The Star Trek franchise hasn’t always been known for its excellent gaming offerings, and the past few years have been especially thin. With the notable exceptions of licensed property Star Trek Online and indie bridge simulator Artemis, Trek fans have largely had to muddle through with the occasional licensed movie tie-in (the most recent of which was universally panned). And that’s just on the desktop; the situation in mobile has been even worse.
Given Star Trek‘s historic influence on mobile technology, this is a pretty sad situation – and it’s one that developer Disruptor Beam aims to correct with its latest title, Star Trek Timelines. It’s a multiplayer social role-playing game set in the Star Trek universe (several different universes, to be precise) – and it’s coming to iOS and Android devices before 2015 is out. We sat down with Executive Producer Rich Gallup for a quick hands-on at PAX East 2015.
Disruptor Beam is especially proud of the graphics work it’s done on Star Trek Timelines, and for good reason: it’s impressive. Having just yesterday completed a playthrough of The Room Two on my Nexus 9, I’m accustomed to solid visuals in my tablet games … and Star Trek Timelines doesn’t disappoint. Gallup’s demo gave us a close-up look at everything from Trek‘s hero starships to iconic adversary craft like the Klingon Bird-of-Prey, and they were almost perfectly accurate to their on-screen inspirations. A quick jaunt over to Deep Space Nine in the Enterprise-D gave us a look at the ethereal warp tunnel effect and the faithfully-rendered Bajoran Wormhole; a few taps later and we were looking at the lush blue-and-green beauty of the Genesis Planet from aboard the original Enterprise. All of it looked beautiful on the iPad Air 2 unit being used for the demo, and responsiveness seemed fairly solid despite the high-resolution graphics being tossed around.
Star Trek Timelines relies on an age-old Trek trick for expanding its universe: the Mysterious Space Anomaly™. Here, the anomaly is temporal in nature, allowing for a cross-universe experience spanning all six TV series. That means your missions can include characters from multiple eras, all with their own areas of expertise. Characters are categorized by skills divided into six buckets –command, diplomacy, science, engineering, medical and security– and can be assigned to missions in any combination. The process of assigning crew members will be intuitive for any die-hard fan (Locutus of Borg would be excellent in a security role but terrible as a bartender in Ten-Forward, for example) but ability meters make it easy for even a non-Trekker to understand. Game events are pre-scripted, with randomization provided by dice rolls and level-up opportunities at regular intervals.
Big Plans for the Future
Disruptor Beam makes clear that the game’s development won’t stop with its release. Gallup made reference to some pretty esoteric characters from the Star Trek universe during our chat, including very specific one-offs as “Spider Barclay” and “Dixon Hill Picard” – both of which the company hopes to include later on via updates. The company also promises more ships in future installments; like the characters, these are likely to be offered to players via a combination of in-game purchases and achievement rewards.
Details are fuzzy on many of the game’s aspects for now; Disruptor Beam was only showcasing a relatively narrow subset of missions at PAX. It remains to be seen, for example, how the social and multiplayer experience will work (though the ability to form a fleet with your friends is a sure bet). Also, it’s not yet clear what hardware the game will require to run properly: it’s being built in Unity and the version we saw runs well on the iPad Air 2, but bare minimum hardware requirements in the more-diverse Android ecosystem may take longer to determine.
For a franchise so woefully undernourished in the mobile-gaming arena, any sign of progress would be a good one. But Star Trek Timelines isn’t just impressive for its mere existence; it looks to be a beautifully-crafted game built by real fans aiming to make the best-possible interpretation of a universe they love – a universe they have obvious longtime experience with. “We love Star Trek,” Gallup says; “we want this game to be an authentic Star Trek experience and we want it to be accessible to folks of all ages.” As a fellow fan, that’s a passion I understand – and I think it’s one other fans will appreciate.
Disruptor Beam aims to publish Star Trek Timelines simultaneously on iOS and Android by the close of the year. It will be free to download with in-game purchases available. The company informs us that it is seeking early feedback and actively growing its beta program as a result. Interested gamers can visit the Star Trek Timelines website for more information.