|Star Trekkin’ across the universe...|
Or… it would be if I knew how to do either of these things. We start in a ship-to-ship combat mode and moving the mouse steers rather than allowing me to talk to any of my bridge crew and ask them to get ready for the battle. I pause the game and look through the manual. As I alluded to last week, there are a lot of keyboard shortcuts. In this case, we have to press “S” to raise shields and then “W” to arm the weapons. It’s a good thing this is a training fight because a firefight is not the right time to be learning the controls...
|The real Captain Kirk didn’t have to memorize keyboard shortcuts.|
While we learn the controls, we are also being shot at. I go back to the manual and discover that the blue console just in front of the captain’s chair is the targeting computer. Our enemy is the green dot and all we need to do is turn in the appropriate direction to get him on the forward viewscreen. Now that weapons are armed, we can fire phasers with the left mouse button and photon torpedoes with the right. If you aren’t familiar with Star Trek weapons, think of “phasers” as super-lasers while “photon torpedoes” are explosive charges that we fire at the enemy. Phasers are a lot faster but torpedoes pack a punch. Before I work it all out, I get a message that our warp engines exploded and we’re all dead-- or we would be if this were an actual combat situation. We’re just simulation-dead.
|Also, we’ve been eaten by grues.|
I won’t bore you with the details, but let it be said that I died again and again and again. This is partially my fault because I’m playing the game on a laptop with a touchpad rather than a 1990s era PC with a two-button mouse. Even so, the controls are pretty difficult. As the Republic flies circles around me and shoots, they are frequently able to take out individual ship systems like the viewscreen (it becomes gradually more filled with static until you can’t see at all) and weapons (they stop firing). The manual says that I can have Scotty repair individual systems by pressing “D” and selecting the system to repair, but it’s slow going and he doesn’t always get anything fixed before I blow up. It takes me around five deaths to figure out a big part of what I was doing wrong: I was a sitting duck! We have just been sitting dead in space and I have to set the ship’s speed by using the number keys: “1” is the slowest and “0” is the fastest, with the keys in the middle being graduations between. A backtick (“`”) moves the Enterprise in reverse. I gradually work out some strategy, make sure to turn away and run like hell when the enemy comes straight for us, and keep taking potshots whenever I get lucky enough. Targeting while moving is extra hard because you have to lead into the shots but eventually I get lucky enough and win. Hooray!
I’ll dive deeper into the flying controls into the next post or two. There are aspects that I haven’t figured out yet like the target analysis (“A”), emergency power (“E”), and a few others. This isn’t near the complexity of contemporary space combat sims like Wing Commander, but it’s an awful lot of stuff to think about for minigames. I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it before long.
|My, what pretty ribbons you have...|
|Which of these is Pollux V?|
|It’s Transporter Chief Kyle! Hello!|
|We come in peace for all mankind.|
I click around to get used to the interface. It’s not exactly what I expected, but it’s easy enough to figure out. Left clicking moves Kirk around and the other members of the landing party will follow. Right-clicking takes me to an image-based context menu where I can select to look at, talk to, or pick up things, plus access my inventory. I want to play some more before I talk about it in detail.
|Who ya gonna call?|
|They picked a very nice planet!|
|Not sure how you could tell this is a chapel...|
|Wait. You aren’t who I was expecting.|
With the enemies down, we realize that they are not real Klingons after all! In the melee, one of their hands fell off to reveal that they are really advanced robots, although perhaps not very reliable ones given that they are completely incapacitated by the stun setting. I pick up the severed hand because you never know when one of those will come in handy. We also find the miracle berries and head back to camp. Brother Stephen makes the antidote for us in his lab (the building that we explored first) and we deliver it to the injured colonist. With his life out of imminent danger, the rest of the settlers are willing to talk to us.
The first thing we discover is obvious in retrospect: not everyone saw the same demons. The humans all saw Christian-style demons, a Tellarite saw a wolf-shaped demon from his own culture, and we all saw Klingons. Everyone sees the things that they fear. We also show Brother Stephen the severed hand and he examines it in his lab. It has some micro-circuitry on the fingertips that he is able to repair for us. I think I can see where this is leading us.
|Did anyone bring a bell, book, and some candles?|
The door conveniently has a handprint scanner. Raise your severed hand if you saw that coming! (Too soon?) I use the hand on the scanner and the door opens. Time to go deeper!
|Hello? Any demons in here?|
|The ancient symbol of “Pac-Man”.|
|The Pollux V natural history museum is just getting started.|
In the end, I get it but completely by accident. I deserve no credit. If you place each lever such that the meters are on their lowest settings-- that is, you put them roughly in the middle position-- the machine activates! I suppose that during an eclipse that the power would be lower? But they explicitly said it measured gravity rather than solar energy so something doesn’t feel quite right. I spent close to an hour mucking with these dials and I’m peeved about the solution, especially that I didn’t get it by “solving” so much as “fiddling”.
|We just met, but sure! Join our union.|
|How many commendation points do I need for a prize?|
This game seems pretty fun so far, but except for the puzzle with the levers, it was a pretty simple area. This feels like something that could have been on the original series and all the little character moments really sell the story. Let’s find our next adventure!
Star Trek Trivia
- One of the colonists is a Tellarite, a pig-faced alien that appeared twice on the original series (“Journey to Babel” and “Whom Gods Destroy”). Tellarites are one of the “big four” founding races of the Federation alongside humans, Vulcans, and Andorians.
- The USS Republic that Kirk mock-battles was the ship that he served on as an ensign many years earlier. (“Court Martial”)
- Pollux V was briefly mentioned as uninhabited in the episode, “Who Mourns for Adonais”. Its neighbor, Pollux IV, was where the Greek god Apollo (or rather the alien that inspired that myth) had lived after leaving ancient Earth.
|Next time: Hijacked!|
Total time: 2 hr 30 min