8.5

A dated game that accurately captures the spirit of Star Trek TNG.

As a faithful Trekkie, I have played and studied many Star Trek games on the market today. Most are focused on the one thing Star Trek does the worst: combat. In Star Trek: Bridge Commander, for example, you take control of the Enterprise and wage war on every ship you come across. In other games you beam down and fight Halo-style across the galaxy. It would seem that every Star Trek-themed video game on the market is stuck in this shoot-to-kill mentality.

Every one except for Star Trek: A Final Unity.

This is the only ST game I have played that has accurately captured the sprit of Star Trek TNG. Those who love the TV series, like myself, seek a video game in which you solve mysteries, make difficult choices, and fire a phaser now and again. ST: AFU accomplishes this to a point.

The story, not to give anything away, has you deal with a collection of initially random situations, like a power failure at a space station or a confrontation with Romulan vessels, that piece together a puzzle culminating in a startling discovery. Combined with space travel and a bit of technobabble, the story will leave Star Trek fans satisfied.

One of the most exciting features for me is the fact that all of the original Star Trek cast members voice their characters. You truly feel as if you're watching/playing through a Star Trek TNG episode or series of episodes. The characters retain their personalities and abilities. Unlike Star Trek: Bridge Commander, the characters offer useful advice and both La Forge and Worf are excellent at their jobs. If you are away on a planet, the members of your away team will give you helpful hints to accomplish the next objective.

On the bridge, you are Captain Picard. You truly feel that you are in command of the Enterprise, because every decision can, if you wish, be routed through you. You can set headings, get the bridge staff talking, communicate with Starfleet and various other people, command combat, and most importantly, say "Make it so" and "Engage." Yes, please.

The combat is initially quite entertaining. The Tactics (combat) screen is full of options for combat, but you aren't really given any tutorial with how to use this interface. The Engineering (maintenance) screen also has many options for power allocations or repair priorities, but again, you don't really know what to do with all the choices. You have the option of delegating Worf to tactics and La Forge to engineering, or simply taking control of one or both stations yourself. I prefer to leave the difficulty on Ensign (easy) and allow these guys to work their magic. However, there are several downsides to this combat system. First, photon torpedoes are essential. Your phasers will not be able to take down most targets unassisted. Without ammunition for the torpedo bays, you will be forced to endure a drawn-out battle of attrition. Usually, however, ammunition is not a problem. Second, the battlefield camera is horrible. If you engage a tactical maneuver, the Enterprise will wobble like a thruster-ridden Gman in Garry's Mod. Third, once you have entered combat, you cannot escape. Escape maneuvers do nothing. So if you're stuck with no photons and a Romulan warbird, you'll most likely have to reload the game.

On the plus side, there is virtually no ground combat.

The combat system is clunky, but this is not as annoying as some mission objectives. There is one objective where you have to search an entire sector for something, but it doesn't show up in the star chart. You have to manually navigate the Enterprise all around the sector, or check a walkthrough. Another issue that is common to puzzle games is that, in some puzzles, you have to click a very specific spot, say a special sequence of dialogue, or go use the tricorder on something before you can continue. Also, some choices will lead to the destruction of the Enterprise and/or your death. Just saying.

Finally, the game is rather dated, and it almost certainly has to run through DOS if you are using Windows 7. The graphics are old and there tend to be performance hiccups on even the most powerful machines. Cutscenes tend to jerk and the game may freeze for inexplicable reasons, but I have never encountered a crash. So hey, it's more stable than TES V: Skyrim!

Even for the cons, ST: AFU is the best Star Trek-themed video game I have ever played or heard of. Though it does not face very stiff competition for this title, it holds true to the soul of the series and will leave any Trekkie hoping for a sequel. Too bad it was made in 1995.

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