Sunday, 10 May 2015

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Fallen (PC)

Deep Space Nine The Fallen title screen
Developer:The Collective|Release Date:2000|Systems:Windows, Mac

Today on Super Adventures... it's another licensed sci-fi game! Apparently they come in pairs this year. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Fallen comes from the Star Trek gamesplosion of 2000, when a ridiculous amount of Trek games all appeared at once, and some were even good! The 'Deep Space Nine' spin-off itself had actually ended back in '99, but they boldly went forward and gave the fans a couple more games anyway.

You might think your game backlog is bad, but this has been sitting on my shelf unplayed for like 15 years now. Mostly because I could never get the damn thing to run properly. It always came out running too fast, or way too dark, or with unfiltered textures and giant space pixels in place of stars.

This time though I'm using the dgVoodoo 2 Glide wrapper to trick the game into thinking I have a 3dfx card, and it's actually working pretty great... except for the low resolution and 16-bit colour depth. So be aware that the game can theoretically look better than it does in the upcoming screenshots.

Warning: this will likely contain spoilers for the 'Deep Space Nine' TV series. Like the fact that it has one episode entirely about one of the main cast having a sex change to stand in for his mother, and it's still a better series than 'Voyager'.

(Click an image to see the original screenshot, if you're in the mood for disappointment. They ain't HD by a long shot.)



The game begins with this cutscene showing a group of alien scientists doing dark science in the dark. I actually wanted to set some options first (like switching the graphics to 'high'), but the game is just so eager to get into the story that it dragged me here immediately after it started up.

These are actually Cardassians, the former owners of Deep Space Nine, and this is a flashback to something that happened on the space station years ago just before our heroes moved in. They're currently trying to tap into power of a mysterious red orb. At least that's what I think they're up to, it's hard to tell with all the technobabble they're throwing out.

See Star Trek, it's nonsense dialogue like this that drove away half your audience by the end of the 90s. Ain't no one wants to hear about your verterons. Plus you spelled your character's name wrong twice in the first two lines of dialogue. IMDb says she's called 'Terrell'.

The scientists soon go full Half-Life with the sample and trigger a resonance verteron cascade, with the slowest of them getting vaporised by red lightning bolts before making it to the door.

Deep Space Nine The Fallen main menu character select screen
Cut to the present day, where I'm finally able to change my options! I like the way they've imitated the iconic LCARS computer interface from the series, even down to numbering every individual piece of the window. Sci-fi loves putting numbers on everything.

The menu reminds me a lot of Star Trek: Voyager - Elite Force from the same year, not surprisingly. But while that had me playing as Ensign Not-appearing-in-the-series, this lets me play as Captain Benjamin Sisko himself for the first time since Crossroads of Time on the 16-bit consoles five years earlier.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - Crossroads of Time (Genesis/Mega Drive)
'Deep Space Nine' always had a reputation as being more of a cult series than 'Star Trek: Voyager', but the series ended up with four video games, compared to Voyager's two. And Enterprise's zero. Activision bailed on the license after Elite Force 2 in 2003 due to a series of lawsuits with Viacom, and thus ended the video game Treksplosion.

Anyway, last time I played as Sisko he had a red stripe on his shoulders, and hair.

The Fallen on the other hand features grey uniform Sisko, with his shaved head and goatee, so that places this somewhere in the last third of the series, when the heroes were fighting a war against an alien anti-Federation called the Dominion.

Plus this time around he's not alone as I can also choose to play as Major Kira Nerys, tough ex-terrorist, or Lieutenant Commander Worf, grumpy ex-punching bag. Each has their own set of levels, showing a different perspective on the same story; at least that's what I've been told. 


EPISODE 1: MARAUDERS.


Captain Sisko's story begins with his ship, the USS Defiant, receiving a distress call from a science vessel.

Yes he commands a space station and a starship now. He got sick of everyone taking the piss out of his series for 'boldly going nowhere', so he acquired an advanced prototype warship at the start of the third season. The Defiant has a cloaking device, and super quantum torpedoes, and extra-tough ablative armour, and Star Wars-style blaster cannons, and... it's basically Worf with a warp drive, designed to automatically win all fights except for when they want to make the villain of the week look tough.

And then the series went and added Worf himself in the fourth season, because people were still calling it 'the boring one'. By the time the sixth season rolled around they'd gotten desperate enough to hire The Rock and introduce a wrestling plotline to bring in new viewers, and... oh wait that was Voyager.

