Need to Know
What is it? A single-player choice-driven action story set in the post-TNG era.
Release date May 23, 2023
Expect to pay $39.99/£35
Developer Dramatic Labs
Publisher Bruner House
Reviewed on Intel i7-9700F, RTX 2070 Super, 32GB RAM
Steam Deck Unverified
Link Official site
“The first duty of every Starfleet officer is to the truth” is one of Captain Picard’s most iconic lines, and the team at Dramatic Labs—a bunch of self-confessed diehard Trekkies—have embodied that mantra in their Telltale-esque adventure, Star Trek: Resurgence. The story is the perfect mix of everything Star Trek and Telltale’s classic choice-based narrative: silly humour, gentle moments that focus on care and affection, and dramatic phaser fights with lots of unnecessary diving around.
The Telltale formula of a strong narrative combined with morally ambiguous decision-making—and plenty of QTEs—seems to fit the Star Trek storytelling style perfectly. But Dramatic Labs offers something more: complicated puzzles, stealth sequences, time-sensitive exploration objectives, better cinematics, and an overall departure from the Telltale default of feeling like you’re watching an interactive movie. Resurgence isn’t an episodic tale, at least not in the traditional Telltale sense. Rather than having five distinct acts or episodes that arrive separately, you’ll get to play it all at once as you swap between the two player characters, who each get their own uniquely titled episodes, much like you’d see in The Next Generation.
Star Trek: Resurgence is meant to represent roughly three full-length films and ties in nicely to the post-TNG era series and movies. It’s set in 2380, right after the events of Nemesis and 16 years after the beginning of The Next Generation. Also, everyone is wearing DS9-style uniforms, so you know it’s going to be good. It brings together a balanced mix of bridge crew antics—a well-established Star Trek approach—and the inspiring, comic-relief side of the lower decks, which we’ve seen in the newest animated series. Only, the lower decks characters become the real heroes and villains in this story, showing that wearing three pins on your uniform isn’t the be-and end-all.
I have principles
You switch between playing as First Officer Jara Rydek and Petty Officer Carter Diaz. Both are loyal Starfleet officers and aside from a few snide comments, there’s no real option to go rogue. With Jara, you can choose to be a by-the-book type who’s loyal to her captain or more of a character who plays fast and loose with the rules. She’s a Kobliad, an endangered race who rely on Deuridium infusions to survive. Star Trek captains often make difficult decisions that trickle down to the rest of the crew, sometimes involving sacrifice for the greater good. Resurgence opens with that theme, with the Resolute having just been repaired after a catastrophic “malfunction” at the hands of Captain Solano. Jara joins the Resolute as an outsider and is made aware straight from the off that she’ll need to work twice as hard to gain the crew’s trust, but not before the captain demands absolute loyalty from her. Not being one to bend the knee on demand, I opted for a more “sure, but my loyalties are with Starfleet” approach—needless to say, the captain wasn’t pleased.
The other player character, Carter, has a gentler introduction; he’s part of the engineering team under Engineering Chief Chovak, an ultra-sarcastic Vulcan. He chums along with fellow petty officer Nili Edsilar, an unjoined Trill, and is a talented young engineer. I opted to keep a happy-go-lucky attitude with Carter, with the greater good vibe of Starfleet as his morality meter, although I did choose to start a romance with another officer which… well, I’ll get back to that. At first, it seems his character will be the jokey one who’d find himself in sticky yet hilarious situations, but he quickly proves himself to be one hell of an officer and makes bridge-level life-or-death decisions. His is by far the more engaging and exciting storyline and without him, Resurgence would have just been another retelling of an XO making one morally grey choice after another. That being said, Jara’s story is still a complicated one that challenges leadership and loyalty, and she has to make some life-altering decisions, like whether or not to commit genocide. Twice!
While Resurgence gives you the freedom to take a variety of approaches, there’s no real option to play a renegade version of a Starfleet officer here. While some decisions appear more neutral or non-committal, the majority exist as canon Starfleet options—you can choose to take the advice of your fellow officers in an emergency, do exactly as your captain tells you, or you can just go your own way. Either way, Jara and Carter remain dedicated to Starfleet’s principles.
Resurgence introduces two new species: the hotari, a rocky-faced, hardy, and previously subservient species who mined on their planet’s moon, Tau, and the alydians, a tall Kelpian/Kaminoan-looking species who are staunchly militaristic and who once seemed to control the hotari by forcing them to work in the mines that they technically owned. Jara and the crew of the Resolute are tasked with arbitration between the two races as they each seek control of the mines and the Dilithium within. Only, there’s ancient, advanced Tkon technology and trickery at work here, and not everyone is who they say they are.
To catch you up, the Tkon is an ancient civilisation first mentioned in The Last Outpost in Season 1 of The Next Generation which, for the uninitiated, is the season with a beardless Riker who has a unique way of sitting on chairs. In it, Riker is challenged by a Tkon guardian, Portal 63, who releases the Enterprise and a Ferengi ship from its grasp once Riker defeats Portal’s riddle and proves humanity’s worth. The episode ends with Portal stating: “I will sleep until I’m needed again” which, for an episode that came out in 1987, was a hell of a foreshadowing.
