If you want to actually enjoy a “Star Trek” or turn-based strategy game, it is possible there is no worse game to buy than Star Trek: Conquest. Here, Bethesda has strapped a version of Star Trek with the silly set to 11 onto a turn-based strategy game where the depth, intelligence, and quality can’t quite rival that of Baby’s First Stratego. It’s an abomination from the words “Number one.”
Warp Speed to Another Game, Please
The game takes place in the same era as “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” It focuses on a massive six-way conflict between the Federation, the Romulans, the Klingons, the Breen, the Cardassians and the Dominion. For those not familiar with the source material, it’s a bit like a game set in America in 1912 being about a war between America, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France and the Moon. From there, the complete lack of regard for the source material just gets worse and worse. All the races are racing to conquer the others, being content only when every enemy’s very home world is razed — even the Federation. Apparently we missed a clause of the Prime Directive that encourages the glassing-from-orbit of other races.
The game’s galaxy map resembles a child’s strategy boardgame with a few planetary systems marked as globes and the routes between them as simple lines. Here you rule your empire and command up to three fleets. Those are the entirety of your forces. Each race gets three admirals who will each boost attack, defense, or movement for the ships in their fleet.
Although the Cardassians get a few cool minor characters as their admirals, don’t expect to see Picard helping out the war effort if you’re the Federation. Your admirals, the shining leaders of your war effort, the war effort the whole game revolves around, are essentially minor red-shirts from the various series the game plucks its material from. It’s silly at best. Honestly, Jonathan Frakes did “Futurama;” he’s probably available to voice Riker one more time.
Each race deploys in the same spot of the map every time, and the map configuration never changes. Each system can hold a star base, either a money or science-producing facility (the latter to make super weapons and upgrades), up to two sets of defensive cannons, and one fleet. Regardless of the size of the system or your race, that’s it. Deep Space Nine and a powerful sensor array sit in two fixed map locations, but systems only vary in the amount of money they bring in per turn.
The game follows a predictable cycle of conquering enough neutral races’ planets to ensure that you’re gaining enough research points for a tech upgrade every turn, putting your three fleets into chokepoint positions to insure no one touches your industrial base, and — once you’ve got your upgrades capped and can produce a super weapon every turn — lobbing genesis devices at enemy planets before you dreadnought rush them. The genesis device, plot hook of two entire “Star Trek” movies, becomes a mere intra-galactic WMD in Conquest.