Starfleet Deluxe represents a lot of things I love about gaming. It’s an homage to a well-loved property that makes a game out of something we’ve all dreamed about doing. It lets you get on with your mission however you like, without fudding you to do things “right.” It’s an incredibly old school (think, ‘telnetting-into-a-remote-BBS’ old school) game ported to Android with a slick and highly usable interface. It’s tense, it’s fun, it’s exciting, and even though it’s really old, it’s still almost completely unique.
In ways, Trevor Sorenson’s computer classic plays a lot like a board game. It’s turn based, but that’s a superficial comparison. Like the best board games, it’s inherently readable. You have access to all the information you need to figure out the consequences of your decisions to a very granular degree. You know it’ll take you two torpedoes to destroy the Krellan cruiser bearing down on your planet. You know that if you hyperspace 6 sectors away to refuel and reload, the Zaldrons are probably going to finish off that poor colony you have to abandon. You understand the ‘How’ of the game well enough to ask yourself ‘Why’ you should do something one way or another. A fatal flaw of many digital games is that they hide all their mechanics in such a deep black hole that you can’t figure out ‘Why’ you should do anything at all.
There’s also a stunning degree of atmosphere here. The graphics are simple, as is the sound (although, I do love that as your floating in space there’s a gloriously borrowed loop of the bridge sounds of the Enterprise playing in the background). This means that the atmosphere derives almost entirely from the mechanics. And it works, very well. Firing a probe at Bearing 175 with 9 Power Units feels like a decision a captain would make. Laying mines along Sector 4-5 to impede a Krellan maneuver feels like the decision a tactical space fighter would make. The gentle hum of your hyperspace drive becomes terrifying as you realize you have no idea what you’ll see on the other side of FTL.
Add onto all of this, it provides a fun meta-game with a leaderboard system (which I’ve already talked about how much I love). It lets you compare stats with your friends, and compete in the fictional Starfleet, hunting for rankings and achievements. It’s like meeting up in the Officers Deck after a particularly nasty tour sharing all your war-stories. Oh, and it’s got designers notes! I wish more digital games had designer notes, it’s lovely being able to pick the brain of the designer, and hear about the storied history of such a time-spanning game.
But yes, if you like spaceships, blowing things up, or probing things (and who doesn’t?), you should definitely pick up Starfleet Deluxe. It’s $1.99 on Google Play, and well worth the price.