To Boldly Go Where This Kind of Game Has Gone Before

HIGH A gripping adventure experience that perfectly captures the best parts of Star Trek

LOW …that’s marred by technical hiccups and a familiar approach to narrative game design.

WTF Why isn’t there a model of the U.S.S. Resolute I can buy for my shelf?

Space may be the final frontier, but videogames based on Star Trek are well-traveled territory. Decades of attempts to channel the ultimate geek franchise into the ultimate geek medium have resulted in an array of titles spanning virtually every genre under the sun. But for all the Star Trek games that have come out over the years, few can be said to have truly felt like a Trek story in every way. I’m happy to say that despite some stumbles, Dramatic Labs’ Star Trek: Resurgence is one of them.

One point where Star Trek: Resurgence sets itself apart from other Trek games is that it tries to make something original out of its familiar framework, both in terms of gameplay and narrative. Rather than basing it on an established TV series, Dramatic Labs opted to center their work around an entirely new ship and cast.

Taking place in the Star Trek: The Next Generation timeline and set sometime after the conclusion of Star Trek: Nemesis, Resurgence follows the Starfleet ship U.S.S. Resolute, a Centaur-class vessel operating at the edge of Federation space. Players are thrust into the uniforms of two original characters — The Resolute’s newly-assigned First Officer, Commander Jara Rydek, and an Engineering department go-getter, Petty Officer Carter Diaz.

The Resolute herself isn’t in the best shape, as the aftermath of a deadly incident prior to the player’s arrival tore a rift in the trust between the crew and their leader, Captain Solano. Looming even larger than this issue is a crisis at the edge of space — two formerly peaceful alien races are on the brink of war, and the Resolute is the only ship available to help them reach a peaceful solution.

The core plot draws from the premise of the TNG episode “The Last Outpost”, and features cameo appearances by Trek alumni William Riker (played by Jonathan Frakes) and Ambassador Spock (played by the strikingly spot-on voice performance of Piotr Michael). But for the most part, Resurgence is a fresh tale that makes its own mark on the larger canon established by the shows.

It’s in this way, and via its focus on two viewpoint characters, that Star Trek: Resurgence‘s storytelling style takes its cues more from newer Trek like Discovery and Picard. Whereas the TV series of old were more ensemble affairs, the Resolute’s mission centers around the activities, choices, and relationships of Jara and Carter. Jara must balance the need to be loyal to Captain Solano while forming bonds with the rest of the senior staff and her duty as a Starfleet officer. Carter is torn between his unenviable tasks doing the ‘dirty jobs’ assigned to the lower decks crew and his ambition to have a greater role in the ship’s operations.

Most of the choices involve making a decision and then seeing its effect on Jara and Carter’s relationships with the people around them, both friend and foe. Resurgence makes this focus quite clear from the outset, and at any time, players can pause and see a detailed description of every character’s reaction to their choices. It’s a user interface feature I wish I had in real life — my interpersonal relationships would be much clearer if I could immediately tell which of my actions enraged people or left them with “mixed feelings.”

The decisions and dialogue are interspersed with more active stretches, usually involving minigames or QTE-style button prompts. The minigames take advantage of Star Trek‘s unique approach to user interfaces, with characters (usually Carter) manipulating LCARS screens to clear interference from a transporter signal or reel a distressed shuttle into the Resolute’s hangar bay. Other sequences have characters scanning anomalies and alien structures with Tricorders, or conducting rudimentary combat and stealth actions. Like the TV shows’ famously soft action chops, these parts of Star Trek: Resurgence aren’t the most exciting examples of cinematic gameplay, but they’re never so awkward or overlong that they damage one’s will to continue.

If this style of game sounds somewhat familiar, that shouldn’t be a surprise — Star Trek: Resurgence is a narrative adventure title in the vein of Telltale Games’ many licensed series adaptations. Dramatic Labs, after all, is made up of former Telltale Games staff who opened a new studio in the wake of Telltale’s sudden 2018 implosion and subsequent mass layoffs. This approach to blending narrative and mechanics, therefore, is well within the team’s wheelhouse. If anything, it appears that they’ve internalized some of the more persistent criticisms of the Telltale game experience. Spelling the impact of choices out more clearly in the pause menu makes things more engaging (and tense) than the anodyne “That character will remember your decision,” indicator which became the, er, telltale sign of a Telltale game.

