December 20, 2007

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Star Trek: Conquest, (PS2/Wii)
Bethesda Softworks, Nov. 20
By Glenn "Kobayashi Maru" Given production@hippopress.com

Beam me up, Crappy!

Gaming Trekkies have had it rough (just ask our techie columnist John Andrews) but Trek publishers have never met a dead horse they couldn’t beat for a quick buck. There was a brief glimmer of enjoyment in the franchise when Elite Force brought the phasers and Borg to the FPS genre, and Star Trek Armada was momentarily fun, but Conquest misses the mark with all photon torpedeos.

Akin to early ’90s Star Control and a very dumbed-down version of Master of Orion, Conquest plays as a Trek-stylized board game with deeply unsatisfying fleet-to-fleet combat. You can supposedly build an empire (of the six playable races: Federation, Klingon, Romulan, who cares, whatever and blah) and defend the vast expanses of space with your AT MOST three mighty fleets. And by “mighty” I mean good luck. Players can opt to set battles in Simulation mode where the AI plays out the space war — for your confusion, apparently, as wildly lopsided forces will often overcome the odds and decimate your ships. Or, if you’re a glutton, you can actively control a flagship in Arcade mode and experience the frustrating controls of interstellar dogfighting. And if that proves enjoyable in the least you can opt to enter quick Skirmish battles with custom forces.

Conquest’s turn-based game rewards attention to detail and early victories as the experience the opposing fleets will accrue as you recover from begining losses will make them difficult to nail down. If you’ve played your cards right you can box your enemies in and whittle them down to give yourself a hollow lackluster victory, then restart as a different race. Yay, six different flavors of boring to play through!

Star Trek: Conquest narrowly avoids the shame of an F- grade for its budget pricing ($30 for the Wii and $20 on the PS2). There is a good idea for a game here. Board gaming is poised to break out big in ’08 and a good 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) title would be a great fit for the franchise and a welcome addition to console gaming. Unfortunately Conquest doesn’t please in strategy or arcade action. It’s the red- shirted ensign of the Trek gaming away team. D-Glenn Given