Star Trek Resurgence mixes minigames with interactive storytelling to charming effect. Here’s our review of a game that Trek fans will almost certainly enjoy.
Star Trek Resurgence is set in 2380, the same year as the first series of Star Trek: Lower Decks, only a few years before Star Trek: Prodigy, and around the same time as one or two flashbacks from Star Trek: Picard. But from this game, you wouldn’t know any of those series exist, and not just because of a lack of direct crossovers. We get a few glimpses of Riker and the U.S.S. Titan, but not even a hint that a recently transferred Bradward Boimler might be having a panic attack just off (view)screen.
Because this Star Trek doesn’t just feel like it is set in 2380 – it feels like it’s set in 2003, the year after Star Trek: Nemesis was released and the 24th-century setting was put away in a cupboard for a couple of decades.
This is Star Trek for geriatric millennials and younger Gen-Xers, and it’s reminiscent of no Trek of film or TV as much as it is video games like Star Trek: Hidden Evil or Star Trek: Elite Force II.
This is why it can perhaps be forgiven the occasional janky graphics, with facial animations that veer into the uncanny valley and walking animations that seem to glide ever-so-slightly as you walk down a corridor (where impassable piles of crates stop you deviating from your extremely linear path through the ship).
Although Star Trek Resurgence is proudly cut from the cloth of TellTale Games’ interactive stories, it feels like it fell through a temporal anomaly from 20 years ago in writing, graphics and gameplay. But taken on those terms, and dosed with a hefty quantity of nostalgia, there is a lot to enjoy here.
The Lowest Decks
Despite ignoring anything that’s happened in the franchise in 20 years, Resurgence tries, and in some ways succeeds, in one-upping Lower Decks – albeit minus the animated series’ jokes and meta-commentary.
Your ship, the U.S.S Resolute, is Centaur class, which hardcore Trekkies will recognise as one of the kitbash ships made from leftover Excelsior class parts that fly around in the Star Trek: First Contact movie and the more battle-heavy bits of Deep Space Nine. It’s nobody’s favourite class of spaceship (Steamrunner for the win), but that in itself makes the ship kind of charming.
Likewise, the ship’s bridge really feels like one of those cheap set redressings The Next Generation would do when they had to visit a ship that wasn’t the Enterprise. The whole ship’s lovingly designed, though, from Bridge to Engineering, and feels very much inspired by the early noughties Trek universe.
The plot, meanwhile, bounces between the ship’s new first officer and a petty crewman who’d have to salute even the Lower Decks cast. Through that crewman’s sections of the game, there are plenty of minigames where you modulate frequencies or scan damaged parts. If you’re one of those players who thinks the worst bit of Among Us is the imposter getting in the way of you finishing your chores, you’ll like this. My personal favourite was when you get to push up the sliders on the transporter room console.
These minigames vary in terms of fun level, as do the sections where you have to explore spaces looking for items to scan with your tricorder, but Resurgence falls down most when it’s at its most action-packed. This isn’t a shooter, or a flight sim, and the sections where it drifts into those genres feel clunky and awkward.
Meanwhile, the highlights are the choose-your-own-path moments, when you’re making dialogue choices or split-second moral decisions, with some really top-tier conference scenes (Great Star Trek is all about having meetings). Even where the dialogue feels a bit wooden, it feels wooden in a way that will be familiar to people who still have a soft spot for the first couple of seasons of The Next Generation, or Deep Space Nine, or Voyager (in the 90s, Trek series always took a couple of years to find their feet).
But we’re not here to play “a day in the life of a Starfleet officer”, even though every single one of us would pay fifty quid to play that game. Whatever else it has going on, Star Trek Resurgence will live or die by the story it has to tell.
In Resurgence, you face the most iconic Star Trek aliens there are. No, not the Klingons. Not the Romulans. Not even the Borg. The most iconic Star Trek aliens: two minor civilisations you’ve never heard of engaged in a dispute over mining rights, and you have to facilitate negotiations. Quintessentially Star Trek stuff, and I’m not even joking. And without giving too much away, the story eventually turns out to be a sequel to an episode of The Next Generation – and not one you’ll see coming.
A good Star Trek story is surprisingly hard to do, particularly if you’re trying to write one in the style of this specific era of Trek, but Resurgence actually pulls it off. It manages this because it realises that although the Federation is a utopian society, it is always at its most interesting when its values are being challenged, and that its villains are most interesting when they actually have a point.
Read more: First Contact | Designing video game aliens
The real question for a game like this, however, is “How much can you change the story?” Feedback on most of your choices is immediate, with a red, white or green indicator showing how other characters have responded to your choices, and a menu keeping track of each character’s ongoing opinion of you throughout the game.
Some choices will decide which character receives a life-altering injury, and some choices are life or death for minor or not-so-minor characters. There are at least a couple of moments that will leave you wondering “Can I replay this to change that outcome?” and sometimes you can, sometimes you can’t. But there’s also a sense that you’re on a rail taking you through a fairly linear story, much like those corridors with the piles of crates blocking off alternative paths.
Resurgence could have benefited from some more unexpected tangents, and maybe even a TellTale-like statboard comparing your choices to other players and putting them in context.
But there’s one element that makes this feel the most like the Star Trek you grew up with. Like the series it’s based on, Star Trek: Resurgence knows you can get away with any amount of slightly corny dialogue and the occasional threadbare-looking visual effect if you serve it all with a big scoop of sincerity.
For all its flaws, if you want a story that feels like it is straight out of the Berman and Braga era of Trek, you should give Resurgence a playthrough.
“Oh look, here comes Spock!” you complain. “They’ve got a perfectly good, self-contained and original story here, I don’t know why they have to shoehorn in this blatant fan service.” Then you go on to carefully choose your dialogue responses according to which ones will make Spock think you’re cool, and feel more pleased than you want to admit when you impress him.
Despite clunky minigames and graphics, Resurgence tells an original story that captures what fans love about a specific era of Trek.
Full disclosure: reviewer Chris Farnell has a book about Star Trek, the Star Trek Lower Decks Crew Handbook, coming out this year.