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Star Trek: Infinite review – make it so-so
4:42 pm | October 13, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Gaming | Tags: | Comments: Off
Review info

Platform reviewed: PC
Available on:
Release date:
October 12

Star Trek: Infinite sure is boldly going, but where it’s going to is a place I'm familiar with. It feels lazy to point at the empire-building 4X strategy (the 4 X’s stand for explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate) Infinite and mention that it’s just a reskinned version of Paradox’s own space-based Stellaris but after 25 hours with the game, I’m fairly convinced this is little more than a $30 licensed mod for that game. 

The thing is, if you’re okay with the deep sci-fi and you don’t need a lot of people prancing around in red leotards to have a good time Stellaris is already a fantastic Star Trek game. You explore galaxies, make first contact with a host of different alien races, and ally up in big federations to bend the galaxy to your will before inevitably teaming up to contend with one of several end game crises, the sentient species desperately banding together to try and survive. 

Want to be the bad guys? Since Stellaris was released back in 2016 several official expansions have fleshed out every part of the game so the only real caveat is… how bad do you want to be? Want to be a people-eating machine horde? A shadowy megacorporation? A warlike race of mushrooms that are trapping any worlds in impenetrable bubbles that doom them to life on a single planet? You can do all of those.

For Star Trek fans, the universe often remixes itself with the only true thread being a love of big philosophical questions and space lasers. Stellaris has all of that, so a cut-back version that has a license and a slightly off-brand Picard in the keyart feels somewhat superfluous. 

But that’s what we’ve got. The key art Picard looks a bit uncanny valley, and Star Trek: Infinite has just four playable races (evil Vulcan Romulans, the boring good guys the Federation, my eternal warbuds the Klingons, and the Cardassians) and it feels so limited compared to the two existing Star Trek total conversion mods that already exist for Stellaris I’m not really sure what the point is. 

Set phasers to… eh 

Star Trek Infinite

(Image credit: Paradox Interactive)

Unrelated, but did I mention that Star Trek: Infinite costs $30? While the total conversion mods for Stellaris are free and don’t make Paradox any extra money? I did, and that’s because it’s hard to think about anything else after a few hours of playing Infinite

There are a couple of twists on the formula, but the biggest change is also the worst: play Stellaris and you’ll start on a single planet and slowly map the stars. Pick one of the four races in Infinite and you’ll drop into a universe that’s already carved up, and it feels like you’ve dropped into someone else’s run at a grand strategy game, robbing you of the early exploration and instead, the game asks you to immediately grapple with running a handful of planets straight off the bat. God, running the Federation just seems like a lot of work, and it’s stifling. 

In Star Trek Infinite you juggle several different resources and take your empire to dominance in the universe, whatever dominance looks like for you. This might involve you wanting to be an economic powerhouse, militant warmongers, or stealthy diplomats. The beauty is that there are so many different ways to “win”, you can kind of pursue your own path.

Best bit:

Star Trek Infinite

(Image credit: Paradox Interactive)

Diving into each faction’s focus trees, it’s impressive to see the care lavished on the different races. Klingons will get specific skills to emphasis their… Klingonness, for example.  

In a more granular sense, this involves building out a network of space stations to control your territory and then settling inhabitable planets and constructing a series of civic districts, erecting specialty buildings to enhance their strengths. One world might exist to generate energy credits for you, while another might exist to pull together metals and alloys to build out ships.

If you’re wondering how resource management is happening in a Star Trek game when, famously, Star Trek is set in a universe with no system of currency and the complete absence of scarcity, then I would suggest you just roll with it because it would be an incredibly boring strategy game otherwise. Optimizing these planets and creating a material lead to get you a key scientific breakthrough or a bigger fleet to beat your enemies with is the real meat of Star Trek: Infinite.  

Story time 

Star Trek Infinite

(Image credit: Paradox Interactive)

While this is happening, narrative events are popping off left and right. You start at a huge canon event in the Star Trek universe, the Khitomer Massacre, and you work through from that point with a series of different narrative beats. Get it right and, depending on who you’re playing as, you can follow the canon along and eventually get your hands on the USS Enterprise and several named characters to tool around the galaxy with. In my first game, where I played as the fighty Klingons, this event led to a jumping-off point for the the race and it was easy to say how the atrocity could cause the Klingon civilization to diverge. 

These beats are handled fairly well. Playing as the Romulans will let you feel like a space meanie with the mechanics and narratives coming together to fulfill that fantasy. If you have no imagination you can play as the Federation and be nice to everyone before - presumably - daydreaming about Riker lunging his way around a spaceship bridge. It’s not 100 percent accurate to the events, but that’s often because the races themselves are all pursuing their own goals and things never play out the way they do in the series’ canon. This doesn’t grate too much, but it does mean certain moments like building the Enterprise don’t have the heft they should have.

However in just two games and 30 hours of playtime, I feel like I’ve got the bearing of two of Infinite’s races, and there are currently just four. I’m worried there’s just not enough depth here, especially when - and I’m sorry to bring it up again - Stellaris has a stack of these races and you can even jump into a randomly-generated race and just see what that opens up for you.

