Aliens. They’re everywhere. Whether they’re humanoids with Cornish pasties Sellotaped to their foreheads, pointy ears or ridiculously bulging Mekon-style heads. Or your more difficult to read gelatinous blob multi-pod type of creature. Whom or whatever, as a representative of the Federation standing for peace, it seems they are out to make your life miserable.
The Alpha quadrant is a notoriously unstable area (three cheers for the first person who actually finds a notoriously stable area!), with Vulcans, Klingons and the Federation all in close proximity. War is only a matter of time in such a strained environment, particularly when a catalyst as powerful as the Borg strolls on in…
In Armada you are challenged by four campaigns all based in the Alpha quadrant. You have to play them in order, Federation first, then Klingon, Romulan, and finally you get to do a bit of assimilating with the Borg. The game is a real time strategy affair; basically it’s C&C in space. Instead of mountains you have asteroids, and in the place of tanks you’ve got battle class cruisers.
Instead of terrain, the game has gas clouds, plasma fields and other phenomena which can change the tide of a battle if used correctly. They also spice up the otherwise fairly bland space setting too – the visuals are reasonable, although ships and planets can suffer a little from that ‘stuck on’ look. That’s probably a homage to the original Star Trek series, though!
In terms of gameplay, the missions do have a certain variety – in some you use the standard base building methods, others put you in a single ship fleeing against overwhelming odds, and all the while the plot chugs along powered by some typically corny cut-scenes. Well, this is Star Trek after all. A full suite of multiplayer options is also here along with the campaigns, with Internet and LAN play both supported. A quick skirmish game against computer opponents can also be had.
Novel touches include… hmm… there really aren’t any. The biggest difference from a standard RTS is balancing the crew of your ships (an under-crewed ship won’t repair properly), and the ability to use your crew to board and take over other vessels (the Klingons are particularly good at this). Also, the interface is customisable – you can move and dock the various status and map windows. Sadly it’s a fairly bland, slightly cluttered interface, and particularly unimpressive is the pokey little map display.
Armada also suffers from SUS – stupid unit syndrome – at times. Order a group to attack one cruiser and one of your ships splits off somewhere else for no apparent reason, gets itself attacked, and now you’re fighting on two fronts and generally head-butting your monitor in frustration. Bet Jean-Luc Picard never had to deal with that.