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6 Games to Help You Survive the Wait for Star Trek: Discovery
If you’re anything like me, you’re probably losing your mind over the new Star Trek: Discovery trailer, released last Wednesday. It’s been almost sixteen years since Trekkies have had a new show to look forward to – alright, twelve if we count Enterprise, but come on, no one counts Enterprise – and the few months between now and Fall 2017 may feel like lightyears to those who are as excited as I am. The good news? With years in the geek zeitgeist, there are plenty of great Star Trek games – and Star Trek inspired games – to help you pass the time, and to help bring that “final frontier” a little closer to home.
1. Star Trek Online
For those of us hungering for the expansive, intertwining storylines only MMOs can provide, Star Trek: Online is in its seventh year and still going strong. Originally designed for PC, STO released on PS4 and Xbox in September of last year, and features all of the starship battles, lore callbacks, and episodic storylines a Trekkie could want. Fans love it. There are three major factions: one can start their journey as a lowly Federation cadet in Miranda-class clunker; as a Klingon warrior battling their way up the ranks; or as a Romulan colonist who joins with the Romulan Republic. Set in the 25th century, the events of STO take place after Star Trek: Nemesis, which makes it the only Star Trek series currently progressing the in-canon timeline. While new Trek franchises like Discovery, the Abrams reboots, and (sigh) Enterprise are set in a pre-TOS universe, STO is doing the hard work of continuing the joint legacies of DS9 and Voyager, much to the delight of many a lore-starved Trek geek.
(Sidenote: can you believe Star Trek: Nemesis is still considered canon? I know. Me neither.)
2. Star Trek Timelines
If MMOs aren’t your thing, Star Trek Timelines may be a good way to while away the hours until Discovery premiers. Sure, the ship battles are smaller, and the customization options fewer, but Timelines offers a strangely satisfying rescue-and-collectathon, where players are challenged to save their favorite characters from the series who are affected by a temporal crisis. Past, present, future and mirror versions of Star Trek characters are available to be assembled into a dream crew – it’s an ever-changing, ever-updating fantasy football equivalent for grade-A nerds like myself. It’s available on iPhone and Android, which not only makes the quality of the content that much more impressive, but also allows you to get your Trek fix on the clock… without pissing off your boss. Plus, it features a full voice performance from none other than John De Lancie, the magnanimous Q. It’s a small, simple game, but it’s very addictive.
3. Elite: Dangerous
Official Trek games aren’t the only ones to have successfully cultivated the long sought-after experience of being a Starfleet captain. Elite: Dangerous may not have the Star Trek brand name, but it has the – shall we say “enterprising” – Star Trek spirit. Elite: Dangerous sets players in a customizable ship in a 1:1 scale open world version of the galaxy, and invites them to point themselves in any direction and see what’s out there. Players can choose how they’d like to interface with the new galaxy they find themselves in. Are you a Kirk-esque explorer, seeking out new worlds and experiences? Are you a Janeway-esque fighter, ready to duke it out over goods, people, and territory, and progress their status and rank? Are you a Picard or Sisko-esque diplomat, looking to get involved and choose sides in the complex politics of an alien universe? Or are you a simple space trucker, only looking to eke out a bucolic existence hauling cargo? Whatever you choose, Elite: Dangerous offers a myriad of new and exciting ways to play and explore, and plenty of ways to customize your ship, your crew, and your experience.
4. Star Trek: Bridge Commander
In the fifty some odd official Star Trek games ever made, it’s no surprise that some of them… well… suck. Trek fans have had their fair share of truly, heinously bad video games. Luckily, Star Trek: Bridge Commander is not one of them. Made in 2002, Bridge Commander has aged surprisingly well, due in no small part to a robust modding community. (The human models, of course, look worse than old cottage cheese, but the ships still look great, and the voice work is good enough to help you ignore the uncanny faces and horrible lipflap.) While STO features more on-the-ground fighting, Bridge Commander is – as its name implies – all about the technicalities of commanding the bridge of a starship. If you’re looking for an in-depth simulation of what it’s like to be a starship captain, Bridge Commander still promises the most faithful reproduction available… at least until First Contact in 2063.
5. Star Trek: Elite Force 1 & 2
Alright, alright… I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Elite Force. As I’ve mentioned,Star Trek games are a bit of a mixed bag; the few good ones deserve to be heaped with praise. Elite Force, released in 2000, and Elite Force II, released in 2003, are first person shooters that place you in the center of some of your favorite Star Trek crews, ships, and episodes. In the first game, you act as an Ensign aboard the USS Voyager, surrounded by the same crew from the show (all with full voice performances from their original onscreen actors).
In the second, your character is transferred to the Enterprise-E in the events following the end of Voyager and Star Trek: Nemesis. Although the gameplay certainly leaves something to be desired – this is an early 2000s FPS, and it plays like one – it’s hard to undersell the joy of being ordered around by Janeway, chastised by Tuvok, or praised by Picard in real time.
6. Mass Effect
In many ways, my love affair with Star Trek began with Mass Effect. ME’s huge, space-based open world rife with conflict and complex alien societies was once accused of being “too much like Star Trek” – some in the industry even speculate that at one point in its development, ME may have been a Star Trek game. (A theory that’s hard to discount when you compare the similarities between the Cardassians and the Turians, or the Asari and the Betazoids, for example.) In many ways, ME is the Star Trek game fans always wanted. One reviewer called Mass Effect: Andromeda “the best Star Trek movie in years.” But is any of that a bad thing? I’d argue no; Mass Effect is exactly the universe-spanning, high-octane action, narrative-heavy game you’d expect from developers who are in love with everything Star Trek stands for, and depending on the tack you take – both as Shepard and, later, as Rider – you have the ability to create the same optimistic future for humanity, even in the face of great hardship. It’s hard to say anything about Mass Effect that hasn’t been said already, but as a Star Trek fan, I found my home there. If Discovery waiting has you blue, I can’t recommend this game franchise highly enough.