Star Trek Legacy: Why Are Trek Games So Bad?
Slashdot recently posted a review of Star Trek Legacy for the Xbox 360, and the author asked almost rhetorically why Trek games in general are so bad. Why do developers keep trying to make them and fail at making them worth playing?
In combat, Legacy falters under the weight of very poor AI, bad pathfinding, and bad targeting systems. The story is very short but stuffed with Trek references to all the major players in the universe. It’s not for gamers, which shouldn’t be a surprise, but for Trek fans who are pining for the loss of every last Trek series from first-run TV.
I’d have to guess that Trek games are bad because, frankly, the structure of the television shows and the limitations of a license keep you from doing anything to create real drama or tension. And I’d have to agree with one of the comments below the Slashdot story that Trek created tension based on dialogue, not fast action. That’s an interesting point, and reminds me of Isaac Asimov’s novels. So much of it is talk that the action is often very quick and abbreviated, without sweeping and majestic descriptions of the cosmos or many details about technology. This isn’t good fodder for games. Games need the sizzle and features to wow you while providing a compelling story and gameplay. Clicking items on a dialogue tree between the Captain and an alien ambassador while stars scroll by on the viewscreen on the bridge is not the definition of excitement.
One of the exceptions was the Voyager Elite Force franchise that Raven created as a shooter. It invented its own little high-action strike team called the Hazard Team and sent them into combat against foes like the borg on a variety of levels. I thought it was pretty good up until the very standard and annoying final boss fight, which I got so bored and annoyed with I had to use a cheat code to finish it up just so I could see the end of the plot.
I used to be a big fan of The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, but then discovered truly great sci-fi in the form of Farscape. It had long, multiple-episode-spanning plots, flawed and selfish characters, more than one vicious enemy, multiple warring factions in the universe, very good visual effects, and a brash, sarcastic near-future American at the center of it able to give a modern spin on the events unfolding for your benefit. It also had a single video game made which didn’t fare well. After Farscape, no other sci-fi show seemed worth watching.
Trek has basically failed on modern TV. Should game creators just stop trying to make Trek games, taking a cue from the TV shows, or do you have ideas on what a good Trek game should be?