When Star Trek: Discovery’s cliffhanger left us dangling over the winter hiatus in mid-November, I idly wondered how mobile game Star Trek: Timelines was dealing with the new influx of Star Trek backstory. This prompted me to pick it back up again, and I don’t regret it. For starters, it’s the first game that utilizes Science Specialist Michael Burnham and her compatriots aboard the Discovery.
Star Trek: Timelines is a strategy game created by Disruptor Beam Inc. that utilizes the rich multiverse of Star Trek to tell a tale as old as dilithium. How many Trek fans have tried to come up with the perfect crew complement, using a mixture of officers from every crew? All of us, that’s how many. Star Trek: Timelines is that fantasy manifested … and on steroids. A temporal anomaly is responsible for time converging, allowing various versions of beloved Star Trek characters to coexist and take up old hostilities and start new ones. The player’s job is to keep the peace and restore balance to the alpha quadrant while also investigating what caused this issue in the first place. Wild stuff! In no particular order, below are the top three reasons, all Star Trek fans should pick up Star Trek: Timelines.
Variety of Gameplay
Every Star Trek game should give players the chance to captain a ship. As Commander Edington put it when he was conning Captain Sisko on Star Trek: Deep Space 9, folks join Starfleet to get a chance at the captain’s chair.
Captaining a starship gives the player a lot of options at their disposal. Sometimes captains have to send an away mission to handle a problem. This is probably my favorite mode of gameplay because it requires the most actual strategy and reveals the narrative best. Captains have to pick the right crew based on a variety of metrics and mission requirements. Success relies on the appropriateness and leveling of the away team members. Captains can also get drawn into space battles, challenge other real people in space combat, and participate in faction events that have you racing against time to construct unique items that yield rewards while furthering the narrative and gaining favor among the various centers of power scattered around the universe. Recently, a gaming mechanic called voyages was added as a way to collect resources and crew while adding story content.
The Clever Conceit
It could also be dubbed a wacky premise if one were so inclined. It’s the perfect way to use all manner of Star Trek assets from characters to installations to planets. Plus that number goes up exponentially when you figure in the different versions of the same characters.
The variety of requirements for different missions means you have to keep your ship fully staffed with a diverse mix of whimsical figures from “Promoted Sisko” (My highest ranked officer) to Benny Russell, the version of Sisko that is either a 1920s sci-fi writer who created Deep Space 9 or an illusion conjured by the Bajoran gods to prove a point to the real Sisko. Hell, maybe he’s both. The point is, this game is not shy about getting downright metaphysical when selecting the different crew that players can recruit onto their ship.
During this crisis, Star Trek: The Next Generation’s omnipotent pest, Q serves as the player’s advisor, sometimes offering guidance, sometimes heckling. Fully voiced by the original actor, John de Lancie, Q serves as a steady through-line as players troubleshoot the galaxy.
It’s obvious that the game has been made by those with knowledge of and respect for the source material. The devil is in the details, and they know their Trek lore. Also, the team updates the game with frequent timed missions that provide short narrative arcs and plenty of opportunities to amass bushels of rewards. And while there are lots of micro-transactions available, they don’t feel essential to having a good time with the game. In fact, the team is quite generous with providing game assets whether as amends for a minor technical snafu or just as a way to entice players back to playing if it’s been a few weeks. It makes me more inclined to buy things when a game doesn’t seem like it’s rationing out the fun until I drop a significant chunk of change.
Add to that, the game feels like a fully fleshed out strategy experience. While there are some things left up to chance like which specific crew and supplies you will be offered when you dip into the Time Portal, a lot of the game feels like it’s in the player’s control. Not all mobile games manage this, but Timelines does.
So, this year live out your Starfleet dreams as the plucky captain on a desperate mission to restore order in a universe gone mad. Collect legendary characters -- seriously, there’s currently 13 different versions of Picard alone -- and embark on daring quests that require a steady mind to strategize through.