Back in the olden days (the nineties) there were a plethora of game choices for Star Trek fans. Most notable for fans of strategy games were Birth of the Federation and Star Trek: Armada. These games were essentially clones of earlier, better games. But they were redesigned with a Star Trek theme and cast of characters. Star Trek: Conquest is the embarrassingly dim-witted child of these two classic strategy games.
At first glance, the game is a strategy/sim game like Birth of the Federation, or its parent game Master of Orion. You play on a map of the galaxy that is represented by a smattering of dots (star systems) and lines connecting those dots. Your task is to move your fleet from one star system to another along these lines, conquering each dot one at a time. You are in competition with up to 5 computer opponents with the same goal: conquer the galaxy.
At this point, any Star Trek fans reading this may begin to ask, “Are you sure this is really a Star Trek game? Does the Federation player really go off on a killing spree just like the Klingons?” The answers to your questions are yes, this is really and truly a licensed Star Trek game, and no, it has almost nothing in common with the actually story and setting of Star Trek.
For example, much of the source material for the game appears to have been drawn from the Deep Space Nine TV series. There is even a Deep Space Nine space station on the galaxy map for you to capture and use as a pre-built starbase. However, at the start of the game it is not controlled by any of the players. Federation, Cardassian, and Dominion all have equal claim as no one owns it in the beginning and whoever slaughters the native Bajorans gets to have it first until someone else comes along to take it away. It’s a dog-eat-dog galaxy and your only ‘prime directive’ is to kill everything in your path.
It may not have much in common with actual Star Trek, but we have to admit it’s still a fun, if somewhat simple strategy/sim. It’s almost as if the developers threw together a quick and dirty game of Conquest and then asked themselves, “Which sci-fi series can we license for maximum profit?” Maybe they were even thinking of reusing the system at a later date but just changing the setting for different licenses.
So on to the game. Basically, you collect money from your planets. You spend that money on ships. You send your ships to conquer more planets. You win by capturing all the planets. It’s like the board game Risk meets Star Trek. It’s nothing that hasn’t been seen before, but here everything is stripped down to its barest form, offering far fewer options than other strategy games have in the past. Birth of the Federation is some 10 years older than this, but offers more ship types, more in depth empire management, larger maps, and even better graphics. But like we said, this is a budget game.
As for the map, it remains the same every game you play. Even though it is the same kind of Map as used in Master of Orion 2 some fifteen years earlier (where you had the option to randomize the map and select from 4 different galaxy sizes), apparently the technology to create larger maps with more dots on it was lost in the intervening years. Here, you just get one small map and every faction has the same pre-set starting location. We’ll give credit where it’s due to how the Dominion is represented as being off in a corner and only connected to the rest of the map through Deep Space Nine. This is a reasonable approximation of the Star Trek universe and adds some ‘realism’ for fans of the shows. Left unexplained, however, is why every faction has only a single world, thus leaving the Federation player responsible for conquering one of its own founding members, Andor.
Unfortunately, not as much care was shown for game balance. For example, being tucked away in a corner like Australia on a Risk board gives the Dominion player a huge strategic advantage early in the game. And they almost always capture Deep Space Nine before any other faction reaches it, thus giving them a fortress to hide behind early on. Compare their fortified situation to the Federation faction which is stuck in the middle of the map and besieged on all sides throughout the game, and you can see that some factions are just easier to play than others.
So how about diplomacy? Diplomacy is often one of the most difficult aspects to develop for a strategy game as the nuances of trading goods and technology and hammering out the details of an alliance require a lot of time to plan out for the developers and can cause the game to be unbalanced if not handled properly. But luckily for Bethesda, in the time setting that this game takes place ‘Diplomacy is dead’. Ergo, there is no need for a diplomacy aspect to the game. How convenient!
In battle, you have the choice between letting the computer auto resolve combat, or playing in ‘arcade’ mode which takes you to a real time combat screen in which you control one of your ships while the two fleets engage in combat. Although arcade mode is reminiscent of the real time strategy combat of Star Trek Armada, here you don’t have full control of your fleet as you might expect. Instead, you only control one ship at a time and the rest are computer controlled. As a result, you have relatively little impact on the outcome of battle. Worse, the screen is so zoomed in on your ship that you cannot really get a sense of what is going on beyond your immediate vicinity and you will spend more time attempting to find enemies to shoot at than you will spend actually shooting at them. After the initial fun wears off, we suspect most players will simply choose to auto resolve all of their combat.
