Review: Star Trek: Resurgence
Tuesday is a big day for Star Trek gamers, as we get a narrative, choice-based game joining the pantheon of franchise titles. It’s a rare event when any Star Trek game is released, as gamers only have had the kid-friendly Star Trek Prodigy: Supernova and the 13-year-old Star Trek Online dominate the franchise’s gaming conversation recently.
Dramatic Labs, a studio comprised of former Telltale Games members, is hoping to shake up the conversation. Telltale Games, after all, was a company that grew to fame for such narrative, decision-based games from popular franchises such as The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, and Guardians of the Galaxy, among other well-known properties.
Bringing their narrative expertise from their critically acclaimed company to the Star Trek universe is an exciting concept, and we have never had a Trek game like Resurgence. This title allows players to embody two members of the U.S.S Resolute, and the game promises to make player decision-making the forefront of its gameplay. Furthering the hype is that Resurgence was delayed from October 2022 to May 2023, no small space of time in the video game world. Surely this game has had enough time to be baked properly, yeah?
We’ll be upfront: Resurgence has good and bad things going for it – but importantly, the positive aspects of this release reside in areas that truly matter: storytelling, worldbuilding, and embodying the Star Trek ethos. The negative aspects can possibly be addressed by the developers in the future. So, let’s get into the details.
Where Star Trek: Resurgence Shines
We can’t stress enough how cool it is to embody a character in a post-TNG world. The developers must think it’s pretty cool, too, as their attention to Star Trek worldbuilding is perhaps the best part of this game. The opening hours illustrate this point pretty well: players are delivered via shuttlecraft to a Starbase, where they then assume their posts aboard the Centaur-class U.S.S Resolute. Every design we see in these opening scenes seems like they are lifted right out of classic TNG-era Star Trek.
The Resolute, for example, is of a starship class seen fleetingly in Deep Space Nine. The aforementioned Starbase boasts familiar docking areas and architecture, and players catch glimpses of familiar ships like the Steamrunner, Nova, and Excelsior-classes in orbit around it. The uniforms, corridors, equipment, set dressing, and various console user interfaces all adhere to design principles seen directly or inspired by TNG-era television. We especially enjoy the Resolute’s bridge, which contains console architecture and material reminiscent of the Enterprise-D‘s, complete with several LCARs-inspired interfaces. Walking around these environments is certainly exciting, and it’s clear Resurgence is made by Star Trek fans for Star Trek fans.
Of course, set detail doesn’t mean much if the game doesn’t have characters and a story to back it up, and on that front Resurgence is satisfying. Dramatic Labs’ Telltale roots are obvious; players are confronted with dialogue choices that govern how the story and relationships play out. It will take multiple playthroughs to determine if the choices players make are actually impactful, or if Resurgence falls victim to the illusion-of-choice style of narrative storytelling. At least on a first playthrough, decisions do seem to have important implications.
For example, early in the game, an intense ion storm threatens the Resolute, and it’s up to the player to save the ship by blasting the moorings holding the ship to the station — thereby risking two crew members who are on the hull – or using the deflector to direct a pulse at the storm to help dissipate it. Various non-playable characters will react differently to the decision the player makes, to say nothing of what could befall the crew members who are in danger. Based on that scenario alone, it’s clear this is Star Trek-style science-fiction storytelling; isn’t such a decision something one might face in one of the TV shows?
There are members of your crew who opine on one path or another, and it’s up to you to quickly judge the best course of action, and live with the consequences. In this ion storm scenario, we chose to decline the captain’s recommendation, and thus risked his wrath later in the game – but our two crew members were mostly unharmed. In our next playthrough, we’ll make a different choice and see how it plays out. And that’s just one major decision in a game filled with minor and major choices. (Those who liked the ability to stay silent during conversations, a neat staple of Telltale’s games, should know Resurgence does not feature such an option.)
The game doesn’t restrict you to playing as one person the entire time, either, as the narrative stars two newcomers to the Resolute: First Officer Jara Rydek (Krizia Bajos) and Engineering Crewperson Carter Diaz (Josh Keaton). Each serves different roles on the Resolute and has different relationships among the crew. Ping-ponging between two characters – a change of pace for Telltale-style games – is refreshing and adds welcome narrative complexity. For their parts, Bajos and Keaton bring talented, charismatic performances to their characters, but we wish the character models were animated more impressively to allow the actors’ performance to shine through. That leads us to the game’s most notable downside, which we’ll get to in a minute.
Finally, Dramatic Labs clearly knows what makes a good Star Trek story. The plot here seems like it could fit within any classic Star Trek show. After a harrowing adventure chronicled in the prequel comic series that shook the crew and its captain, the Resolute is tasked with escorting a diplomat to mediate a simmering diplomatic crisis between two alien factions. The crisis turns out to be more than the Resolute’s crew bargained for, as an ancient alien race (known to those who have watched TNG’s season one episode “The Last Outpost”) returns in a big way. Sounds like an episode that could fit in any Star Trek show, yeah?
Straying from their previous games’ presentation, Dramatic Labs’ developers have sprinkled a variety of gameplay activities throughout the adventure. Some scenes may have the player scanning objects with their tricorder to advance the story, piloting a shuttle from one waypoint to another, engaging in a firefight with enemies, or trying to complete minigames, such as making sure a transporter lock is established in the heat of the moment. Not all these activities are slam dunks – for example, shooting in this game isn’t as smooth as we’d like, and piloting shuttles are low-risk endeavors – but switching up gameplay in a game where players will mostly be sitting back and picking dialogue options is a welcome distraction.
