Interplay's Star Trek: New Worlds may surprise Trek fans. Tank combat and artillery tactics are familiar staples of the real-time strategy genre, but they are unexplored country in Star Trek games. While some starships make appearances in the storyline, New Worlds is not about ship-to-ship space combat; it focuses strictly on planetary exploration, colonization, and conflict.
Star Trek: New Worlds begins when a Romulan experiment in the Neutral Zone accidentally creates the Tabula Rasa anomaly. The anomaly is filled with new systems that bear two types of planets: Those capable of supporting life and those rich with deposits of dilithium crystal. Both types are valuable to the game's playable factions - the United Federation of Planets, the Klingon Empire, and the Romulan Empire - who quickly embark on a spree of exploration and colonization.
While some unit differences distinguish the factions, the core variance among each of them is cultural. The Federation seeks to explore, understand, and benefit from the anomaly while it cooperates with indigenous life-forms. The Klingons' answer to most everything is the use of overwhelming force. Conversely, the Romulans always look to the dark side of their logical Vulcan heritage - they calculate negotiation or annihilation in terms of acceptable losses and expediency. While the missions we've been playing in this early build boil down to destroying or capturing structures and units, the particular campaigns are flavored by the cultural nuances of each faction. Federation and Klingon forces might both be instructed to destroy an enemy facility, but the Federation will do so to stop an attack, while the Klingons will do so for vengeance and honor. The result is the same, but the game dynamic is not.
In addition to Alpha Quadrant rivals, each faction has to contend with four alien races. The Orion Pirates, who are fast, durable, and armed with ion weapons, plague these rich worlds. They can dodge photon artillery and evade defending units while they attack on the move. It takes only a pair of Orion raiders to reduce a lightly defended colony to rubble.
In addition to the marauding pirates, the Taubat Commonwealth occupy the anomaly. The Taubat appeared with the anomaly, and their origins are a mystery. Initially, each player campaign will have different dealings with the Taubat. In the preview build, the initial Federation scenario objectives have the Federation colonists responding to a Taubat distress call. The Klingons will start off the game by waging war on the Taubat in retaliation for a diplomatic betrayal. In the Romulan scenario, you'll find yourself either destroying or freeing a population of Taubat enslaved by Orion pirates, whichever option the colony commander deems logical. As the scenarios progress, the Taubat are revealed to be servants of a powerful and previously hidden race of creatures called the Metar.
More Races and Units
The Taubat, are not particularly strong, but they attack in large numbers and fire rapidly enough to quickly wear down the shields of their targets. The Metar, on the other hand, are less numerous, but they awaken from their portals with a number of powerful units. The Metar, who look like a cross between a shark and a red devil that seems to slither across the terrain, also take full advantage of special units like the mobile shield generator to provide extra protection for their kind. In our preview build, the Metar-based scenarios required colonial forces to fend off powerful Metar units while executing delicate tactical objectives, such as freeing prisoners, stealing technology, or capturing Metar leader castes.
A fourth race, the Hubrin, is mentioned in the documentation, but it does not currently appear in this build.
The three player factions share basic unit types and structures, with unique specialized units emerging at higher upgrade levels. All units and structures are shielded, though some have better shield ratings than others. The core of the colony is the colony hub, each of which houses the colony's senior staff, consisting of the operations, security, engineering, medical, and science officers. These officers are not tactical units, but they may be assigned to individual units or structures to add bonuses to the affected objects. The officers' specialties correspond with particular structures or unit functions, except for the ops officer, who can do everything. Thus, the science officer should be assigned to the science station by default and, if necessary to the mission, reassigned to a science vehicle. If the unit or structure is destroyed with the officer onboard, the officer is marked "off-planet" and becomes unavailable.
Once built, the construction yard produces other essential structures, like the vehicle yard. Each player faction's vehicle yard may create basically the same simple tactical units. Additionally, vehicle yards also construct small one-man units, called "bees," that transport resources and construct buildings and upgrades. These bees are not directly managed by the player; the colony commander simply chooses to create them, and the tiny units go to work. Even though they aren't active battle participants, however, they can become casualties. If a building is destroyed while construction bees are working on it, they'll all be annihilated in the explosion. Because these units are critical to your base's growth, a colony that can't replace construction bees will be doomed.
