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Star Trek: Resurgence Review

STAR TREK RESURGENCE

Let me start by putting my cards on the table. I’m a big Star Trek nerd. I’m not necessarily in the top tier of true Trek obsessives — I draw the line at dressing up and attending conventions—but I’ve seen all the shows, old and new, and if you asked me to sum up the finer points of Vulcan philosophy, I reckon I could make a fairly good stab at it.

All of that is to say that I am definitely part of the core audience for Star Trek: Resurgence, a narrative adventure game from former Telltale Games developers (the people behind many narrative adventures including the acclaimed Walking Dead games). So I should love this game. And I’m pleased to report that I absolutely do. I won’t pretend that Resurgence is completely without flaws, or that it’s for everyone, but I had a blast playing through its well-written campaign and was left hoping that more Trek games get made in this style in the future.

Upper decks, lower decks

You play as two different characters simultaneously: Commander Jara Rydek is the newly minted First Officer of the USS Resolute, while Petty Officer Carter Diaz is a relatively lowly engineering officer on the same ship. This structure sets up an upstairs/downstairs dynamic where Jara gets to make exciting command decisions on the bridge while poor old Carter has to carry them out, sometimes running the risk of getting a faceful of plasma for his trouble. It proves to be a clever way to break up the narrative, as it allows for various story beats to be kept going smoothly (often, Carter will be on an away mission while Jara remains on the ship, or vice versa) and also gives us a chance to make stressful, high-level command decisions as Jara, then experience how those choices affect Carter and other rank-and-file officers.

Choice is the key word here. Resurgence throws a lot of choices at you, all of which are timed so you only have a short while to decide what to do. Some of these choices are relatively trivial— should you encourage a disheartened colleague, or rebuke them for breaking the rules?—but others are truly gut-wrenching. I wouldn’t dream of spoiling any of the big decisions here, but know that you will be faced with many tough choices and will be expected to act even when you have very limited information about a given situation. Which is great. It really sells the idea that you are a starfleet officer doing your damndest to deal with everything the final frontier can throw at you.

It’s worth being clear that this is very much a narrative game, not a role-playing or action adventure game. Although you can nudge Carter and Jara towards being a bit kinder or a bit sterner, more diplomatic or more assertive, you can’t really change them in any fundamental way. They are both basically decent people trying to do the best they can and protect those around them. This wasn’t a problem for me, and it helps keep the narrative coherent, but just know that your influence over events is limited to carefully contrived choices.

Plotting a course

Likewise, there are some action sequences, but they are tightly choreographed. Sometimes you’ll shoot enemies with your phaser from behind cover, other times you’ll sneak past them in brief stealth sections. You’ll pilot a shuttlecraft, fix problems in engineering, and do lots of other little tasks to progress the story, but throughout the game your interactions are fairly limited. The most open parts of gameplay have you hunting for clues in certain areas, using your tricorder to scan objects of interest. However, these more ‘open’ sections are still small and there’s not much freedom to go your own way. During my roughly twelve hour playthrough, I encountered one or two of these sections that eventually became tedious, such as one area where I had to search for a special type of crystal amongst lots of other crystals. But overall, Resurgence’s tightly focussed gameplay meant that the game held my interest throughout with excellent pacing.

The graphics, while not pushing any technical boundaries, look good throughout and do an excellent job of capturing the particular look of the late Next Generation era. I especially enjoyed exploring the bridge and engineering sections of the Resolute, seeing how they compared to the interior of starfleet ships we see on screen, such as the Enterprise D. Characters are well animated, with facial expressions that manage to convey subtle emotional changes. Occasionally, a bouncy eyebrow or swivelling eyeball looked out of place, but this happened infrequently enough that it never ruined my enjoyment of the game.

I can’t emphasise strongly enough how good the story is. This really did feel like a season of a new Star Trek show, which is exactly what I was hoping for. The writing is consistently excellent and the choices presented rarely fall into simplistic good vs. evil binaries. There’s no overt morality system; instead, you can refer to the menu to see how different characters view your choices. One decision will often provoke several contrasting reactions. Dr Duvall may strongly approve of what you did, while Captain Solano is absolutely fuming.

The game is set during the later stages of the Next Generation era (after the film Star Trek: Nemesis) and serves as a sequel of sorts to a specific Next Generation episode. So, how much you love this tale may depend partly on your affinity with ‘90s Star Trek. Two well known characters from the franchise make welcome appearances in the story. One of these is Spock, voiced by Piotr Michael, who does a remarkable job of imitating the familiar tones of the late Leonard Nemoy.

Engage!

Star Trek video games over the years have been inconsistent at best. But the Telltale-style framework that Star Trek: Resurgence uses works wonderfully with the Star Trek licence. It really is a match made in heaven, and I was left wondering why it took so long for someone to make a Star Trek game in this style. It delivers a narrative full of intrigue, wonder, believable characters, and difficult decisions, all seasoned with an appropriate amount of treknobabble and fan service. I’ve played most major Star Trek video games, and for me this is easily the best one in twenty years. If you’re a fan of the franchise, buy this game now. If you’re not, you may still enjoy the compelling story on offer here.