Friday, 12 April 2019

STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE 9 - HARBINGER


Out of all of the Star Trek spin-offs, Deep Space 9 is arguably one of the best though it is somewhat underrepresented in video-game form. In 1995, the Federation space station located on the far side of the Milky Way came to PCs in a hybrid adventure game by Stormfront Studios called Harbinger.

You play not as a member of Commander Sisko's crew, but as Envoy Bannick seeking safety after being attacked by some troublesome drones. He's flying back from making first contact with the Scythians of the Gamma Quadrant but the return trip wasn't an easy one. Not only do those drones of unknown origin attack but the Scythian Ambassador Karrig has been murdered and you have to figure out the how and the why.

The on-rails shooting sections look nice but are a pain.
You can control their difficulty in the main menu.

In what is perhaps a cost-cutting measure to reduce the animation and voice acting budget, the infamous space station is pretty much empty. Most of the crew have evacuated due to a nearby plasma storm with only Sisko, Kira and Dax manning the controls. You will bump into other memorable faces such as Odo and Quark, but there's little more than that for the original cast. I don't know whether it was the direction, their voice acting or their stiff pre-rendered animation but not one of them feel as fleshed out as their counterparts of the television. It's as if they're the plastic toy version of themselves but with less articulation. Several times dialogue has cut off in what I once thought was an infrequent bug in the DOSBox emulation but no, it's meant to be that way. The abrupt end of the line is supposed to be due to another character or action interrupting them but it seems forced and unnatural. Ironically, the attempt at a more natural conversation style has made it sound as odd and stilted as possible.

You can wander the station in static Myst-style steps but no matter where you go, it all feels strangely empty. You can talk to the minimal crew and solve the odd self-contained puzzle but it appears most of the effort was spent on the rather annoying arcade sequences. There are many mouse-controlled on-rails shooting segments and each and every one of them are a pain to get through. The camera moves so erratically you cannot get a grasp on where you're shooting let alone how accurate you are. Targets zoom across the screen and will be gone in a split second. At least the CGI video that makes up the background is nice to look at.

A good chunk of the station is free to explore. You can get to different level 
with the lift (left) or speak to the computer if you're lost or need help (right)

Anyway, back to the ship. The controls here are also a little unintuitive, though still functional. The hotspots are at the very edge of the screen which means you don't click straight in front of you to go forward but at the upper most edge of the screen. Your mouse-wielding wrist will definitely be getting a workout as it constantly sweeps across the screen.

On the plus side, the majority of Deep Space 9 is explorable and it remains a thrill to navigate through familiar locations at your own pace. There's no need to collect items as puzzles don't require them and perhaps because of this design choice there isn't much you can't interact with. Most screens have nothing in them, existing only to accurately portray the fictional vessel. It's not uncommon to spend dozens of clicks to get from one place to the other just to have yet another incredibly long (yet often interesting) conversation and retrace your steps to where you started. This makes for a very, very slow-moving game.

There are a number of stand alone puzzles, but none are very difficult.

While the presentation leaves a lot to be desired, the story itself is pretty decent. The puzzles themselves are mostly easy for the seasoned adventurer but the real meat takes place in the dialogue trees. The conversation can go in many different ways if you're not careful, making use of your skills as an Envoy. You'll need to pay attention to what you've been told and be careful not to lock out any pertinent information by being impertinent.

Overall, Star Trek: Harbinger is below average, making it all the more disappointing after the many stellar adventures based on the property that came out prior. I'm more of a casual fan than an out-and-out Trekkie so I may not get as much out of it compared to its core fanbase but even then A Final Unity or Judgement Rites are far, far better options.



To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses DOSBox to bring the game to modern systems. Press Ctrl-F4 to swap discs when prompted. Tested on Windows 10.

File Size: 876 Mb.  Install Size: 1.17 Gb.  Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ

Download


Star Trek: Deep Space 9 - Harbinger is © Viacom International Inc
Star Trek: Deep Space 9 (the show) is © Paramount Pictures
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me


Like this? Try These...

http://collectionchamber.blogspot.co.uk/2016/09/star-trek-borg.html  http://collectionchamber.blogspot.com/2018/05/majestic-part-1-alien-encounter.html  http://collectionchamber.blogspot.com/2018/06/alien-virus.html

4 comments:

  1. Even as a hardcore Trekkie whose favorite series in the franchise is DS9... I agree that Harbinger is on the mediocre side. I would probably appreciate it even less if that weren't true, but 25th Anniversary, Judgement Rights, and A Final Unity are all much better games. It's kindof a shame because, as you said, DS9 is fairly underrepresented and I wanted it to be on the same level as those games, just with DS9 instead. I did appreciate being able to explore the station and nerd out though, limited in scope as it might be - it's the same reason I got way more enjoyment out of Elite Force's Voyager exploration mode than it probably warranted haha

    Overall, Harbinger just feels like a cheap, pale imitation of its siblings. Oh well!

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    Replies
    1. I agree. Hopefully The Fallen is better. I've got it running nicely but I've not played much of it yet.

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  2. Thank you, I appreciate both Star Trek uploads very much!

    ReplyDelete