Like it or not, the Star Trek phenomenon is dying. It's been evident ever since The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine signed off the air. While sex appeal (read: Jeri Ryan) saved Voyager from cancellation, viewers obviously are looking for a bit more than gratuitous T&A, as evidenced by Star Trek: Enterprise's lackluster success. Frankly, the series has failed to boldly go in the innovative direction fans had eagerly hoped for. Sadly, that disappointing spirit lingers on in the video game medium.
And that basically sums up my feelings about Star Trek: Shattered Universe. Regardless of the collective media impressions (which include two reports from recent TNL colleagues), I was ultimately left stunned. There's no simple way to put it - this game let me down. I'd sooner look for a feature to flirt with Uhura than spend another second with this (wink, wink).
In any event, Shattered Universe takes place in an alternate era where the Federation is corrupt and determined to rule the quadrant. Now for you Trek trivia buffs keeping score, you'll recall that this theme was first introduced in an episode called "Mirror, Mirror." Yes, the one with Spock and the beard. You'll assume command of the U.S.S. Excelsior, commanded by Captain Sulu, who accidentally finds himself trapped in the alternative universe while trying to save the Enterprise. In short, Sulu and his crew are looking for a way home (laid out in 19+ mission-based "episodes") while struggling to survive in a twisted universe where old friends are now adversaries and virtually everyone seems out to get you. (Don't fret; you'll make a few allies along the way).
Throughout the game, you'll encounter a few familiar faces from the Original Series including such characters as The Planet Killer, The Guardian of Forever, nameless Klingons, Romulans, Tholians, and of course, the Empire itself. George Takei and Walter Koenig lend their voice talents, reprising their respective roles as Sulu and Chekov, thus adding an authentic touch to the game. Beyond that, there's really not a whole lot I can say about Shattered Universe that hasn't already been covered in our preview from last year.
I don't believe in the no-win scenario
My biggest complaint is the challenge factor, which is extremely unbalanced and difficult. Extremely. And if you're expecting to breeze through the game on Easy, don't bother trying. It won't make much of a difference. Man, I ended up playing certain levels over and over again before I actually figured out a strategy that worked. And even when I managed to clear the level, I usually failed to complete all of the secondary objectives (like beating the level within a certain time).
Speaking of which, what was StarSphere thinking? Who in their right mind programs a time limit in a combat shooter? Not only does it make things unnecessarily frustrating, but you're left feeling like it's a race to complete the level; or more appropriately, an advanced version of the Kobayashi Maru (where's the override?) For days, I struggled to unlock new ships - with little success - only to discover that the key lied in beating the levels within the preset timetable. I wish there were a logical explanation, but Shattered Universe is bound to drive you mad, and my head hurts just thinking about it.
Persistence is worthwhile
Frankly, I can't find any real reason why someone would want this game. It's hard enough accepting the fact that the franchise is on its last legs. We don't need poorly developed games adding to the burden. The fans deserve better. Make it so.
· · · Chris "Bahn" Scantleberry