Sunday, 11 April 2021

First Contact with the Following...

The announcements didn't disappoint on First Contact Day with Picard, Discovery, Lower Decks and Prodigy all getting their moment in the limelight. But first...

After an absence of what will be 7 years from cinema screens, Paramount have now pencilled in the arrival of the next Star Trek movie for 2023. Aside from the date of June 9th for its release, there's no other news. Odds are that the writer will be recently announced Kalinda Vasquez but could it be Star Trek 4 and a return of Chris Pine and the Kelvin Timeline - or something else that ties more definitely into the current franchise expansion. Certainly this is more of a possibility with all parts now sitting under one roof.  

Now, over to last week's events...

Starting with Picard, the teaser absolutely maxed out on teasing. The tracking shots through Picard's chateau picked out his combadge as well as the painting of the Enterprise-D from that ship's Ready Room, the Mintakan tapestry draped over his desk chair, a lingering pan over the golden USS Stargazer model and the glass-boxed Complete Works of Shakespeare. However, look a bit further and there were some more interesting details - the plough and ox statue from the fireplace of the same house in Family and even the golden Enterprise-D model from the Enterprise-E observation lounge.

But one more thing before THAT final reveal; what appears to be the Bajoran tablet from DS9's The Reckoning. It's about the first thing we see in the trailer and not something you would expect there - although it could be tying in Jean-Luc's love of archaeology. Might this also suggest the inclusion of something orientated around DS9? Would there be the possibility of a visit to the station? Could the rumours of Avery Brooks being tempted back as Sisko be a reality rather than a Reddit whisper?

But hey, there is one thing we DO know and that comes from the disintegrating Queen of Hearts playing card that is accompanied by the voice of John de Lancie (who also appeared in the announcement cast) - Q is back. This falls in line with that earlier news that Guinan will also return for Picard season 2 and therefore (if all goes as we would like) would be the first time the pair will be onscreen together since Q Who in 1989.

It's an all-in season for the show after a real mixed bag for its first year. The Q connection has one that fans have discussed long into the night and this might be the signs that the producers are listening to the fanbase and giving them some of what they are asking for. I'm positive for this coming season as it indicates a move in the right direction.

Over on Discovery there was more of a standard trailer introducing us to the big problem for the season which is coming in the form of a four light year wide gravimetric distortion that's heading in the wrong direction. Cue some scenes of utter devastation.

The headline for the series though has to be the choice to ditch off the grey uniforms the crew donned for the final moments of season 3 to be replaced by the familiar red, blue and gold system. The uniforms don't look quite as cool as those First Contact versions but at least it's a step up and they don't resemble cast offs from Babylon: Crusade

Saru is shown with a last shot handshake that makes it clear he's going to be back in uniform at some stage of the year. Book and Grudge will also be back as are the Vulcans.

My favourite reveals have to come from the Lower Decks trailer. Season two is due at the end of August and if it's as good as season 1 then I'm sold. The 30 second intro reveals that Boimler is still on the Titan commanded by a jazz-obsessed Riker while his friends on the Cerritos are comng face to face with multi-headed serpents, a giant Mugato and even suiting up for a round of Ambo-Jitsu. Blink and you'll miss the arrival of Lower Decks' take on the Cardassians (there are FOUR lights in that room) and a suped-up Miranda class.

Of all the reveals for First Contact Day, Lower Decks was the one I was anticipating the most and it didn't fail, mixing in the tone of the first year with some new and old takes on the franchise. I can't wait for this one.

Finally, Prodigy didn't need to do much to excite fans. So how about showing off the new CG version of Captain Janeway that will be appearing. News has it that this will be a hologram that the kids discover hence why she's dressed in the black one-piece when the series is set after Voyager has returned home. 

All four shows have made the right noises, the right nods to the past as well as the push to the future. The big test is can this all be pulled off over the upcoming seasons. Picard is biding its time and of the four it has the most to risk especially bringing back Q and Guinan. Discovery looks to be testing the waters with another Big Mystery to solve and may well play it safe this year to stabilise itself in the 32nd Century. The jump forward so far was huge and season 3 didn't deliver on its promise of a more optimistic year. Indeed, season 2 was a stronger story thanks in no small part to Captain Pike. Y'know, they should give him his own series. That would work...

