There was a scene in Star Trek: Resurgence where I sat at the edge of my seat. I had just made a choice with serious repercussions based mostly on a hunch. The anticipation of whether or not I made the right choice forced my heart rate higher, pounding in my ears, despite knowing the outcome only moments later. I want to preserve the story as much as possible so I won’t tell you what the choice was. I won’t tell you if it was the right choice. What I will tell you is that it was one of the most exciting narrative pieces to a video game that I’ve ever experienced.
Star Trek: Resurgence takes place around the year 2380 after the events of Star Trek: Nemesis. For those of you keeping track, that means that it follows the events of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek Voyager, and Star Trek: Deep Space 9. There are definitely a lot of callbacks to TNG but aside from that, the only other nod to that era of Star Trek is one forgettable line about a character having served in The Dominion War.
Star Trek: Resurgence follows the lives and careers of two individuals serving aboard The USS Resolute: Commander Jara Rydek from the command staff, and from the lower decks, Petty Officer Carter Diaz. Like Rydek and Diaz, most of the characters in Resurgence are new but longtime Trek fans will see a few familiar faces. Diaz comes off as the cool guy who’s trying to fit in and not get in trouble with the senior staff. He is a well written character who has great potential. As a member of Engineering, he also has a good head on his shoulders and thinks quickly on his feet. Jara Rydek is by contrast all business.
Her story in Resurgence begins with her traveling to her new post as First Officer aboard The Resolute. She shows true grit, endurance, and leadership from beginning to end. There is a great dichotomy in playing as both a member of the command staff and someone who’s only a step above cleaning out the toilets. Because so much of how Star Trek is typically portrayed from the senior staff’s point of view, it’s refreshing to see how a person not in the leadership of one of these massive vessels might react in these situations.
Before I can truly get into my thoughts about it, I have to provide a bit of context. Star Trek: Resurgence is from the studio, Dramatic Labs. In 2018, Telltale Games closed its doors and in 2020, their founder, Kevin Bruner, started rebuilding his personal brand of storytelling by opening Dramatic Labs. In every way that matters, Star Trek: Resurgence, the Dramatic Labs debut, is very much a Telltale Game. From the gameplay mechanics, the minigames between narrative scenes, its style of storytelling with the use of choices, all the way to the terribly predictable problem of it being broken, Resurgence feels like every Telltale Game that I’ve ever played because the same people made it.
Let’s start with what Resurgence did well. Narrative games like The Wolf Among Us, and Telltale’s Batman have been some of my favorite games because despite their issues, the story being told was phenomenal. Star Trek: Resurgence is no exception. A narrative game is only as good as the story it tells and the story in Resurgence is simply amazing. While it has a slow start, when things start happening, Resurgence delivers a captivating and compelling story that I kept wanting to come back to.
In fact, sci-fi and more specifically, Star Trek always comes down to how good the message is. Does Resurgence offer me something worth thinking about or a commentary on the world around me? My favorite sci-fi podcast at the moment is Babylon 5 For The First Time. It’s become my favorite because its hosts, Jeff Akin of Starfleet Leadership Academy and Brent Allen of Beam Me Up Podcast talk all the time about the message. Now, whenever I watch anything sci-fi, I always ask their signature question: “Does it have a deep moral message? Did it hold a mirror up to society and give us hope for the future?”
This is what Star Trek: Resurgence does best. It’s these “Star Trekky” messages that add depth to an already exhilarating experience. Without spoiling anything from the story, Resurgence explores loss, perseverance through adversity, the feeling of family and belonging to something greater than ourselves, and of course the idea that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Further, because of the choices in Resurgence, I was able to take part in and shape that commentary.
The voice acting in Star Trek: Resurgence is nothing short of perfection.Jara Rydek, Carter Diaz, and others were voiced by incredible talent. The true standout though is Piotr Michael's portrayal of Ambassador Spock. Looking back at the promotional materials, it was clear that Spock was always intended to be in the story. That said, I didn’t know that going in and when Spock appeared on the screen the first time I wondered immediately who was going to try to voice him. When I heard him speak, I was convinced that the late Leonard Nimoy himself was voicing Spock with the use of archive footage and help from computer software. Huge props are owed to Piotr Michael for his impressive take on this beloved character.
