A diplomatic incident is brewing. At the edge of the galaxy, two peoples are on the brink of war, fighting over mining rights to the incredibly important resource dilithium, the stuff that makes starships go. The Federation starship Resolute arrives in the system, intent on helping negotiate peace as a neutral intermediary–or at least, that’s the claim. As you join the diplomatic delegation, which includes the legendary Ambassador Spock, though, you become aware of competing interests: namely, the Federation’s need to keep the dilithium flowing to fuel its ships.
When Star Trek gets the video game treatment, the focus tends to be on all the stuff, like ships and phasers, and the battles they enable. It’s true that Star Trek has its share of action, especially among its film offerings. But some of the best and most memorable moments of the Star Trek TV shows–particularly during its 1990s heyday–concerned interpersonal conflicts, political machinations, and tense diplomacy. It’s those moments that Star Trek: Resurgence looks to capture, putting the focus on tough decision-making and dialogue, rather than on managing power distribution on the Resolute’s bridge or landing headshots with a phaser.
Now Playing: Star Trek Resurgence Reveal Trailer | Game Awards 2021
We played about a half-hour of Resurgence at Summer Game Fest, playing through three quick scenes of the game that set up its brewing conflict. Like the best episodes of Star Trek, the three scenes we saw in Resurgence mixed a variety of parallel stories, bringing together personal conflicts and sci-fi space weirdness. You play as two characters through the course of Resurgence: Commander Jara Rydek, the Resolute’s new second-in-command, and Petty Officer Carter Diaz, a low-ranking engineer. While Rydek grapples with the diplomatic tensions of the negotiations between the Alydians and the Hotari, Carter is pushing buttons on LCARS consoles and flying shuttlecraft in hopes of figuring out what space problems are messing with the Federation ship. Of course, there’s more to that spacial anomaly than just anomalistic space–something sinister is going on, and as in the best Trek episodes, the intrepid crew has to solve the mystery, help the locals, and stay true to their principles as best they can.
Developer Dramatic Labs is made up of former Telltale Games writers and developers, and the influence is immediately apparent with Resurgence. This is a narrative adventure game in which most gameplay has you walking around environments, talking to different characters, or watching cutscenes unfold and adding your input by picking dialogue options for Diaz or Rydek. How you choose to respond to questions–or whether you respond at all–influences the way the story plays out.
It’s an incredibly good fit for the Star Trek franchise, as it turns out. Some of the best stories in Star Trek are about elements like politics or diplomacy as characters struggle with their own ideologies and beliefs, and putting the focus of Resurgence on making tough decisions about who to side with during a diplomatic negotiation or whether to trust a commanding officer’s judgment perfectly captures their feel.
Resurgence is set after the film Star Trek: Insurrection, in the era following shows such as Star Trek: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager. Its placement allows the game to capture the look and feel of all three TV shows–some of the most beloved Trek that exists–while exploring what is potentially new territory. We’re also in a Trek renaissance period at the moment with several new streaming TV shows, including Star Trek: Discovery, Picard, and Strange New Worlds (along with a couple of cartoon shows), and Dramatic Labs has said it chose this point in the timeline in order to avoid conflict with all the other tales currently being told.
For a nostalgic Star Trek fan who grew up on TNG, DS9, and Voyager, Resurgence hits exactly the right note. What we played felt particularly like an extended episode of The Next Generation, which had no shortage of excellent, emotional scenes that emphasized Patrick Stewart’s Captain Jean-Luc Picard’s tact, wisdom, and diplomacy over the bravado often exhibited by William Shatner’s Captain James Kirk. One whole scene in the preview was about aiding in the diplomatic negotations, and it’s easy to imagine Picard and his No. 1, Commander Will Riker, in place of Rydek and her captain, Zachary Solano.
As we’ve seen in other videos of Resurgence, the game’s story brings the player aboard the Resolute after it has suffered a tragic accident. A number of crew members were killed during a scientific experiment to push the ship’s warp drive capabilities, and because of that, several new officers have joined the crew. Rydek is one of them, leap-frogging other members of the senior staff to take the executive officer post in a move that seems to have left at least one person a little annoyed. Captain Solano, Rydek’s new commanding officer, is hoping that the Resolute’s new mission to escort Ambassador Spock to the negotiations will be enough to save his badly damaged career in the wake of the disaster.
