One day the games industry will be ruled by visionaries willing to throw big bucks at original ideas and create the same sort of atmosphere that Hollywood had in the 70s, when it encouraged the likes of Scorsese and Coppola to make their masterpieces. For now, though, we live in the age of Rush Hour2, Hear’Say and Armada II. The original may have gone deservedly unnoticed over here, but in the US it was a big enough hit to ensure a cheap and quick remake was promptly knocked off the Activision assembly line. Not that I didn’t find Armada /vaguely enjoyable, it’s just that I wouldn’t want to play it again. And that is exactly what you are expected to do. It’s the gaming version of Spot The Difference.
So it’s a real-time strategy set in the Next Gen universe and played over a flat map pretending to be space. So you collect resources and build ships as you make your way through the nicely boxed-up campaigns. So yet again, you have to defeat the Borg from assimilating everyone. Would you like some fries with that?
Of course, I’m pissing into the wind here. It’s already sold another warehouse load of copies in the States and filled entire message boards with praise, but at least I can wave an angry fist here and hope to provoke some insulting letters to Feedback.
“The all-new singing and dancing tactical view lets you command your ships in 3D!” they’ll cry with indignation. “But it’s less than useless,” I’ll retort. Besides there’s no excuse for the presentation being worse, the graphics being no better and the story – the real saving grace of Armada I- being crap. The ships still look like cardboard when they explode and there is so little strategy to speak of you wonder how they get away with having an ‘s’ in their RTS. The hackneyed formula of collecting resources and building units has been blasted out of the water by more sophisticated titles in recent times. The fact that this is supposed to be set in vast and wondrous outer space just makes the whole thing even more ridiculous.
Of course there are loads of small additions that will have fans of the original weeping into their warp drives. But ask yourselves this: when was the last time you saw Picard spend half an episode overseeing the construction of an Orbital Processing Facility?
Six months has passed since the Federation was successful in driving the Borg out of their space and snatching the Omega Particle from the Borg’s hands. Now, however, isn’t the time for victory parties, as the Federation is planning an attack on the Borg’s home in the Delta Quadrant. How they came to the Alpha Quadrant where Federation space is located still escapes their grasp, but it’s only a matter of time before they, too, will be able to pass freely from here to the Delta Quadrant. There is more to consider than just where the enemy is, unfortunately, as the first war caused many casualties and weakened the might of the Federation. Now by going on the offensive in a war far from home, they find themselves vulnerable to their more opportunistic neighbors, with the Klingons left ironically as the peace keepers. Unfortunately for the Borg, as they regroup in the Delta Quadrant, they find themselves besieged by a new and powerful enemy called Species 8472. This new enemy is extremely strong, consisting totally of living organisms and not interested in peace with the Borg or Federation. Now, with new fronts opening, it’s anybody’s war to win or lose.
Star Trek: Armada II is a real time strategy where players can control Klingon, Federation, and Borg forces for thirty missions. Based on the original Star Trek: Armada, improvements have been made to add new levels of complexity. New views, empires, and even trading centers, all help change the dimension of the game and, while most of these things were at least partially successful, others bring little to the table.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Like most real time strategy games, the collection of resources is a high priority. This time, instead of only collecting dilithium from small masses floating in space, metal and latinum must also be obtained. Adding a bit of a twist, not all races require all three resources and often they collect them differently. The Federation, for instance, does require all three, but uses its freighters to collect the dilithium and latinum, mining metal from space using an orbital processing facility. The Borg, however, have no use for latinum and use its collectors to gather metal and dilithium from space while Species 8472 doesn’t use any of these, as they break down any matter they come across to create their bio-weapons.
In addition to new resources, other features were either added or upgraded. Two new races were introduced as the war expanded through the Delta Quadrant. Species 8472 is a race discovered in fluid space by the Borg in an attempt to assimilate their bio-technology. Unfortunately for the Borg, their attempt was unsuccessful and opened a new front in their battle with the Federation. The Federation didn’t benefit from the Borg’s new war either, as Species 8472 was also hostile to them, further thinning the Federation forces. The Cardassian Union, the other race added, became the focal point during the Dominion War. Although the war is over, they still play a factor in the ongoing events with the Borg and impact various decisions.
As time has passed since Star Trek: Armada, new technology has also been developed, as one would expect during war time. The Borg have developed a new and more powerful cube capable of creating a fusion cube by joining eight cubes into one. They also have the ability to assimilate their enemy’s weapons and incorporate them into their fleet. In addition, all races can colonize planets creating more available crew, but the planets can be attacked and the colonies wiped out.
Also improved is the interface. It’s still possible to perform all necessary controlling with the mouse, but many new options have been added. It still has the same basic structure, with a cinematic window on the bottom left of the screen to show battles taking place or progress of a facility and the map is in the other lower corner. The top is also much the same, showing the resources collected, number of crew available, and number of officers available. There are changes made to the command menu, however, and when the ships or facilities are selected, you’ll see the bulk of them. Now when a fleet is selected, there is a formation menu allowing different attack patterns to be selected. Anything from directing the fleet to form a wall of ships to forming a single column can be selected and attack patterns such as darting back and forth or a clover leaf are also available. Another addition to the command menu is the AI menu. When forces are selected, commands can be given to engage the enemies that pass by, follow until units are destroyed or decide if special weapons can be used. This allows the player to focus in on other parts of the game an
d takes away a level of micromanagement.
Another significant factor to most RTS games is having races or different groups that are balanced with each other. This can be a critical issue as an unbalanced game will create frustrating results. Here each race has strengths and weaknesses that can be exploited and knowing what they are will make the difference between winning and being annihilated. Improved from its predecessor, the balance has been enhanced with the addition of Species 8472 to offset the Borg’s powerful drones. Now, playing the Borg doesn’t ensure an easy victory and because of that, other weaker races have an easier time attacking both, as their enemies forces are often spread thinner.
The multiplayer game has been significantly improved and is more balanced than before. With the addition of Species 8472, a more even battle can be had. Often the Borg were extremely dominant and difficult to defeat. Otherwise, not much has changed so if you enjoyed Star Trek: Armada before, you should enjoy this too.
The graphics, although acceptable, aren’t going to blow you away. The detail can be best described as moderate and the cut-scenes could definitely have been improved. A tactical view was also added, giving a different perspective, but rarely is it usable during battle. Mostly it can only be used while you’re building something, just to pass time. Otherwise, it’s similar to the first installment with only minor modifications that are noticeable.
Loyal to the Star Trek series, most of the sounds fall in line with the actual audio used in the movies and TV series. Patrick Stewart returns, adding his voice for Picard, and J. G. Hertzler gives his voice to Martok, helping to bring the game alive. Other sounds like phaser fire and photon torpedo launches are identical to the Star Trek series and the rest of the audio sounds won’t distract from the game.
Minimum Requirements: Pentium or Athlon processor 300 Mhz, 64 MB RAM, 1.3 GB uncompressed free hard drive space plus 100 MB for Windows swap file.
Multiplayer Requirements: Pentium or Athlon processor 450 Mhz, 128 MB RAM, 1.3 GB uncompressed free hard drive space plus 100 MB for Windows swap file.
Some sequels are released with minimal improvements and can be huge disappointments. _ Star Trek: Armada II_, however, has a number of new features and additions to gameplay that create a new experience. It is still a conventional RTS game and has issues with longevity as it can become boring and repetitive, but with the thirty missions and with multiplayer capabilities, you should get your money’s worth. Although, the graphics could have been better, Star Trek fans will enjoy this addition to the Star Trek universe, while others may not appreciate it as much.