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Thursday, June 23, 2022

Star Trek: Resurgence seems like the dream of a new TV series, only as a game

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The Next Generation to play along with: As a counter-design to modern Stark Trek, Resurgence is once again more oriented towards the Holy Grail of science fiction.

Looks like Spock, acts like Spock, sounds like Spock: but it’s not him! He can’t be at all. Because Spock actor Leonard Nimoy died in 2015. So how can the former science officer and later Vulcan ambassador appear in such a believable way in Star Trek: Resurgence? This is our first question when we get a live demonstration of the new Star Trek adventure from the developers. But there are actually much more important things to clarify.

For example, why Resurgence (fortunately, I say) has nothing to do with the current Trek series “Discovery”, “Picard” or “Strange New Worlds” and is instead oriented towards the oldies “The Next Generation”, “Deep Space Nine” and “Voyager”. Or how much freedom of choice the developer Dramatic Labs allows us in this story game, which is reminiscent of a TV series in terms of rhythm and presentation.

But please forgive me that I only touched on all these topics in the interview afterwards. Because with Star Trek: Resurgence, my inner science fiction nerd comes through – after all, I’ve been waiting for such a game for over 20 years.

Now I finally had a chance to … well, watch it, because Resurgence is only playable for the makers. But what they showed and told me lets me hope for a real highlight for Star Trek fans like me in 2022. And that after so many disappointments. I’ll tell you more in this preview.

Ears pricked: This is what the new Star Trek game is all about

Star Trek: Resurgence is divided into chapters and developed by former Telltale employees, but it’s a self-contained, complete game with no episodes. Cinematic director Kent Mudle and lead writer Dan Martin promise a length comparable to a complete Telltale season, so between eight and ten hours.

During that time, you’ll experience all the hallmarks of a good old Star Trek TV three-parter:

  • You travel to an alien planet (that of the new alien race of Hotari).
  • You investigate space anomalies (an ion storm cuts you off from reinforcements from Starfleet HQ).
(A shuttle excursion is also on the agenda in Star Trek: Resurgence.)
(A shuttle excursion is also on the agenda in Star Trek: Resurgence.)

  • You are conducting diplomatic negotiations (the Hotari are rebelling against the rule of the Alydians, who have so far controlled the dilithium trade of the neighbours).
  • You must weigh moral dilemmas (is the Hotari’s use of violence justified?).
  • You scan with the tricorder, shoot with the phaser (rarely) and do all sorts of tech mumbo jumbo on the ship’s consoles and in Jefferies tubes.
(Multiple choice dialogues are the heart of Star Trek: Resurgence. At the latest when the time (orange bar) is up, you have to choose an answer).
(Multiple choice dialogues are the heart of Star Trek: Resurgence. At the latest when the time (orange bar) is up, you have to choose an answer).

You take control of two playable characters in turn:

  • Commander Jara Rydek is the first officer of the USS Resolute and prefers to hang out on the bridge.
  • The engineer and non-commissioned officer Carter Diaz offers you an insight into life on the lower decks.

The goal of the developers (by their own admission, all confirmed Trek fans) is for Resurgence to feel as cinematic as possible. The Telltale past of Dramatic Labs shines through here, accordingly there’s a lot of tracking shots and in dialogues the perspective changes professionally.

Occasionally, however, there are sections that offer more gameplay. In these, you control your character directly from the chaser perspective and can select certain points of interest with the mouse or cursor. This also happens on outdoor missions, on foot or in the shuttle.

You shouldn’t expect too much freedom of movement, Resurgence always remains an action-driven adventure game, there’s neither an open world nor, as things stand, the possibility to explore the spaceship completely freely. But the locations you visit are teeming with details:

The USS Resolute featured in the game is a converted Centaur-class starship. Resurgence is set in the year 2380, five years after the end of the Dominion War in “Deep Space Nine” and diligently quotes screen displays, music tracks, uniforms, sound effects and interior design from shows like “Voyager”.

The developers were allowed to come up with the story themselves, but had to consult with licence holder Paramount. There will be no links with current TV series such as “Picard”, if only because of the setting chosen, but some familiar faces from the 2000s and before will appear. The best known is of course Spock’s.

