Spectrum Holobyte, who is more famous for their flight sims than anything else, has made a decisive step towards the adventure gaming world with their first interactive adventure game, Star Trek: The Next Generation "A Final Unity". After many months of delays, the game is finally available and the wait was well worth it.
It is an awesome production and a brilliant game with an incomparable captivating scenario. Somehow, the last two industry shows (E3 and ECTS) left me with a vague idea of the game. I knew the game was based on the television series of the same name with voices from the TV cast and that it would also feature the original characters, but honestly I was not expecting this title to be so exciting.
The graphics resolution is the first thing you will notice. Although SVGA graphics are not unusual in the games nowadays, it is important to mention them when they are of an excellent quality. ST: TNG mixes hand painted backgrounds and 3D rendered objects so well that the superimposition is nearly perfect. The backgrounds are enhanced by animations featuring drones, animals, water, etc..., and by luminous effects such as glowing lights, laser beams and others. Regarding the animation of the characters, a great deal of work went into achieving a smooth and realistic look. The characters integrate themselves naturally into the different backgrounds with the same kind of seamless effect that was used for the rendered objects over painted backgrounds.
Spectrum Holobyte did not limit the game only to an adventure game, they also added combat phases for you to control and outstanding cinematic sequences. The tactical phase, as they call it, allows you to take control of the Enterprise for combats in deep space. The game turns out then in a space simulation combat with a plethora of options. The first thing you can choose is to delegate the commands to Worf so that you never have to worry about the ships trajectory. Of course, if you are like an aficionados of flight sims, you can always direct the Enterprise yourself and feel as if you were Captain Jean-Luc Picard himself. However, since it was not that easy to get rid off three Romulans Warbirds, I decided to continue with Worf during all combats. It gives you more time to think about which tactic you will use to defeat your opponents. Dozens of preprogrammed combat manoeuvres are featured in the game to help you ranging from attacks to escapes. Several other displays are available like the sensors that show informations about the target, the damage display that indicates your state of damage, etc. You can also hail the targeted ship, go to the bridge or check up on the engineering section from this view.
From the bridge, you can select different places to go in the ship. Using the turbo lift, you can go to the engineering room, transporter room or the holodeck. The holodeck is a neat option where you can review the fabulous cinematic sequences and the transporter room is where you send off your Away Team. Other options are available on the bridge. The astrogation is a galactic map with a plethora of information about planets and stellar objects you use to select a destination. Next to Data, the computer provides you with all the information you need concerning technology, races, history, etc..., for a better understanding of the 24th century. Finally, the comms will allow you to contact Starfleet to check out your current orders, performances, and also people on bases and planets.
Just as it was possible in the tactical view, the engineering controls can also be delegated to someone else. In this case, La Forge will help you manage the ship's energy and optimize repairs when it is necessary. This section is by far the more complex with dozens of parameters to control and therefore I strongly recommend to everyone to allow La Forge to be in charge of the engineering.
One other thing that ST: TNG allows you to choose is the Away Team. Depending on the level of difficulty you selected in the beginning, you will be able to choose the characters of your party with their equipment. Playing at the Ensign level gives you no choices for your party and the computer will select the characters and equipment for you. At the Lieutenant level, a selection is offered to you with the possibility of changing members and items. Finally, if you want to play at the Captain's level, you will have to select everything without the computer's help.
Once on a planet or an onboard station with your Away Team, you will discover an easy-to-use interface. There are four possible actions that cover virtually everything you would like to do in the game. Talking with people around you or between the members of your team is done by clicking on the talk icon then moving it onto the person you wish to speak. For the other actions, it is based on the same principle. You can examine with the look icon, use, get or give objects with the hand icon, and walk around with the foot icon. A small window displays which character you currently control and switching to another member is done either by clicking the windows or by pressing the space bar. It is easy and really convenient!
The choice of the characters in your Away Team can be really decisive as sometimes a situation may require specific skills. For example, and although I did not try it, it might be impossible to complete the first mission successfully without the presence of Dr. Crusher in the party. Your members can also give you hints during the game. At the easiest level, Away Team members willingly provide you with indications, while at Captain's level, you will have to talk to them directly to get any help.
180 Lakefront Drive,
Hunt Valley, MD 21030
The Ridge, Chipping Sodbury,
Bristol BS17 6AY.
MicroProse-Spectrum Holobyte GmbH
28, Rue Armand Carrel,
93108 Montreuil Sous Bois CEDEX,
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