Sunday, 3 May 2015

Timelines First Impressions

Star Trek Timelines is a tangible thing and it looks great.

At the recent US PAX East event, Disruptor Beam unveiled some demo footage of the game for the first time and if nothing else, it looks stunning.

And it should because that's the minimum that the creative team behind this new Star Trek experience are looking to achieve. If you've not heard of the game, it's going to be available for iOS and Android devices and allows players to man their chosen starship with a crew pulled from every iteration of the franchise from The Original Series through to Enterprise

The demo itself gives us the opportunity to see how a mission will unfold from the opening spiel through to the assembly of your three man away team and ultimately the mission rewards for successful completion.

The graphics showing the Enterprise-D are glorious and I look forward to experiencing them on my chosen mobile device.  What we didn't see is much spacial movement by the starship but then it's not a game that's focusing on that aspect of Star Trek. When it comes to the characters, Disruptor Beam have chosen a cartoon-like take which makes it look quite stylish, avoids bad translations of TV shots and provides pretty fair representations of your favourite officers and assorted civilian associates.

Choosing your crew is key to success - as you would expect - with each person having certain advantages and hidden abilities which mean they suit certain tasks better. Each mission has a path which can be accessed either through an ability and may only be accessed in some cases by unlocking particular characters. For example, selecting Sisko for a sciences task might be a real bad idea.

We get to see T'Pol, Archer, Data, Janeway, McCoy, Seven, Sisko, Sulu, Wesley, Worf and Locutus as selectable characters here. Interestingly Worf is in The Next Generation garb and Wesley in his season three/four ensign's uniform but that's not anything to quibble over. What I didn't get a clear indication of is how the scoring is worked out for each character and what the three dots and numbering is all about at the bottom of their icon (is this some sort of levelling up system?) while the bar does indicate their in game health.

Also, it seems that each character will have different skills as Sulu shows up being useful for Science, Command and Security and his notes (I'm thinking hidden attributes) also show piloting and resourcefulness which I'm sure will help boost scores later down the line. One other question to ponder is just how many characters we'll get to choose from and how we'll unlock those additional persons. Seeing as Locutus is here I'd hope we'll get a fair range outside of the standard main casts so there's got to be a chance Martok, Commander Sela, Seska and perhaps Khan might be in there for the pickings. Would that mean we might get a Saavik too but there's no indication of any movie characters from this minimal taster selection.

In the demo the game selects your away team member dependant on the challenge however this has now changed thanks to player feedback so that you, the user, can choose who steps up to the plate. Each character then takes on the challenge and has to beat the opposition score through a "roll" which is influenced due to their attributes. Winning each step will then unlock rewards, features and abilities.

The characters are also altered by where you assign them on board your ship. The demo shows both the Enterprise-D and the original NCC-1701 and within them there are numerous departments to which you can assign your crew  and again this helps boost their scores in game. Again the graphics look amazing considering this will be a game designed for our mobile world. Take a note here of the six positions you can fill on the bridge. Likewise other areas of the ship have multiple spaces to assign. For me this does point to there being a lot of selectable characters above the main crews - so you might get that chance to put Harry Mudd as your Chief Engineer after all.

Disruptor Beam have clearly taken a heck of a lot of time to think this through and have come up with an innovative way to bring all our favourites into play in a single event of which we, the fans, can take control. Personally I think Timelines looks lickably good and has some amazing details. Executive Producer Rich Gallup does admit during the video that this demo has been surpassed by quite a way already and while this looks great I can't imagine what massive improvements have been made to take the game to the next level but I think I need to spend more time in their forums getting to know the background to the game (and more importantly getting my free Tribble).

When I saw the initial graphics I was concerned it would be all gloss and no substance but the vision within the gaming system is impressive with players needing to think about how they will tackle each step to complete missions effectively. Notable point is that the creative team want there to be a good amount of replay opportunities. Looking at the mission that's shown here there are at least another five paths aside from the five that we see which can be opened up for more action. There are cut sequences between the missions which give you the chance to catch up on the story and provide a response to your adversary from a selection of three (here anyway). In these sequences we get to encounter Regent Worf. One suggestion would be that completing his story will open him as an unlockable character but it could be that there are some enemies that will not be options however I'd like to think that everyone is available for a price!

For now though this ten minute demo is all we have to confirm that Timelines is real and coming. We can conjecture for hours over what ships will be on the roster, which will be open from the off, which will be unlockable and which you might have to buy. The same goes for the crew so expect a high price for Seven of Nine, Picard and Spock!

So what do you think to Star Trek: Timelines? Will you be downloading or are you sticking with Star Trek Online? Let us know in the comments!

Check out the demo via this link or visit their website for more info.

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