|Star Trek Deep Space Nine: The Fallen|
December 4, 2000 | Andy Largent
The Collective is another of the few brave companies trying to go where few have gone before... and make a fun Star Trek game. Banking on the depth of the Deep Space Nine series and the power of the Unreal Tournament engine, the team has produced an intriguing title which might even entice those that weren't fans of the TV show to give it a try. Though I'm familiar with this branch of the Star Trek world, I should admit up front that I didn't follow the TV show much beyond the first season. But after seeing the game so far, it's looking like there are many reasons to be excited about The Fallen.
It's all in how the story is told...The story revolves around an exiled alien race, the Pah-wraiths, attempting to return and conquer the Alpha Quadrant. Being the good Federation officer(s) you are, it's up to you to attempt to stop their takeover. Three mystical red orbs are a source of great power in the sector, and if the Pah-wraith can uncover them before you, it's all over. A number of other races are in the game, include the Jem'Hadar, Cardassians, and the all-new race called the Grigari. An interesting feature is the way the three adventures of Captain Sisko, Major Kira, and Lieutenant Commander Worf are uncovered and interconnected in this delicate balancing-act.
In an obvious attempt to give themselves a massive headache, The Collective decided to make each character's experience different, yet still stay true to the overall arc of the story. While it may have been a pain to implement, it's a treat to play and should really give The Fallen a degree of replayability not seen in other single-player titles. More than just a few different levels, each character actually has a different style of play. Worf will be literally hacking his way through the enemy-filled levels with his Bat'leth while Kira requires a bit more gray matter to navigate through puzzles. Sisko, being the well-balanced captain he is, strikes more of an equilibrium between action and adventure in the game. Their respective paths will diverge, only to cross again more than once, making it fun to try out the game from the three angles. All of this is being done in the 3rd person perspective, so you can watch your respective character's movements and animations.
Take it all in perspective...Mac gamers are actually experiencing a sort of 3rd person renaissance in this later half of 2000. The perspective is considered by many gamers to be the ugly stepchild of the first-person shooter, with so many titles unable to correctly implement the camera or controls. So why are games like Rune, F.A.K.K. 2, and now The Fallen set with the protagonist viewed from a distance? The main reason for developers to choose this perspective is to show off a hero (or heroine, in the cases of Lara Croft , Julie Strain, and Major Kira). Since The Fallen lets you play as three of the main characters from the TV series (instead of some anonymous red-shirted ensign), they were practically required to set the game in the 3rd person.
The Fallen's controls feel much like F.A.K.K 2 or Rune. It's mostly the standard FPS keyboard and mouse setup, though the mouse also controls the camera angle from which you view your character. It's fairly intuitive and shouldn't take long for most gamers to get acclimated to the change. One of the classic problems in 3rd person games is aiming. Since you're not looking through the virtual 'eyes' of your character, it's difficult to judge the exact distance and direction when shooting. The Fallen takes a Tomb Raider-esque approach to the problem by having an auto-aim feature available. With it enabled, you should automatically lock onto the object closest to your crosshairs and be able to fire away. This frees up the mouse to control the camera and direction instead of just your weapon like in Quake or UT. Another traditional problem is backing up into a wall and suddenly seeing nothing but hair. This is solved in The Fallen by having the characters become translucent as you back into an object, allowing you to tactfully retreat from a situation and still shoot (or at least throw curses) at your enemy.