But we're not bringing Worf with us on this dangerous rescue mission inside a crumbling starship, because it's something the Captain has to do on his own. Also either the bridge is getting bigger, or I think our Klingon might be shrinking over there.

Worf and Dax (sitting in front) are both voiced by their series actors, but Sisko and Chief O'Brien (sitting just off screen) aren't, and it's really easy to tell. In fact I'm not entirely sure that O'Brien's stand-in is even Irish... Though I suppose if you absolutely have to replace Avery Brooks, Kevin Michael Richardson's a damn good choice, even if his 'actually giving a shit' acting style contrasts with the rest of the cast.

It's too risky to use the transporter to beam to the science vessel, so Sisko orders Worf to keep his chair warm while he goes and flies a shuttle over there instead. Alone.

So here I am, commander of the Federation's most strategically important outpost, pulling off a daring solo rescue mission for no other reason than because I can.

This seems to be a third person adventure shooter type of game, with Sisko steered with mouse and moved with the keys. He can crouch and jump, and still knows how to pull himself up onto ledges like he's the Prince of Persia, but no matter what I do I can't get him to do a somersault. He won't even do a commando roll, he's rubbish.

Okay I've got 7 crewmen to rescue (in this section) and my tricorder display on the top right is telling me that one's lying up there on that walkway, so I need to find a lift. Or the 'gravity on/off' button.

The lift in the landing bay made it halfway up before shorting out and dropping back down, so I went exploring the bay next door instead and found this little floaty drone waiting to ambush me.

I stepped around his purple energy blast, whipped out my handy hand phaser, and hit him with stream of orange flavoured death. Then I kept on hitting him, because the thing didn't have the decency to respect the ridiculous amount of power I was sending its way and die in a timely manner. I had to unload half the power pack at it before it finally dropped.

(It's from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)
C'mon game, a single blast from one of those phasers should be able to ruin anyone's day!

The gun does slowly recharge afterwards (unlike my health), and the target is stunned throughout the disintegration process so I don't have to keep dodging incoming fire the whole time, but I'm not going to do well fighting groups with this thing. I bet Sisko's regretting not bringing a security officer with him right about now.

I got to the upper level and tagged the survivor with a transporter enhancer, but I found another kind of alien waiting up there for me as well. This thing wants to be a Borg so badly, with its red laser pointer eye and its phaser-blocking forcefield, but it's apparently a different alien introduced in one of the novels. The tricorder hasn't read the book so it's got no idea what looking at, but it does know the frequency of its shield cycles, and my phaser just so happens to have a frequency setting on it...

I've got 'auto-modulation' turned on in the options, so when I whipped out the phaser Sisko automatically set it to 15.2 FM, and I was able to shoot it right through the alien's shields like a biplane shooting through its own propeller. So next time I see an alien with a shield I have to remember to pull out the tricorder first, and try to finish scanning it before the creature gets close enough to beat Sisko into a pulp.

Oh hang on, I've just realised that computer display on the left wall is a map! The game doesn't come with an auto-map, but at least I know the layout of this deck now. Seems that there's two identical sets of identical hangars on either side of the ship, so I'm likely going to get confused and end up walking around in circles for a while.

I took a left at the corridor running down the middle and found a console, but the thing needs an engineering card before I can use it. I bet Sisko's regretting not bringing an engineer with him right about now.

I'm going to have to remember where I found this console aren't I, seeing as it's not going to be marked on any of the wall maps.

A few dead aliens later and I found this guy with a suspicious looking yellow card on him. I'll stick a pattern enhancer on him from out of my inventory and hope that he's feeling generous.

There's no NPC conversations in this it seems, but it's not an adrenaline rush action shooter either. The music actually sounds like it belongs in a horror movie rather than Star Trek, which is a good thing in my opinion because 'Deep Space Nine's soundtrack wasn't its strong point. I'm sure it wasn't due a lack of talent; the Trek composers just weren't allowed to write anything that might draw attention to itself.

Also I'm not about to complain about this having an original soundtrack just a few days after complaining that Star Wars: Jedi Outcast sounded too much like the movies! (Though they could've at least kept the theme tune.)


LATER.


Rescue all survivors? But I found them all already! Didn't I?

Sisko can use his tricorder to scan for people, but it hasn't got a massive range to it so I'm going to be backtracking through the entire deck again. You know, I bet those asshole enemies have respawned behind me as well, so I'll be fighting them again too. I can't tell if they reappear over time, or are just added in to surprise me after I've completed a task or hit an invisible trigger, but either way I can never be sure that I'm safe on this ship. Well at least there's no time limit.

I wonder what the others are up to while I'm searching every dark corner on this deck for a second time.

