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A battle rages between Starfleet and its foes, but Starfleet Command II is a strategy game and takes place in only two dimensions.


© St. Petersburg Times, published May 7, 2001

Star Trek Starfleet Command II: Empires at War

SYSTEM: Windows

MAKER: Interplay

PRICE: $44.99

Fans of the old Starfleet Battles pen and paper games should enjoy this computerized homage from Interplay . . . once you get past the steep learning curve and the bugs that riddle the game.

The graphics in Star Trek Starfleet Command II: Empires at War are quite good, it features a variety of game-play possibilities -- you can choose from the Federation's Starfleet, the Klingon Empire, the Romulans, the Gorn, the Mirak, the Lyrans and the evil Interstellar Concordium -- and all of these come with their own series of missions.

It's a lot of fun.

But, as I waded through the 250-plus page manual (which still doesn't do justice to the complexities of commanding a fleet of starships in battle), I kept hearing Scotty's voice in my head: "Cap'n, she canna take much more!"

This game requires strict attention to the manual and the tutorials, and even then, you won't be fully ready to appreciate the challenge until you're thrown into the thick of a space battle. SFC II is not for anyone who likes to jump right into the main game straight out of the box.

The payoff is good if you invest the effort, but that can be flung right out the plasma vents when the computer hangs because of a software bug during a crucial mission.

Also, the game leaves something to be desired when it comes to flight realism.

Space is treated as two-dimensional, as if you were flying on a chess board, so no cool maneuvers such as rolling or spiraling at angles. And there's no flying backward, straight up or down or sideways. Just forward, arcing and turning around (although there is the option of high-energy turns, where your ship stops and spins around).

Those problems aside, if you have the patience to absorb the manual and practice what it teaches (and then some), and you don't mind the learning curve, SFC II is an enjoyable gaming experience, something that can't be said for too many Star Trek games in recent years.

-- WES PLATT, Times staff writer

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