Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Fallen Updated Preview
Our update examines the weapons, items, and control of this Star Trek game.
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Earlier this year, GameSpot ran a weeklong feature that showcased a number of upcoming Star Trek games for the PC. While most of the games highlighted that week fell into traditional Star Trek genres like space combat simulations and first-person shooters, one game, Deep Space Nine: The Fallen, stood apart from the rest. Currently in development at The Collective in Laguna Beach, Calif., the game is played from a third-person perspective, and although it might resemble the typical suite of third-person shooters like Heavy Metal F.A.K.K.2 and Hexen II, The Fallen's gameplay includes a good deal of puzzle-solving and exploration elements, which makes it more akin to the Tomb Raider series than any Star Trek game. Although we originally previewed The Fallen last March, we recently received an updated build of the game and have uncovered some new features that were not discussed before. If you're unfamiliar with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Fallen, be sure to read our original preview of the game, which details the technology behind the game, as well as The Fallen's characters and plot.
The first thing we noticed while playing the latest build of The Fallen is how refined the character control is when you use any of the three playable characters: Major Kira Nerys, Captain Benjamin Sisko, or Lt. Commander Worf. Most third-person shooters have been less successful in this department due to bad camera control and an unintuitive interface. But even in this alpha build, mouse control is accurate, and there isn't any of that distorted perspective that makes you second-guess your characters' proximity to walls or objects, which makes The Fallen's control feel just like a first-person shooter. However, The Fallen has benefits that are simply not possible to implement in a first-person game, such as visual cues like characters who track enemies in a room or items on the ground with their head, regardless of the direction you're facing or the angle at which your camera is pointing. This makes it a lot easier to find objects you'd otherwise miss and makes the chance of your character getting surprised by a flanking enemy a lot slimmer. Likewise, even though you have full control of your character's perspective while using the mouse, your reticle will automatically lock onto an enemy or object near the center of the screen, which makes targeting a breeze.
When you near a ledge, the characters will automatically kneel down, grab the edge of the platform, and swing themselves over the side. Climbing ladders is just as easy, as Kira, Worf, and Sisko will automatically hold on to the correct side of ladder as you approach it, which avoids the frustration of finding yourself underneath the platform or ledge that you were supposed to climb. All three characters will also go into a fighting stance whenever they're weaponless and in close proximity to an enemy. While this feature might seem insignificant, it's just one example of the extent that The Collective has taken to ensure that the characters in the Fallen not only control with ease but behave realistically onscreen as well.
Because The Fallen is more than just an action game, your characters will come equipped with some essential items that add to the depth of the game. Specifically, these are the tricorder and communicator, both of which are icons of the Star Trek universe, and yet neither has been fully exploited in previous Star Trek games.
The tricorder functions as you would expect. Activating it will display a small map of your surrounding area in the upper right-hand side of the screen. While this map isn't traditional in the sense that it doesn't show any walls or other contours of your surroundings, it does indicate certain objects and life-forms as colored dots on the display. Even if the targets are hidden from view, the tricorder will still be able to lock on to them and produce technical readouts about them. For instance, at one point in the game you'll find yourself helplessly stuck behind a force field with no reachable switch in sight. You'll be able to activate your tricorder and search for the force field generator, which is cleverly located on the other side of the energy field. After locking on to the generator, your tricorder will tell you what the frequency modulation of the energy barrier is. With this information, you can adjust your own phaser's frequency modulation to match that of the force field's, fire through the barrier, and destroy the generator on the other side. The tricorder can also scan areas above and below you. Unfortunately, you won't be able to wield a weapon and your tricorder at the same time, as they're both held in your right hand, despite some TV episodes that depicted characters doing otherwise.
Another important feature of the tricorder is its ability to locate transporter zones, which are areas within each level where your ship, the USS Defiant, will be able to beam down health, ammo, and other items to you. The designers at The Collective have borrowed a few design tips from Half-Life and haven't mindlessly scattered the world of The Fallen with these power-ups. Instead, you will depend on your crew in orbit to send you these goods as they become necessary. To do this, you'll have to rely on the second essential item of the game, your communicator. Commonly referred to the combadge on the TV show, the communicator is a two-way transmitter that resembles the Starfleet logo located on your character's uniform. In The Fallen, you'll be able to talk to any one of four Defiant and Deep Space Nine crewmembers as well as two additional characters. They are Lt. Commander Dax, Chief O'Brien, Dr. Bashir, Odo, Elim Garak, and Prylar Obanak. Any of these characters can be hailed at any time, although the conversations that ensue will be context-sensitive, meaning that you'll get a different response from each of the people you hail depending on your current situation. For example, if you hail Chief O'Brien while standing next to an energy generator, the focus of the conversation will be about said energy generator. These characters will do everything from restoring your health to giving you hints about getting through particular areas of any given level.
