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Chris (CymanIce) Nelson December 31, 2000 Review Feedback

Starfleet Command II

 Software Specials


Release Date:




P2-350 (w/3D)
P3-500 (w/o 3D)
DirectX video
DirectX sound
950 MB HD
28.8+ modem


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“Captain, she’s coming around for another pass! Their plasma torpedoes are armed and ready! Our shields can’t take another blow like that…” The cry of alarm, echoing around the bridge, caused the entire crew to glance at their captain. He was characteristically unfazed. “Guns, overload our photon torpedoes.”

The crew stared at him in horror. “We won’t get a chance to fire! We can’t survive another volley!” The captain smiled grimly. “She’ll hold.” The ISC cruiser circled around on the screen, plasma torpedoes armed and ready, squawking out demands of surrender. Ignoring the demands, the USS Acropolis continued to turn to keep the enemy cruiser in the main weapons arc. With a flash, two plasma torpedoes burst from the enemy ship, speeding toward the Acropolis. The captain instantly barked orders: “Helm! High energy turn, hard a-starboard! Guns, hold fire!”

The Acropolis spun hard to starboard, spinning to plant the strongest shield between them and the deadly plasma torpedoes. Even their strongest shield couldn’t hold, and crackling bursts of energy ravaged the Federation light cruiser. Damage reports droned in, and over the noise, reports of boarding parties came in. “Guns! Fire all phasers now!” Lances of phased energy streaked across space into the momentarily unprotected ISC cruiser, tearing into the hull and disrupting systems.

“Helmsman, get us on their tail. Guns,” the captain paused for dramatic effect. “Fire at will.” Their forward phasers flared out and the ISC cruiser’s aft shields collapsed. With a peculiar electronic bark, two overloaded and deadly photon torpedoes streaked out from the pylon above the saucer of the Acropolis. The first torpedo struck amidships on the enemy, and the second burst in a fiery detonation against the engine section. With a flash, the ISC cruiser shattered into fragments of metal. Cheers echoed through the Acropolis.

“A job well done. Comm, send word to Starfleet Command, inform them that we have intercepted and destroyed an Interstellar Concordium vessel in sector gamma nine…”

Star Trek games have had a bad reputation for many years. Horrible games have come from the franchise many times, but recently the franchise has been on a roll. Games such as the original Starfleet Command, Klingon Academy, and the superb Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force have done a great deal to pull the name of Star Trek out of the mud.

Now, a few months after the successful debut of Elite Force, comes the sequel to Starfleet Command (SFC). The original SFC was a richly complex starship combat simulation, dragged down only by a repetitive and sometimes overly difficult campaign. Now Starfleet Command Volume II: Empires At War (SFC2) has been released - and wow, is it ever an improvement.

SFC and SFC2 are both based off the old tabletop board game, Starfleet Battles. With the detailed and lengthy history behind the game, it was bound to be brought to the computer in time. Many veterans of the board game considered SFC to be quite a good representation of the game. SFC2 doesn’t add a lot of new things to the first game, but the improvements are more than welcome.

What improvements are those, you ask? (what a segue!) The first improvements to be noted are always the most visible - generally graphics. SFC2 is no exception to this rule. The graphics aren’t a quantum leap over the original, but they are significantly better. Details are finer, damage skins are better, weapons effects are bright and shiny, and the backgrounds are quite nice. Every general class of ship is recognizable - it’s too bad there aren’t unique models for every class of ship, but that would be just a little too much to ask - with 8 races (up from the original game’s 6) and over 60 ships per race, that would be roughly Way Too Much Work™.

