Review: Star Trek D-A-C (Mac)

StarTrekDAC.jpg We can all trace our gaming roots back to certain platforms or games that represent our ‘origins’, and for me as primarily a PC gamer I would have to go back to the classic Star Trek game that I played on the PDP-11 mainframe back in the 1970’s. As such, I tend to have a bit of a soft spot for new Star Trek games, from the text-based Super Star Trek to graphic versions of those games through the Elite Force shooters and Tactical Assault on the Nintendo DS and PSP. At the same time, I have skipped the vast majority, which is a good thing since so many of them were downright terrible. So I was intrigued at the launch of Star Trek D-A-C for the Mac, since I hadn’t heard much about the PC, PSN or XBLA releases and our family had just rented the Star Trek reboot movie from last year. So how does it play? Read on and find out!

Star Trek D-A-C was originally released on Xbox Live Arcade last May as a sort of tie-in with the Star Trek prequel movie, and as such suffered by being seen as a typical movie tie-in. While it wasn’t directly related to the movie, that only proved doubly-disappointing to fans: those looking to play out the movie as is the usual case found themselves in a top-down arcade shooter. In November the game was ported to the PC and PS3 as a budget digital download, and was similarly released for the Mac via GameTree Online just before the Christmas holiday.

The original game was pretty much pounded in reviews, with praise coming for the basic fun of the arcade shooter gameplay, but criticism coming due to a lack of depth, lack of options, dearth of solo play options, and difficulty finding online games. The budget price offset that for some, but for most it was a bit of fun that very quickly faded and was quickly replaced by ‘buyer’s remorse’. In fact, the title came from the content – Deathmatch – Assault – Conquest. The PC and Mac releases add some new ships, a new play mode focused on solo play, and improved the graphics and supposedly optimized the controls.

Cutting right to the chase – those minor tweaks do nothing to make the game worth buying. It is still basically the same ‘overpriced at $10’ game that landed on XBLA last spring, and the minor additions don’t change the fact that within a couple of hours you’ll be saying ‘wow … $10 IS too much to pay for this!’

There are four game modes: the new single player Survival mode, where you simply take a ship and keep going as long as you can; Team Deathmatch, which is the typical ‘kill the other team more than they kill you’ mode; Assault, where you attack or defend an area of space; and Conquest, which is based on domination by taking or defending control points. The original game featured the Flagship (e.g. Enterprise), Fighter, and Bomber ship classes; the new versions add the Support Frigate and Missile Cruiser. The Support Frigate is essentially the medic class and can be useful in multiplayer matches. The Missile Cruiser, however, moves and shoots very slowly but does loads of damage, but is a class that no one is likely to use more than once.

Aside from those things there isn’t much else new, and that is too bad since one of the complaints was that there were too few maps and everything looked sort of the same. That remains true – you are just dumped in space with random stuff around (or control point position or assault area) for one match, then get a slight variation on that in subsequent matches. That eliminates any real sense of strategy in playing over time – there is no skill-building in terms of learning to work with the environment for tactical advantage.

The graphics and sound work pretty well and are nicely suited for a budget space shooter. Performance is quite solid, and the game nicely supports all currently available Macs, even those with integrated graphics. The controls, on the other hand, are not very good. Even using a controller instead of the standard keyboard controls things felt imprecise and sluggish. Especially in Survival mode I found it tricky to avoid incoming missiles and grab all of the power-ups, and fighting controls instead of enemies in a game is never satisfying.

The thing is, Star Trek D-A-C is not a terrible game, but it IS a pointless one. There is no story of any sort, no characters or anything else tying you into the experience. That wouldn’t be a big deal if the core game was better, but sadly within a few hours or less you will tire of everything that the game has to offer, and will never return to play again. My advice? Avoid buyer’s remorse by avoiding this game in the first place!

SkipIt.jpg

Pros:
+ Can be fun in small doses
+ Runs on a wide variety of computers
+ Adds plenty of content from original version

Cons:
– No story
– Gets boring fast
– Lousy controls
– Too few maps

Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on Mac, previously released on PC, PSN and XBLA
Publisher: Paramount Digital Entertainment
Developer: Naked Sky Entertainment
Release Date: 12/22/09
Genre: Space Shooter
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Players: 1-12
Source: Review code provided by publisher

About the Author

I have loved technology for as long as I can remember - and have been a computer gamer since the PDP-10! Mobile Technology has played a major role in my life - I have used an electronic companion since the HP95LX more than 20 years ago, and have been a 'Laptop First' person since my Compaq LTE Lite 3/20 and Powerbook 170 back in 1991! As an avid gamer and gadget-junkie I was constantly asked for my opinions on new technology, which led to writing small blurbs ... and eventually becoming a reviewer many years ago. My family is my biggest priority in life, and they alternate between loving and tolerating my gaming and gadget hobbies ... but ultimately benefits from the addition of technology to our lives!