Monday, April 18, 2011

To the best crew any Captain ever had

Star Trek - Deep Space 9: The Fallen
Game Category: Third Person Shooter
Developer / Distributor: Double Helix Games / Simon and Schuster
Release Date: 15 Nov 2000
Rating: ESRB - Teens

Star Trek games generally have had a splotchy past with great games and absolute stinkers. In today's case, Star Trek - Deep Space 9: The Fallen fortunately falls into the former category. Developed by Double Helix Games more than a decade ago (back then they were known as The Collective), the game's story is still respected for its contribution to the Star Trek canon as well as the superb game play and wonderful storytelling.

The Fallen is a third person shooter game that uses the Unreal Tournament Engine to great effect. Its story revolves around rival factions who are vying for control of the lost orbs of the Pah-wraiths - purportedly weapons of mass destruction with some religious mumbo-jumbo history tied to it. With the Dominion, Cardassians, and the Bajorans also after the orbs, you can rest assured that there will be nothing short of pandemonium reigning in the Alpha Quadrant - the home of the magnificent starbase known as Deep Space Nine.

I think The Fallen deserves much credit for setting out to achieve what the developers ultimately sought to do. The end result is an enriching plot, interesting characters, exciting action, and exotic sights all rolled into a smorgasbord of fun, more fun, and even more fun.

Pick from either Benjamin, Kira, or Worf to play

What you get
First off, there's no multiplayer. Now, if you are the kind who goes shying away from games without a multiplayer mode, then I must say, give The Fallen a chance. Despite this, the game actually offers tons of rollicking excitement in the single player department.

There are three characters you get to control in The Fallen. There's Captain Benjamin L. Sisko voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson, Major Kira Nerys voiced by Nana Visitor, and Lieutenant Commander Worf voiced by Michael Dorn.

Don't look down in the training mission
Depending on which character you select, you will get to go through nine huge missions that are broken into sub-levels. The first mission for each character is a unique design that sets the stage for their character's role in the entire story. After which, the story more or less follows the same thread but from the view point of the selected character you play - and they don't start from the same start points in the level, which means you get totally different experiences when you pick to play someone else.

Bottom line is, it's most definitely worth replaying the game using another character. In fact, only by doing so will you finally realize the magnitude of the incredible plot that is happening in The Fallen, and as you complete the last mission for the last character, you will exclaim - "Aha!" as all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place.

It's just too quiet here... better stay alert

The Fallen plays like most shooter games but with the following distinctions:
  • After choosing your character, you get to play the game from a third person view. Your camera viewpoint floats behind your character and you must get used to seeing everything from behind his/her shoulders. The camera closes in when in confined quarters. I didn't really find this camera scheme too distracting.
  • There are many doors and switches throughout the missions. You are required to move next to a switch and your character automatically proceeds to open the door (since Auto Use is default to on in the options menu). Neat!
Attack them!
  • The game provides you with quite a variety of weapons - unarmed combat, phaser pistol, the Klingon bat'leth, phaser rifle, gravitic mines, grenade launcher, disruptor rifle, polaron pulse rife, shock blade, plasma thrower, and EM pulse cannon. Weapons have a primary and secondary fire mode, so use them wisely during battles.
  • In some of the levels, your enemies are completely invulnerable to your phaser pistols. In this instance, you must first pull out your Tricorder and perform a scan of your enemy. Once done, your Tricorder  reports to you a modulation frequency to use against your enemy. Your pistols are automatically adjusted to this new frequency and you can now hurt him.
  • The same Tricorder sequence must be used for shield generators or similar obstacles. Setting your pistol to the new frequency ensures you can shoot through the force field.
Worf brandishes his wicked bat'leth melee weapon

Your character also comes equipped with a PADD - Personal Access Display Device. Pressing the ESC key accesses this feature. From here, you can check what are your current Mission Objectives, read any available background information about the mission under the Tactical Data option, check the Communications Log, and browse through Retrieved files.

