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Nelson Schneider's Video Game Reviews (291)

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Doki Doki Literature Cl... 3.5/5
Quest for Infamy 2/5
Neutopia 4.5/5
Divinity: Original Sin ... 5/5
Infested 4.5/5
Battleborn 3/5
Dungeon Master II: The ... 3.5/5
Pop'n TwinBee: Rainbow ... 4.5/5
MARIO & LUIGI 2.5/5
Little Samson 3.5/5
Tales from the Borderla... 4/5
Beyond Shadowgate 3/5
RetroArch 5/5
Radical Dreamers: Le Tr... 3.5/5
Toilet Kids 3/5
Detana!! TwinBee ( Bell... 3.5/5
Titan Quest ( Titan Que... 2/5
Pop'n TwinBee 3.5/5
Mother 3 ( EarthBound 2... 4.5/5
Star Trek Timelines 3/5
Do-Re-Mi Fantasy: Milon... 3.5/5
Bahamut Lagoon 4.5/5
Dungeon Defenders II 3/5
Deus Ex: Human Revoluti... 3/5
Lara Croft and the Guar... 4.5/5

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Star Trek Timelines   PC (Steam) 

Best Trek, Worst Game    3/5 stars

“Star Trek Timelines” (“STT”) is a port of a Free2Play mobile game developed as a second effort by Disruptor Beam. Disruptor Beam’s only other game is a licensed “Game of Thrones” tie-in, making them something of a one-trick pony when it comes to originality. After experiencing nothing but disappointment and frustration with older licensed games based on my favorite sci-fi IP by other developers, I was content to ignore “STT,” especially due to its F2P/mobile nature. Yet Nick, MeltedJoystick’s CTO, went through a phase of trying to hook all of us on a variety of mobile games. Perhaps even a bigger “Star Trek” fan than I am, Nick convinced us to give this game a try… and we’re all still playing the damned thing a year later.

Presentation
“STT” has a two main graphical modes. The primary gameplay screen (which is also used during space battles) simply shows a third-person view of the player’s spaceship and the surrounding heavenly bodies. This view is 3D and fully polygonal, yet still manages to look very sharp and high-quality on mobile and PC, with few jaggies and no muddy textures. The vast majority of the game doesn’t take place in this graphical style, however, but instead takes place in a series of flat menus modeled after the “Star Trek” LCARS computer UI. The huge cast of recurring “Star Trek” characters are static images of the original actors with a toon filter applied to make them look slightly cleaner and more stylized.

The audio is well-done and just oozes “Star Trek” nostalgia. The music and sound effects are all ripped directly from the TV shows and movies. Voiceacting is, unfortunately, somewhat limited. A number of characters spout a canned quip taken from their performance in one of the original shows. On the other hand, John de Lancie provides a fairly significant amount of original monologuing as the omnipotent Q. Unfortunately, Q’s presence in the game peters out the longer it drags on. I guess Disruptor Beam couldn’t get de Lancie to come back in for more recording sessions.

The PC version of “STT” is an incredibly lazy port. It is literally just the Android version of the game running in a windowed emulator. The UI hasn’t been modified at all, with elements that say “tap here” instead of “click here,” as well as no way to exit the game aside from the red X in the upper right corner. I was also hoping that when “STT” came to PC it would lose some of the microtransaction focus and be sold as a cheap little game that is actually feature complete. That was, unfortunately, not the case at all.

Story
“STT” tells an original story set in the “Star Trek” universe in which a large number of temporal anomalies have appeared across space, collapsing numerous divergent timelines in on each other. As a result, characters, ships, planets, and scenarios from the very beginning of “Star Trek” history (e.g., “Enterprise”) find themselves coexisting alongside events from the most recent “Star Trek” stories (e.g., “Voyager” and the “Next Generation” movies). (Oddly enough, the “Nu Trek” movie series with Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto is completely unrepresented…)

The player is thrust into the role of a Captain aboard a Constellation Class Federation vessel. Q, the omnipotent being who tormented the Enterprise-D in “Next Generation,” informs the player of what’s going on and encourages them to “Go off and play Hero while I go off and play God.” Naturally, with every villain, disaster, and conspiracy from the whole of “Star Trek” history back in play, there are plenty of things to keep a hero busy.

The rest of the story plays out over 7 chapters, but unfortunately doesn’t end. Yes, that’s right, Disruptor Beam apparently got bored coming up with story material to explain the temporal anomalies and just stopped writing new chapters. Instead, players are encouraged to participate in weekly “event” chapters that are only available for a limited time (typically Thursday through Sunday), which tend to resemble the one-off “Star Trek” episodes of “The Original Series” and the first couple seasons of “Next Generation” than they do the strong narrative arcs of “Deep Space Nine.”

