Star Trek: Armada is the first real-time 3-D strategy game set in the Star Trek: The Next Generation universe. In various campaigns, the player assumes command of the fleets of the Federation, Klingon, Romulan, and Borg, using up to 30 starships in dynamic ship-to-ship combat as well as overseeing the construction, repair, and staffing of the ships.
Star Trek: Armada looks superb. Although you play the game from a slightly skewed top-down perspective similar to most other real-time strategy games, Armada's 3D graphics engine lends the game a distinctively crisp and colorful appearance, as well as a pronounced cinematic flair thanks to all the impressive special effects throughout the game. The various spacecraft look and move more or less exactly as they do in the Next Generation movies and television episodes - the smooth curvature of the Federation and Romulan ships comes across just as well as the more jagged Klingon ship designs and the plain geometry of the Borg vessels. Although the spaceships in Armada are depicted to relative scale, the four races' vessels do correlate to one another. That is, while the impressive Federation Sovereign-class is much bigger than anything else the Federation has, it appears to be the same size as the imposing Borg cube, which is supposed to be many times larger, according to Star Trek canon. But aside from a few discrepancies in scale, all the ships in Armada look dead-on accurate.
The ships aren't the only impressive element of Armada's graphics - almost everything in the game looks great. Ships' phasers and photon torpedoes sizzle against their enemies' shields; and once the shields dissipate, a ship's hull will start to melt and burn as the ship spirals out of control and finally explodes. You can throw an awful lot of ships at your enemy, yet the game's frame rate remains steady even on less powerful computers. What's more, although the battles in Armada are set in outer space, the setting is anything but the cold, featureless expanse that's to be expected. Armada's outer space is filled with swirling, colorful gasses and nebulae, dense asteroid belts, bright stars, and huge planets slowly going about their day cycle. And most all of the deep-space geography you'll come across has a direct impact on the gameplay. The various colored nebulae disable or impair any ships within and may create tactical opportunities for ambush or retreat. Asteroid belts form impassable barriers, while wormholes let you instantly transport your fleet to another point on the map. And constructing a space station near a planet increases the flow of additional crew to your resource pool, which you'll need in order to assemble your fleet.
Providing crew for your spaceships is one of the only unique elements of Armada's gameplay, which is otherwise reminiscent of such action-oriented strategy games as Starcraft and Activision's own Dark Reign. A steady influx of crew is added to your surplus, and a certain quantity is required both to construct and to maintain each new facility or space vessel you build. Crew members die off as your ships take hits, and they die off very quickly once the ship's shields are down. A vessel may still survive a fight with few crew members intact, but even if the ship is restored to full working condition, its limited crew will impair its performance. Fortunately, you can replenish a ship's crew by transporting additional crewmembers from other ships or stations. You can also transport your crew onto enemy vessels whose shields have fallen, at which point your crew will automatically attack the enemy's. If your crew defeats the enemy's before the ship is destroyed, you can claim the enemy vessel as your own. Or if you find your ship severely damaged and in danger of being hijacked, you can opt to self-destruct to keep your technology out of the enemy's hands. It's a challenge and an incentive to try to capture enemy vessels instead of destroying them, just as it's important to prevent your foe from turning your warships against you.
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