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Star Trek Resurgence is a great fit for the Telltale formula

The narrative adventure genre is about to boldly go where no game has gone before. Well, sort of.

Announced at 2021’s Game Awards, Star Trek Resurgence is the debut game from Dramatic Labs. Considering that the new studio was created by former veterans from Telltale Games, it was safe to assume what the sci-fi adventure would entail. Anyone who’s played games like The Walking Dead or The Wolf Among Us could reasonably expect a story-driven game filled with impactful dialogue choices.

That’s exactly what Star Trek Resurgence looks to deliver. I went hands-on with a build of the game at GDC and found that it looks and plays just like the Telltale games of the mid-2010s. That’s not a knock against it by any means; in fact, it turns out that Star Trek is the perfect fit for that tried-and-true template.

On the bridge

In my demo, I played three short segments of the game, which introduced me to both of its playable characters. In the first chunk, I take control of Commander Ridek, a half-Kobliad on the USS Resolute. It’s a simple enough introduction. The mustachioed Captain Solano walks me to the ship’s bridge, where I’m introduced to all my crewmates. In classic Telltale fashion, I get various dialogue choices that let me shape what kind of Commander I am.

Jara appears in Star Trek Resurgence.

Notably, Star Trek Resurgence does away with one of the staples of the genre. That is, you won’t see pop-ups telling you that characters “will remember” what you said to them. The impact that dialogue choices have is less telegraphed here, with seemingly every choice potentially affecting where the story goes.

I start to see how that’s going to unfold long-term in the third chunk of the demo. This time, Commander Ridek is in a meeting getting briefed on a conflict between two factions on the brink of war over resources. Everyone in the room, including Ambassador Spock, lay out the intricacies and nuances of the situation. It quickly becomes clear that there’s no easy answer; I have to decide the best way to broker peace through careful listening and my dialogue choices.

Diplomacy seems to be a running theme throughout the game. The developers say that the story will take players to various planets (the developers teased that we’ll see some “familiar” ones) and other ships as they solve conflicts through the galaxy. I’d never considered it before playing, but Star Trek is an ideal property for this type of game. It’s a dense series filled with lore and political dynamics, but also plenty of flexibility to tell new, choice-driven stories.

The bridge of the USS Resolute in Star Trek Resurgence.

Dramatic Labs had total freedom to play with the IP, though the dedicated Trekkies on the team still wanted to make sure they got it right. Funny enough, the developers say they looked to fan wikis like Memory Alpha to do their research on the world of Star Trek. The result is a totally original story that still feels perfectly in the spirit of the franchise. The developers stress that the game is “reverential, not referential.”

The lower decks

In the second part of my demo, I got to see how the other side of the USS Resolute lives. I controlled Carter Diaz, an engineer separated from the dense political conflicts happening on the deck. While the gameplay was about the same, it gave me a better picture of the game’s structure. The story will have players bouncing between both characters, switching between a more personal and high-level perspective on the adventure.

In discussing that approach, the developers gave me some insight into what pieces of the Star Trek universe they drew from for inspiration. The Lower Decks (the Next Generation episode, not the series) is a major influence on the game, which is clear from the character dynamic. Beyond The Next Generation, the game is tonally in line with the original cast Star Trek films, with First Contact being a primary reference point.

The Sshuttle bay of the USS Resolute appears in Star Trek Resurgence.

The vibe seems spot on based on my short time with the game. It’s a cerebral experience that emphasizes complex political negotiation and interpersonal character relationships over sci-fi spectacle. It seems like a game that diehard Trekkies have always wanted, but that an action-heavy industry has been too sheepish to make.

While I got an introduction to the characters and dialogue trees, there’s still plenty I didn’t see during the demo. The developers note that there’s an exploration component to the game, which will involve solving puzzles in environments. There’s a bit of romance squeezed in too, though the team emphasizes that it’s not a dating simulator. That should add some variety to the game, while still keeping the spirit of Telltale’s games intact.

When I asked the developers why they’re still interested in this style of narrative game after all these years, they delivered a succinct answer: It’s the kind of game that you can’t be on your phone while playing. I already felt that during the demo, as I was so focused on listening to the story that I didn’t even want to banter with the developers until I was through it. It felt like watching a good episode of Star Trek, which is the highest compliment I can give it so far.

Star Trek Resurgence is scheduled to launch this spring.

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