There are minigames between scenes, some of which require a response under a time crunch, while others might see you use a Tricorder to scan the scenery around the character. The best of these minigames are any of the phaser combat scenes. Dramatic Labs did a wonderful job creating an exciting experience using phasers for combat while keeping true to Starfleet ideals that they only be used in self defense. I also really appreciated that Resurgence allowed these minigames to effectively be skipped if the difficulty was too high. I didn’t skip any of them but I’m a huge proponent of games being accessible to players of all skill levels.
Unfortunately, this is where things in Star Trek: Resurgence started to break down. All the good storytelling in the world doesn’t erase the glaring problems. I mentioned before that the story has a slow start. Once it gets going, it’s awesome but the gameplay itself continues to be slow. The cursor moves slowly, some of the minigames drag on and on. Characters, even in times of great peril, move slowly. There is a run option that can’t be used while holding the tricorder or phaser. Even when running, I feel like movement is still taking too long and as a result, some scenes that felt like they required more urgency just fell flat.
One of the minigames is used to move people through the transporter with an ion storm affecting its efficacy. The first two parts of this game are fine but in the final segment, there are 3 bars with frequency waves running through them. The object of the minigame is to line up frequencies in just the right way to power up the transporter. It’s time consuming, tedious, and just not any fun. In fact, it’s quite possibly the most infuriating part of Star Trek: Resurgence. While most of the minigames feel unnecessary at best and annoying at worst, having to use the transporter is the absolute worst part of Resurgence. If I never have to use the transporter again, it’ll be too soon.
Another issue I had with Resurgence was the lack of meaningful choices. I love games that ask me to make choices. As I said before, the choices allowed me to help shape the social commentary in Resurgence. I love choices because of how dramatically it can change the outlook of the game I’m playing. The problem is that when I started a new game and made different choices, it changed only the next line of dialogue. It may have created different relationship values with different characters but it quickly became evident that the story itself wasn’t bound to change that much. It’s possible that some things would have been very different from the game I played through to completion but I don’t believe that it would have changed the overall story much if at all.
Remember those issues I mentioned? Star Trek Resurgence is full of them, forcing a full system reboot whenever I decided to play. I don’t mean sometimes it crashed. I don’t mean once in a while, it struggled. I mean that every single time I played, it would crash my whole computer when I was ready to stop playing. Other times, it would crash multiple times during my session. Every time it crashed, I had to reboot the entire system. A few times, I kept Resurgence running between play sessions just to avoid having to reboot at the end and once or twice that actually worked. But the cherry on top was when the last line of the game was spoken and then in a moment of self-fulfilling prophecy, the game crashed instead of rolling credits. Perfect.
To be clear, I sincerely hope that the technical issues with Star Trek: Resurgence are addressed quickly. The story in Resurgence is so good that I hate seeing it suffer this way. It drags down the entire experience of a game that otherwise could be up for my personal GOTY. Instead, I’m left wishing I could have just watched this play out on Paramount +. As much as I struggled to play through Resurgence, I really would like to see Dramatic Labs take another crack at this type of storytelling. I really can’t stress enough how exceptional this story is and how heartbreaking it is to have it suffer so many issues.
At the end of the day, unless you’re a big Trekkie, Star Trek: Resurgence might be best recommended as something to pick up on a sale while the studio works on technical fixes. Since its launch, the studio has acknowledged the problems and is working on them, which is nice to see.
What it really boils down to is this: if you really enjoy Star Trek, especially TNG, then you’ll likely love the story being told in Resurgence. As a Star Trek story, it’s fantastic but as a game, it’s terribly buggy. So be aware that this Star Trek gem is not perfect before you decide to boldly go where no man has gone before.
Full Disclosure: A copy of this game was provided by PR for the purposes of this review. Reviewed on PC.