Star Trek: Tactical Assault

Even if it's no longer true that the world can be neatly split into Star Trek and Star Wars people, there's still something sophisticated about the chance to explore strange new worlds and seek out new life and new civilisations.

But when it comes to games, the difficulty is how to demonstrate this without downgrading Star Trek's egalitarianism into the typical Star Wars scoot-and-shoot.

The task is even harder in Tactical Assault, which as the title demonstrates is all about in galactic warfare.

Set in the era of the original Captain Kirk Star Trek series – with humankind on the verge of signing an uneasy truce with the warlike Klingons – you're tasked with plotting your way through a series of intergalactic real-time strategic encounters.

Actually, the use of the word strategy might be putting it too grandly. In each mission, what you actually end up doing is flying your ship towards the enemy, and blasting them with photon torpedoes and phasers until they explode.

Naturally though, your craft also relies on shields for protection. As with the enemy, these are split into various arcs around your ship and as they in turn start to deteriorate – turning from green to yellow and then red – you'll need to amend the direction of your attack to protect any weak spots. That's part of the strategy.

Your weapons have different firing angles and also take time to re-charge once fired, so you will have to carry out some quick manoeuvres to stay safe and gain an effective attacking position.

Can you see what's happening, as the familiar balancing acts of defence, offence, and movement are set up in constrast to each other?

Unfortunately, while that may sound like there's a lot of depth, as you get further into the game it becomes apparent this is is something of a holodeck illusion. Once you've dealt with the basics, you've pretty much nailed the gameplay. Throughout the various missions – rescues, courier operations, protection rackets and the like – you more often than not just find yourself whirling in space, shooting wildly and hoping for the best.

Another problem is that the sparse 3D space visuals provide little sensation of movement, apart from the ever-changing numbers which provide the range to your target. The controls are ridiculously simple too – speed up, slow down, left, right – so often you feel like you're piloting some kind of space kart rather than an enormous star cruiser.

The role-playing elements are fun though. During missions it's possible to hail both allied and enemy craft, then talk your way out of, or into, battles via a simple multiple choice conversation system.

It's not the only attempt to humanise the action. On each ship you command, you're accompanied by a faithful crew who can be 'upgraded' at the end of each mission.

Your helmsman deals with speed and maneuverability, your engineer does efficiency, and your tactical chap boosts the weapons. You only get a limited number of points to spend each time, however, so it's all about developing your craft to suit your style of play, or in real-life terms, upgrading your weapons until they're maxed out, then randomly wasting any subsequent points on stuff you don't care about.

Sadly, the novelty of being a spaceship captain soon wears off. Even when you've finished playing as the Federation and switch side playing as a Klingon, there's not much extra variation.

Still, the multiplayer modes are nice. You can deathmatch skirmish or try the Battlefest mode, where each of the two players begins with the weakest ship in their fleet. Once that ship is destroyed, you respawn in the next larger ship, and so on. Fleets available in multiplayer include the Federation, Klingons, Romulan, Gorn, and Orion.

But, in the single-player mode at least, the combat engine is just too limited, and the fights too repetitive. There are many moments – especially when approaching an outpost station at the close of a mission – that you yearn for this game to somehow morph into the classic vector-based galactic combat game, Elite. Indeed, the two game tread the same hyperspace routes, but the depth of Elite makes Tactical Assault look hopelessly limited.

So while there's a few minutes of fun to be had here, like one of those alien floozies that Kirk used to pick up, Star Trek Tactical Assault is quickly forgotten.

Star Trek: Tactical Assault

Star Trek Tactical Assault is a limited strategy combat game with a few nice Star Trek touches, but after several encounters, hypersleep may beckon