The two new races are the Mirak and the Interstellar Concordium (ISC). The Mirak are better known to Starfleet Battles players as the Kzinti, but due to legal issues surrounding the name, they were re-named for SFC2. The Mirak are very fond of missiles and generally carry a lot of them around, sometimes with disruptors to back them up. The ISC is generally found with plasma torpedoes and their own special weapon, the Plasmatic Pulsar Device. This weapon is highly effective at medium and long ranges, but ineffective at close range. The best improvement in this reviewer’s opinion is the new campaign system. Called Dynaverse II, the system is completely revamped from the original game. The map is now hex-based and has planets and starbases shown in hexes. Completing missions in hexes turns the power to your race or faction, so it is possible to conquer enemy empires. The best part about the campaign is that it doesn’t force incredibly difficult missions on you like the original game did. I recall some missions in the original which would face you against a dreadnought, a heavy cruiser, a light cruiser, and two frigates - no matter what ship you were in. Needless to say, even though they were all shut down at the beginning, I couldn’t do much with my single light cruiser. In SFC2, the missions are all scaled to your current ship - if the computer sends too much force at you, you’ll have reinforcements to even the odds out a bit. This doesn’t mean that the missions will be easy - it just means that things won’t be completely unbalanced.

There are many campaigns in SFC2, most of them revolving around the ISC emergence into the galaxy and the war against them. There are some other campaigns, such as the Mirak and Lyran war, and the Hydran campaign against the Lyrans and Klingons. Each campaign has a string of “key” missions which the player is required to play. Between those key missions, there are many generic missions available, such as patrols, convoy escorts or raids, shipyard defenses, or starbase assaults, among others. Winning missions awards the player with prestige, which can be used to repair and refit your ship(s), or purchase newer ones. Getting a large ship is almost essential, as there’s only so much a frigate or destroyer can do.

The audio for SFC2 is good, if a little overdone at times. Music is often playing during a mission, and seems to triggered by game events - such as severely damaging an enemy ship. The crew voices (which I believe come with the bonus CD) are amusing, if a trifle over-emphasized. All the weapons have corresponding sound effects, so you can definitely hear the damage you’re dealing or taking. The tutorials include the voice of George Takei (aka Captain Sulu), which is a definite nice touch.

Playing the game on both my laptop and my desktop computer, I encountered very smooth play. The major difference with my laptop was that due to the lower quality video card, damage skins would not display properly. Otherwise, the only other technical problem I encountered was a crash to Windows upon accepting some key missions. Thankfully, SFC2 auto-saves your campaign regularly, and no progress was lost. These crashes were uncommon, and were not repeated - after loading the game again, the mission would play normally.

The largest complaint I have about the single player game is the skirmish mode. It’s customizable, but not enough. I want to see the ability to hand-pick ships for each computer opponent - but the game does not allow it, merely allowing the player to force the computer to select a size within certain limitations (between a Light Cruiser and Dreadnought, for example). The only other customization possible is changing the battle point value allocated to the computer to select vessels, which seems to be oddly handled. Otherwise, the skirmish mode is fun, if you want to pit yourself against things that would never happen in the campaign.

One of the most vaunted parts of SFC2 is the multiplayer Dynaverse II mode - the campaign mode from single player, but in a multiplayer context. Unfortunately, the online Dynaverse was subjected to some problems shortly before release, and is only available in a beta fashion. As this facet of the game is so unique, I felt it best to allow the Dynaverse to become more stable before rendering a verdict on it. An article detailing the online Dynaverse will be available in a couple of weeks, after my much-needed vacation, during which the Dynaverse will hopefully become more stable and refined.

Should you get SFC2? If you enjoyed the first one, you’ll definitely enjoy the second. It enhances everything that made the original SFC enjoyable. If you’re not a Star Trek fan, or don’t like terribly complex games, SFC2 may not be for you. Be prepared for a rich, complex, and very rewarding game if you get it.

Game Title Rating
It’s a sequel to an excellent game with an excellent idea.
Very similar to the original, but the campaign system is much better.

Nice details, excellent weapon effects, good scenery.
All the sounds are good, the voiceovers are a little funny though.

Occasional crashes to Windows when starting a key mission - thank you for auto-saving.

A sequel that every fan of the original should grab.

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