|Star Trek: DS9 - The Fallen||
|DS9 - The Fallen had the potential to be a great Star Trek title, but a game with poor controls and a repetitive battle system can only go so far on graphics and sounds alone.|
|November 18th, 2000|
Star Trek: DS9 - The Fallen is the first Star Trek game to take advantage of the Unreal Tournament game engine. After the release of Elite Force by Raven I was thinking that maybe the whole "Star Trek curse" in the video game market had finally come to an end, unforunately it continues on in this title. While DS9 isn't a total flop, it does disappoint in more ways than one and offers nothing new to the many 3rd person action/adventure titles already flooding the market.
The storyline in DS9 represents an untold story that takes place at around the end of the 6th season of the show. The Pah-wraiths - a race of exiled, all-powerful aliens are on the verge of returning. The keys to unleashing and harnessing their power are three archaic Red Orbs. The race to find the Orbs is on between you - playing as either Captain Sisko, Major Kira, or Lt. Commander Worf - and a host of opposing forces that would use the ultimate power to dominate the Alpha Quadrant and all of its inhabitants. I think the story was perhaps my biggest letdown of this entire game. After the excellent job Raven did on the story in Elite Force I was expecting DS9 to offer at least something close to that, a story that could really pull me in but unfortunately the whole story in DS9 is just so dull and boring. Through most of the game I was wondering what the whole point of the current mission was because the short movies between missions did little to explain what was actually going on.
You get to play through DS9 using either Captain Sisko, Major Kira, or Lt. Commander Worf. The game is a little more difficult depending on which of the characters you choose. One thing unique about DS9 is that each character has their own set of levels. For example, if you start the game with Sisko you will take a shuttle over to a Bajoran vessel to search for survivors and beam them back to the Defiant. But starting the game with Worf will have you defending the ship from an alien attack while Sisko is aboard the Bajoran vessel. Playing as each character at different points in the story helps you to piece the storyline together as you go. I personally didn't like this idea however, because a lot of the missing pieces of the storyline won't be unveiled until after you play through the game with each of the characters. This always leaves you somewhat baffled and in the dark as to what is going on. For example, in the second mission of the Sisko game you are going to Jaraddo to search for an artifact. You don't realize who Prylar Obanak is until you play through the first few missions as Kira where the story of him is played out. This is the only action/adventure game that has blended this type of play into a single player game, however. What the game lacks in multiplayer it makes up for in the vast amount of single player missions available. As it stands DS9 is certainly one of the longer single player action/adventure experiences out there.
In order to finish a mission you are required to complete certain objectives. As you make your way through a level, objectives can change depending on what you discover on your away mission. When you discover something that interferes with your ability to proceed through the level you will contact your crew for help and they will fill you in on what needs to be done in order to proceed. For example, in one level you discover the power is out and O'Brien will tell you to find an isotolinium inductor and use it to restore power to an auxiliary generator. Amazing how these things are always just lying around... anyway this will power an elevator shaft so you can continue down to the next floor. This is where the puzzle element comes into play. You'll have to track down access cards, interact with computer terminals, etc. in order to make your way through the mission. Unfortunately this whole puzzle element turns out to be very disappointing because there's nothing puzzling about it. Making your way through a level never involves much more than going through your inventory and activating an item at the right place or pressing a button on a wall or computer terminal. At first this seems pretty good but the entire game is based around these kind of puzzles which tend to get very boring after so many levels.
The actual gameplay is where DS9 takes the biggest hit. Your weapons automatically aim at the closest target so fighting an enemy involves nothing more than strafing back and forth and hitting the fire button. You do have the option of turning off the auto-aim feature but that's a lesson in suicide. Most enemies that are shooting at you are far off and it's hard enough to see them, let alone aim at them when they're running all over the place. And if you are lucky enough to master the ability of shooting some of the enemies, try your hand at the smaller creatures like the bats, they're hard enough to hit even with the auto-aim turned on. Even controls in general have an awkward feel about them. Moving and jumping just never "feels" right like it should in a game of this genre. Boring puzzles, somewhat poor controls, and repetitive fighting tactics add up to an experience that's fun for a few levels but you'll quickly find yourself getting tired of doing the same thing over and over and over again. There is one good thing I can say here, I absolutely love the use of the tricorder in this game. You can hit F2, which equips the tricorder, and scan around the area. Objects in the surrounding area such as canisters, bodies, lifeforms (friendlies or enemies), and access terminals show up in the tricorder display. Using the secondary fire button you are able to get a detailed description of the object, which is done quite well.
Visuals in DS9 are nicely done. While certainly not the best looking game to make use of the Unreal Tournment engine, it does stand out against a lot of other action/adventure titles that have been released in recent years. Levels are quite large and environments look realistic to a point. The thing that stands out most in DS9 is the atmospheric use of lighting. Most areas, especially early in the game, are quite dark and using your sims beacon, which is basically a flashlight for those not familiar with the series, you can find your way through the dark corridors. I was really impressed with the use of lighting effects, while it won't scare you like the dark setting of games like Half-Life, it definitely adds to the experience.
Sound effects are a major high point in DS9, as well. Voice-overs are done by the real cast of the show (with the exception of Sisko and O'Brien) and in my opinion that's the only way to go with any game based off of a series like Star Trek. All of the voice-overs are very well done and there are quite a few voices throughout the game. As you play you can communicate with members of your crew and it seems they always have something different to say. All sound effects such as your phaser and even the sound of your communicator and tricorder are all equally as impressive as the voice-overs. But my favorite part about the audio experience has to be the music. It's comprised of both musical tracks and effects that really add a lot to the environment of the game. For example, when you are in the heat of battle the music will change to a fast-paced tone. And walking through dark corridors is filled with lots of creepy music that will certainly get you into the game.
It's really sad that DS9 had to turn out so bad, it had a lot of good stuff going for it. But of course fun and great gameplay is what makes or breaks any game and DS9 lacks both. Star Trek fans will buy this game regardless, that goes without saying, and for the first few levels there is a bit of fun to be had with this title. The fun doesn't last long however when you start to realize that every mission involves basically the same thing, repetitive battles and simplistic puzzles. Gamers looking for the next big Tomb Raider type game should definitly look elsewhere.
The good points: excellent sound effects and music, voice-overs are very well done, lighting effects add lots of atmosphere to the dark levels, finally a game that takes advantage of the tricorder, fun for a few levels
The bad points: controls never quite "feel" right, flawed battle system that forces you to do nothing but strafe and hit the fire button, repetitive gameplay, simplistic puzzles that get boring pretty fast
Review by Mark Dillon
Video Gamer Guy