However, one pitfall of the Telltale style that Dramatic Labs couldn’t quite avoid is the persistent sense that individual choices don’t have as much power as initially suggested. Even fans of Telltale’s titles would express their frustration when they found, upon exploring all the possible branches available in a Telltale piece, that the choices “don’t matter,” with more aggrieved critics calling the design “deceptive.”

I, personally, consider this more an issue with framing rather than false advertising. It’s not so much that Jara and Carter’s choices can drastically alter the plot (though Resurgence does have multiple outcomes that differ significantly by its end) but that their choices help define who Jara and Carter are when faced with their respective challenges. Do players want to play Jara as a sensitive and empathetic officer who pushes back against her commanding officer when necessary, or a hard-nosed authority figure that knows her role on the bridge is to make sure that what the Captain says, goes? Is Carter a team player who sees opportunity as a reward for hard work in the trenches, or is his desire to “be something more” one that he’s willing to risk his safety and the safety of his crewmates to satisfy?

Further, the idealistic nature of the Star Trek universe and the Starfleet ethos does, unlike some Telltale-style games, carry a certain weight. Without spoiling too much, I can say that making decisions counter to the core principles of the Federation and Starfleet can turn the story’s tone noticeably. In other words, it’s not that choices don’t matter, but that they matter in a different way than some may think. Folks that can make their peace with that fact will have the best time with Star Trek: Resurgence. It also helps that while this story feels like the opening arc in a new Trek series, it is a self-contained adventure. I was relieved that it did not end in a cliffhanger or force me to wonder if the game would do well enough to warrant a next episode — a frequent concern in the latter days of Telltale.

Sadly, while I wouldn’t change Dramatic Labs’ decision to pattern Star Trek: Resurgence‘s approach to narrative after Telltale’s output, I do wish they’d had the opportunity to correct for Telltale’s reputation for jank. Technical and performance hiccups were rife in the PC review build I played, to the point that they drained some energy from the otherwise-strong performances and propulsive story. Bugs with subtitles often left some lines un-displayed onscreen. The tuning of the gamepad controls on PC made movement and interaction with QTE and minigame mechanics feel mushy and slow. This had a particularly irritating effect on Carter’s sequences, which are heavier on the minigame aspect. More concerningly, the lack of accessibility options with regard to control and display customization also threatens to make Star Trek: Resurgence less inclusive than its Federation values would suggest.

Nevertheless, these quibbles are things that I found relatively easy to overlook, considering how well the game channels qualities of Star Trek long absent from the franchise’s adaptations. I’d choose instead to hope Dramatic Labs addresses some of these concerns through patches and updates. Those like me, who are able to put aside those complaints, will find a thrilling and refreshing dose of Trek fan service, and perhaps the beginning of a special journey, in Star Trek: Resurgence.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by Dramatic Labs and published by Bruner House. It is currently available for the PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC. This review of the game is based on a review build provided by the publisher and reviewed on PC. Approximately 14 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode. There is no multiplayer mode. The game was completed.

Parents: This game is rated T by the ESRB, with content descriptors for Blood, Use of Alcohol, and Violence. The description is as follows: “This is an adventure game set in the Star Trek universe. Players assume the roles of two characters, First Officer Jara Rydek and Engineering Crewperson Carter Diaz, as they investigate a mystery surrounding two alien civilizations on the brink of war. Throughout the game, players can make dialogue and action choices that influence the plot. Some action choices lead to violence, such as one scene in which the player can direct another character to break a prisoner’s arm for information. Battles occur several times, with players dodging lasers, shooting phasers at enemies, or struggling to escape. A handful of scenes depict human and alien corpses, some laying in pools of pink blood or with bloodstained faces/clothing. One scene allows players to choose whether to have an alcoholic drink with another officer.”

Colorblind Modes: The game has no colorblind modes.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: Voiced dialogue is accompanied by subtitles (see examples below), however, not all lines displayed subtitles, either due to bugs or a discrepancy between the wording of the voiced line and the written subtitle text. There are no text size or presentation options. All gameplay cues are visual. This title is not fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: This game’s button controls are not remappable.

Josh Tolentino
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