Space, The Final Frontier…
When it comes to Star Trek I have been a one trick pony. Growing up I watched The Original Series in syndication and loved it, however when The Next Generation came out I was instantly put off by how different it was. For years I had let my initial introduction to the show sour me on the series and have never taken the time to sit down and watch it properly… until now. With Netflix releasing all of TNG on their instant watch service and at the behest of Mike I am giving the series a fair shake. I have found that with time my tastes have changed and I missed out on a very well done Trek series. With that of course I also missed out on the Trek games that have come out over the years. Today I found one of these gems that simply blew me away and I had to share. Join me as we take a second look at Star Trek The Next Generation A Final Unity… Engage!
These Are The Voyages…
As I mentioned, I am a relative newcomer to the TNG universe and so had the entire breadth of its catalogue before me. When I began looking into games in the series A Final Unity stuck out to me as it is a classic point and click adventure game, my personal favorite genre. I decided to give it a shot as my initial foray into the gaming catalogue, which I understand can be a mixed bag of FMV hell and decent to mediocre combat simulators. What I found was so much more than a simple adventure game though.
The story of A Final Unity is rather good and presented exactly as a broadcast of the series would be. The game begins with the shows full intro, including cast credit scroll, and features all of the elements that make TNG so popular. Throughout the game you will be commanding away teams on missions in local systems, plotting navigational courses through star clusters, doing battle with enemy ships, and even practicing diplomacy during a turbulent time between the Federation and Romulan forces. The game begins with the Enterprise locating a derelict ship in the Neutral zone. The crew is fleeing the Romulans in search of a religious artifact that will lead their people to rebel against the Romulan oppressors. As you help these people search the galaxy for the object you begin to see the ancient culture you are searching for have some very real and very recent activity popping up in multiple sectors. The reason this ancient race, the Chodok, are so important is they had a Unity Device which the Romulans are searching for as an ultimate weapon to end a war they have been losing for some time. The Federation cannot let the device fall into Romulan hands and so the Enterprise and her crew are sent on a mission to locate and acquire the device. Of course it is simply not as simple as picking the device up as Picard and crew will have to form unlikely alliances and teach the races looking for the device to work together to find it.
Make It So
The game is broken up into multiple play types that keep it interesting the whole way through. The main portion of the gameplay is the classic point and click adventuring of the away missions. In these sections a team of four will beam down to the planet and have to solve puzzles to uncover clues and find items needed to lead them to their next destination. The crew members all play an important role and you can actually control them all individually. For example, in an early mission I picked up a bunch of equipment as Riker who simply said what the items were, but I have no idea what a wave modulator does. When I examined the same items as Geordi he gave a full analysis of what the items would be used for which was much more useful. During conversations with NPC characters if you speak with them as Counsellor Troi she will give a full analysis of their emotional state after the conversation letting you know if they are lying or any other useful information, any other crew member will not get this information though.
Having played as many adventure games as I have one thing you always notice right away are the puzzles. Not that they are overly difficult or easy, but whether they follow the rules established by the continuity of the universe. As long as puzzles follow the rules of the world they exist in you should always be able to figure them out eventually, and A Final Unity handles this very well. There were no puzzles that I came across that had the solution come so out of left field that it was unreasonable to complete them without help. All of the puzzles here were well crafted and fit the world. They did tend towards the easier side, as there is very little item management throughout the game which is the usual culprit of completely asinine puzzle development. There are also multiple ways to solve the away missions making it difficult to ruin a puzzle to the point where it is unsolvable. For example, an early away mission tasked me with stopping a space station from exploding. If you are meticulous you can actually work with the engineers on the station and with the help of Geordi you can stabilize the system and save it, I however used Riker to jettison the power core and keep it from destroying the nearby planets civilization. While I completed the mission, Starfleet was disappointed that I was unable to save the station itself.
Lock Phasers and Fire!
The other main component to the game is a tactical space combat segment. While traveling through space from location to location, especially in the Neutral Zone, you will occasionally be attacked by Romulan warbirds. You are then taken to a tactical display with a 3D map of the area, a 3D view of your ships exterior in space, and full combat controls for phasers, torpedos, and shields. Combat can be difficult in the game, though this is more an artifact of time, as it is the controls that make it very difficult to maneuver around trying to attack enemy ships, Wing Commander this is not. However, you can lock your weapons onto the enemy making maneuverability less of an issue. Your main task would be preparing and firing weapons for maximum efficiency and maintaining shield and hull integrity. Fear not though, non-action lovers, for you can also simply give full engineering and tactical control to Geordi and Worf respectively. The AI does a decent job of handling most basic encounters and your job would simply be to monitor the action and make any drastic changes should things get out of hand. One particular battle came late in the game which pitted the Enterprise against 3 super-powered war vessels from an unknown culture. After trying, and failing, to defeat these ships multiple times I finally realized the actual appropriate way to win the scenario was to warp away as soon as the battle began. I feel this is an instance where the game eschews is “gamey” roots to stay true to the heart of Star Trek.
The rest of the game takes place aboard the Enterprise where you will travel from planet to planet in your continuing mission. Astronavigation is handled by entering star coordinates and setting a warp speed in the computer. You are free to travel wherever you please, though there are no side-missions or extra events that occur for traveling outside the games main areas. You will occasionally have to return to Starfleet to restock on torpedoes and get ship repairs, but nothing more will happen other than random encounters with Romulan vessels. When you arrive at planets which do have encounters though, you will usually have to parley in some diplomacy on the main screen first. In these sections you are given dialogue options that can sometimes cause a battle to break out, but also can prevent some from happening at all. In one instance I angered a Klingon ally for accusing him of mistreating Romulan prisoners and he cut communications with me entirely, when I reloaded the game and neglected to mention the prisoners but only spoke of the battle he hailed me as a great warrior and wished me luck.
To Boldly Go…
All of this adds up to a very entertaining and fun adventure in the TNG universe. The plot of the game is well written and feels like a fully fleshed out episode script. There are political issues that are touched upon, Jean-Luc is tested with the fate of humanity and comes out on top as he always does, and the remaining cast all stay true to their characters. The game is fully voiced all the way through by the original cast, and the voice work is stellar. I was blown away by how good the dubbing was, as most games of this era sound like the cast are uninterested and you can tell they are reading off paper in a booth, but here the audio sounds exactly as it does in the series. Marina Sirtis even does her Troi accent all the way through the game, which is more than can be said for her portrayal in the TNG films. The quality of audio and voice work on this game is simply amazing for a game that released in 1995.
Fans of the genre won’t be disappointed by this game. While it’s not as humorous as most luminaries in the point and click camp, it is certainly as entertaining and interesting as a classic like The Dig. The multiple gameplay types keep the game interesting throughout and give players a welcome distraction to the puzzle based away missions. Fans of Star Trek will be pleased with the quality of writing and acting here and, based on the games original poor sales, have likely missed this gem. With nothing currently available to sate that Trek itch, playing through A Final Unity is certainly much more recommended than watching ANY of the TNG films.
While this is an adventure game, whose main failing is that once it’s over there is little to keep players coming back for more, I really feel there is enough here to warrant multiple playthroughs. Along with the multiple outcomes for the away missions the game also features multiple endings, with a very interesting moral choice to make at the end which I will not spoil here. This is one game that could easily be fleshed out a bit more and updated for today’s audiences. If side missions could be added to the other non-story star systems and possibly some kind of trading system created this is a game, or at least game style, that could work very well on the handheld platforms of today. Based on the poor quality of recent Trek titles such as DAC I wonder why they don’t look back at an underrated game like this and update it for a modern audience.