets? Not a chance.
Controls. As painful as it may be to hear for fans, this is the deal-breaker. The controls are so flawed that unless you like frustration and annoyance, you should avoid this game like the plague. Let me try to paint this ugly picture:
You're a Starfleet commander, in control of a fleet of USS class starships. It's reasonable to assume that, with technology being what it is, you should be able to command all of these craft with a singular voice. Legacy goes out of its way to make sure this is impossible. Each vessel in your fleet is individually connected to a numeric hotkey, with the default 5 key existing to auto-select all the ships currently under your command. So far, so good. Where this all comes falling down lies in attempting to give any commands whatsoever to your ‘fleet' when you've tapped that "all ships" hotkey. It just doesn't work. Moving from place to place is a maddening bunny-hop process that is made even more hellish by the infuriating habit of each ship coming to a full stop every time you select another craft and give it an order. Thus: you cannot select all your ships and tell them to go to a single location, nor can you select each one in turn and expect they'll do it either.
This is the basic breakdown of how a simple jaunt in-system works:
Select ship #1.
"Ensign, full impulse drives."
" Aye, captain."
Select ship #2. "Ensign, full impulse drives, on the heels of the fleet commanders' vessel."
"Wait, hold up ... Ship #1 has stopped. Ensign, full impulse I said!"
"Now ship #2 has stopped!"
Etc., and so on, ad nauseam. After about five minutes of this, I wanted to push mechanical pencils through my eyeballs. Now try to imagine how much fun combat is when each ship needs to be given a never-ending stream of commands, owing to the habit of each craft stopping everything while the currently selected ship is being controlled. Let me be as blunt about this as I can: In my opinion, Star Trek: Legacy is unplayable due to this irrational and infuriating "control" system!
Combat is also a mess, managing to completely miss the target (har har). You would expect an adrenaline-pumping experience of fast-paced action. Your expectations will be dashed with all the ferocity you wanted fighting in the game to be. The truth is, battles in Star Trek: Legacy are about as pulse-pounding and fluid as swimming in molasses: clunky, inelegant, frustratingly slow, entirely lacking in tactical strategy, and usually just a matter of endlessly spinning in circles left-clicking while the enemy "AI" evades your attacks with nonstop doughnuts around your ship.
So are there any reasons at all to buy this game? Not that I can see. Not only does it look sub-par and suffer the worst control flaws I've ever encountered, but its overall pacing is slow, it suffers continuity flaws (Chief Engineer Trip is referred to by name in voice-overs, despite the tiny detail of his death in events that take place prior to the setting of Star Trek: Legacy), and it doesn't even have a save system! There have been two patches already released which, in and of itself, is a testament to the state of this software upon release. Neither of these patches seems to have done a thing to fix the flaws that make this such a wretched experience, either. If this is the kind of quality we can expect from Bethesda Softworks outside of the Elder Scrolls franchise, then I think my enthusiasm for their take on Fallout just took a pretty major hit. Unless you are a die-hard who simply doesn't care about fun and all you want to do is make sure your Star Trek collection is complete, then I recommend that you avoid this disastrous mistreatment of the house that Roddenberry built.
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