I love Star Trek because of that thrill of exploration and the feeling of discovering brave new worlds. You can do that here, but it feels like those far-off stars are just a little too familiar. Paradox famously reinvent their games and work on them over a long time so if I were charitable I could say that this Trek-’em-up will undoubtedly get a host of improvements. I don’t think they’d convince me to return though: the infinite expanse of space already feels very limited indeed.  

Accessibility features

As a strategy game with variable time controls, you can pretty much play Star Trek: Infinite at your own pace. There are very few additional accessibility options on offer here though, largely comprised of some multiplayer text-to-speech options and the ability to rescale your UI and subtitles.  

How we reviewed Star Trek: Infinite

I played 30 hours of Star Trek: Infinite on PC, spreading my time between a meaty 20-hour save playing as Klingons and a smaller game playing as The Federation. I also re-watched several episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, which isn’t strictly necessary, but felt like a good companion to several narrative chains in the game that referenced those events directly.  

Our list of the best PC strategy games is bound to provide you with a new game to sink some hours into. 

Starfield review – deep, space
7:00 pm | August 31, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets | Tags: , | Comments: Off
Review info

Platform reviewed: Xbox Series X
Available on:
PC, Xbox Series X|S
Release date:
Early access: Sept 1, regular release: Sept 6

Starfield wants to cast you as the lead in a brand new mystery of the week sci-fi series. Whether that’s Firefly, The Mandalorian, Stargate, or whichever flavor of Star Trek takes your fancy, Starfield has you covered. The role-playing game is best enjoyed like this too; as a lightweight and competently made amusement box that lets you interact with the world around you in whichever way suits you best. 

It’s quite an achievement. While some situations are going to require a quick trigger finger or an orbital dogfight, you’re often free to explore at your own pace and solve problems in your own way. I prefer to jetpack around and shoot all of my problems with a laser pistol, but if you want to try to persuade people or even forge a new life away from the game’s main story running resources between outposts and making a mint you can. Several of these paths can even be blended together,  something I expect most players will do in their first playthrough as they get to grips with the game. 

Bethesda Game Studios’ latest RPG will feel familiar to fans of Fallout’s 3D outings and even perennial fantasy favorite The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim. The offering here is much more polished, and there are notably fewer bugs than many meme accounts would have you believe. Ultimately there’s a whole universe here for players to dip into. 

Playing the ‘Field 

An astronaut in a Starfield Unreal Engine 5 demo

(Image credit: Pasquale Scionti)

But you won’t do it alone. Starfield pits you as a starship captain and you’ll slowly accumulate people to man your vessel, accompany you as you explore, and even staff your outposts. While the majority of the writing in Starfield is somewhat patchy, the companion characters are fleshed out and interesting enough to jet around the universe with. 

You can hire your future space friends from bars, but you’ll also get a regular flow of recruits from the game’s main story or side quests itself. Many characters in Starfield are looking for a bit of hope and something new. Often, your arrival brings that hope and you can then choose to add them to your crew - whether they can get their new life depends on whether you add them to your galaxy-hopping A-team, or assign them to oversee water production on a dead world.

If they’re on the ship, they’re getting a ticket to the main event. Building spaceships is one part of Starfield that feels expansive and, even on a controller, toggling power between your ship’s different systems is easy to do but feels surprisingly intricate. The way parts of your ship slowly thrum to life as you power up various systems is satisfying, the clunky way you power through space makes fights feel tense, lasers and ballistic rounds bouncing off your shield as you keep an eye on the all-important hull strength. 

There’s even ship-based stealth, where you cut the power to all of your ship’s systems and chug slowly forward in the hope of avoiding detection. When this goes wrong, and it likely will, you’ll get into dogfights that feel thrilling but also mechanically complex. Tweaking your shield and weapon power levels to try and get an advantage in fights feels crunchy and satisfying, while you can also board disabled ships and take them for yourself if you’re that way inclined, making space combat a satisfying diversion to scuffling around planetside. 

Conversely, on-world combat feels very similar to Fallout 4 or Fallout: New Vegas, although many planets have their own gravity and the addition of boost packs - a jetpack, proving that a rose by any other name does smell just as sweet providing the rose is a jetpack - means that firefights feel quite different to most other games. If you want to pretend to be Boba Fett, you can do that. I, in fact, did that fairly regularly.

Unfortunately, enemies feel spongy, and often you’ll pump round after round into an opponent without much in the way of feedback. Combat often feels quite weightless, but can be helped with a few damage-boosting skills. 

Skills to pay the bills 

An astronaut looks out over a snow covered mountain range with a ringed planetoid in the distance

(Image credit: Bethesda)

Starfield’s skill system is one of my favorite parts of the game. You can buy skills in any order that you want and some of them will unlock new game mechanics: the stealth skill gives you a detection meter to help in skulking around, while the targeting skill allows you to use your ship’s weapon systems to target individual parts of a ship. Use these skills enough and you’ll finish their challenge - killing enemies with a pistol, crafting objects, getting sneak attacks -  and can then buy the next level of the skill which will give you even more benefits.

