Star Trek: Klingon Academy

18_1A revised Starfleet Academy, with more ups and downs.

Modern flight simulations and space sims are really very similar. There is, however, one defining difference: flight sims tend to wallow in painstaking detail. While space sims tend towards the simple, with more emphasis on combat. Star Trek: Klingon Academy makes an attempt to bridge the gap between these two styles of games, by melding flight sim-style detailed control systems with gripping space sim-style action.

Klingon Academy is set before the movie Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and features Christopher Plummer (General Chang) and David Warner (Chancellor Gorkon), reprising their roles from the film. For a PC game, the general quality of the acting is extraordinary, although there are some characters that seem a bit overdone. Klingon Academy takes you on a guided tour—as a student—through a Klingon military school.

You are the son of a respected Klingon, and you have enrolled in the Academy hoping to become a warship captain. General Chang is the head instructor, and he will be a constant presence, before and after the Academy. In preparation for war against the Federation, the Academy takes you through a simulated offensive across the neutral zone and into Federation space. The story is the central focus of the game, and it seems that Interplay put a lot of effort into creating it (there are five CDs with nothing but cutscenes on them).

6_1If you’re not acclimated to the Star Trek universe, have no fear; the game does a good job catering to the non-trekkie crowd. Before each mission in the Academy, General Chang gives a lecture on Klingon warriors, speaking of honor, loyalty and duty. By the time you are halfway through the game, it’s quite likely that you’ll possess an excellent understanding of what it means to be a Klingon. It’s commendable that 14 Degrees East has managed to create a Trek game that can appeal to people who don’t have a Klingon-English dictionary by their PC.

What makes Klingon Academy special is its scale. Piloting a cruiser with a crew of 400 is an interesting experience, to say the least. In order to control the various aspects of your ship you must make use of the Verbal Order System (VOS), which sits across the bottom of the Heads Up Display (HUD). This is a basic, branching numerical order system. For example, hit 2 to access the helm, 4 for impulse speed, and then 1 for full throttle. While a little complexity is unavoidable, as you need to navigate a host of commands, it can sometimes be a little too complex in the heat of battle. It is all too easy to end up sending the wrong order, with disastrous consequences. Hotkeys for common orders help a lot in this area, at least.

Ship control is extremely detailed. Aside from the standard functions found in most space sims, you also have to worry about security, medical, damage control and overall power management. Every ship has a unit of marines on board for both offensive and defensive purposes. Although it is unlikely you will ever need them for defense against the computer, you can use them to capture enemy ships and save yourself the trouble of slowly chewing your way through their hull. As for medical, both marines and standard crew gain experience with use, and you can view their current status in the medical station. Over time your crew will increase in rank (green, experienced, hardened, veteran, and finally elite).

2_1If you are extremely lucky—or skillful—you can earn elite officers. These are unique members of your crew that enhance specific areas of your ship. Aside from viewing the status of your crew, medical has another rather obvious use. Every weapon that contacts the hull of your ship has a chance of wounding or even killing members of your ship’s crew. Your warship’s effectiveness decreases with each casualty. And aside from simply activating and deactivating systems, you have to also adjust the specific power allocation for each system.

Klingon Academy has the potential to be a great game, but a variety of faults ruin parts of it. It’s truly a shame to see a game that could have excelled end up amidst the majority of games that can’t be universally recommended. There are just too many problems to excuse. One of the boasted features in the game, for instance, is a wide variety of space terrain. Unfortunately, just about all of this detracts from the gameplay experience. Flying inside a gas giant is a horrible experience. Even finding your way out can be incredibly difficult, if you have escorts. Unlike you, they can’t handle the terrain, and they will get themselves killed unless you plod along at an incredibly slow pace. Most of the terrain isn’t much better – asteroid fields are like humongous meat-mashing factories for AI ships.

9_1Collisions are a serious problem throughout Klingon Academy. In the early stages, a single collision will devastate your small ship and barely damage the enemy. Later, your powerful battle cruisers are so slow that you have no chance of avoiding an incoming hostile. The enemy’s favorite tactic is to fly away from you while you are in pursuit, then rapidly turn around and fly head on to attack your front shields. The problem is that they almost never turn in time, and it takes everything you’ve got to evasively maneuver a dreadnought.

Klingon Academy is essentially a long series of ups and downs. It starts off on a good foot, but then it declines and eventually recovers. While the final result is by no means entirely bad, it’s easy to see how it could have been a lot better.

System Requirements: Pentium 233 MHz, 32 MB RAM, Win95

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