It turns out that Major Kira begins the game off in her own episode entirely, where she's forced to defend a monastery from a team of killers sent to murder everyone inside. The thing is, Kira's a very religious woman and the cultists living here are worshipping the deities from the opposing team, but they're also led by an old friend so she's torn on whether to help them.

Worf on the other hand starts his storyline back on the Defiant, single-handedly fighting off an invading force of aliens to save the ship and its useless lazy crew while Sisko's busy with his one-man rescue mission on the science vessel. Seriously, I found like two or three of crewmen lying dead or dying on my travels, with the rest of the crew presumably locked in their bunk rooms playing poker.


LATER, BACK ON THE WRECKED SCIENCE VESSEL.


Okay, that's another crew-member rescued! Just 6 more left, at least for this deck. Who knows how many more floors this ship has, how many more doors are locked by authorisation cards I haven't found yet. I'm getting kind of bored of this now to be honest. One floor of crew-member hunting was more than enough.

But hey, at least I can take a break to look outside and watch the alien ship shooting up the Defiant. It's always nice when a developer takes the time to put something out the window to look at, especially when they remember to include the hull of the ship I'm supposed to be in.


EVEN LATER.


Okay, that's just bullshit. I finally tagged and transported all the crew from their wrecked ship to my own one, and when I tried to evacuate myself I got blasted by a whole wave of enemies on my way out of the lift! I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do about that. I guess quicksaving before I got in was a good start, but what do I do when I load and try this again?

Wait, I've got a plan... I'll run for it! I'll sprint as fast as I can straight for the exit, injecting every medical hypospray I've collected along the way! Not that I found many of them, and I can carry even less.

My daring scheme worked, and I bravely ran away to the exit lift, and freedom!

But more weirdness awaited the crew back home, as an unfortunate maintenance worker has just uncovered a Cardassian corpse embedded in the station's hull! You'd think someone would've noticed over the last 5-6 years that there was a dead guy blocking all of those pipes, but I guess not.

Cut to Sisko's office on Deep Space Nine, where the Captain is receiving a report from Major Kira about Obanak and the Kahl-Taan raid on his monastery. She doesn't actually explain what she's talking about though, so I guess Sisko and her must have already discussed this off screen maybe? It's like the game expected me to play through Kira's chapter first, then quit and start a Sisko game, because if I hadn't played as Kira for 5 minutes earlier I'd have zero context for anything she just said.

I'm too distracted by the reflection on his desk to care much though. I wasn't all that impressed by the visuals back in the dingy science ship, but I'm comparing this to JC Denton's dull concrete office in Deus Ex, and I know which I'd rather have. Though on the other hand JC does have the option to add a few plants and trophies, plus maybe throw in a stolen basketball to dress the place up.

I was going to record a loop of Sisko crouching by the door and punching to make a next-gen HD remake of that Crossroad of Time GIF I showed earlier, but the punch button has been deactivated on the station, along with the jump button. I can't even pick up his prized baseball and throw it at people, it's disgraceful. Deus Ex wins this round.

The operations centre seems pretty authentic to the series from what I remember. It's been scaled up slightly perhaps, but third person shooters always do that to give the character (and camera) room to move. They haven't pulled a Star Trek: Online with it and made it so the characters look like children trying to reach the consoles.

Star Trek: Voyager - Elite Force (PC)
I mean look at Elite Force's bridge by comparison, the thing looks ridiculous! There's so much space between workstations that the characters would have to shout to hear each other.

Oh wait, hang on, I think that is what Voyager's bridge actually looks like. Never mind.

Wow, they're giving me all the main sets to walk around in here.

I've got a whole arc of the station promenade to explore, with the infirmary, security office, school, shrine, tailor's shop and café present for me step inside and go 'hmm'. This is where the non-Starfleet characters hang out, so I was able to run across a few cast members with a line or two to say, but otherwise there's not really anything to do down here except look out of the windows.

It's reminding me a lot of Crossroads of Time in fact, which did almost the exact same thing between missions. Except this time it's in 3D and I get to go straight to the next level by heading for the nearest airlock, without any messing around.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - Crossroads of Time (Genesis/Mega Drive)
It even has the same spiral staircases for Sisko to automatically walk up and down, though this time he doesn't disembark with a jaunty hop. I still appreciate them taking the time to make a unique animation for something so pointless though.

'Deep Space Nine' started airing during the SNES era and ended after the Japanese launch of the Dreamcast, and you can see from these screenshots the jump in technology that took place during its run. It still wasn't quite up to rendering a mall full of NPCs though.

