For fans that need some reassurance that the old Star Trek isn’t dead, take heart: Story is the new Star Trek game’s heart and soul. An E3 2012 presentation of the co-operative Spock and Kirk adventure outwardly looks rough but the creators are approaching it with the right perspective.
Star Trek isn’t what it used to be and that’s a very, very good thing based on how well the 2009 movie by J.J. Abrams was received by the general public. Die hard Trek fans may have been disappointed in the franchise’s turn away from the quieter, contemplative storytelling that defined the best moments of the original and The Next Generation, but the quick action and spry sense of humor were revitalizing after the forbidding nerd camp of Voyager and Enterprise. Namco and Digital Extreme’s Star Trek for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC continues to evolve the franchise into something that is less philosophical but still candied fun.
A thirteen-minute pre-alpha, meaning a very rough draft of the final game, demo of the game showed Kirk and Spock landing on the planet New Vulcan where a colony of Vulcans have been corrupted by the game’s enemy the Gorn. Gorn are a callback to the very beginnings of the show, a race of violent lizard people that Kirk had to fight in an episode called “Arena.” The game’s Gorn are updated to mirror the rest of the new Trek universe; rather than lumbering creeps, they’re snarling, lithe monsters. Will you get to shoot the Gorn with a makeshift rock cannon like Kirk did in the ‘60s? “Wouldn’t that be nice,” says senior vice president of Paramount Brian Miller.
All in all, the game looks like what’s been shown before, a mix of third-person shooting and taking cover that recalls Gears of War coupled with unique skills for Kirk and Spock. Spock scans the environment to trigger story, Kirk calls down aerial strikes from the Enterprise; it’s all very familiar. Creative director Sheldon Carter and Star Trek film writer Bob Orci though insist that story is the core of the game. “Secrecy is a problem in projects like this,” says Orci, “We all know we’re facing the same page.” Carter’s team speaks with scriptwriter Marianne Krawczyk (God of War series) on a daily basis and her script is modified and tweaked by Orci and the film’s other story consultants. Though the script isn’t finished yet—Miller says, “It’s close.”—the team is already devoted to making sure it’s done right.
This doesn’t mean that there will be deep dialogue-based play in the game. “No comment!” says Carter when asked about dialog trees like those in something like Mass Effect. The project’s close association with the film staff, its long development time, and the development team’s freedom to create new canon should ensure something as rich in narrative as the name Star Trek deserves.