Star Trek D-A-C on Xbox Live Arcade isn't going to be the Star Trek game that fans have wanted to see, but at the same time, it's a decent casual shooter that'll appeal to the multiplayer audience on the Xbox Live Market, just with a Star Trek skin attached. It borrows design elements from the new film, so the Enterprise-style flagships resemble the design of the refitted Enterprise from the film, while the Romulan ship designs are all in line with the pointed look of Nero's mining vessel from the movie. The game doesn't rely on an ounce of Trek lore because it's all action-based with no story of which to speak. It's a strictly multiplayer affair, and the single-player game is basically the multiplayer game, only with bots in a manner similar to Unreal Tournament. Shortly after the game's launch, it's boasting a strong community presence, and there is definitely an addictive quality to the title's action-oriented gameplay.
The "D-A-C" in the name stands for the game's three different modes: Deathmatch, Assault and Conquest. Deathmatch is team-based, dividing players into the Federation and Romulan Empire, with the possibility of another race or two making the cut in the future via DLC.
In Deathmatch mode, you need to score 50 kills before time runs out to win, or to at least be on top of the score when time does run out. Conquest and Assault are slight variations on a King of the Hill style of gameplay, with Assault involving four different points shown on the playing field as circular fields that you need to occupy for a certain amount of time. Once the first open field is fully contained by the Federation or Romulan forces, you can move on to the next unlocked one. Once all four are captured, the game is over and you win the round, but if time runs out before you capture all four points, then other side wins through defense. Conquest, on the other hand, uses the four points in a different manner, with two points starting out as neutral areas, and the other two standing in as "bases" for each side. The base points are locked at the beginning, meaning that even if you do put a ship inside of one of these circles, you'll be unable to make any progress toward capturing it until the base becomes unlocked. You can unlock the base by capturing both of the neutral points, but obviously that's going to be harder to pull off. This is easily more interesting than the basic Assault mode, since you really need to divide your forces evenly to capture all three points and maintain them, and success requires some semblance of teamwork.
Each side has three ships to choose from, including Flagship class, Bomber and Fighter units. One of my complaints is from the available vessels in that there are no specific differences between the Federation or Romulan versions of the ships. If you're playing as a bomber on the Federation side and then switch to the Romulan side for the next round, there's nothing different about the two. There were no race-specific abilities or maneuvers, which is disappointing and makes the experience a little plain.
The three ships do have differences between them in maneuverability, shields, weapons and overall speed. The Flagships are massive vessels, easily twice the size of the other ships, but they're also far slower. They have some impressive firepower behind them, and they also offer a targeting reticle that you can see on-screen to help you aim your shots, while the smaller ships have no aiming marker for you. The fighters are nimble, with light shields and weapons, but their weapons can be upgraded numerous times by the white orbs you'll find on the map, which means they can be pretty destructive in a small group while easily dodging most enemy fire. The bombers are a bit trickier to be successful with; they can only drop mines with a few seconds of detonation time behind them, but skilled players will figure out ways to effectively use them. They're particularly useful in the Assault and Conquest modes, as you can plop two of them within a circle and have them fill it with bombs when enemy ships invade, typically taking down most of the offense before it even gets started.
Along with the ships, each map is littered with upgrades that you can use. The white orbs will upgrade weapons for each ship and provide "health" power-ups when the shields are depleted or your weapons are slowly recharging. Making use of these orbs during battle is extremely vital to your survival. There are also yellow orbs, which dole out special attacks or defensive abilities to ships, like the ability to cloak, create a clone of your ship, indestructible shields, a pulse emitter to toss nearby ships off course, and so on. They add more variety to the combat and certainly spice things up a bit. At the same time, it makes it more difficult to figure out what you're up against at any given moment, giving the game a much-needed element of surprise to combat the sameness of each vessel that you can command.
The online modes are well implemented, and I didn't have a lot of trouble finding a full game to join. Even then, you can outfit the games with bots if you need to, so you'll always play with a full team. The bot AI is pretty solid too, and if you're missing a real player or two, chances are that you won't notice too much. The Conquest and Assault modes require some teamwork skills, and you'll always be able to tell when you're playing with others who can actually communicate. There's a significant difference in randomly doing what you want, but at the same time, the game seems to be populated with a lot of casual players who do just that. It's not the most fun I've had in an online game with Xbox Live, but at least there are enough people playing online to warrant the purchase.
Star Trek D-A-C is not a great Star Trek title, and it doesn't bear much of a resemblance to the license beyond its appearance, but it's fun to play in short bursts and definitely worth the $10 asking price. As long as the community continues to grow, there's a future for this action game, and I think you'll have a pretty easy time getting some enjoyment out of it. Give the demo a shot to see what you think, but I wouldn't hesitate to put down some money for it.
More articles about Star Trek: D.A.C.