IT’S LIFE, Jim, but not as we know it. The world of gaming has changed since free-to-play took over the market. Beam me up, Scotty! The developers are the only ones beaming now, as they reel in unsuspecting casual gamers.
Star Trek Timelines is the latest app to feature the free-to-play model, and it bears all the hallmarks of this system. There are number of different ‘currencies’ you can earn by playing the game, along with special boosts and items, but each of those currencies can also be purchased with real money. In reality, unless you have the patience of a Vulcan, the only way to acquire the good stuff is by using a credit card.
Still, that doesn’t mean Star Trek Timelines isn’t worth your attention. In fact, at times it’s a tremendous tribute to the world of Star Trek, a kind of interactive trading card universe, one where you can recruit almost any significant character in the franchise to your crew. That’s because, in true Star Trek fashion, there has been a ‘temporal anomaly’, one that has thrown time into disarray. Characters and scenarios from multiple Trek universes have collided into one existence — which, in short, means you can have Kirk, Khan, Picard and Janeway on the same crew. In fact, you can have three different Picards on board if you’re really lucky with your ‘time portal’ packs.
In simple terms, this is a game about numbers. Each character has certain attributes, just like a trading card, which you can employ on missions to further the story. Picard has high diplomacy, Worf has good combat skills, Beverley Crusher is a medical expert, and so on. Missions require the right mixture of high-level stats in your crew in order to progress. Without the right stats, you will come to a standstill. Crew members also affect your starship battles, which are won and lost depending on the model ship you acquire. The more your team are sent on successful missions, the more experience they gain and the better their stats become — to a point.
Like all free-to-play models, there comes a point. The point when the developers want you to start spending money. To its credit, Star Trek Timelines provides hours of free fun before that point arrives, but eventually it becomes clear that your crew and starship can only truly progress by purchasing ‘time portal’ packs, especially the packs that have guaranteed ‘epic’ crew members with extra high stats. Without the right crew and resources, you’ll be waiting days for timers to count down, just so you can inch a little further forward in the story. One such pack retails for €22, while the highest ‘dilitihium’ purchase you can make is for a staggering €155.
On the positive side, Timelines has beautiful character portraits and sound effects, with John de Lancie reprising his role as Q for the narration, while the prospect of collecting hundreds of cool characters from Star Trek will please any Trekkie. Just don’t spend too much money on the predatory free-to-play model — like the Enterprise, it’s often warped.
Live long and prosper, Spock says. In that case, he would approve of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, who began life in a cult ’80s comic book and still prosper to this day. The latest incarnation of the turtles is a game rumoured to be in production by none other than Platinum, in Japan. Platinum has made some of the greatest action games of the past decade, including Bayonetta and Metal Gear Rising. Screenshots of the game have been leaked and they look fantastic, in line with the style of the cartoon series most fans grew up with. This will be worth shelling out for.
Finally, forget Star Trek, there’s only one Starman worth your appreciation. The David Bowie tributes keep flowing. For gamers, he will be remembered as a supporter of the medium when others were afraid to be associated with the industry, through his work on Omnikron: The Nomad Soul. In memory of Bowie, Square Enix have made Omnikron free to download until Friday. Bowie played two characters in Omnikron, originally released in 1999, and also wrote some music for the game.
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