I don't want to dwell too much on what Star Command isn't. It might not be the game we've all been hoping for, and it might lack a lot of the features originally promised, but you can't judge something on what might have been.
What it is is a fun, often engaging space opera that's punctuated by bouts of intergalactic violence. It's simple, and it lacks any hook sharp enough to sink itself into you too deep, but there's still fun to be had meeting interesting new species and firing your lasers at them.
Star Command is a game of two parts. First you're building up your ship, adding new rooms, and recruiting the crew to keep everything running smoothly. Adding crew members to a room assigns them a role.
So crew members that go in the gunnery rooms become red shirts. They'll fire your space cannons and repel invaders. Yellow shirts are your engineers and blue shirts are your medics. Everyone plays a part in the running of the ship as well as in the bursts of violence.
It's a nice way of making sure you know what everyone does and means when things get panicky during an alien invasion you're definitely sending the right people to do the right jobs.
The currency in the game is tokens. There are red ones, yellow ones, and blue ones, and these are spent on recruiting crew members, building new rooms in your ship, and upgrading the equipment in them. You collect them in the other part of the game - the fights.
Here you have to defend your craft from attack both external and internal. Bombs and bad guys get teleported in and you need to deal with them, all the while firing your hull weapons when they're ready.
The actions your various crew members can perform, from blasting alien scum with bolts of energy to putting out fires with welding torches and spanners, all have a circle of effect, so you need to move them around the ship to where they're most effective.
As you play they'll gain experience, getting better at the appointed tasks. Swapping and changing the roles of your crew makes for a better rounded team and means when one of your red shirts falls you can quickly replace him with an equally skilled shooter.
Firing your external cannons results in a mini-game which varies from weapon to weapon. Some require taps when a spinning dot reaches a glowing circle, while others need you to create a crosshair from moving lines.
Trouble without Tribbles
It's in the scraps and scrapes that Star Command starts to wobble a little. There are dialogue options in the exchanges beforehand that can change the way a fight plays out, but often you feel like you're being driven inexorably towards violence.
And while that violence is interesting to begin with, the difficulty does spike quite dramatically after a while, and the simplicity of the experience grates more when you're constantly being torn to shreds.
In the end, Star Command is an entertaining little sim that gives you some control over the comings and goings of a spaceship. But you never really feel like the game is giving you enough control to steer that ship in the direction you want it to go.