Wednesday, 12 October 2022

Lower Decks: The Badgey Directive

Eastside Games have now offered up the Lower Decks mobile game and I've been hacking away at it for a couple of weeks.

Star Trek mobile games are nothing new but in the big landscape of the franchise many have fallen by the wayside leaving just two that dominate the handheld realm; Timelines and Fleet Command

The second of those has had some serious heavyweight marketing too with the likes of Sonequa Martin-Green, Rainn Wilson, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton and Jonathan Frakes all appearing in its adverts. Both this and Timelines have run for a number of years unchallenged. While I've stepped away from mobile gaming as a whole in the last 18 months after what seemed like a religious conviction to play Timelines, I thought I might give this one a go. It couldn't hurt...!

The basic premise is that there are a series of holodeck simulations running and you just need to collect resources be it latinum,  dilithium and credits. Each of these simulations can then be upgraded, more crew can be assigned and key characters from the Lower Decks series can be used to automate the simulation. These in turn produce more items at a faster rate without you having to sit there and collect resources every 30 seconds (or longer).

Simulations in the game include the Shuttle Bay, Main Engineering, the Klingon Rite of Ascension, Kaminar, Chateau Picard and two of the environments from the Genesis Planet. Just from those there is a broad cross-section of the material used in the game and it looks great. The interface is simple with a slide up-or-down to view each of the simulation locations and clear buttons to press to collect items or upgrade. What more could you want when you've got some time to kill?

But there's also a whole ton of wrong in there too. For one thing this is one of the most repetitive Star Trek games out there. Ok, after a fair few years I finally departed from Timelines because it had just become too samey. The character options were becoming tenuous and my interest waned and died. It had the occasional facelift but there wasn't much new and no real reason to invest in the game to level up. The same is true here but after a lot shorter play time.

With Fleet Command the upgrades take an eternity but there is a lot to do and build plus there's the online aspect out battling on your ships. The Badgey Directive has absolutely none of this. Yes, you can upgrade the simulations but graphically there's not a lot that changes - a shuttle changes to a better model or the Klingons change from TNG to TOS versions - but that's it. At the core you still have to collect the resources to complete level goals and step up to the next chapter. 

And repeat.

At the moment for example I've got to a point where I'm working at getting 800 crew working at Chateau Picard. It requires a lot of funds - a vast amount of funds and an even longer amount of time to collect the required amount. I've automated everything so all I do is drop on to collect the Timed Crate reward and that's about it. If I get enough resources I might upgrade a character or simulation but that's only if and when I need to in line with the game goals.

Goals (which appear at the top of the game screen), might be to open up a new simulation, reach a certain number of crew overall or in one of the settings, it could just be to collect an amount of dilithium. In turn these provide access to chests and valuable items but also count toward the number of objectives needed to complete that specific chapter.

One of the side points to this mobile game is the regular events which tend to have some sort of Star Trek episodic theme to them but again, it's a variation on a very familiar theme. Indeed, that initial one or two simulation set up to get automated can be a right pain in the arse  as everything in the events is reset from the start. You can spend ten minutes just punching the collect button on the Shuttle Bay to be able to open up a second deck and then even longer to get characters to run them.

The frustrating thing is the time factor. There's a lot of doing nothing unless you pay for some upgrades, there's a lot of time spent watching adverts to get fund bonuses or dilithium bonuses and there's not much time actually playing the game. It seems to be one of those all or nothing play types where you have to invest a stupid amount of your life to get going and then the payoff is less than, ironically, rewarding.

The Badgey Directive looks nice and opening up the new locations on the holodecks is nifty. As I've just levelled up to Chapter 12 there's still a Risa, Q's Courtroom and Vulcan to unlock plus many of the 40 plus characters who can each help power those situations. Of the crew, there's the main four characters of Mariner, Boimler, Tendi and Rutherford plus the senior staff of the USS Cerritos and various faces that have appeared through the first two seasons. Some you'll remember and others may take a while to recognise.

The game does include cut scenes with some form of story that links into the overall chapter title. Problem is that these are very quickly skippable and have absolutely zero bearing on anything that happens on the screen because each round/chapter is a rehack of the previous. Some of the levels are swapped in and out so in Chapter 12 there's no Cardassian Interrogation Room or Tropical Genesis Planet but apart from that there's no alteration to the basics of the gameplay because each simulation operates on the same principles - collect, automate, increase crew and upgrade.

The expansion opportunities too seem somewhat limited with only new environments and new characters being the big draw here. I'd struggle to suggest how else Eastside Games can stretch the concept. Already they're managed to link in Fair Haven and The Best of Both Worlds with the mini-events which has seen players collect everything from Borg Babies to Shamrocks.

Would I recommend this? Probably not unless you have a lot of time to waste and are prepared to wait a lifetime for any form of decent reward. It looks nice on the box with all of its little animations and things going on in the background but I just can't see this being a game with a great deal of shelf life on the mobile games stores - it doesn't keep your interest for long enough. 

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