Monday, 14 March 2016

A Gem of a Game

Last year Genera brought us Star Trek: The Wrath of Gems and for a while I tootled along and played it a bit. 

Then both Trexels and lately Timelines took my Star Trek gaming attention elsewhere. Trexels fell by the wayside a little and then I pottered back in the last two weeks to Gems while still hammering the shuttle missions on Timelines to build up the crew stats. So why the heck am I bothering with something that is "just another columns game" after effectively giving up with it six months ago?

I'm not a sucker for punishment and totally go into playing Gems knowing that it's classic freemium material. The basic concept of the game is to align gems of different colours (red, orange, purple, blue, yellow and silver) to score points and use them in turn to damage your opponents and/or build up power for special abilities. Combining five or more activates some sort of super-bonus feature which is effectively game over for your opponent.

OK, it's really just another take on Tetris or that annoying candy game that seemingly everyone was playing about 18 months ago and in some respects its not too dissimilar to those pinball machines where they had the generic internals and slapped a franchise overlay on it.

There are two basic parts to the game. First there's a storyline which allows you to battle enemy characters or ships to gain points and level up characters to make conflicts easier. This takes place over a series of instalments gradually increasing in difficulty.

The second is a Versus mode in which you take on other players to win health packs, ship repair packs, character cards, ship cards, coins or dilithium which can be used to improve your chances both here and in the story mode. Within the Versus section you choose to enter a competition which might be under the header of a character (ie La Forge) or a ship (ie Negh'Var) with various rewards enroute to the Big Named Prize. These pretty much change each week or so and require some dedicated visits to climb the rankings, obliterate your peers and collect the rewards.

Now I stepped away last year while playing on my Android phone and recently switched over to iPhone. As part of the switch I chose to reinstall the game and see if anything had changed. Y'see I'd become rather bored with the whole thing. The characters were a bit dull and there didn't seem to be much draw as it became increasingly hard to level up my Worf and Data characters.

Gems focuses mainly on the characters and ships from The Next Generation and The Original Series be it the crews or alien races including the Klingons, Romulans, Anticans and a host of other Randoms introduced for the game. The same went for the ships as Birds-of-Prey, D7s and the Enterprise (original and D) warped in, each with its own quirks and special abilities to exploit. Thing is you tend to lean on particular characters and level them up and then rely on their gem characteristics forever more. For instance, Inagh, my choice Klingon uses the purple gems to kick out a phenomenal attack, my Spock uses (at present) the silver, yellow and orange crystals for a variety of actions.

However things have changed with the game now including character versions from The Next Generation movies and The Motion Picture plus ships from other spots in the franchise such as the Negh'Var from Deep Space Nine and very recently the Enterprise-A and the Romulan Scout. I would have liked the classic movie characters to have been decked out in their monster maroon outfits (any reason why?) but it has opened up more playability with the game. These new characters are stronger, have more powerful attacks and are rarer to win. I just feel sorry for Riker who appears to have put on about 10 stone when you compare his The Next Generation avatar to the one from the movies.

To be fair this could be any generic gem collecting game but giving it the Star Trek spin with ships and characters to collect and level up does work. I'm in no way saying that this is the most unique, amazing Star Trek experience ever - get Online or Timelines if you're searching for that kind of gaming - but it's certainly a great way to pass some time. The graphics and semi-cartoon style really work and I'd choose playing this just for the strategy element in preference to the Facebook Alien Domain any day. I actually think one of the reasons I didn't "get" this game is because some of the features are hidden away and I had to find them to understand why some of my versus battles were ending in utter disaster.

Y'see, it turns out that your crew (the ones who fight those clever little team battles) actually make a difference to the abilities of your ship when you assign them. It's taken me a fair few months to work that piece out and it's made a massive difference to playing the events. I actually stand a bit more of a chance now.

Gems has certainly kept me entertained as my Constitution Class USS Enterprise takes a pummelling from other Enterprise's, Birds of Prey and the occasional D7. The Star Trek thing may just be a nice overlay but seeing the ships in action is oddly satisfying but not perhaps on the level you might be expecting in Timelines. What is nice is that between all the various games that are available just on the mobile platform, there is a very impressive degree of differences - puzzles, action, adventure, story, starship battles - and all with their merits whether as long term time or money "investments" for fans.

Definitely one for enjoyment rather than faithful immersion. The touches are there but it can feel like a cash in at times. For me the choice to return to Gems might be the Star Trek overlay but it's also something that's kept the grey cells ticking over and definitely entertained. Look past that glossy and its a game that will keep you entertained or at the least fill a spare five minutes.

Have you indulged in the Gems? Casual timeout or something more?

You can find out more about the game, competitions and lots of other bits by visiting the official site HERE from which you can also download it!

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