Well that explains why they couldn't have extras roaming the shops: they used up their polygon budget on a tank full of alien fish and a tiny spacesuit guy.

What no one on board knows is that this is actually a miniaturised quantum duplicate Chief O'Brien from an unrealised future. He appeared out of nowhere a few years back due to an accident involving subspace compression and chroniton particles, then asphyxiated when his suit ran out of oxygen. Maybe.

And here's Quark's bar, packed full of extras as usual. I feel like I should be running around chatting to people and getting sidequests, but this is all here purely for the benefit of fans who wanted to see what the DS9 sets look like when they've been meticulously reconstructed in the Unreal Engine

Here's what the Defiant sets look like in glorious 16-bit colour, in case you were curious. The ship's pretty tiny so when the level comes up in the plot the game makes you explore almost all of it; three times over in fact if you play through as all three characters.

(Click the images to see them at 800x600).


EPISODE 2: DESECRATION.


It seems that the distress call plot was just an excuse to give Sisko and Worf something to do while Kira set up the real plot, as now we're working with her cult leader friend Obanak to investigate an ancient temple on nearby moon, while fighting off more Kahl-Taan fanatics.

So here I am engaging in some more vaguely survival horror-style third person gameplay, searching a dark old base for items to open up doors to get more items. Health kits and phaser rifle ammo clips are rare, so I'm making do with my rubbish hand phaser again, trying to keep both these enemies stunned at once by sweeping the beam back and forth, even though it seems I don't have the charge left to kill either of them.

Fine, I'll switch to my phaser rifle! Actually better yet, I'll just quickload because I've lost too much health again. I'm really struggling with the combat in this for whatever reason. It doesn't help that the crosshair is kind of projected onto the wall, so it jumps around when I turn and I never know where it'll end up.


LATER.


Well the good news is that I've found the ancient temple! The bad news is that it's full of glyph combination puzzle obelisks and missing stone tablet keys. Oh, plus more fanatics. Enemies really do love to beam in or sneak out of dark corners whenever I get anything done in this game.

Despite the fact that I'm supposed to be working with a team this time, I've been alone for the entire mission. But Obanak and certain crew members are merely a comm badge call away any time I want more info about part of the level. At first I thought that'd mean I'd get to indulge in some long ridiculous Metal Gear Solid-style codec chats, but sadly they haven't much to say.

Now I'm wondering if Kira and Worf are working their way through a different side of the temple, or if they've just got the exact same level recycled, with some of the items moved to different places. You know, this is really crying out for a co-op mode, or at least some Elite Force-style AI sidekicks following me around, making comments.


MUCH LATER.


Well the temple level was a bit of a disappointment, seeing as I learned practically nothing about anything, and the big reveal at the end was a mural showing... three of those orbs from the intro sequence. I could've really used a reaction from the characters to clue me in on the significance of what they found, but they just scanned it, beamed away and went home.

Anyway some plot happened and now I'm racing through Deep Space Nine itself trying to catch up to some folks who took the orb from that room shown in the intro. They've put forcefields in my path though, which gives me a good opportunity to show off another use of my tricorder. If I can find the generator I can scan it to learn the modulation of the forcefield and shoot right through it, like I did with those aliens earlier. I'm supposed to use that knowledge to shoot out the generator, but I feel like killing this guy first just to confuse him.

Then I can switch the tricorder mode back to 3D scan and use it to sniff out some health and ammo pick ups. I'm going to miss this thing when I move on to the next game.


EPISODE 4: THE ODYSSEY - PART 1.


Turns out that Starfleet actually had their hands on another orb a few years back, but it went down with the ship it was on during a sneak attack. So now I have to go inside the wreck of the USS Ulysses and find the thing.

You're lucky you're getting this spaceship screenshot though, because what I wanted to show was the bloody flying bat things that have been harassing me all level. But it turns out that they're as hard to catch with the camera as they are with my phaser, so once again they vex me. Well at least wading through the swamp of misery and bats has made rest of the combat seem more fun by comparison.

Now I'm almost enjoying fighting these Jem'Hadar troops, even if they do have personal cloaking devices that let them turn invisible at any time.

Don't worry if you've never heard of the Jem'Hadar by the way, because the writers certainly weren't worrying about it. The game is basically like jumping into the sixth season of a TV series and then watching every third episode. Without the 'previously on' clips.

Fortunately I have seen the series, though the downside of that right now there's a voice in my head whispering to me, telling me that the proportions of this ship aren't quite accurate. Not that I know offhand what the thing should look like, I just *know* it's half the size it should be. Man, here I am fighting genetically engineered super soldiers on the hull of a starship and I'm nit-picking.