There is no multi-player support. Not even local. That is a serious flaw in a game designed to play like a board game. But again, what do you expect from a budget title? For added longevity there are some ‘skirmish’ modes that can be unlocked as you play the game, but these are just more arcade combat scenarios that you play divorced from the strategic game. We didn’t find this aspect of the game to be much fun even when playing the regular strategic game when there was the prospect of capturing a star system, and we find it even less fun when playing it just for practice.
Star Trek Conquest is a low-price game. Translated, that means it was produced with virtually no budget. We suspect this game was rolled out with a minimum staff and development time so as to maximize profits in the tradition of the worst sort of licensed games. But in spite of all of that, with simple mechanics and classic board game style play, it can become quite addictive. Mercifully, it’s an addiction that has a cure…deeper, more complex, and better-designed strategy/sim games.
Man that was a great review Spencer.
And the march of tawdry movie tie-ins goes on.
Long may it continue - Huzzah!
star wars is better than star trek
I agree with #3
@MickEiA, Neomega: in terms of game quality, i agree.
At the risk of this degrading into a nerd-fight, are you kidding me? The thing is, both franchises were once great and then devolved into utterly embarrassing imitations of their former selves. The thing is, with Star Trek, you can at least blame that on the different writers, producers, and others that have taken the reins in recent years. With Star Wars, you have the father of the franchise, Lucas, revealing in the last decade that he's become a completely incompetent filmmaker, writer, and creative force, on every possible measurement you could apply. The last 3 films, not to mention his other projects like the new Indiana Jones, have been absolutely painful to sit through.
But here's where we can probably all agree -- Star Wars has historically had far better games, including classics like Dark Forces, Rebel Assault II, Tie Fighter, and many many more. That's not really all that surprising, though, since the universe of Star Wars is much better suited to gaming; I've always thought that Star Trek fails when it tries to become any sort or action / military SciFi, since, at its best, it's about complex morality and characters. That's not easy to reproduce in a video game.
Good revw. I am actually a "Treky" but I have no inclination to buy this. I love Star Wars franchise as well.
I've had this game for about a year now and I just love it. I can see how the minimalistic approach can put people off, but in my experience the game doesn't need more planets, ships, diplomacy, etc.
There are just enough systems and routes to create strategic dilemmas (Which system offers a better tactical position? Which provides more income? Can I even conquer this system?), but not so many that systems become irrelevant. If you play with fewer races, some systems just get scrapped from the map so the game is always focused on conflict between factions.
Those bare bones act like a weird, risk-like game, but there are tons of little things that make the game interesting. Each faction has unique characteristic that have a profound impact on how they can be played. Different factions can build different super weapons. All factions can build Scouts, Cruisers and Dreadnoughts, but each faction's take on these basic classes is different and all classes have their uses. Systems can be turned into money machines or research stations, which creates a trade-off between a bigger fleet, or a stronger fleet and more super weapons. Even the admirals you use can change the game entirely.
Random maps would've been a great addition, but at least the default map is pretty good.
My only real problem with Star Trek: Conquest for the Wii is the fact that it crashes all the time. The strategic map is perfectly safe, but the arcade combat part of the game tends to crash a LOT. After a while, saving after every turn became a habit, and saving every turn seems to actually decrease the likelihood of crashing, but it's still very annoying.
This isn't a cheap tie-in, it's been out since late 2007. Cheap, yes... tie-in, not really.
This actually sounded pretty fun until I got to the "detail" that multiplayer (even locally!) is not supported.
Chicken Brutus is disgusted. Disgusted I tells ya!
Anyone remember back when Activision broke the back the of the "Star Trek games suck!" curse? With games like Armada, Bridge Commander, and Elite Force, Star Trek appeared to have a bright future in video games.
Then Activision sued.
Activision was so disgusted with the progress made on the Trek franchise by Berman & Co. that they sued Paramount for devaluing the brand! (Rightly so, I must add.) And that right there was the end of the greatest string of Star Trek games ever.