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Monday, 5 April 2021

What a Legend

Over the years the mobile gaming platform has been a mixed blessing for Star Trek.

For every Timelines there’s been an Adversaries and for each Fleet Command there’s a Wrath of Gems. I'm not even going to start stepping towards Alien Domain and neither should you.

So you can understand that I was a little cautious with the new offering from Tipping Point. Entitled Star Trek: Legends, this one is a turn-based character game that actually bothers to weave some level of storytelling into the background. For those of you who recognise the name, your experiences with Timelines should be a good indicator for the future since this is the gaming company that recently purchased that property from Disruptor Beam.

The inclusion of the Nexus (from Generations) means that any character from any series can show up and become part of your crew but let’s get to that in turn. Legends offers one on one combat, resource collecting and  character enhancements as you progress however there’s a rather large catch... it’s currently only available on iOS and perhaps even more significantly, it’s part of the Apple Arcade.

What that dictates is that you’re going to need to pay £4.99 per month for the pleasure of playing it and a host of other games on this feature. Luckily there’s a month free in which you can dabble in Legends and anything else you fancy.

But back to the game in hand. It certainly feels fresh and enjoyable to play from the off. Ok, so you are inevitably handed some decent crew to begin with (I got Burnham, Worf and McCoy to start). There’s the standard level to train you up in the intricacies of the game before you’re let loose on the universe. Within the initial cache of characters are recognisable faces from every live action series from TOS right up to Soji from Picard.

Over time you can collect further crew from the initial roster of 61 and at time of writing I’ve managed to acquire the Very Rare Captain Janeway and Commander Riker and the Rare B’Elanna Torres. Crew come in all sorts of varieties from a Common Starfleet Commander right up to those named and prized individuals who formed the main cast of our favourite sci-fi show. More can be Summoned through playing and collecting in the game as well as ticking off numerous Goals and Achievements.

One thing that is immediately noticeable is a feature that Timelines proposed pre-launch but never delivered in that you would be able to equip Crew you recruited into any suitable positions as part of your Bridge staff. If you were ever waiting to put Locutus at the helm this might be precisely what you were waiting for.

All of your staff whether Common up to Very Rare can have equipment and perks allocated to them which boosts their abilities during missions. Each has a unique set of traits to level up or unlock. Riker for instance totes a phaser rifle and can perform a singular attack or a strafing shot that damages all enemies. Worf is all hand to hand, dicing with his bat'leth while also offering the ability to lessen the morale of your opponents.

With Legends, certain characters can fit to particular positions providing in game bonuses aboard your ship, the USS Artemis. There’s more to that as well as Tilting Point have included a bridge so you can see your mish-mash of characters all seated and working away. 

The missions unlock at level 1 and as you step up the ranks, more options open up. There are shuttle missions, the ability to equip your characters with better weapons and other tech plus arena scenarios. Dive further and unlock the PvP element and Operations and Legends offers a wide range to keep fans interested.

What will be telling is how this develops. There's a lot right from launch with all avenues playable and the question would be, what more can you add?

As Timelines has ably demonstrated, there's an almost infinite diversity of characters and character variations to entice fans to keep playing and collecting. What sets Legends apart from that is its choice to almost "Pixar" the crew. The graphics are a lot more cartoon-orientated and very distinct. Each battle move is unique as well so there's a good deal of animation during fights plus the benefit of some level of narrative to follow.

Perhaps my only other grumble after a couple of days playing is that the Crew selection is extremely sensitive and I've sent one or more off on the wrong mission given its temperamental nature. Also whenever selecting Bridge Officers or even equipping Tech, it takes a couple of goes before the screen recognises your input. On occasion I've had to completely exit the game and go back in just to move an Officer from one chair to another or add a Tricorder to their luggage.

Visually, Legends looks the business and its playability is fantastic. It does appear a little similar to the Star Wars turn-based game which arrived a few months ago and well, you sort of expected this would happen. Legends is worth a free month of play if nothing more and I'll be running out the next 29 days seeing just how much I can collect and level up. After that, I have to say it's very unlikely I'll be sending Apple my money but Tilting Point will still be seeing me over on Timelines...for the time being.

Star Trek: Legends is available now in the Apple Arcade on iOS. The first month is free with £4.99 subscription per month after that.

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