Star Trek Legacy Review - 16/02/07

Star Trek may be a cult science fiction franchise, but the endless criticism and ridicule it has received in recent years has damaged its reputation considerably. Is there anything that can truly restore the greatness of this aging phenomenon? Space combat adventure Star Trek Legacy certainly has the potential to do just that.

Gene Roddenberry’s pride and joy hasn’t faired particularly well in the world of videogames, with recent efforts failing to meet fans expectations. Star Trek Armada and Star Trek Voyager Elite Force are probably the two best Trek games ever made. They were both released in the year 2000, and since that time no Star Trek game has come close to their caliber. This demonstrates how the franchise has faltered so dramatically as the years have gone by. Since there are no new TV shows on the air (aside from the many lucrative re-runs), and an 11th movie with an uncertain future, Star Trek, as a brand, is in disarray. Oblivion creators Bethesda therefore teamed up with Mad Doc Software to create Star Trek Legacy, in an attempt to prove that Star Trek is still relevant and can make for an entertaining next-gen video game experience.

William Shatner’s melodramatic performance as Captain Kirk or Patrick Stewart’s intense portrayal of Captain Picard may be among the more memorable aspects of Star Trek, but the truth is, it’s the ships that are the real stars. Bethesda and Mad Doc have recognized this, and have pulled out all the stops to create a comprehensive library of starships for each of the four main species in Legacy. Graphically speaking, they are nothing short of superb, with some of the “Next-Gen era” models looking as good if not better than they did in episodes of the show. The subtle beauty of their design is further enhanced by dynamic lighting that provides a sense of realism no Trek game has ever achieved. The addition of randomly generated explosions are also worth noting, as an overpowered starship will break apart differently each time it is destroyed.

Similar to the excellent tactical combat sim Bridge Commander, Legacy also features incredibly detailed damage modeling. Phaser blasts will scorch your starships hull, and torpedo impacts can even knock off your warp nacelles. Plasma will erupt from structural breaches, whilst fire and smoke provides visual confirmation that you’re in need of some serious repairs. The maps themselves seem overpopulated in places, but given the beauty of the planets, nebulae, and asteroids that feature throughout, this can hardly be a bad thing. Some of the new Klingon and Romulan starship designs are bland and uninspiring, but the Federation vessels have all been rendered in exquisite detail.

The frame rate does suffer when the action gets too intense, but it’s never enough to detract from the experience as a whole. The tactical map, which provides a birds eye view of your current location, is animated in the style of Star Trek computer readouts (complete with appropriate sound effects), and makes for another nice nod to Trek canons. All things considered, Star Trek Legacy would hold its own, at least in the visuals department, if it were compared to some of the top Xbox 360 titles of last year.

The single player campaign is essentially a series of episodes, beginning with Captain Archer and the controversial prequel series “Enterprise”, and going on to feature “The Original Series” and “Next Generation” eras. Each contains a total of 5 missions, making for 15 overall. Despite the fact that Legacy is basically a space combat shooter, there is a surprising amount of variety in the mission objectives. Although you’ll be asked to blow something up on more than one occasion, you’ll also be called upon to defend Federation outposts, escort convoy’s carrying vital supplies, and scan planets and stations for mission critical information. The added variety is something of a relief when you consider that a typical mission can take up an hour to fully complete.

The voices of all five of the Star Trek captains (Archer, Kirk, Picard, Sisko and Janeway) are a fantastic addition to Legacy. The idea of having their respective voices in a game that spans all three of the Trek eras is nothing short of genius, especially when you consider how difficult it must have been for Bethesda and Mad Doc to get them together for this one project. Hearing Shatner once again ordering his original Enterprise to go to warp is a moment that anyone with even the vaguest knowledge of Star Trek will appreciate. Even though Sisko and Janeway’s starships (the USS Defiant and USS Voyager respectively) are disappointingly not controllable during the single player campaign, they do still make an appearance. Avery Brooks and Kate Mulgrew may indeed be on fine form during their brief segments, but it is Patrick Stewart (as Picard) who outshines them all with a superb performance.

Due to licensing complications, none of the many iconic theme tunes from the five television incarnations of Star Trek made it into the final game. However, a series of original orchestral pieces have been written and recorded specifically for Legacy, and these all appear to be in keeping with the soundtracks from the various shows. Trek fans will also appreciate the realism of the sound effects that feature throughout. Phasers, photon torpedoes, cloaking devices and warp drives all sound exactly as one would expect them to. On the whole, the audio aspects of Star Trek Legacy demonstrate how faithful the developer has tried to be to Trek canons, and how technically accomplished the game is overall.

It is a real shame that Legacy is let down by a series of problems that you simply wouldn’t expect to find in any modern next-gen game. These issues serve only to strengthen the notion that Star Trek games are flawed and generally lacking in refinement. There is no save feature or checkpoint system of any kind in the single player mode. This is a ridiculous oversight by the developers, as they’ve created a game with challenging, often 1 hour long missions, and no way of tracking how far you’ve progressed. Only when each mission has been completed will the game allow you to record your accomplishments. This will become incredibly frustrating in a very short space of time. The ‘cutscenes’ are far too long and tedious for being nothing more than extended shots of starships accompanied by voiceovers. As nice as it is to have all five of the Trek captains on board for Legacy, these cutscenes are quite uninspiring. The pace of the game is therefore made incredibly slow as a result.

You will find that the ships that make up your squad are ridiculously stupid, and are seemingly incapable of operating without player intervention. These ships (including the one you are directly controlling at any one time) will also bounce off of objects and other vessels they come into contact with, exemplifying the flaws in Legacy’s physics system. The final problem we came across is so significant it renders one main feature of the game almost useless. After playing online in a multiplayer death match, you are immediately sent back to the menu. There is no lobby system in Star Trek Legacy whatsoever. This makes it impossible to organize games and invite your friends to play. The most annoying thing about this is the fact that online games themselves are lag free and really fun. Battling it out against a human player may indeed make for an enjoyable experience, but it’s totally ruined by the lack of any post game lobby system.

The truth is, despite its strong premise, Star Trek Legacy is a game that will leave even the most hardcore of fans divided. The superb graphics and excellent voice cast certainly help enhance the game’s overall credibility, but sloppy design mistakes mean that Legacy feels decidedly unrefined. Despite innumerable references to Trek standards, and the large collection of starships available for you to control, there are simply too many aspects of Legacy that are unforgivably frustrating. Even the most devout of Trekkies will find it hard to ignore the problems that spoil what should have been an unforgettable Star Trek videogame experience.



Bethesda/Mad Doc
PC - Xbox 360