Game Reviews

Star Trek Rivals

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| Star Trek Rivals
Star Trek Rivals
| Star Trek Rivals

This is a freemium game review, in which we give our impressions immediately after booting a game up, again after three days, and finally after seven days. That's what the strange sub-headings are all about. Click on the links to jump straight to day three or day seven.

Let's have a quick visual reminder of how good a job the team behind the new Star Trek movies has done in rebooting the franchise.

Here's Kirk displaying the leadership qualities that have him commanding the Enterprise in the reboots, and here's Kirk displaying the leadership qualities that have him commanding the Enterprise in the original series.

As you can see, one of them is an ultra-cool science fiction story, brimming with originality, which spans galaxies but remains thoroughly human in its emotional drama, and the other is a series starring William Shatner.

So its a good thing that this new card-battler is based on the new movies.

First impressions

Star Trek Rivals keeps things simple in terms of visuals, presenting itself via straightforward menus that zip along nicely and an uncluttered UI. The game boots with that lovely new orchestral epicness that has come in with the movies, and taps are accompanied by appropriate sci-fi beeps.

The game itself is effectively Triple Triad from Final Fantasy VIII, but with 90 per cent less existential crisis. The result is slightly odd, but it works.

You have five randomly picked cards in your hand, taken from a larger deck that you accumulate throughout the game. These cards have a number on each side, making four numbers total, and you place them on a three-by-three grid.

If the number on your card is higher than the one on the card you place it beside, you take that card over, and your score increases by a point. To win, you need to have more points than your opponent.

This sounds simple, and it absolutely is, though already I'm starting to find a few additional complexities that are bringing me back for more.

I've also gained XP for winning matches, and levelled up, being awarded Latinum - one of the game's currencies - in the process. I'm not yet sure why there's an experience system in place here, but from what I've seen so far it should be quite fun to find out.

Day 3: A left ear, a right ear...

I've turned the sounds off now, as the teleportation effect Star Trek Rivals uses whenever you play a card is beginning to annoy me. The notifications sound is equally abrasive: it's like the kind of death-rattle splutter that Data might make should he take a particularly powerful blow to the head.

These are just about the only things that are starting to wear at my nerves, though, as I'm enjoying my time with this ever-so-simple card game.

Strategy is still minimal, largely boiling down to who can minimise the effect of the bad sides of their cards by placing them up against the walls of the arena, and then capitalising on weaknesses of opponents with low-end cards, keeping powerful ones in reserve as long as possible.

I don't mind that other players have (probably paid for) better cards than I have, as the matching system seems to do a good job of balancing the difficulty in the opponents it gives you.

I also get to see some of the cool card art that my opponents have acquired without dropping coin of my own. Admittedly, that art mostly consists of stills from the movies, but it's done well enough.

When I do have enough resources in the game to buy new packs, I splash out almost immediately. Collecting stuff is as fun here as it is in every card game on the App Store, though how much fun you personally think that is will obviously vary depending on your tastes.

There's even a nice little shortcut button when you've played your move, which takes you to the board of the next opponent who has played his turn. This makes getting through the games a slick process, and it means that you can come back infrequently without having to slog through loads of menus that have built up while you've been away.

I'm impressed as we go into the final stretch.

Day 7: The trouble with Triple Triad

Seven days is a perfect amount of time for me to be playing Star Trek Rivals intensely, because I'm not sure that after this period I'd be inclined to play it on anything but a casual basis.

Which is fine. As noted in previous entries, the game is built well for that kind of approach, but it's a pity that its design isn't conducive to high level play, as this diminishes the amount of time you're willing to invest. It's just a very basic game.

There are a couple of strategies that can boost your odds of achieving victory, but for the most part victory is determined by having a good set of cards. And, yes, that means you can pretty much pay to win if you like.

Again, that's not a problem if you're playing infrequently, as the match-ups give you a nice mix of opponents, but it'll eventually dissuade the core card game fans.

If you're one of those, this isn't the game for you. It's for ultra-casual gamers who like Star Trek. More than anything, it's an opportunity to say, "Hey, I remember that guy from the film!" over and over again. There's nothing wrong with that, but it doesn't make for a lasting experience.

So go take a peek now if you enjoyed the latest movie, or indeed any of the series on which it's based. Just don't expect the next Magic: The Gathering.

How are you getting on with the game? You can tell us and the rest of the PG community about your experiences by leaving a comment in the box below.

Star Trek Rivals

Though a little stingy with the IAPs, Star Trek Rivals remains a fun diversion for fans of the sci-fi series or, rather bizarrely, Final Fantasy VIII