Star Trek: Infinite Preview – Boldly going for 4X TNG nostalgia

Star Trek infinite header artwork

Every nerd who lived through the 1990s has got a favourite Star Trek series. For me it’s the more morally ambiguous story arcs of Deep Space Nine, for others it could be the strong female leads of Voyager, but for most it will surely be The Next Generation. This was Star Trek’s return to TV screens in the late 80s, defining the look, feel and storytelling style of the decade of television that followed it, and with plenty of iconic episodes and moments. Whichever show you prefer, Star Trek: Infinite more than caters to 90s Trekkies.

Star Trek: Infinite starts off a little bit before TNG’s time period, with the Enterprise D not yet built or its well-known crew assembled, and while much of the Alpha Quadrant has been revealed to the Federation by their interactions with the comparable Romulan, Klingon and Cardassian empires – each of which is a playable race – there’s still an awful lot of space left to explore. The Federation is still only made up of its four founding races at this point – Humans, Vulcans, Andorians and Tellarites – and with plenty of races still to encounter and make first contact with.

There’s a slightly uneasy peace at the start of the game after a Romulan attack on the Klingon colony of Khitomer, but while this gives you the first narrative thread and decision point to latch onto, really the main focus will be on exploring and expanding your borders.

As you send out science ships to survey systems around the fringes of Federation space, you’ll also be sending construction ships out to create mining and research facilities, as well as creating outposts to claim an uninhabited system as part of your territory.

Star Trek Infinite Enterprise D fleet

Now, the Enterprise D’s continuing mission might have been to boldly go where no one has gone before, but Star Trek: Infinite is very much heading down a well-trodden path. In particular, this game is clearly based upon Paradox Interactive’s most accessible grand strategy game, Stellaris. From the style of the menus, to the planetary pops management, resource mining and even the font that’s used throughout the game, it all feels very much like a Stellaris total conversion mod. Of course, this is being produced with a full license, and can lean into using the likenesses of the TNG crew and alien designs in the artwork, having all the ship designs, and more.

One thing that I immediately enjoyed was the tone of writing to the anomalies that you can encounter while exploring, and the decisions that you get from these moments. I had a research vessel come across a dormant alien seed that started to make them hallucinate fire trees when it was beamed aboard, while there also seemed to be a barmy multi-directional spy network to defuse between the Betazoid, Bajorans and some mysterious third party. I would like to see some slightly more morally nuanced options for how to react to these, with positives and negatives to different options, but the prose and scenarios are on point.

Star Trek Infinite First Contact

It also won’t be long before you start to run into other unknown races and make first contact, trying to dedicate an envoy to broaching this first approach to a nearby minor power to boost initial relations. One thing I absolutely appreciated here is that the Federation can expand and bring these neighbouring races and cultures into the fold – in some ways they’re even worse than the Borg, assimilating neighbours with a smile instead of nanobots. It’s quite plain and straightforward to do this with open arms, and after the struggle to do so in other 4X games, it’s refreshingly easy. almost too easy at this point.

Alongside this natural flow of growth and expansion there’s a bespoke mission tree that gives you tasks and challenges matching up to events from the TV shows. Save up enough Alloys and you can build the Enterprise D, sending it on specific tasks that will then bring Data, Geordie, Riker and the rest into the crew, while another path heads toward Deep Space Nine’s story. It’s an easy kind of wish-fulfilment, and plays into the Federation’s goodie two-shoes reputation, though I’d love to see more options on this mission tree that lean into a more militaristic approach. That’s catered to in other areas, as you set policy and protocol, but within the pseudo-narrative recreation of the TV show. Still, this gives the game plenty of room and ways to grow and evolve over time.

Star Trek Infinite mission tree

We’ve just a few hours under our belts playing as the Federation in Star Trek: Infinite, but those few hours were a great nostalgia hit for someone that grew up on 90s Trek. I’m certainly keen to play more and delve into the different options that the other factions provide, but I’m already daydreaming of how this game can expand with DLC additions for years to come after the game’s release.

Written by
I'm probably wearing toe shoes, and there's nothing you can do to stop me!