Spock-serious distress!

Well, out with it now, how can it be that the ambassador from Vulcan in this game speaks the finest Leonard Nimoy English when the unforgettable actor who popularised the role is long gone?

The answer is banal and, for a change, does not involve computer algorithms or other technical gadgets. No, it is the voice actor Piotr Michael, who specialises in impersonations, who imitates Nimoy’s way of speaking in an amazingly accurate manner.

(Most of the time Resurgence plays out like a movie or a series before your eyes, but sometimes you take control yourself).
(Most of the time Resurgence plays out like a movie or a series before your eyes, but sometimes you take control yourself).

This way, Spock can take a central role in the plot, because as a neutral mediator he is supposed to help solve the conflict between Hotari and Alydians. But of course it is not enough to simply beam down the well-known pointy-eared man so that everyone falls into each other’s arms.

Right from the first audience with the Hotari queen, I experience in the skin of Jara Rydek how Star Trek: Resurgence wants to create tension. And get doubts whether the Telltale formula really lends itself to a game of this kind.

Forced Decision

After a bit of preliminary banter on the ship and a briefing by Spock, the crew finally visits the planet, including a delightfully nostalgic scene transition deliberately reminiscent of the famous “matte paintings”. Besides Jara and Spock, the captain of the Resolute, Zachary Solano, also beams down. I meet the two alien species for the first time and there is a cleverly staged cutscene that clarifies the conflict and presents the arguments of both sides.

But then Star Trek: Resurgence does something that was probably inevitable in a game where I’m not supposed to feel like just a spectator: It puts protagonist Jara at the centre of events. And that simply makes no sense.

(There's a third out of the affair option here, but shortly afterwards a decision is forced on me in dialogue that simply feels wrong at this point.)
(There’s a third out of the affair option here, but shortly afterwards a decision is forced on me in dialogue that simply feels wrong at this point.)

    So the Queen of the Hotari questions the first officer of the Starfleet starship, while the captain and one of the most respected ambassadors of the entire Federation have to stay in the background. This seems strange, but is at least explained reasonably well by the game.

    Jara Rydek belongs (half) to the Kobliad people and has experience with aggressors; the game says that this people was decimated by the Cardassians. According to (official lore), however, this is mainly because the entire species relies on regular injections of deuridium. But never mind, such detailed discussions are better left to the hardcore Trek fans.

    It’s at least not entirely far-fetched that the Hotari Queen would want to hear this outsider’s perspective. But then Resurgence commits the same mistake that has upset me in later Telltale works: It presents me with a forced decision that makes no sense in context. Because ultimately, the Queen of Jara wants to know who is in the right: the Horati or the Alydians.

    There are only two dialogue options at this point, I have to choose one of them, without being able to choose (that would be understandable) a diplomatic answer. Nor can I ask Spock for assistance – and subsequently have to watch both he and the captain of the Resolute react in a rather piqued manner.

    This smacks of forced drama, which the story hasn’t earned at this point, and which also doesn’t fit with how I understand my character in the game. Hopefully there aren’t too many of these moments in the game, because they already frustrated me in Telltale’s adaptation of Game of Thrones, for example.

    But let’s put our cards on the table: Of course, that won’t stop me from playing. Because Star Trek: Resurgence simply bleeds Trek atmosphere and currently looks like an absolute grab bag for all those fans out there who prefer to watch “The Orville” today and think longingly of Jean-Luc’s “Make it so” of yesteryear.

    Editor’s Verdict

    In classic Telltale tradition, Star Trek: Resurgence will have changing dialogue and different ending sequences depending on the choices I make during the game. Great! I just hope that developer Dramatic Labs shows more flair in these situations than in the scenes shown so far. Don’t get me wrong: the dialogue is appealingly written at first glance, the characters well sketched. But I just don’t like it when a game like this pushes me into a corner as blatantly as in the scene described on the Hotari planet.

    As far as set design, atmosphere and faithfulness to the original are concerned, I have absolutely nothing to complain about. Already the first 20 minutes of Star Trek: Resurgence transport me completely back into my beloved world of phase divergences and wormholes. Such a fancy replica of a Trek spaceship and its crew can probably only be found in the Holodeck.

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