Star Trek: Away Team

Star Trek: Away Team certainly isn’t the worst Trek game ever, but it is nonetheless a downer, especially after the superb Elite Force. In short, Away Team is an isometric squad-based real-time strategy game that is similar to Commandos, that puts you in command of the Federation’s best and brightest secret operatives through a series of 18 missions. You choose each three to six person squad from the 17 highly-trained specialists in Engineering, Medicine, Security, Science, and Command that make up the crew of the stealth ship USS Incursion.

15Set after the Dominion War, and somewhere within the current Next Generation movie continuity (Worf is the Klingon Ambassador, Data is a Commander), the Romulans have begun behaving irrationally, attacking a Klingon outpost. The Incursion is called in to investigate the situation and rescue the Klingons. Naturally, the culprit is that reliable Star Trek chestnut, alien mind control; a simple plot device that excuses your infiltration of Klingon bases, Borg cubes, the planet Vulcan, and even Starfleet Headquarters itself.

The setup is promising, but the execution lacks personality. The selectable characters — new to Trek continuity — are little more than the sum of their toolkits. If the menu screen says you need an Enhanced Mind Meld to complete a mission, you choose Slovaak the Vulcan scientist; an engineering kit, pick an engineer, and so on. It’s so “by the numbers” that developer Reflexive didn’t bother to add the wonder of discovery that might’ve elevated Away Team beyond cog-filling.

For example, tricorders are carried by certain characters, and give detailed information on objects and terrain found in the game. But that information can’t be used to your advantage; tricorders are only useful in the few missions the game tells you that they’re useful in. What a better game Away Team would’ve been if you were allowed to come up with your own solutions. If instead of requiring an engineer with a Security Door skill to open a locked door, you could also ask the Commander to find the access panel with a tricorder or have Security phaser their way through.

9Poor artificial intelligence (AI) is yet another stumbling block that will slowly annoy and chip the fun away; you crew doesn’t have any, and enemies blindly follow rudimentary patterns until you attract their attention. Your away team only does what you tell it to do and no more, not even responding defensively to enemy fire. Since losing any crew member automatically ends the mission, Away Team turns into a game of Star Trek Lemmings — laboring through humdrum puzzles to get your group from Point A to Point B in one piece.

The crisp graphics are at least diverse enough to keep you somewhat interested, and the sound is so-so — filled with the beeps and boops you expect from a Trek game. Though Brent Spiner’s Data is a featured voice, Worf merely cameos; Michael Dorn must’ve recorded all of four lines. There’s a confusing cooperative LAN mode that gives two players full control over the full away team at the same time, but we can’t imagine why anybody would want to play it.

System Requirements: Pentium 90 MHz, 16 MB RAM, Win95

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