As Quark the Ferengi of Deep Space Nine once said, “Greed is eternal.” Star Trek Timelines is a lovingly crafted and polished example of its publisher, Disruptor Beam’s adherence to that particular Ferengi Rule of Acquisition. Timelines is a never-ending quest for currencies, either in-game or in your wallet.
Q of the Continuum introduces the game and the temporal crisis causing different iterations of the Star Trek universe to overlap. The best part of Star Trek Timelines is the story, which has you darting from Alpha to Delta Quadrant going toe to toe with various Star Trek factions.
On the other hand, if you don’t know who Q is, don’t even bother with Timelines, as part of the fun it offers comes from recognizing places and faces from the Star Trek universe. Want Data, Seven of Nine, and Spock on your crew? Well, in Timelines it’s possible.
Timelines gets another point for being easy on the eyes and ears. The entire soundboard is Star Trek themed and John de Lancie, the actor who played Q in Star Trek the Next Generation supplies some voiceovers for the irrepressible immortal. Otherwise sound clips from the shows and movies make up the bulk of the voices. The graphics are crisp, with characters and planets depicted in loving detail and the freedom to zoom in and out on your starship and the galaxy map. Keep in mind, the characters are stills. Except for the starship battles, Timelines plays out through a series of menus and dialogue screens so you’re not going to see any phaser battles.
The menu-based gameplay isn’t all bad, but it can get a little dull. The ship battles are the only moments of real-time action, but that’s only tapping assigned characters to initiate their special moves. Picard will say “Make it so,” but that thrill wears off after you’ve heard it a hundred times. Away-team missions at least let you pick three team members and choose whose skills to apply in a given situation, like a card game. Faction missions are simply timed fetch quests that make characters unavailable for a set time and reward you with items. Worse still, faction missions have to be purchased with Merits, just one of Timelines’ in-game currencies.
Which brings us to the ultimate problem with Star Trek Timelines: Its focus on in-app purchases. Every time you want to start an away mission or ship battle, you use Chronitons to engage. They can be earned in missions, and they refill over time. You can run out if you make too many mistakes, but Timelines is the type of game that will let you buy more for Dilithium, the premium currency that you can only get by spending at least four bucks.
To recap, that’s four currencies, Chronitons to play away or starship missions, Merits to unlock Faction missions, Credits to buy characters and in-game items, and Dilithium, the premium, which only exists for the subset of gamers who want to pay as much as $100 a pop at the in-game store. The inclusion of a currency that cannot be gained through gameplay puts Timelines squarely in the freemium camp.
Why not just make the game free, or purchasable for a given amount, Disruptor Beam? Or why not keep the in-game store fees low instead of as high as $100? Why not have honor like Klingons and focus on battle, instead of squeezing your patrons for every penny like a Ferengi?
In all seriousness, with the well-written away mission structure Timelines offers some fun, despite the bugs: I played this game on two devices, my tablet and my Galaxy S5. On the tablet (a Remix), the game would constantly freeze at a particular mission, halting all story progression. I sent a ticket and Disruptor Beam replied, ultimately it was all sorted in the next update. On my S5, a different mission path with Janeway didn’t work when tapped, but otherwise the game functioned fine.
Unfortunately, my most recent attempt to open the game on my S5 created a loop requesting an update (but clicking “Ok” didn’t take me to the Google Play Store). The game update wouldn’t complete, and I tried everything including cache clearing and restarts. At this moment, it’s uninstalled and can’t be reinstalled. Seems I’m one of a few players suffering a 963 or 907 error. According to the forums, Disruptor Beam is pointing the finger at Google so I haven’t bothered with a ticket, and I’m definitely not downloading an APK. I understand DB is always adding new content, but it would be nice if the game just worked.
The problem with Timelines is not its stubborn bugs, or its grimy greediness of which gamers are becoming all too tolerant, but that a good portion of it is just repetitive card-game like grinding for items. In most cases you need so many of these items to build something – much coveted starship schematics to get a ship, for example – they’re almost their own kind of currency. Timelines is one of those games with as many currencies as you have fingers, and more timers counting down than a family of suicide bombers.
I can hear Quark justifying this game now: “The speed of technological advancement isn’t nearly as important as short term quarterly gains,” because Star Trek Timelines is certainly more about gains for its makers than good gaming for its players. Only Star Trek fans should pick up this game, and then only if they can remain emotionless as a Vulcan and not spend an illogical dime on its many freemium shenanigans.
But is it Hardcore?
Only for Star Trek fans with locked wallets.