While it’s always fun to see familiar faces in Star Trek, I was very excited to see the two new species specifically created for Resurgence. Coming up with a species name is one thing, but how do you create two races that slot seamlessly into the Star Trek universe—especially when the bulk of Star Trek’s alien appearances were the result of heavy use of prosthetics? In lieu of prosthetics, we’ve got detailed alien faces courtesy of the Unreal Engine, but while the facial animations for the Aldyians and hotari are certainly emotive and dynamic, the human faces have a big Mass Effect 1 stray eyebrow energy and everyone constantly looks mildly confused and slightly annoyed. Fortunately, it takes a little more than a bombastic side eye to put me off a Trek game. Though the final frontier can look lovely, Resurgence has a definite last-gen look and has some off-putting low-quality textures appear throughout the environments. The running animation in particular is pretty awkward, not to mention slow as hell.
With the help of a hotari, Tylas, Jara uncovers a terrible secret—the hotari discovered a Tkon artifact and used it to seize control of the mines, but not before their minds were replaced by Tkon via a process called bioforming. And now everyone’s at risk of becoming a Tkon, whether they are hotari, alydian or from Starfleet. If you think this sounds a lot like the Borg and their attempts to assimilate everyone, you’d be right—the word “futile” is uttered by the Tkon host leader, Galvan, more than once.
Petty (officer) squabbles
Along with saving the galaxy, there are several interpersonal challenges Jara and Carter must overcome. Jara has the unenviable task of winning over her crewmates and choosing who lives, dies and gets promoted. Meanwhile, Carter gets to decide if he’s going to shoot his girlfriend, put his best friend in the line of fire (several times) and make the good old Telltale-like choice of “Do I bother saving this person?” Standard Trek storytelling, then. Big decisions crop up everywhere, whether it’s during a shootout or a meeting of bridge officers. In the corner, a little box with a character’s face will glow grey, red or green to indicate whether they like what you said or not, and you can follow your choices from the main menu.
As it’s based on the post-TNG era, you can expect many easter eggs. Spock obviously makes an entrance in his role as ambassador, setting the tone for much of the opening half, but as the plot thickens and deciding who to trust becomes more of a challenge, Resurgence transforms into a real Star Trek story. And by a real story, I obviously mean it features a cameo from Jonathan Frakes, who reprises his role as Commander Riker, except he’s captain of the Titan now as per the canon. I also got to throw in a cheeky “Engage!” when commanding the helm to take flight and you’ll issue that command any time you’re in charge of the Resolute, which obviously made the Trekkie in me very happy.
Push the button
What lets Resurgence down is the overuse of QTEs. In some sections, you’ll be absolutely bombarded with them every few steps you take, and a lot of them are incredibly mundane, like simply pressing a button. And when a failure leads to a game over screen, you’ll have to replay the entire section again, without the ability to even skip dialogue. While the QTEs undeniably add more tension, even when simply climbing a ladder, I would have liked the opportunity to do a little more wandering around. The phaser battle scenes had clunky controls, but if you keep dying like I did, you have the option to play in story mode which negates any damage, which was a welcome relief. Not every failed QTE results in a game over, though, as I learned during a few crucial moments, where I had to live with the consequences of my indecision.
In saying that, there’s an exciting mix of dialogue choices, QTEs, transporter puzzles, shuttle flying and the phaser fights are quite arcade-like, but they are all a bit janky. The shuttle flying is boring and a little too simplistic, with a laborious flying through the ring sequence. Trying to aim with the phaser during shootouts was also a pain, thanks to the sluggish controls. There is no option to adjust the mouse or controller sensitivity and, all too often, panning the screen or aiming was too slow and time-consuming. The stealth sequences, however, are actually a lot of fun, and progression is saved at the right points so there were fewer do-overs—I’m looking at you, Hogwarts Legacy’s forbidden section of the library.
While Star Trek often has a superb musical accompaniment, Resurgence’s soundtrack leaves something to be desired—it sounds a lot like midi tracks you’d find on a mid-2000s mobile phone, which is a bit of a disconnect from the usual orchestral backing from the shows and films. It did get a little frustrating hearing the same melodies on repeat as I had to redo failed sections, but that says more about me needing to get good at games than it does about whoever wrote the score.
Disappointingly, there are no real options to set up Resurgence to your own liking. There are no accessibility options—not even sensitivity as I mentioned—and screen resolution options are extremely limited. There’s no option to rebind controls or turn off the motion blur which, at times, gave me a little motion sickness at times, and neither is there an option to unlock frame rate. While past Telltale games also had this lack of personalisation and accessibility options, it’s frustrating to see that Dramatic Labs chose not to include these as it would have made the experience that much better.
The complement of the USS Resolute may not be the finest crew in Starfleet—not when Captain Riker is out there commanding the Titan—but Carter especially is now one of my most-loved Trek characters. It would have been easy to have you roleplaying as a well-established captain or officer, but in focusing on new characters and lower decks antics, Dramatic Labs have created something special. Resurgence takes the best of Telltale’s flavour, makes it better and smashes it together with an excellent Star Trek story to create something that’s fresh. Yes, characters unavoidably die and the story takes a few hours to really take off, but it’s worth it—I haven’t cried as much at a Star Trek story since Data sacrificed himself in Nemesis, so read into that what you will.