Thanks a lot Paramount. Everyone told you that guy was an idiot. But it only took you three series, a lawsuit, total loss of profits, and a completely frakked up franchise to make you realize it, eh?
Paramount is obviously leaching from the bottom of the barrel to even consider whoring out their core franchise like this. Alas, I fear the Star Trek I knew is dead and buried. The new movie may be a great thrill ride, but a vapid, storyless thrill ride is not Star Trek.
Thanks for the great review Spencer! Maybe I'll pick this up for $5 used at some point and use some white-out out on the Star Trek title. It should make the game more enjoyable.
Yeah, this was a bit early to be a tie in for the movie. Although the movie was completed a year ago from what I have read, so maybe there was some intent to have this on shelves when the movie came out.
However, I will confess that this review is a cheap tie-in to the movie.
I picked this up last month for $10 new, aware that we still needed a review for it here. I wouldn't be too happy paying it's 'budget' price of $30, but for the price of a Wiiware game I found it to be totally worth it.
I agree with pretty much everything you said regarding Star Trek and its rapid loss of quality in recent years, and you've also reminded me that it might indeed be worthwhile for me to dig up and finish Bridge Commander; both Elite Force games were also pretty enjoyable. I never tried Armada, but it didn't look like a genre that would interest me.
"The new movie may be a great thrill ride, but a vapid, storyless thrill ride is not Star Trek."
I haven't seen it yet, but that's exactly what I feared from the previews. Unfortunately, the last couple of movies have been great disappointments, especially since I regard TNG as the peak of the franchise, but there's so little of that show's depth retained in these films. The day Star Trek can have a real comeback on the big screen will be the day when they realize that trying to become an action / sci-fi blockbuster is the absolute worst fit possible for the franchise.
This game isn't that bad. I got it for 9.99 at gamestop's gamedays. I've spent more on worse, and over-all it's not a bad 10 bucks spent. It has some interesting game-play and can be fun to waste a little time. I'd probably give it a 6.5. Calling it a tie-in a year after it's release proves how little the reviewer knew about it.
Before flaming 'the reviewer', you might want to read what I said just two posts before you and also take note that the release date is clearly included alongside the review.
It sounds like we're pretty much on the same page with how we feel about the game, and probably got it at the same place for the same price. I just think you should be more careful what you call a tie-in. Star Trek is notorious for cheapies that are aimed at cashing in on the Trekkies. They don't generally need a movie to do it. Take the new blu-ray movie collection for example, go read some Amazon reviews on that too. They love sticking it to people that love the series.
This one just happened to turn out not completely horrible (like the Star Trek Armada PC Series), but yeah. 30 bucks wouldn't have been that great, but at least the price has dropped around where it's worth. Someone would have been far better off getting something awesome like Klonoa for that 30 tag. 10 bucks, though, I've got worse WiiWare games.
I didn't call it a tie in, though. Some of the commentors did. The person who wrote the teaser line leading into the review called it a 'cash-in' so I guess that may be where some of the confusion comes from.
In between reviewing new games Nintendolife.com is going back and filling in reviews of older games that haven't been reviewed yet. I chose to review this game now because of the movie. It just seemed like a logical thing to do. Thanks for pointing that out though, as it sounds like some people might have been confused about the release date.
As you can see the strap line is now changed to something devastatingly original
I created the original strap and can take the rap for the confusion regarding the 'cash-in' line; I blindly assumed this was released to tie-in with the movie.
So that's that mystery solved.
wow, i can't believe Bethesda made this, lit looks terrible, and coming off of games like Oblivion and Fallout 3, too!
or maybe they should just stick to RPG's
Thanks Damo. At least your heart was in the right place...after all it is a cash-in, just not on this particular movie.
By the way, it crashed on me last night after an hour of playing. I had to unplug the Wii just to get it to reboot. Why oh why couldn't they have included an autosave feature???
Yep, save often on this title is my motto! I haven't popped it in for awhile, but it may be time. I played through as every race on every difficulty level and I've reviewed the game on my blog if you want more excruciating detail on the gameplay itself.
Really for the fans (though I would have liked more fan service) and the crashing-est game on the Wii, but as a budget title it's a nice bit of fun and I'm still thrilled to have a Star Trek game on the Wii. Hopefully with the success of the new film we'll see more!
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