A game like Resurgence lives and dies by its characters, and we’re happy to report Resurgence’s cast embodies the Star Trek ethos recognizably. The Resolute itself has a cadre of officers who react to the playable characters’ decisions; most of these characters were seen in the aforementioned comic series. The two playable characters, meanwhile, are nicely different from each other and have distinct personalities. For example, Jara Rydek is a Kobliad, a species that requires regular deuridium injections to survive. This disability might prevent a typical Kobliad from entering Starfleet, but Jara is determined not to let her disability define her. It’s an inspiring story that fits comfortably within Gene Roddenberry’s original vision for Star Trek. Diaz, meanwhile, is an upstart and excitable new crew member who is finding a home on the ship and has to wrestle with loyalties that are challenged over the course of the story. Suffice it to say, if you enjoy games with thoughtful characterization, you’ll find a lot to love about Resurgence.
What Resurgence Can Do Better
Those who played Telltale games know the limitations of the team’s technical presentation. Telltale games never looked or ran well, which was a shame compared to the narrative adroitness with which the studio won fans. Star Trek: Resurgence, frankly, doesn’t look fantastic, which is a shame for two reasons: firstly, the game is built on Unreal Engine, arguably the premiere video game creation tool, and packed to the gills with modern technologies. (In fact, this game is exclusively on Epic Games Store on PC because of the team’s partnership with Unreal.) Don’t get us wrong – Resurgence is far and away better looking than its spiritual predecessors, but it still doesn’t hold up to our 2023 standards.
Secondly, the game’s lengthy delay roused hope in our gamer hearts that Resurgence could be a true looker; imagine living in a TNG-era world with fantastic graphic fidelity. Alas, Resurgence instead features fairly wooden character animations, low-quality reflections, so-so texture detail, and choppy, although not deal-breaking performance. There are certainly moments when Resurgence looks quite good; these moments are usually in low-lit environments or when viewing the art design for alien surroundings like the moon-turned-mining-zone one of our characters visits a few hours into the game. But overall, Resurgence could have benefited from even more time in the oven to thoroughly polish its graphical presentation.
On this note, however, PC gamers can relax. We know recent game releases, such as [deep breath] Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, Dead Space, Forspoken, The Last of Us, Wild Hearts, The Callisto Protocol, and Hogwarts Legacy, among others, have suffered on PC upon release. Resurgence doesn’t have this problem. But because we here at TrekNews.net are tech hounds, we did note some frame rate inconsistencies and performance hitches that really shouldn’t happen in a game this size.
Adding salt to the wound is the fact that the game inexplicably doesn’t have any graphical options in its settings menu, so what you see is what you get. Why a video game in 2023 doesn’t allow players to alter texture quality, depth of field, motion blur, anti-aliasing, or any other number of common graphic settings is beyond us. In our analysis of the game’s technical proficiency, please note we were playing on a press build that may differ from the final release. Some of these issues may be resolved by the time the game is in your hands.
Although technically this game can never be in your hands, which leads us to another downside: Resurgence is digital only. You can’t buy a physical copy of this game; you must download it from your console’s store. This is a shame for collectors, never mind the prospect of future delisting due to license expirations or, as was the case with Telltale Games, Dramatic Labs dissolving. While we’re sure there were sensible business considerations for keeping this game from shelves, we hope Dramatic Labs does release this game physically at some point. Star Trek games are few and far between, and it’d be a shame to one day lose access to this title. (Remember Star Trek: DAC?)
Our final criticism of this game regards viewing the choices you make. Normally, a choice-driven title will allow you to view your past choices in a separate menu; such was a feature in previous Telltale games. In Resurgence, the menu item called “My Choices” simply directs you to the game’s website, which is where we assume you can view your decisions. This feature was not enabled when we were playing the press build. It’s inconvenient for the player to have to use another device or tab out of the game to view their decisions.
Welcome Aboard, Commander
Taken together, Star Trek: Resurgence has a lot of things going for it, and the developers at Dramatic Labs have tackled a huge project with a small team. Bringing a narrative, choice-based Star Trek game to life in the vein of Telltale’s previous award-winning single-player games is no easy task, but fans should be satisfied with this release. We wish the game looked and ran better, considering its technical foundation, but this is something Dramatic Labs can potentially fix with patches. Sweetening the deal for consumers is the $40 price tag, an easy pill to swallow in a world where new games regularly cost $70.
We are excited about what Dramatic Labs can do next. If they polish their technical presentation and adhere to the guidelines they’ve used to craft Resurgence’s story, one that’s clearly faithful to the franchise, a potential next Trek project should be something really special. In the meantime, let’s rejoice in a new Star Trek game that is wildly different from anything we have had before.
Star Trek: Resurgence is available on May 23 for Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, and PlayStation 4 gaming consoles, and exclusively on the Epic Games Store for PCs.
Want to join the fun and watch us play through the opening hours of Star Trek: Resurgence? We’ll be live-streaming the game on our YouTube channel on Tuesday, May 23 from 7–9 p.m. ET!
Stay tuned to TrekNews.net for all the news on Star Trek Resurgence, along with Star Trek: Section 31, Star Trek: Picard, Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, Star Trek: Lower Decks, Star Trek: Prodigy, and more.