The next license holder goes for broke
Spectrum Holobyte isn't a well known name in the gaming world, however there
re-vamped name of Microprose is, they were both the same company.
At the time of Interplay releasing Starfleet Academy the Next Generation
license was being held over to Spectrum Holobyte, their first foray into the
Trek world was A Final Unity.
Spectrum spent a FORTUNE on this game, with voice casting of almost the
entire cast of the TNG series and a game engine reminiscent of an early Klingon
Academy the game was a first in many respects...
For its time, the production values of AFU are top notch. The film clips are
impressive, and a "Holodeck" feature in the game allows you to watch cut scenes
again and again to your heart's content. The graphics are well drawn, and all
the main characters in ST:TNG are rendered in almost perfect fidelity with their
real life counterparts. The voice acting stands out as one of the best voice
tracks ever added to computer games. Ironically, the only real problem is that
there is sometimes so much details in the background shots that, on occasions,
it is difficult to pick out the hotspots.
The game is somewhat hardware intensive, although most of the installation
bugs that once heavily plagued the game now appear moot with the hardware
currently available. Back in 1995, the game really did not run well without a
high end 486 and 16 MB of RAM.
Due to incompatibility with some older CD-ROM drives which can only read 63
minute capacity CD rather than the standard 74 minute one, a 63 minute capacity
two CD set version of the game has also been released in addition to the
standard 74 minute capacity single CD release.
The game plays as a standard, icon based, point and click driven fare.
However, one feature that stands out is the variable levels of difficulty. There
are three to choose from: Ensign, Lieutenant, and Captain. The higher in level
you choose, the more carefully you must weigh your decisions, and the less
coddling and aid you get from your crew. Be sure to weigh your choices
carefully! There are multiple paths within the game; I once found out that I
could have avoided a more difficult path to discover a set of coordinates only
if I had picked my words more carefully with the ancient Chodak. In the highest
level of difficulty, you need to assemble your own Away Team, instead of having
once automatically picked for you.
The puzzles in AFU are pretty straightforward and logical. As long as you
select the best crew for a particular mission (which, at lower skill levels, the
game automatically does this for you) and constantly make use of your Starfleet
issued tricorder, you should not have too many problems. Spectrum Holobyte gets
extra kudos for paying attention to the fact that every team member in ST:TNG
has his or her own unique skills to contribute. You may even find yourself going
back to get a new crew member who can give you a second opinion. Don't think
that Data is analyzing the situation right? Maybe Geordi can use his visor to
shed a little light on the situation.
The challenges and tasks all fit well within the Star Trek universe, with one
great exception: while exploring a planet in search of some Chodak secrets, the
inordinate number of logic puzzles you have to play through seems a bit
unrealistic and trying.
There are a few other game elements which can be substantially improved.
First, I feel that Spectrum Holobyte has focused excessively on the Away Team
paradigm, and has almost forgotten that we are on a Starship that is the size of
a small New England town. While there are some key scenes that played out on the
ship, there are no real adventures that take place primarily aboard the
Enterprise. You are not allowed to go freely exploring the ship or interact with
the crew. The ship merely serves as a wagon you ride to move around, get into
battles, and further the plot.
Speaking of getting into battles, this has to be my least favourite part of
the game. In AFU, you need to spend your time giving orders on attack manoeuvres
while keeping your eye on complex engineering and tactical systems. Fortunately,
you can delegate these tasks to Geordi and Worf respectively, both of who are
actually quite good in doing their jobs. In truth, I wouldn't even be writing
this review if help has not been available to me to get through the few
completely insane battles! On the other hand, if you find that you really just
can't get enough of smashing big spaceships into little debris, the game gives
you the option of sending the Enterprise into the Neutral Zone for a little
Romulan smashing fun!
Arcade impediments in an adventure game are ultimately frustrating. The
gaming industry only sometimes gets it through its thick skull that there should
be an option to skip them!
Type make it so at the tactical screen. A list of options including "Destroy"
and "Cloak" will appear. The following keys may also be pressed to activate the
corresponding cheat function.
999 photon torpedoes T
Repair all damage F
Full impulse I
Jump to warp speed W
In the Tactical mode, type in MAKE IT SO. This will give you several options to
choose from, such as Fix, Cloak, Warp, Speed, and Destroy.
For more details....
As Microprose went bust there is no homepage left on the net for A Final
Write up by Katherine Venra
29/10/2002 / Updated 11/12/2003