The first scene in the preview put us in the shoes of Carter as he and another low-rank engineer are summoned for orders from their new commanding officer, Lieutenant Commander Chovak, a Vulcan engineer. Even if you have a passing knowledge of Star Trek, you know that Vulcans are famously devoid of emotion–but are also often accused of being smug and condescending, as well. In fact, it’s less that Vulcans have no emotions, and more that they suppress them in favor of cold, logical assertion, but that leads to a whole lot of passive-aggression. After trading some friendly banter between the engineers, the scene becomes about Carter trying to learn how to deal with Chovak. A lack of respect or an over-enthusiastic manner might invite the wrong judgment from your Vulcan superior. Then again, maybe you don’t care what he thinks, or how his opinion might affect Carter’s career and assignments.
The next scene skipped to Rydek’s story, which seems to run in parallel to Carter’s. As the Resolute’s XO, Rydek is part of Spock’s delegation, and she quickly finds herself pulled into the dispute between the Alydians and the Hotari by the canny Hotari matriarch. Both Spock and Solano have differing ideas about how the negotiations should be handled–Spock is after peace above all, or at least appears to be, while Solano is a little more worried about the Federation interest in the dilithium trade. The whole situation is pretty fraught, as the less-advanced Hotari have apparently been under the thumb of the Alydians for years, working the mines for their colonial masters, before unexpectedly taking control of the mines by force.
Rydek’s people, the Kobliad, have a similar history of oppression at the hands of the Cardassians, a fact the Hotari monarch quickly brings up in an effort to get you to side with her cause. The conversation can go a few different ways, offering you the chance to project strength or defer to the monarch, and asking you whether you think the Hotari should pursue justice or peace in the aftermath of how they’ve been treated. Both your superiors are keeping an eye on you and your answers during this time, and while we didn’t see how those choices would play out in later scenes, it’s clear that your relationships with both Spock and Solano are on the line. Resurgence didn’t say so the way Telltale games used to, but you can tell by the signature eyebrow raise as you make certain dialogue choices that Spock will remember that.
The last scene we saw provided a little additional gameplay, with Carter piloting a shuttlecraft with the Resolute’s science officer, Commander Westbrook, as his passenger. You get to control the shuttle through the sequence, dodging asteroids and other hazards as you make your way toward a marker ahead. The sequence keeps things relatively simple–don’t expect to buzz the Resolute’s bridge or blast through the asteroid field at high speed–but it was a nice change of pace to pick a path through the asteroids, giving the feeling that you do have to be at least a little on the ball to avoid crashing.
While you’re flying, the two crewmates discuss the Resolute’s new crew additions. Westbrook asks Carter about how he’s getting on with Chovak, and you have the chance to complain, gossip, or seek Westbrook’s advice. At the same time, Westbrook has some belly-aching to do about Rydek. In general, the scene feels designed to put you in an awkward position–do you trust Westbrook with your actual opinions, and therefore maybe become friendly with him or ingratiate yourself to him, or do you choose to be more diplomatic, while also possibly alienating him?
All three scenes captured what Star Trek is really about: the people boldly going where no one has gone before, rather than the machines they use to get there or the weapons they take with them. Resurgence is clearly familiar with the greater Trek franchise and a lot of its lore, and fans who are well-versed in ’90s Trek in particular will feel right at home in the story. That said, I got the impression that you don’t need to be a Trek nerd to enjoy Resurgence’s story; the trappings of Star Trek are there, but this is a new story about an original crew, dealing with a couple of original alien species and their problems. Yes, there are a few familiar elements, with Spock being the most obvious, but the writing seems geared toward making sure anyone can keep up with the story and its broader and ideas and themes, not just the kind of people who know what a warp nacelle is.
Though our time with the game was short, Star Trek: Resurgence definitely looks as though it’s capturing what makes Star Trek so enduring, as well as what garnered Telltale such a devout fan-following during its heyday. The game will release sometime later this year, launching on PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5.