the writings of a mind

Title: Klingon Academy
Genre: Space Combat
Big Word: Klingfilm
Strap: Thereís Klingons on the cardboard bow

Another day, another Star Trek game. There are currently over four hundred thousand new titles in development, from over ten thousand software houses, and this is only one of them. But is Klingon Academy more Birth of the Federation, and less Starship Creator?

Thirty-six issues ago we told you all about Starfleet Academy. We told you that it was a cobbling of old ideas, linked together via new filmed footage of original series actors. We also told you that it wasnít exactly riveting stuff, but inoffensive enough. Itís now three years later, and first name in the title has changed Ė but has anything else?

As in the original Starfleet incarnation, Klingon Academy puts you in the part of a trainee, hoping to survive the tough regime that is the eponymous school. Instead of beginning as a fleet commander in real-life battles, you are working your way up from the very bottom. General Chang sets you and your fellow students various simulated tasks in preparation for war with the long-time enemy, the Federation. These are comprised of a series of consecutive missions, each taking you one stage further into a plan to over-throw a long-held Starfleet area of space. But things all change halfway through, when civil war breaks outÖ

Itís shooting stuff in space then. So the important thing is, how do we shoot stuff in space? Controls are a tangled car-crash of the usual and the unusual. Moving backwards, forwards, left and right are all done in the most faithful way known to man, the cursor keys, but almost everything else is carried out by a series of numerical jabbings. Each number key is assigned to a section of the ship, which then open up a menu of commands, again each assigned a number. These invariably bring up another menu of number-linked commands. So, say I want to set my ship to fly at half impulse, cloak, and target the nearest enemy, I need to press 2, 4, 3, 7, 5, 8, 4. Typed out like that it looks rather simple. However, this isnít quite the case during play. Weíre in space here, so light isnít exactly abundant, and a darkened room is called for to stand any chance of seeing what is happening on screen. You try finding 2, 4, 3, 7, 5, 8, 4 with the lights off. And then realise that 2, 1, 3, 7, 5, 8, 4 would see you sent to completely the wrong place and out of the game. This may not seem like much, but it is SO bloody annoying.

This is just one example of what is wrong with Klingon Academy. There are others. Missions are very wobbly, either giving you far too little scope for innovation or improvisation, or completely vague leaving you unsure of where to go. The graphics are reasonable, but never impressive. And worstly the online game is all but pathetic. If ever a game was crying out for strong multiplayer action, here was one, and it doesnít even seem to try. And this just isnít forgivable since Allegiance showed us how truly incredible such gaming could be. The token online stuff is dull and uninvolved, leaving an ever-present absence that irritates.

Despite this, as a single-player itís still playable. Even though you can lose missions for seemingly random actions, the desire to sit through it all again for completionís sake /is/ present. Not entirely explicable, but present. There are terrifying amounts of detail. You can tweak and twist tiny elements of the many vessels, use the various space "terrains" to your tactical advantage, or even design your own levels with the packaged mission builder.

Klingon Academy is a relatively good way to shoot things in space, but horribly let down by its multiplayer game. This genre is custom-built for online gaming, as Allegiance so gallantly proved, and something similar here would have made for a complete game. But it isnít, so it isnít, and thatís a real shame.

Margin Note:
Guests of Honour

Things are set just before the time of the sixth Star Trek movie, The Undiscovered Country Ė you remember, the good one where Kirk actually learns some humility, before the nose-dive of Generations - and concentrates on the two starring Klingons, General Chang and Chancellor Gorkon, played by Christopher Plummer and David Warner respectively. Both are back to reprise their roles for the smaller screen in the ninety or so minutes of in-game video. Which probably accounts for the six CDs fighting for desk space.

 Good-old-fashioned game-play meets reasonably nice story-line, but forgets to invite half-decent multiplay.


Tech Specs:

Publisher: Interplay
Developer: 14 Degrees East
Minimum System: PII 233, 64Mb RAM, 300Mb HD, 8Mb 3D card
Recommended: PIII 450, 128Mb RAM, 32 Mb 3D card, joystick
Multi-player: Network/LAN
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