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Star Trek: Resurgence is a Welcome Throwback to '90s Trek

While “Star Trek” has enjoyed quite the long history of video game adaptations—dozens of games spanning almost every system known to man, though the best ones end up on PC—it’s a difficult franchise to get right. It’s not “Star Wars,” where lightsabers and space dogfights are the order of the day, a single hero saving the galaxy against pure-evil antagonists. (Even the best “Trek” action games, like the “Elite Force” series, have to bend their utopian premise just enough to make room for the run-and-gun antics the genre demands.)

But “Star Trek: Resurgence,” just released from developer Dramatic Labs and publisher Bruner House, hews more closely to the spirit of classic “Trek,” more focused on exploring strange new worlds and new civilizations than blasting them to smithereens with a photon torpedo. In so doing, it proves a welcome addition to the broader universe—even if its narrative choices are more compelling than their actual gameplay.

If you’re familiar with the choose-your-own-adventure flavor of Telltale Games, you’ll feel right at home in the narrative-focused gameplay of “Resurgence.” (Dramatic Labs is made up of 20+ former Telltale artists and producers.) Set just a few years after “Star Trek: Nemesis,” the last TNG movie, the game eschews the relative familiarity of the Enterprise for a smaller ship, the Centaur-class science vessel Resolute. It’s not the Federation flagship, nor is it particularly beautiful to look at (diehards will recognize the design as a “kitbash,” where modelmakers would glue together bits of existing models for random ships in the background of ‘90s Trek). But that’s the point: You and the Resolute crew are regular, everyday joes, doing the grunt work of Starfleet while Picard and co. get all the attention. 

Like the A/B-plot structure of many a classic “Trek” adventure before it, “Resurgence” flits between the perspectives of two different crewmembers. There’s Commander Jara Rydek (Krizia Bajos), the new first officer of the Resolute; the ship’s previous officer, along with several other crew members, was recently killed in an accident, and the captain (her former Academy mentor) is counting on her to help him weather the new scrutiny to his command. In the trenches, we also follow Petty Officer Carter Diaz (Josh Keaton), a happy-go-lucky enlisted engineer more focused on a potential romance with a fellow crewman than the big decisions of the brass.

Together, they and the Resolute crew embark on a dangerous diplomatic mission that wouldn’t be out of place in an old episode of “The Next Generation.” There are two warring factions with centuries of animosity between them, and it’s your job to mediate the dispute before it explodes into all-out war. 

In classic Telltale fashion, the game itself plays out largely like an interactive movie, with a heavy emphasis on dialogue and relationship-building. As either Rydek or Diaz, you’ll talk to crewmembers and alien guests alike to mediate conflicts, come to decisions, or exert your will on your subordinates. As Rydek, the weight of command lies heavily on you: Will you force a crewmember to risk their life to save several others? Which of your second officers will you lean on for support during a difficult test? Do you safeguard the reputation of your captain or make an unpopular decision that may protect the crew from danger? 

It’s this relationship management that feels paramount (no pun intended, considering “Trek”’s parent company) to “Resurgence”’s gameplay: the pause menu even gives you a rundown of how each character feels about you depending on how you’ve treated them thus far. Moreover, the dialogue tree isn’t as clear cut as something like “Mass Effect,” and your decisions are on a timer: You’ve got to think fast about what you say, and it’s not always clear how your statements will come across. It’s a great simulator of the soft skills and quick thinking required for Starfleet command.

These elements are compelling and appropriately tense, and the script and voice acting are top-notch. (Special mention goes to Piotr Michael as Ambassador Spock, whose Leonard Nimoy impression spices up one of the game’s few cameos from existing “Trek” characters. You can practically hear the dentures.) Writers Dan Martin and Andrew Grant have built a charming, likable cast of characters both on and off the Resolute, which lends additional impact—though the late-game addition of an Ancient Big Bad renders many of your thornier ethical decisions a bit inert. 

The fissures in the warp core, so to speak, come when “Resurgence” juggles additional gameplay elements on top of its interactive-movie structure. This comes into play most with Diaz’s sections, which (unlike Rydek) are focused more on scanning and fixing things. In his shiny Starfleet boots, you’re often stuck with tedious tricorder minigames or quick-time events with frequently-unclear mechanics. Sure, it’s fun the first couple of times to scan something or work a transporter panel, but the novelty gets old quickly. There are cover-shooting and stealth sections to break up all the politicking, but they feel unpolished enough to read more as intrusive. 

The game’s technical issues, at least at the time of publishing, sometimes take you out of the immersive “Trek” vibe the developers are going for. Subtitles will randomly not appear, walking and facial animations read as stiff, and the audio will get frustratingly staticky sometimes (I played this on an Xbox Series X). And the aforementioned scanning sections grow more tedious in the rare moments where the anomaly you’re supposed to scan for doesn’t appear on your tricorder. 

These mechanical hiccups aside, it’s hard to think of a recent game that captures the spirit of classic “Star Trek” quite like “Resurgence.” It feels like an upscaled episode of the classic "The Next Generation," from its wood-paneled Starfleet bridge sets to its motley crew of characters and sociopolitical dilemmas. Its graphical detail may not touch something like “Jedi: Survivor,” but that’s part of the charm: “Trek” heroes aren’t grizzled loners with laser swords. They’re principled members of a team who work together to boldly go where no one has gone before. In this respect, “Resurgence” works great as a “Star Trek” simulator, putting you in the captain’s chair with all its attending burdens. It’s hard to think of a Trekkier game than that.

Clint Worthington

Clint Worthington is a Chicago-based film/TV critic and podcaster. He is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Spool, as well as a Senior Staff Writer for Consequence. He is also a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and Critics Choice Association. You can also find his byline at RogerEbert.com, Vulture, The Companion, FOX Digital, and elsewhere. 

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