There are several different families of skills and you can slowly progress through them, and it’s really clear to see how these different trees can intersect to create unique situations. My character started with skills in speech, pistols, and piloting but I quickly found myself swotting up in research, gaining proficiency with melee weapons, and then - due to my innate desire to gather items like some sort of spacefaring magpie - skills in weightlifting to let me carry everything. 

Best bit:

A lone space explorer stands at the bottom of a vast canyon as the sun rises in the background

(Image credit: Bethesda)

Docking with a space station that wouldn’t respond to my hails, I found myself in the middle of a zero-G shootout in a space casino. As spacers descended on me from all sides, my pistol rounds were knocking bodies and props flying through the station as I used a boost pack to float through the station and outmaneuver my enemies.  

There are some games that you just don’t want to write reviews for. Starfield is, unfortunately, one of them because of the weight of expectations, fans clamoring to hop into a spaceship and throw themselves into the vast inky blackness of space. There’s something about space that seems to do this to people: just look at No Man’s Sky or Star Citizen, both games about pirouetting through the void that have been victimized and lionized by people in equal measure. Writing about Starfield, then, is a bit of a poisoned chalice. If it’s bad people will get grumpy. If it’s good, people will get grumpy. I’m not sure how people will react to the reality: that Starfield is competent and well-made but has the same lifeless eyes as the uncanny valley NPCs that inhabit its sprawling cities.

Starfield isn’t like those other space games: there is a full universe to explore but the playspace here is actually broken up into a lot of little chunks. You won’t be flying your ship from orbit down to the planet, and you can’t even use your ship to get around on the planet. There are a thousand different worlds to explore, but many of them are barren and good for nothing more than gathering resources in a pinch, the planet able to provide a platform for your building but very little else. On the ground itself, you also can’t explore willy-nilly - the planets are parceled up into little packages of land for you to charge around. You’ll rarely notice that the universe is split up into these vignettes: you’ll fast-travel around much more often, and in all of my playtime I’ve run into this issue once or twice. 

For some, that will be an unforgivable error: an open-world game portioned off by loading screen toll gates. If this is you and you’re bristling away, my advice is just to get over it. It won’t impact your enjoyment of the game. Hardly any of the little qualms in Starfield will impact your enjoyment.

A titanic undertaking 


(Image credit: Bethesda)

I could have spent another 100 hours with Starfield and I’m still not sure if I’d have managed to see everything. However, the 40 hours I’ve spent with the game have left me certain that this is a well-made game made by people who really do want to offer up the sort of RPG that most developers can’t find the resources for anymore. It’s titanic, and this is easy to see whether you’re running across frozen tundra trying to escape alien spiders or navigating a course around a fractured asteroid field. 

But, I’m somewhat concerned about the soul of the game, which is largely absent. This soul - raptured away at some point as Starfield’s multitude of systems were layered into place - isn’t something you can touch, but it’s what I've come to blame for the fact that Starfield is almost completely devoid of character. There’s an entire universe to explore and you can go anywhere, but none of it feels like it’s anywhere. 

The cities and planets might have a different aesthetics, but they often feel like the same place. New Atlantis’ shining spires and the cyberpunkish Neon couldn’t look more different, but they feel like the same place once you’ve adjusted to the look. Ultimately, Starfield feels like a game made for screenshots. It even has a great “Oblivion moment” when you step out of the mines that act as a tutorial. Sadly, in play it’s rare to find something truly breathtaking. There’s a wide range of sci-fi here, but it feels like the rougher edges have been sanded off, and what’s here is fun if uninspiring, competent enough that there’s rarely a misstep even as you seek to get to the bottom of every mystery the game throws at you. 

I’ve enjoyed the time that I’ve spent with the game, and I fully expect scores and scores of people to be playing this for years. There’s so much here for willing captains who want to explore every different station, survey and map out every world. For me, I’ll be left looking up from the ground, wondering if a more interesting version of the game is out there in the stars somewhere. 

 Accessibility features

Slim picking here. You can turn on subtitles for dialogue and general play and also adjust the size of the text in the menus in Starfield, but otherwise, the accessibility options just offer you the chance to bring up ironsights (aim down sights) as a toggle option rather than requiring you to hold it. 

A disappointing offering for a game with this much time and money poured into it. 

How we reviewed

An astronaut staring at a distant ringed planet in Starfield

(Image credit: Bethesda / Microsoft)

I played 45 hours of Starfield on the Xbox Series X, with a 4K HDR-ready TV, playing with an Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2. During my play session, I did some main story and then decided to explore some random worlds and answer some distress beacons, ostensibly with the goal of getting enough money to buy a huge spaceship. 

I eventually wasted that money fitting the biggest laser cannons of all time to my existing spaceship, but I regret nothing.

Our list of the best RPGs might be worth checking out if you're not sold on Starfield. But, if you're looking for a journey to share with friends, you might want to check out the best multiplayer games on PC too.