Star Trek is one of the most popular media franchises around, and yet it hasn’t yet made its mark in the world of video games. Dramatic Labs, a debut developer composed of former Telltale Games developers, looks to change that with Star Trek Resurgence. It expertly captures what makes Star Trek so wonderful and lets you pilot a fantastic narrative by putting you in the uniforms of two well-crafted characters.
You start as Jara Rydek, the U.S.S. Resolute’s new first officer. After an accident killed almost two dozen Resolute crew members a few months ago, including the former XO, Rydek enters a precarious situation. She has to earn the trust of her new crewmates, including the captain of the Resolute. Through your dialogue decisions and actions as Rydek, you’ll begin to mold what kind of character she is and how others perceive her in a way anyone who’s played a Telltale game before will be familiar with.
Her relationship with Captain Solano starts off precariously. He feels under pressure to prove himself and make up for the accident in the eyes of Starfleet command, meaning he’ll try to dictate Rydek’s actions. Depending on what you decide to do and say as Rydek, Solano will either gain trust in Rydek or question why he brought her aboard. This is a recurring plotline throughout the game, and I loved how nothing was ever cut and dry, black and white – whatever decision Rydek chose was bound to upset someone, including Captain Solano.
I won’t forget how disappointed in myself I was when I panicked on a dialogue choice and caused Ambassador Spock to express displeasure in my decision. (The game acts like Ambassador Spock joining is a big reveal, but he was included in some of the earliest marketing materials.) You’ll quickly learn that trying to keep everyone pleased is going to be impossible and instead you’ll focus on making your version of Rydek true to what you want her to be.
The plot revolves around a tenuous peace between two different civilizations, the Hotari and the Alydians. They’re in conflict over control of dilithium-rich mines, and the Federation has been brought in as a neutral third-party to oversee negotiations. That the Alydians possess a trade agreement with Starfleet only adds an intriguing layer of conflict to the proceedings. Trying to negotiate during a diplomatic mission while mysterious machinations go on behind the scenes is exactly what I’d want out of a Star Trek game, and Resurgence delivers in spades.
You won’t play the whole game as XO Rydek, however. Petty Officer Carter Diaz is Star Trek Resurgence’s second POV. While Rydek is on a diplomatic mission, Diaz is mainly tasked with investigating the ionic storm the Resolute has been caught in. Things aren’t as they seem, and Diaz’s discoveries are crucial to uncovering the mysteries present in the narrative. His friendship with Petty Officer Nili Edsilar and a potential romantic relationship with Petty Officer Miranda Maris are given heavy focus in his sections and are what make them so appealing.
An occasional problem with multi-POV stories is they won’t be able to please all audiences. Some people will always prefer one protagonist over another and will groan whenever they have to read, watch, or play through a section as a character that’s not their favorite. Star Trek Resurgence does as good a job as anyone at mitigating this problem by making both Rydek’s and Diaz’s POVs both so engaging and fun.
Sure, I may have preferred the more diplomatic sections as Rydek, but Diaz’s sections provided a much-needed POV that was separate from the usually bridge-focused stories. His relationships are more personal than professional, which make for great conflict throughout the game. I enjoyed role-playing as both characters and felt they were both worthy of being centered in the narrative, although I do wish Rydek and Diaz interacted together more over the course of the game. Rydek’s chapters were maybe more essential to the narrative, but the Diaz side of Star Trek Resurgence is what made it a three-dimensional tale.
How much influence you have over the narrative is in doubt, as is the case with most games like this. Your actions won’t suddenly create a new storyline. Certain events are going to happen regardless of if you try to date Miranda as Diaz or get on your captain’s good or bad side as Rydek. I’m okay with this for I go into these types of games I view it as I’m role-playing a character within a predetermined narrative. The story isn’t for me to decide, but rather how my character(s) react is up to me. However, I do wonder if and hope that the future of choice-based games provides us more sway over the narrative as a whole and not just a character or two’s place in it.
While the main draw of Star Trek Resurgence is role-playing in the Trek universe, you won’t just be making dialogue decisions as Resurgence packs in stealth, third-person shooting, piloting, and little minigames to break up the dialogue- and narrative-heavy game. I applaud this group of former Telltale devs for branching out of the somewhat point-and-click and QTE-laden games of the past. That said, everything aside from shaping the narrative is clunky at best, tedious at worst. The shooting, piloting, and stealth all play subpar and are outdone by just about any other third-person action adventure game.
If you’re not a fan of some of the gameplay, thankfully none of the sections pop up too often and don’t last very long. For example, I really couldn’t stand trying to calibrate the teleporter as Diaz – struggling with the timing of a minigame really toned down the dramatic tension present. The section didn’t last long and wasn’t recurring enough to really lessen my enjoyment.
There’s a couple different cover-shooting sections that are rather rudimentary, but aren’t bad enough to seriously lessen my enjoyment of Star Trek Resurgence. Overall, I’m happy Dramatic Labs went outside their comfort zones by adding new gameplay elements, and next time – because I can’t wait to see what they do next – I’ll be expecting smoother and better gameplay.
Dramatics Labs certainly delivered better graphics in Resurgence than in Telltale games of yore, but that isn’t really saying much. Resurgence isn’t technically current gen – I played the backwards compatible PlayStation 4 version on my PS5 – so it doesn’t have any of the impressive visuals we’ve come to expect over the past couple of years, even from lower budget indie games.
Characters’ hair looks straight out of 2015, some human NPCs’ faces are unblinking and undetailed, and the alien appearances lack variety. A few minor audio bugs annoyed; a couple of times voice lines would get repeated, throwing off the lip sync and cutting off the successive line prematurely. Star Trek Resurgence‘s subpar graphics and occasional audio wonkiness amount to small annoyances and never really affected my enjoyment of the game.
Now, I should detail at this point how much of a “trekkie” I truly am. And… I’m really not. My first exposure to the franchise was the J.J. Abrams films, which I recognize aren’t true to the early philosophy of Trek, but I enjoyed nonetheless and they set the foundation for my growing fandom. I’ve enjoyed all four seasons of Discovery and am absolutely in love with Strange New Worlds.
I write all this to say that Star Trek Resurgence, I think, can appeal to all sorts of Trek fans. It’s loyal enough to the original philosophy of the franchise, one centered around diplomacy and peaceful resolutions to conflict, and tells a story that feels at home in the universe. At the same time it doesn’t heavily rely on any prior knowledge of the universe to tell its tale, and newcomers to Star Trek won’t feel lost at any point. Everything pertinent to the story is explained well and in an accessible way. I’ve seen maybe four episodes of The Next Generation, the era closest in the timeline to Star Trek Resurgence, yet I was able to understand everything in the game perfectly well.
If it’s not clear by now, I have loved my time with Star Trek Resurgence and I can’t wait to start another playthrough. Instead of “What would Pike do?” being my guiding principal, I might want to go full renegade and upset everyone. Resurgence is well worth revisiting, and – as someone who likely won’t ever pick up Tears of the Kingdom (blasphemous, I know) – Star Trek Resurgence might be my early favorite for 2023’s game of the year.
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