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Don Burns April 10, 2000 Review Feedback

Star Trek: Armada

Rarely have I been so mystified by a game, but Armada seems to have really stumped me. I started to write this review with photons fully armed, ready to viciously torpedo Activision's failure to provide training missions in the game. Yet, the more I played the game, the more I came to enjoy it, and the more I wanted to play it. Were it not for my busy schedule beta-testing Klingon Academy, I think I would be much further along in the game. That and the lack of training missions. Arrggggghhhh! I can't make up my mind - phaser it out of existence or kiss it? A toad or a princess? I think I will straddle the line. Set phaser to stun, and a peck on the cheek.

Armada is a traditional real-time strategy game, or at least, that's what I'm told. I myself only have experience playing Homeworld, a game which I thoroughly enjoyed and still play quite a bit. It is set in the Star Trek: The Next Generation Universe (TNG), and features four primary races: The Federation, the Klingon Empire, the Borg, and the Romulan Empire. You, the player, can select any of the races to play, although the game recommends going through the Federation campaign first. Basically, you control your area of space much like a local fleet Admiral, deciding where various bases are constructed, what dilithium moons are mined, the production order of various ships and technologies, and finally, dealing with hazards or accomplishing mission objectives. The details are what makes this game interesting, but with a fairly steep learning curve, this is not a game you will master in one evening, unless you are an RTS wizard. I have heard that if you play Starcraft, then Armada, you will do just fine. Several TNG stars reprise roles in this game, including Michael Dorn (Klingon, Lieutenant Worf); Denise Crosby (Romulan, Admiral Sela); and Patrick Stewart (Federation, Captain Picard and Borg Collective, Locutus of Borg).

The install was quite straightforward, with nary a complaint from my computer. It probably helps to have the latest drivers for both sound and video controllers, as well as routine maintenance performed such as scandisk and defrag. I would be remiss in not mentioning that this game has engendered a firestorm of controversy with respect to the alleged bugginess of the game, and the Armada forums are filled with many, many posts of annoying crashes and other disasters severely marring their gaming experience. I would say that perhaps half of the recipients report various bugs and crashes with the game, some serious and some less so. However, this reviewer, after many hours of play, has not had one single crash or other hiccup, except for a single crash in multiplayer. As far as stability goes, Armada is one of the most stable games I have ever played. Heck, even Homeworld has crashed on me once or twice. Armada does have the smell of a game that was rushed out the door, but my experience appears to have been atypical.

Armada's interface is standard RTS fare. On the lower left-hand corner of your screen, you have an overview map that shows the entire sector. Each race has their own artwork, a nice touch which helps differentiate between each of the races. To the left of the overview, you have a display area which features options and status indicators for the object you have selected, such as shield strength, hull integrity, systems status, etc. On top of that, you have a special weapons action bar that allows you to issue specific instructions to your ship. To the right of that, you have a video image of "the action," generally whatever is going on at that particular moment in time. This fills your entire screen in the cinematic mode. Finally, on the lower right hand side, you have a simple instructions menu, which allows you to issue orders to your ship or group of ships.

So where is the fun in this game? It's in the gameplay itself. Several of the single player missions are boring, such as the lame mission where you lead Worf's ship through what amounts to be a simple maze. But the missions where you get to build up your race's forces in a sector are a blast, much more enjoyable to play and more intricately detailed as well. You often start by building a starbase, then ordering your construction ships to start establishing defenses. You issue commands for your mining freighters to plunder nearby dilithium moons (resource units), and they make runs to the nearby mining station to drop off dilithium and return for more. As you develop your forces, you research bigger and better technologies and accumulate resource units so that you can build larger shipyards and construct the big ships, which you will need for the upcoming showdowns with enemy forces. It's all in two dimensions, but I did not find this much of a drawback at all. The different races exhibit fascinating behaviors, consistent with the television series and feature movies. For example, the Borg ships will try to attack your weakest outposts, punch a hole through your defenses at the weakest point, and attempt to assimilate your mining station, which cripples your production capacity in that particular system. The Borg ships also will board and take over your warships, and then you must now deal with your own ships, which turn against your fleet. This was on the lowest difficulty setting in the game, by the way. Transporting of marines is also done well, with accurate sound effects any Trekkie will recognize from TNG.

Battles are done in an interesting fashion, although the ships still move too fast and do not reflect the huge mass of the large vessels. Small ships can be destroyed too quickly, and like most RTS games, it is most efficient to tell your forces to attack individual enemy targets one by one. Large ships also fail quickly under concentrated attacks from enemy resources. I think ships should last at least twice as long as they do in the game, more like Homeworld in this regard. I have found it is best to put all large ships in a fleet as the enemy tends to take out your smaller ships first. The limit of eight ships per battle group sucks, but you can get around this by creating several large battle groups and keeping them near each other. With you eight-ship fleets, one or two of them will start to take damage and weaken. Before they get too badly off, I order them to return to base for repairs and replenish the fleet with two fresh ships, waiting off to the side. A nice feature of battles is the cinematic mode, which places your viewpoint in the center of the action. It is one of the best features of the game, although it is best to return to the standard overhead mode when not in battle. Shield effects are rendered well, and the explosions are interesting, with the target exploding into shards as it disintegrates. Damage effects are good, with plasma jets venting from damaged nacelles and electrical discharges crackling across the hull as the ship nears zero hull integrity. Ship and station models are also attractive, with a good eye to detail. You can see the individual navigation lights blinking on them as they move across the nicely rendered background.

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Game Title Stats


Release Date:




System Requirements :
Pentium 200 MHz
Windows 95/98
4 MB video
Sound card
32 MB of RAM
600 MB hard disk space
4x CD-ROM drive
DirectX 7.0

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