The trickiest part of reviewing mobile games at launch is seeing them for what they are instead of what you hope they will be over time. Such is the case with Star Trek Timelines, a game that was obviously a labor of love for Disruptor Beam, and one that updates could turn into the best Star Trek gaming experience in recent memory. It’s just that right now it feels incomplete, like a holodeck simulation where you can still see the grid lines in some parts.
Let’s start with the best parts. As promised by the developers, Star Trek Timelines offers up ultimate wish fulfillment by combining the casts of every Star Trek TV show and all of the franchise’s movies up until J.J. Abrams took over. If you’ve ever wanted to put together an away team with Troi from The Next Generation, Mayweather from Enterprise and Chakotay from Voyager, this is the game for you.
More than simply fan service, Star Trek Timelines also gives you a reason for all of the eras of the franchise to collide. There’s a storm a-brewing, a temporal crisis as explained by Q (and voice acted, at least in the game’s early stages, by the same man who played him on TV, John de Lancie), causing the past and present to exist simultaneously. That’s obviously Not a Good Thing™, meaning that only assembling a crew from across the ages will be enough to set things right.
You’ll need a large crew, too, to get everything you can out of the gameplay. Most of the time, you’ll be resolving story-driven situations by using the skills and traits of three different characters to find different solutions to challenges set before you. Diplomacy, medicine and technological know-how can all be options, as can force, if necessary. Decisions during away team missions don’t affect the way the story unfolds — in fact, you’ll have to replay them several times and explore every decision branch to earn all possible rewards — but at the end of an “Episode,” which is a string of missions, you are able to choose which faction wins in the overall dispute and change the balance of power going forward.
There are also space battles, which are great to look at thanks to some beautiful 3D graphics but not much fun to actually play. You assign a few crew members to battle stations, activate their skills as soon as the cooldown timers allow you to, and … pretty much sit back and watch. The feeling of a wasted opportunity is inescapable.
That’s even more true in the overall game, where too many game systems simply go unexplained. How do your decisions during Episodes help one faction come out on top in a dispute? What do scans do, and why is it helpful to undertake faction missions? Why can you join fleets with other players or see them orbiting certain planets if you can’t do anything with them? The answers are all somewhere within Star Trek Timelines, and even though the irony of saying this about an IP famously dedicated to exploring the unknown isn’t lost on me, they should be made much easier for new players to find.
Topping it all off, even after a game update shortly after launch, the game retained some truly perplexing bugs. Despite seeing captains of a higher level, I’ve been stuck at level 11 since I hit it. There have been other times I’ve tried to buy Faction Transmissions, and despite having enough Merits to do so, the button simply refuses to work. It’s also quite apparent that very few players know how they can earn new ships, which is a pity, since the wide variety of starships should be one of the game’s big selling points.
If you’ve played Game of Thrones Ascent, you know Disruptor Beam is going to get to the bottom of all of the glitches, shine up the gameplay and create some great social elements. I just wish they did all of that first, since I’m reviewing the game as it exists right now. Maybe it’s fitting that time travel is at the heart of Star Trek Timelines, because I’d love to be able to peer into its future and give it an even higher rating. Alas, I’m not even sure Q can do that.