The fact that “STT” doesn’t have an ending is to be expected, however, as the game is essentially an MMORPG. I was actually enjoying the tale of the temporal anomalies – as contrived as it is as a reason to mash everyone’s favorite characters/ships/scenarios together into one game – yet as I wait for new chapters to be added, all I feel is a lingering sense of boredom and a strong desire to stop playing… if only those damned weekend events didn’t keep pulling me back in.

Gameplay
“STT” is a bit of a weird and novel, yet surprisingly good take on the RPG genre. Instead of having a party of characters that goes into battle to gain experience, “STT” features skill challenges for each of its missions, where an away team of 3 characters pits their knowledge and skills against a number of obstacles with challenge ratings (similar to the Difficulty Classes of saves and checks in Dungeons & Dragons games starting with 3rd Edition). Each character can have up to three skills, plus an arbitrary number of traits that can boost a skill in arbitrary situations. Skills fall into the categories of Command, Diplomacy, Engineering, Science, Medicine, and Security. Any combination of these skills might be needed during an away mission (though the skills required are shown on the mission prep screen), and a character receives a temporary penalty after completing a challenge in order to discourage back-to-back usage of the same crew member. Going on an away mission costs a specific amount of Chronitons, which regenerate in real time at a rate of 1 per 6 minutes, with higher Chroniton costs in later chapters, as well as higher costs on harder difficulties, of which every mission has three: Normal, Elite, and Epic.

Characters advance in level, as one would expect with an RPG, by gaining experience on away missions. Every 10 levels, the character reaches a soft cap and must be fully outfitted with four pieces of equipment – which are crafted from resources found during missions – in order to rank-up and unlock 10 more levels. The hard cap on character advancement is level 100, and a fully equipped, fully upgraded character at level 100 can be cryogenically frozen, allowing the player to call them up whenever they are needed.

The only combat in “STT” is ship-to-ship combat, which takes place in an automated real-time Action/RPG system, where ships automatically fire at each other based on their stats and the player is free to activate temporary ship buffs provided by either the ship itself or the crew members assigned to the bridge. Like away missions, ship battles cost Chronitons.

If these two different gameplay mechanics were assembled in a Buy2Play RPG, the results would have been incredible. Both systems are thought-provoking, strategic, and fun. However, “STT” doesn’t want the player to have fun, “STT” wants the player to buy microtransactions while not NOT having fun (note the double negative). See, crew members and ships and pretty much everything else the player interacts with in-game are limited in quantity and randomly doled-out at a snail’s pace in a reward drip-feed that keeps players hooked. Crew members come out of a gacha machine called the Time Portal, and have the typical “Diablo”-style rarity/color scheme. Sure, it’s easy to earn Federation credits (THERE IS NO MONEY IN “STAR TREK”!!!!) that can be spent on crappy Time Portal draws for low-spec ship schematics and White or Green crew members, but the good Time Portal draws that make it possible to obtain Blue, Purple, or Gold rarity crew members cost Dilithium Crystals, the premium currency that the game absolutely hates to give away for free. A significant number of things, like larger crew quarters that essentially act as character storage slots or the Warp ability that allows players to instantly grind through previously-mastered away missions or ship battles in search of resources are locked behind Dilithium-only purchases, which means playing “STT” and not suffering will cost at minimum $4 for a 1-month Daily Dilithium card. I only ever bought the one card, whereas Chris and Nick bought several, so I’m stuck with less than half the crew slots they have, but I absolutely refuse to give Disruptor Beam any more cash than they’ve already gotten out of me. Of course, the real Whales that Disruptor Beam wants to hook won’t even bother with Daily Dilithium cards, but will drop hundreds of dollars on buckets of instant Dilithium.

Overall
On one hand, “Star Trek Timelines” is the best licensed “Star Trek” game I’ve ever played (and I’ve played quite a few of them). On the other hand, “Star Trek Timelines” is an infuriating gacha machine infested with every annoying, tedious, addictive symptom of the disease that is Free2Play mobile gaming. If you must start playing this game, know that you’ll probably be in it for at least a year in order to accomplish everything you can and before the mobile-ness of it starts taking a toll, and that you will need to spend $4. If you set a limit for yourself and keep the amount you spend on “STT” to exactly $4, you might get a decent amount of enjoyment out of it for a price comparable to many Buy2Play Indie titles on Steam.

Presentation: 3.5/5
Story: 3.5/5
Gameplay: 3/5
Overall (not an average): 3/5

 

 


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