Our review of Star Trek: Resurgence, developed by Dramatic Labs. Available now for PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One, and Microsoft Windows.
WHAT IS IT?
A choose-your-own digital adventure set in the Star Trek universe.
IS IT GOOD?
Trekkies will feel right at home, though some rough edges occasionally make it less Risa and more Rura Penthe.
WHO SHOULD PLAY IT?
THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS
In the opening act of “Encounter at Farpoint”, Captain Jean-Luc Picard and his crew encounter the omnipotent god-like being Q, soon to become one of the defining characters of the Star Trek canon. In “Emissary”, the cold open throws us into the heart of the Battle of Wolf 359, where a young Benjamin Sisko faces the destructive forces of the cybernetic Borg. In “Caretaker”, the bombastic pre-credits sequence has Chakotay and B’Elanna Torres, renegade maquis fighters (and soon-to-be crewmembers of the U.S.S. Voyager) narrowly escaping the deadly phaser fire of a Cardassian warship.
In Star Trek: Resurgence, the brand-new narrative adventure game from Dramatic Labs, the story opens on… repairs. Conversations about repairs. Interactive repair sequences. More conversations about repairs. This is not an auspicious way to start a Star Trek story.
The good news, however, is that even as Resurgence gets occasionally bogged down by the banal, it still manages to deliver an overall authentic Star Trek experience. Resurgence simply feels like Trek, specifically late-90s/early-2000s peak Trek, back when DS9, Voyager, and four Next Generation films were busy keeping the brand alive, and when lens flare was but a gleam in J.J. Abrams’s eye.
Resurgence has the look and the sound of the best Trek era – seriously, try not to get goosebumps when the familiar transporter sound goes off – and, at times, manages to feel like the lost season of a Trek series that never was. I’m not entirely convinced that Commander Jara Rydek, Petty Officer Carter Diaz, and the rest of the crew of the U.S.S. Resolute could have actually carried an entire show, but for the dozen or so hours we get to spend with them, there’s a lot to like.
Resurgence is an appropriate name on a number of levels.
On the Trek front, there has never been more on-screen or in the works, from the celebrated and deeply nostalgic final season of Picard to the upcoming Section 31 film starring newly-minted Oscar winner Michelle Yeoh. On the gaming front, Resurgence marks the return of a coterie of game developers best known for their work at Telltale Studios, the (sadly now defunct) gaming studio which produced some of the best choose-your-own-adventure video games ever made. The spirit of Telltale lives on in Resurgence, with its similar choice-based, narrative-heavy, and only occasionally quicktime-event-happy gameplay and general approach to storytelling.
In Star Trek: Resurgence, players alternate between control of two characters: First Officer Jara Rydek and Petty Officer Carter Diaz, one a new appointment, the other a long-serving member of the Resolute crew.
When the game begins, the Resolute is undergoing repairs (ugh) after a devastating incident in which several dozen crew members, including the previous First Officer, died. The Resolute needs to be shipshape soon, in order to investigate a mysterious “space storm” that threatens the galaxy. Meanwhile, a tenuous peace between two alien civilizations – both disappointingly lame new additions to the ever-growing population of Trek species – is at risk of breaking down, leading to all-out war.
How the crew – and, more specifically, you, as Rydek/Diaz – respond to these challenges defines the narrative arc in both big and small ways. As in Telltale titles past, your decisions – from minor things like whether to laugh at a fellow officer’s joke, to major things like which defensive tactic to adopt – all carry consequences, the game quietly tracking everything you do. And mercifully, unlike in Telltale games, there’s no intrusive chyron blaring “SHE WILL REMEMBER THAT” every time you make a choice.
It’s probably no spoiler to say that Resurgence ropes in a couple major figures from the Trek universe, one even voiced by their original actor. (You can watch a trailer if you feel like knowing who.) While it’s nice to have some familiar faces on board, their presence is also a bit of a reminder that, however much this game looks the part, it’s really not the Trek that players hold dear to their hearts.
As Picard demonstrated, all we really want to do is hang out on the deck of the Enterprise, or the Defiant or Voyager for that matter, pounding back Raktajinos and chatting up the friendly space bartender, whether they’re a Ferengi or El-Aurian. While I get why Resurgence features a new crew – Telltale did the same thing with The Walking Dead, and it remains, no exaggeration, one of my Top Ten games of all time – it’s disappointing that the Resolute crew (and storyline) often feels like off-brand Trek. Here’s one generic alien arguing with another generic alien on some generic planet we’ve never heard of before. Here’s a Vulcan Starfleet officer with a superior attitude, but not that Vulcan officer. Here’s a good-natured Trill, but not that good-natured Trill.
Resurgence also betrays its indie limitations on a fairly regular basis: audio clips out or repeats itself; graphics don’t render properly – once, I walked straight through one of Trek’s famed automated doors, as if it was merely a hologram (which, hey, this is Trek, so sure, why not) – and the aesthetic, while lovingly nostalgic, is rather flat and poorly lit.
It’s also kind of funny that the story Dramatic Labs went with is, at least initially, rather rote. We’ve been here before: mysterious energy ribbons, warring planets, aliens which look like actors saddled with ridiculous facial prosthetics (in a video game, where they literally could have made characters look like anything). One of the running threads in the game is a Starfleet officer’s mad plan to break Warp Factor 10 – we saw how well that worked out for Tom Paris, didn’t we? The storytelling can also, in certain instances, be quite clumsy, like when the game introduces a new character who immediately declares their romantic intentions towards you, forcing you to decide whether to pursue a romance subplot with someone you barely know.
Misgivings aside, I still can’t help but like Resurgence, particularly as the plot picks up and expands into something more fascinating, not to mention laden with Easter Eggs for devoted fans.
Like Picard before it, Resurgence has given me yet another chance to hang out with (and within) the Trek I grew up with. I get to play space diplomat, scan for anomalies, fly shuttlecraft, use tricorders, and fire photon torpedoes. Hopefully, if there’s a sequel, it can cobble together a few more cameos, and perhaps go a bit bolder with its storytelling, either by telling a wholly unique story, or alternately doubling down on the nostalgia and giving us, like, a Q vs. the Borg game or something. I’d beam up for that, for sure.
Final score: 8/10 Darmoks and Jalads at Tanagra, when the walls fell.
Visit the official website for Star Trek: Resurgence here.