Space…blah blah blah.
I’m not a big Star Trek guy. The show was all right, the green chicks were hot, Kirk was ridiculously funny and that guy from Spenser For Hire was a badass, but that’s as far as my thoughts on the license go. Just the same, I gave Star Trek: Tactical Assault a shot.
ST:TA is trying hard to be a handheld version of the awesome space combat simulator Starfleet Command, which was trying hard to cram the tabletop game Starfleet Battles into a PC game. SFC was a lot of fun. ST:TA is a highly stripped-down version of the game, and a lot of the good times were replaced by the feeling you get when listening to the TV edit of a really good action movie.
ST:TA has two separate campaigns: Federation and Klingon. The story is set around the time of the sixth movie, beginning with Federation/Klingon hostilities and leading through the tenuous beginnings of peace to cooperative efforts against the Romulans. In each mission, the player is tasked with destroying something, escorting something, investigating something or responding to a distress signal—the game’s very big on the distress signal, inserting that plot device into as many missions as possible. As the player progresses through the missions, he’s given command of bigger and more powerful ships.
However, space combat is kind of slow. Power management isn’t a concern, and battles become a matter of turning an active shield toward your opponent while shooting him over and over. Meh. While ships take damage visibly (watching a ship fly about with one engine blown off is pretty cool) and the explosions are very pretty, the combat system is still relatively unimaginative.
Easily the most frustrating aspect of the game is the asteroids, planets, space stations and other objects in space. The player has a third person view of the ship from slightly above and behind it, meaning it’s near impossible to see nearby objects unless they’re directly in front of you. Many times I turned into one of these objects, severely damaging or even destroying my ships just because I couldn’t see the objects until it was too late. This is ridiculous. Without any sort of long-range radar to display these objects, the game simply has to give a little; and we’re to believe the crack helmsman can’t make the decision on his own to fly over or under this planet instead of crashing into it? Utterly frakking ridiculous.
Multiplayer is enjoyable, but it still dissolves into just spinning about and firing at weaker shields while keeping your stronger shields at your opponent. It gets old fast. Even when cloaking comes into play, it adds only a tiny morsel of a strategic element to the spin-and-shoot.
Production values are about what you’d expect of a DS title. The ships look good enough, but they aren’t truly impressive. The sound is tinny and doesn’t really convince; I didn’t feel like I was firing a bank of phasers or zipping through space at warp nine. Some of the pictures of crew members or other characters via the viewscreen are just downright sad, reminiscent of images on the GBA.
Still, ST:TA captures Star Trek. It has all the banter and feel of the shows/movies, and it provides the feel of the Roddenberryverse. Star Trek fans may enjoy the game just for that, though the rest of us might be better served by dusting off Starfleet Command III for going into battle.