The inside of this ship seems absolutely massive though. Now my poor brain is struggling to visualise how this giant shuttlebay can possibly fit inside that outer hull I was on earlier, when I should be concentrating on finding my way out of it. On the plus side, the bat things are back!

Well I collected some more cards to open doors and now I get another excuse to show that screenshot again; you know, the one where I'm standing in a dark room shooting my orange energy beam at an enemy you can't really see. This is with my flashlight on as well!


EPISODE 4: THE ODYSSEY - PART 2.


Okay, I think I've finally lost them; they'll never think of looking in the lift shaft for me. Hang on, there's no door button on this side. Shit, that means I'm going to be stuck balancing on one foot until their next shift change.

Some events have transpired since I tried to find the orb on the crashed Ulysses, and now I'm in the middle of a daring prison break. It's not daring stealth level though, which is an important fact that should be noted. I can't guaranteed that Worf and Kira aren't stuck sneaking around silently somewhere else in the prison, but I'm running around blasting Jem'Hadar point blank with a taser gun. When I'm not accidentally locking myself in a lift shaft that is.

Check out that dialogue box by the way. That's from a camera pointed at the actual in-game character, so if I were to use my tricorder to scan him on the other side of this door, the scanned image would be moving his head and talking in the exact same way. I think that's a cool touch.


EPISODE 7: HASSTERRAL.


Anyway all good things must come to an end, and The Fallen ends with a bullet sponge boss that flies around the room shooting energy balls from his hands.

What's weird is that this is the only level in the game where enemies drop weapons and ammo, so I've just been able to pick up two new guns I've never seen before. I usually have to hunt bullets down, but now it's saying 'hey the last boss is coming up, go crazy'.

So I did and then I won. I guess I must have triggered the verteron cascade thing to happen again as everything bad got sucked into a miniature red wormhole, and our heroes never spoke about any of this ever again.


CONCLUSION

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Fallen... hasn't aged all that well. I think that's what's wrong with it more than anything.

It's very much an action game, but the music thinks that it's a survival horror and the atmosphere it helps create is one of the game's strong points. I found myself genuinely concerned that more enemies could be waiting to ambush me around every dark corner... though that was mostly because it'd mean having to shoot things again.

Killing things with the hand phaser got old fast because of how long it takes to kill anything, and then recharge afterwards, but the game's stingy with the rifle ammo so found myself continually going back to it. After the first few levels I was winning fights with quickloads instead of skill because I was getting tired of enemies getting the jump on me in those narrow corridors when I was just trying to find the next bloody key.

The adventure side of the gameplay is often vague on what it wants you to actually do, so I spent a lot of time walking around with my tricorder out in the dark looking for keycards and pressing buttons on every glowing computer panel until I found the one that worked. I've never been so happy to finally reach a swamp level, just because it meant there was nothing to open or activate.

I wish I could say that the story made it all worthwhile, but it's presented so weirdly that I found it hard to figure out what was even happening, never mind get involved in it. I have to wonder if the character select feature was added late in production, because right now the game really does feel like it's skipping whole chapters. It reminds me of one of those episodes where a character wakes up in a parallel universe, and has to pretend that they've been in all the meetings and knows what's going on. You can read up on what you've missed in the journal, but that's not exactly ideal. It's like the game was designed to be played by three people on three different computers simultaneously.

But it does let you walk through the TV series sets and that's always cool for a bit, so there's that. It's certainly not the worst of the Star Trek games. But would I play through it again as the other two characters to see the full story? Nah.


Thank you for subjecting yourself to my scrawled ramblings. If you want to leave any messages of your own underneath you should totally do that, because opinions and feedback are always welcome here.

Oh, and sorry I was so mean to Star Trek: Voyager.

8 comments:

  1. It does seem like this game was almost good, with things like Quark's bar that could have been full of NPCs with subquests, and action missions that could have been enlivened with some NPC squad members. It's worse in a way when a game almost gets it right.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The phaser has a secondary fire does more damage but consume energy more quickly in this game.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You might be thinking of Elite Force, as the secondary fire in this changes the modulation.

      Delete
  3. Let me guess, you're getting ready to beat up Bruce Lee, Wario, a breakdancer, and a pimp.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Don't forget the human version of donkey kong!

      Delete
    2. god, I wish I could.

      Delete
    3. You nailed it... though what you said could apply to basically any arcade game from the 90s.

      Delete

Semi-Random Game Box