Star Trek: Resurgence is a game I wanted to succeed just on paper, as there hasn’t been a high-profile Star Trek game in the last five years. When Dramatic Labs, a studio with over 20 developers who once worked at Telltale Games, first showed off the reveal trailer for the game back at the 2021 Game Awards, I was cautiously optimistic. I didn’t mind that the game was delayed several times from its original spring 2022 release date, because it was important that it felt finished for the sake of future Star Trek games. The outcome is a decent narrative-based adventure that largely feels authentic to the series and has plenty of dramatic twists and turns, though there are many places where the game isn’t as polished as it could be.
A shining star
Star Trek: Resurgence plays like a typical Telltale game if you had to get through all five episodes in one go. The narrative is spread throughout 40 chapters, with most lasting about ten to fifteen minutes, so there are plenty of cutscenes and content to get through. The game has some minor exploration, a lot of quick-time events with fairly easy button prompts, more than several mini-games, and a few puzzles using the familiar Tricorder. But all of that is really fluff. It's about making pivotal choices and seeing how they impact other characters and, ultimately, the ending.
More importantly, the game feels like you're experiencing a full story arc of Star Trek episodes. I would consider myself a casual fan of the franchise, having watched a lot of The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine as a teenager. But I still came away impressed with the amount of detail and care that went into the cameos and the ship's set design. Notable returning characters like Ambassador Spock and Commander Riker feel authentic, and all the jargon about ionic interference, hyperspanners, and quantized crystallization fit well when mentioned in the dialogue. More than a few Trekkies will be able to point out some errors, but by and large, Resurgence captures the tone and the particulars of the Star Trek series admirably.
It takes two
The narrative features two main protagonists who begin on opposite ends of the chain of command on the USS Resolute: First Officer Jara Rydek and Engineer Carter Diaz. Both characters have to contend with a devastating explosion that occurred several months ago on the USS Resolute that left many crew members dead. Rydek has plenty of credentials to become the ship's new First Officer, but many feel the position should have been filled by someone already serving on the crew. Meanwhile, Diaz and the other members of the lower decks are just trying to stay on task with fewer hands.
Between the two, though, Rydek has been dealt the tougher role, not only as a Kobliad who needs a steady supply of deuridium to stay healthy, but as an officer who has to deal with a crew who is sometimes at odds with Captain Zachary Solano. It becomes clear by the fourth episode that Solano is scared about his career after the blunder with the explosion and wants Rydek to make him look good in front of Starfleet, even if that sacrifices the crew's safety. On top of that, Ambassador Spock has given the USS Resolute the unenviable task of trying to be peacekeepers between two alien species, the Hotari and the Alydians, who are on the brink of war. That said, about a third into the story, something happens that makes the war look like a pillow fight.
How Rydek and Diaz deal with challenges is partly determined by how they interact with other characters. This works similarly to a morality system, but it's less about good and evil and more about whether characters agree with your actions, like in Dragon Age: Origins. Each decision you make during a conversation can influence how other NPCs feel about the protagonists, and more than a few critical choices will gratify some characters while angering others. It's hard making everyone on the crew happy, and apart from situations that require diplomatic answers, it might not be worth trying to please everyone all the time. The narrative relies on these difficult choices to create drama, particularly near the end of the game where Rydek's relationships with the senior staff are tested.
On the downside, this system only records how characters feel about your latest interaction with them. There's no indicator of how a character feels about Rydek or Diaz overall, so it can be hard to judge how they might react if you're about to make a decision that could decide someone's fate. Also, there were a few reactions by the crew that I felt were out of place near the climax. I won't spoil anything, but suffice it to say, some characters began acting like whiny drama queens instead of professional Starfleet officers who need to unite in order to face an existential threat to the universe. I also thought the ending didn't resolve a particular something (to keep this spoiler-free) that happens to a lot of Starfleet officers, and I wanted to know more about what the Federation decided to do with them.
I would rather play fizzbin
The quick-time events and mini-games peppered throughout the story are fairly standard. Most of the QTEs require simple button presses on the keyboard or simple movements on the analog sticks and triggers if you're using a controller. Some of the mini-games that keep things straightforward worked better, like a puzzle that has you make a path for the teleporter and the object-finding investigations with the Tricorder. However, others became too complex, like one where you have to balance power levels and another where you need to fly through rings of electricity.
While I didn't mind the mini-games that involved stealth and gun combat, they were not impressively done. For stealth, I was able to move around guards rather easily and could usually make a beeline toward the goal without getting caught. The combat sections weren't too complicated, having you duck behind cover when being fired upon and then popping out to nail enemies with flashing symbols above their heads. It was only the last combat section on a rail where you had to switch between opposite cover points that the camera went haywire. Fortunately, if you fail these mini-games, you can retry them in Story Mode, which basically gives you a free pass.
Where Star Trek: Resurgence suffers most is in its lack of technical prowess and quality-of-life features. The graphics and character modeling are fine for what they are, but some of the NPCs look like upscaled characters from The Sims. There was unfortunately no way to skip or fast-forward through cutscenes, no conversation log, and no chapter select option. The build also froze every time I wanted to head back to the main menu, a bug I hope is fixed by the time of release. The subtitling was also a little inconsistent, with some lines of dialogue not subtitled correctly or displayed at all.
“Sometimes a feeling is all we humans have to go on.”
If you're a Star Trek fan looking for a game that respects the series enough to get the details right, then as a Vulcan might say, Resurgence is the most logical choice. It has an intriguing narrative that takes the risk of having two protagonists and plenty of difficult choices for you to make. However, some of the overcomplicated mini-games and melodramatic cutscenes mar the last third of the game. While Resurgence isn’t a technical marvel by any means, you don't need a lot of bells and whistles to tell a decent story. And I'm willing to settle for that.
This review was based on a pre-release PC review code provided by the publisher. Star Trek: Resurgence will be available on May 23, 2023 for PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and PC via Epic Games Store.
Star Trek: Resurgence
- Feels authentic to Star Trek
- Complex narrative featuring two protagonists
- Plenty of drama and difficult decisions
- Some overdramatic scenes and convoluted mini-games near the end
- Lack of technical prowess and quality-of-life features
Nick Tan posted a new article, Star Trek: Resurgence review: Beam me up