Rapid construction and upgrading is imperative, as crucial tanks and artillery are not initially available. The meager units of a new colony can be swept aside by all but the weakest of enemy incursions, much less a Metar assault. Vehicles are upgraded not only by improving the vehicle yard, but also by developing other buildings that provide technology to this structure.
The Federation upgrades produce phaser tanks, photon artillery and, finally, devastating advanced photon artillery. The phaser tanks are fairly quick, and they pack a decent punch. The photon artillery fires more slowly and in steep indirect arcs, raining destruction down from a distance. Phaser and photon defense turrets provide powerful protection for Federation colonies, but they drain power from the base.
The Romulan upgrades include stationary defenses and basic photon artillery, but the Romulans favor cloaked vehicles like disrupter tanks that can bypass enemy defenses and attack from advantageous positions. Cloaked armed personnel carriers can also sneak by defenses to capture enemy structures.
The Klingon upgrades also include cloaked tanks, but not cloaked APCs. The main Klingon battle unit is the disrupter battery, a slow-moving unit equipped with a powerful turret that can dispatch other units in a few quick blasts.
Units may be assigned to group hotkeys. These group designations may be overlapping. An entire attack force may be assigned to a hotkey while the artillery and tank units within the group may also be divided by other hotkeys. Thus, the entire force can be moved toward the enemy and then separated to perform their specialized tasks.
Shields regenerate over time. An attack force strong enough to win a skirmish can withdraw to within range of its colony's defenses. Damaged tanks and artillery can regroup, recharge, and then return to the field with a higher survival rate than if the force had continued its attack.
Construction and upgrades are not free. There are six different minerals that a colony needs to build and upgrade its structures and units. Colony commanders must deploy units to scan the map for mineral deposits. Scout and science units are best for this, but they are unarmed and vulnerable. Colonies must construct and protect resource processors, mining stations, and storage facilities. Furthermore, cargo bees and work bees are necessary to transport the raw minerals from distant mines to the resource processors and then to take processed materials to storage.
Graphics and Interface
Without sufficient power, colony activities will grind down toward a halt. Power generators are required to operate colony structures and provide power reserves for shields and weapons. Generators are prime targets, and thus they will require ample protection with defensive structures, which in turn create even greater power demands. Generators require a great deal of resources to construct, so mining and power management decisions greatly affect each other. Too few mines means not enough power, while too many generators means not enough materials left over to develop technologies and create units.
Unwanted structures may be razed, and some construction materials may be reclaimed by the colony. This function is especially useful for disposing of exhausted mines.
Star Trek: New Worlds offers three different gameplay views, which can be toggled from the keyboard. The primary view is a 3D free-form view, wherein camera elevation, rotation, and pitch may be adjusted. The other views include more traditional strategy perspectives from above, one from high up, and one closer to the ground. While the free-form view provides players with more interesting scenery and views of the combat, players will probably default to the more distant views to survey and control the battlefield. The game comes with several tutorial missions, during which the free form view may be mastered. Even so, the other views are simply more useful for managing the colony.
The interface has three additional panels that may be faded or kept open. The communications window pops up as major mission events occur. The control window displays the properties and options for a selected unit or structure. The control window also displays selected groups of units or buttons to jump to various units on the map. The final panel is the tricorder. The tricorder displays tactical and geological information based on colony and unit scanning, as well as planetary coordinates for navigating units. The tricorder may be toggled to full screen. While this view is extremely useful for tactical control, it trades in sleek units drifting over varied and textured alien landscapes for colored blips on a black and green grid. Players will likely get very used to toggling screens back and forth to get the most out of it tactically and visually.
Regardless of view and display preferences, the sound effects were good and accurate. Phaser fire, artillery impacts, and structure explosions rocked the speakers. Likewise, the preview music was properly epic.
Star Trek: New Worlds will support multiplayer on LANs, via Internet, or with modem-to-modem connections. Look for it when it releases this October.