Star Trek: Resurgence is exactly what a Star Trek game should be
LOS ANGELES – Star Trek: Resurgence couldn’t have come at a better time. We haven’t had a traditional single-player Star Trek game in nine years, and the new Star Trek shows have been a mixed bag. But Star Trek: Resurgence hearkens back to a time when the franchise was smart, thoughtful and perhaps a little formulaic — comfort food for the weary sci-fi fan. Simply put, it’s the first game in many years that really feels like Star Trek.
I went hands-on with Star Trek: Resurgence at Summer Game Fest. I played through three separate scenes from the game, first taking control of enlisted engineer Carter Diaz, then switching over to first officer Jara Rydek, and back again. The gameplay is as simple as it gets: walking, talking and occasionally pressing buttons. The demo was also quite rough, suffering from multiple bugs and visual glitches, one of which turned the screen entirely black while two characters were talking.
Still, it’s probably my favorite game of SGF so far, simply because it nails what fans love about this venerable old franchise.
A Star Trek adventure
If you ever played a Telltale adventure game, you’ll know exactly what to expect. That’s fitting, since many employees at Resurgence’s developer, Dramatic Labs, are Telltale vets.
If you haven’t played a Telltale game, then the gameplay in Star Trek: Resurgence is still extremely easy to explain. It’s an adventure game that focuses on conversation and narrative choice. You’ll occasionally walk around or solve simple puzzles, but the crux of gameplay is listening to what other characters say and responding in a limited time frame.
What you say will change how other characters react to you over time, and certain choices can change how the story plays out. You can’t simply save and get a do-over; you’re stuck with what you choose. In practice, this means that Star Trek: Resurgence feels an awful lot like an episode of the TV show, just one where you’re in control.
At the beginning of the demo, I took control of Carter Diaz, an enlisted engineer on the U.S.S. Resolute, under the watchful eye of the Vulcan Lt. Cmdr. Chovak. When Chovak castigated Diaz for being almost late to his post, I could choose to defuse the situation, apologize or stand my ground. I elected to remind the logical officer that “almost late” was “technically on time,” which he begrudgingly acknowledged.
A little while later, I switched over to Jana Rydek, the Resolute’s new first officer. Rydek found herself in the middle of a typical Star Trek dilemma: two intelligent races inhabiting the same planet, each one of which felt it had exclusive rights to a valuable resource. Both her captain and Ambassador Spock came along to help, but representatives from both races were keenly interested in what Rydek had to say.
During the course of negotiations, I first attempted to defer to the captain and Spock, but later had to come down definitively on one side or the other — and the race that I didn’t choose was distinctly unhappy. I imagine this will have story repercussions later on in the full game.
When the story came back to Carter, there was a little more traditional gameplay, as I had to navigate a shuttlecraft through an asteroid field. But even then, the crux of the scene was more about Diaz’s relationship with the officer leading the mission, as well as how they both viewed Rydek. The scene ended with a revelation about a dangerous new weapon that could threaten both the Resolute and its delicate negotiations.
Two members of Starfleet, each with personal drama, two sentient races with incompatible ideals, a piece of incomprehensible technology that could threaten the galaxy’s tenuous peace — this all sounds like an episode of Star Trek to me. And it felt like one, too.
Form and function
When I finished the Resurgence demo, I felt somewhat surprised that no one had attempted to make a Star Trek adventure game in more than 20 years. The genre seemed like such a natural fit for the material. I spoke with the game’s lead writer, Dan Martin, who explained his reasoning.
“We talked about Star Trek as a model for crafting meaty, balanced choices where you could go either way and justify it,” he said. “Going back to The Original Series, Kirk was at the center of the decision-making triangle with Spock and McCoy.”
Martin reasoned that having two (or more) equally compelling choices was what made the best episodes of TOS work, to say nothing of The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager. For a team including many ex-Telltale developers, that seemed like a natural fit.
I also asked why Martin and his team chose to set the game shortly after Star Trek: Nemesis, rather than in the TOS era, or far in the future, where many of the current shows are taking place.
“Fans love this era,” he said. “I think we bring our own passion to it. The Next Generation, and DS9, and Voyager, and the movies, those are where I became a fan, and many others on the project. There was a little bit of extra gravity to the time period.
“We decided to do the whole TNG/DS9/Voyager/ TNG movie era so that we’d have some open space to tell our own story, without trying to fit in with something else that was going on in a TV show or the movies.”
Finally, I was curious to know what Star Trek: Resurgence hoped to bring to the table that the franchise has never done before. After all, we’ve had decades of Star Trek video games, and they’ve covered everything from exploration, to space combat, to diplomacy. But Martin and his team hope to put “narrative choice” at the center of the experience.
“Star Trek has all the trappings of space and phasers and aliens, but at its heart, it’s about characters,” he said. “It’s about tough decisions, moral questions. I don’t think that any [other medium] lets you engage with character relationships and making those types of decisions as a game, where you have to do it yourself.”
Star Trek: Resurgence will come out for the PC, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and PC. There’s no release date or price yet, but Tom’s Guide will have more info on the game as it gets closer to launch.