It's surprising that previous action-oriented Star Trek games have ignored the potential of these two staple items.
Of course, at its roots The Fallen is still an action game, and no action game would be complete without a healthy arsenal of pain-inducing weapons. Our build of The Fallen had all of the weapons in place, and while some still needed a little balancing, all of them were functioning properly and had fully modeled special effects. Here's the rundown of the game's 11 weapons:
Federation Type-2 phaser: The staple of every Star Trek episode ever made, the Federation phaser fires a continuous beam of energy that can incapacitate nearly every enemy you come across. It recharges on its own, so hunting for ammunition won't be necessary. It also has an alternate setting that lets you adjust the weapon's frequency modulation in order to fire through certain force fields.
Bajoran phaser: While they look different, the Bajoran phaser pistol and the Federation Type-2 phaser are nearly identical in function. Like its Federation counterpart, the Bajoran phaser discharges a beam of energy, can recharge itself, and has different frequency modulation settings for punching through otherwise impassible energy fields.
Bat'leth: This classic Klingon icon is Lt. Commander Worf's primary weapon in The Fallen. While it doesn't have the benefit of the extended range of Sisko's Federation Type-2 phaser and Kira's Bajoran phaser, the bat'leth is extremely deadly at close range and can be used while you're running.
Type-3A phaser rifle: The rifle is a two-handed variant of the Federation Type-2 phaser, but it emits more powerful bursts of energy in rapid succession. It also comes equipped with a scope that can zoom in on the farthest of enemies, but it is handicapped by a voracious appetite for ammunition, which you'll need to find throughout the levels, since the rifle can't recharge its own ammo supply.
Federation gravity mines: Developed by Starfleet, the gravity mines attach to any ground or wall surface and arm themselves after one second. If anything strays into their sensors' range, they'll explode with a devastating effect. They can also be armed with a three-second fuse and used like traditional grenades.
Federation grenade launcher: No 3D action game would be complete without a grenade launcher. Like the gravity mines, this grenade launcher was also developed by Starfleet, and it is designed to eject altritium grenades that explode either upon contact with another living creature or three seconds after launch. Its secondary mode of fire ejects six grenades in quick succession.
Disruptor rifle: Developed by the Cardassians, this rifle can shoot a single phase-disruptor bolt or can unleash a flurry of the deadly flashes of energy, depending on how long you hold down the trigger. In its secondary mode, the Cardassian disruptor rifle can shower a large area with a number of these bolts at once in a shotgun effect.
Polaron pulse rifle: This Dominion weapon fires a diffuse pulsed polaron beam that can penetrate numerous targets at once, which makes the rifle perfect in situations where the odds are stacked against you. Its secondary mode fires a single shot that, upon impact, discharges a lethal dose of nerve toxins.
Dominion shock blade: Although it looks like a melee weapon, the Dominion shock blade does have an extended, though limited, range. It can emit a powerful arc of electricity up to 15 feet and instantly fry all but the most powerful of enemies. In its secondary mode, the shock blade is used much like the bat'leth.
Plasma thrower: The plasma thrower was developed by the game's brand-new race of enemies, the Grigari. Like the Dominion shock blade, the plasma thrower has an effective range of 15 feet, within which it releases a stream of extremely hot ionized gas in a manner similar to traditional flamethrowers. The secondary mode funnels the gas into a condensed bolt of plasma for an even deadlier effect.
EM pulse cannon: Another Grigari weapon, the EM pulse cannon discharges an electromagnetic pulse that can rip apart anything within a small radius. You can hold down the trigger to charge the weapon's power and unleash a pulse with much more devastating results in its secondary mode.
As we mentioned in our original preview, Deep Space Nine: The Fallen won't have any multiplayer components, as it's strictly being developed as a single-player game with a story-driven plot and some character interaction. Regardless, Star Trek fans will enjoy the game's faithful re-creation of the Deep Space Nine TV show, action gamers will undoubtedly fawn over The Fallen's selection of weapons and countless firefights, and more casual players should be attracted by the game's intuitive interface and ease of control. The game has undergone its fair share of delays, but it now seems set to release by the end of the month. Keep an eye out for this one.