It feels quite strange for me to be reviewing something related to Star Trek, as while I do not dislike the television series, I am not its greatest fan either. As of late though it would appear a lot more care and attention is being paid to the games based around it.
The Fallen is centered around a five horse race to find three lost red orbs of the Pah-wraiths, orbs that when collected together give their owner the power to destroy the universe. It is down to Captain Sisko and his crew to get to the three orbs first, and to avert the potential catastrophe from getting past the starting blocks. Along the way you will be up against the Cardassians, the Dominion, a rogue Bajoran sect, and an unknown race of bio-analogous aliens known as the Grigari. Taking the role of Captain Benjamin Sisko, Major Kira Nerys or Lt Commander Worf you effectively have three completely separate single player games rolled into one, but all centred around the exact same storyline.
The whole thing uses the excellent Unreal Tournament engine to great effect. Setting foot on the worlds of The Fallen for the first time as Sisko is an impressive experience, with the ship you have boarded left in almost total darkness, creating a brilliant sense of foreboding. Any light that there is reflects beautifully off your white spacesuit, and with faulty machinery sending out sparks and arcs of blue electricity, it makes for a pretty gloomy and atmospheric opening to the game.
One To Beam Up
Indeed this is the way the game plays throughout, with a large focus on giving you the heebie-jeebies wherever you go. It is very hard to convey just how much the game gets into your bloodstream and really grabs a hold, having you genuinely scared and creeping around everywhere like some sort of wussy!
Gameplay is the usual "locked door needs a button pushed somewhere to open it" type of deal, with the puzzling element in general never really taxing the brain to any extent. In all honesty though it is not the main focus of the game, with the bulk of the game enjoyment stemming from the rock solid storyline and the combat during its unfolding. Not only do you get to play through three individual adventures, but the variety of missions and their locations is exceptionally good, with you fighting Cardassians on DS9 one minute, and scaring yourself silly in the highly atmospheric temple level the next!
It is only when you have played through the game as one character and begun to play through the game again as another that you can fully appreciate just how cleverly the game has been designed to intertwine the main story into three unique adventures. Communicator conversations that you heard the first time round will be heard again, but this time you will become directly involved with another part of the process. You will also find that situations which did not make too much sense before now become crystal clear.
Tools of the Trade
Weaponry is of course a vital part of the game, but oddly enough you will almost certainly find yourself using the phaser for the most part, although I think this is mostly thanks to the scant amount of ammo available to you for the other weapons. As the Klingon Worf you do of course get to slice enemies up with the razor edged Bat'leth, which I have to admit is extremely entertaining. I may need to seek professional help I guess...
Fighting the Grigari is slightly more complex, as you will need to use a combination of your phaser and Tri-corder to penetrate their shields. The Tri-corder is a brilliant feature of the game, enabling you to scan the immediate vicinity for any lifeform movement, hidden switches and other goodies, but perhaps its most important role is the ability to isolate a force field frequency. Once this figure has been registered your phaser will automatically adjust itself to that frequency to enable you to break through the field.
The enemy AI is generally very good, with the Cardassians in particular being extremely sharp shooters, and those with personal cloaking devices making your life even harder, while the Grigari are tough to take down and will track you mercilessly with their thin laser sensor - I eventually started to dread coming across these. Occasionally the AI does go haywire though, for example when Cardassian security guards are supposed to be shooting you on sight but instead carry on as if nothing had happened .. which is nice of them considering that I had just wiped out most of their comrades!
Graphics and Sound
Not enough can be said about the atmosphere of the game, with its dark levels really giving you the feeling that you just want to get out of there. The ability to wander through the main bridge of Deep Space Nine and the bar on the lower decks is just one of the neat graphical treats you are in for, although the framerate does take a noticeable dip on these sections.
Character detail is very good, and all of the main characters are instantly recognisable, while the alien lifeforms look excellent too. I was thinking that it would be a hard job to recreate the pimpled squared features of the Cardassians, but the artists and designers have done a brilliant job. The cutscenes all use the game engine and serve to help the story along nicely, handling large renders like the space station itself extremely well.
Meanwhile all of the character voices are provided by the real stars of the television series, and as such the acting is generally of a very high quality, though sometimes the conversations can flow a little unevenly. But most impressive of all has to be the soundtrack, which really does compliment the eerie atmosphere of the game perfectly. Even though there is not a wide variety of music, what there is seems to fit each particular scene perfectly.
Playing through the game once is a pleasure in itself, but having the added bonus of two more characters to complete the game with gives astounding value for money. A solid storyline backed by hauntingly good graphics and sound, with entertaining combat and weaponry make this a hard game to put down.
The only disappointment is the lack of a multiplayer option, but to be quite honest single player is so darned good it does not really pose a problem, as you will probably be playing it for weeks. Deep Space Nine : The Fallen is an excellent romp that will have you on the edge of your seat and wanting more .. the difference being that you do get more - you get three times the fun. Set co-ordinates for your local software retailer .. make it so!