You can initiate communications using your Combadge - a standard issue for all Starfleet personnel. Through this cool device worn on the Starfleet uniform, you will be able to strike up a conversation with Odo, Miles, or even Dr. Bashir as the need arises. In fact, it will almost feel like you are playing a Star Trek role playing game.

Your PADD in action
During the game, you get to pick up useful items. You can access these items via your inventory system. Most of the items are either used once, for example key cards, or supplied through some form of power source. Your SIMMS beacon (flashlight) is an example of a device with a power gauge that tells you when power has been fully depleted. Don't worry, once depleted your beacon will automatically start to recharge.

You will also get to find and use Respirators - useful when swimming underwater, as well as hyposprays and medkits for healing your character.

You also get to go swimming once in a while

The graphics in The Fallen is pretty good for its time, considering the game uses Unreal Engine 1. The sub-levels are all manageable in size, and you won't find yourself lost in giant sprawls.

You get to visit Deep Space 9 itself during interludes between the missions in your campaign. Here, you get to enter the famous bridge of the Deep Space 9. You can even make your way down to the Promenade to take a look around at what is happening on the ground. It is especially hilarious that you can get to visit Quark in his bar and listen to his little tirades about what is happening in the Alpha Quadrant.

Sure, Quark
The levels in Deep Space 9 are not only held on board starships, but you also get to go planetside and participate in missions with your away team. Most of the other extras in the game are conveniently dispensible in some interesting scripted instances.

The movies in the game are superb, as are the models for DS9, starships, and enemies. Enemies include mechanical Grigari, native animals like flying reptiles and nasty snapping fishes, charging bull like creatures, enemy soldiers, and irritating weapon turrets that just keep on firing at you.

The Grigari about to take out a survivor

As you can see, most of the original actors took part in providing the voice overs for their roles, with only two of them: Avery Brooks and Colm Meany opting out. Nevertheless, I thought their acting doubles did an excellent job.

The music in the The Fallen is quite an interesting orchestral collection - from moody to ominous. The music composer himself, Steven von Kampen has also done science fiction music for Star Control 3, the Descent series of game, and of course The Fallen.

The sound effects are rather interesting. You get to hear hissing noises, rumbling sounds (complete with wicked screen shakes), sounds of crowds on the Promenade, men greeting you "Sir" if you take on the Sisko character, shrill shrieks of strange alien animals, and much much more.

Ahh... the plot thickens
Here are some negative points you must know about The Fallen:
  • I found the game to be too dark. There is of course a gamma setting you can adjust, but I purposely left it at its default setting to take all my screenshots. You be the judge.
  • The game locks on too efficiently onto your enemies. Because of this, the game essentially becomes a see-who-clicks-mouse-faster. You can always tune down the auto-aim feature in the options menu if you so desire.
  • Some of the 3D models representing your enemies don't look detailed enough - with too few polygons, they look kind of ugly.
  • There are instances where you will encounter instant death - for example opening a door to find a Grigari hiding behind it; it proceeds to take a swipe at you before you can do anything. Other examples would include falling from a great height, or plunging into lava because your enemy pushes you off a ledge.
  • This bears repeating - there is no multiplayer mode in The Fallen.
  • I noticed a bug in the first Jeraddo Mine sub-levels where I could practically climb up and walk through the walls. Hmm, I wonder if there are more of this kind of mapping issues.

I think Star Trek - Deep Space 9: The Fallen has a lot of things going for it. It has an excellent script and plot. It is practically as good as those shown in the syndicated series. I thought that the act of providing three different characters offering three different view points of one story was a novel idea. The game play is also exciting and thrilling and it will most definitely keep you awake as you play the game late into the night.

If you don't mind the negative points I raised above, then by all means get this game and experience Deep Space 9 all over again.

Daily PC Game Review Score: 7 / 10
Review Date: 18 Apr 2011


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