If it's not one thing, it's another. The curse that haunts Star Trek computer games may or may not have had anything to do with the state of Dominion Wars upon release, but whatever the cause, the game could have stood a few more weeks in the engineering bay. Lockups, crashes, bizarre video effects, saved games that disappear for no reason--all of these issues plagued the game when it hit store shelves. Judging by the list of fixes, the problems with the initial version were even more extensive. Strangely, some users are reporting more problems after the patch (if that's even possible), but for most gamers Dominion Wars v1.02 works pretty well from a technical standpoint. Unfortunately, the simple gameplay is a bit more problematic.
Dominion Wars is set in the familiar Deep Space Nine universe, and it lets you control up to six ships of various classes and play through the war in Alpha Quadrant from either the Federation or Dominion sides. These campaigns consist of linked missions that earn you credits upon completion, which you use to purchase more powerful ships, more skilled captains, extra crew, new weapons, and what have you. While the missions are interesting, and the storyline does a good job of developing the television series (as the Federation, for example, you'll have to initially abandon Deep Space Nine and then eventually mount an offensive to recapture it), it suffers from a lack of continuity (in that captains killed during a mission are still available for future missions) and a linearity that makes replay unattractive. This linearity wouldn't be such a problem, except that Dominion Wars has no skirmish mode except for multiplayer, and this leaves gamers, who prefer to play solo, with little reason to return after completion.
Dominion Wars shares some gameplay elements with Interplay's Starfleet Command series, but whereas the Interplay games are really hard-core strategy games set in real time, Dominion Wars feels more like an action game. This is because Dominion Wars doesn't even attempt to model the level of detail present in Starfleet Command. As a result, you're less involved in micromanagement and thus have more time to plot general fleet strategy. The odd thing is that even with so many ships under your control (up to six, as opposed to the maximum of three in Starfleet Command), there really isn't much specific fleet management capability apart from grouping ships--there are no formations, for instance. While you can slow Dominion Wars down, it clearly wasn't meant to be played at a crawl: The cinematic nature of the game, with its tremendous explosions, moving cameras, and dramatic flybys, loses a lot of appeal if played much slower than the default speed. This is clearly why Dominion Wars went light on the strategy, since trying to manage the details of six ships with the game's interface would be a disaster, especially since you can't pause to give orders.
This movielike quality is probably Dominion Wars' strongest point: The graphics, music, sound effects, and camera direction all build an excellent atmosphere, which carries the game along quite well for a while. But once you get beyond that, the strategy elements start to wear a little thin. The game apparently compensates by making some of the missions quite difficult so that you'll have to defeat forces far superior to your own. Equipping your vessels with extra goodies like upgraded shields and extended phasers helps, but that happens between missions. General ship strategies (like circling the enemy or sniping from long range) can be assigned to individual vessels, but those who want to micromanage a battle will find themselves frustrated. Those who like good documentation will likewise be frustrated, since the CD booklet that tries to pass for a manual is embarrassingly thin.
For a full-priced game, Dominion Wars feels a bit hollow. The lack of skirmish mode is a notable problem, although the game does come with a copy of Star Trek: Starship Creator Warp II, which can be used to design new Defiant-, Galaxy-, Akira-, and B'rel-class starships for use in multiplayer. However, these are the only classes that can be imported, and once again they are useless if you're not planning any multiplayer games. Furthermore, the technical issues with the game extend to importing starships, and even with the patch, this tends to cause problems. You can also use Starship Creator Warp II to script your own custom missions. Even so, when it's working properly, Dominion Wars still just ends up feeling like a really slick series companion rather than like a full-blown strategy game.
Dominion Wars does a nice job of capturing the feel of the Deep Space Nine universe, and the show's fans will find a lot to like about it as a result. But gamers who are interested in a general space strategy game might find the strategy elements a bit thin. If you're a big fan of Deep Space Nine and just want to fight for the future of Alpha Quadrant, and you also have some patience with potential technical problems, Dominion Wars is worthwhile. But if you want a comprehensive space combat strategy game, you should look elsewhere.