DAC is a multiplayer arcade title through-and-through, bearing more similarity to Unreal Tournament than previous Star Trek titles. Forget tactics; the real goal of DAC is to blow things up and rake in kills. There are three modes of play: Deathmatch, Assault and Conquest, all of which can be played online or in single player with bots. Players can choose to play as the Starfleet or the Romulan Empire in matches that can support up to 12 characters.
Players choose one of three ship types when spawning: the Flagship, the Fighter or the Bomber. The Flagship moves slowly, but features the strongest armor and the most powerful cannons. The Fighter is speedier, and gives players the ability to play with Geometry Wars-inspired dual analog controls. Finally, the Bomber is the fastest, least durable ship and is capable of laying mines on the playing field.
The simple controls make it easy for a newcomer to simply jump into the game, and the straightforward play modes should be familiar to anyone who has played an online game before. Deathmatch has the two teams racing towards 50 kills. Assault and Conquest both feature checkpoints that must be captured and defended.
Scattered through each level are yellow and white orbs that enhance your abilities. The white orbs will charge your ship's weapons. Players will want to actively power up their weapons, as a maxed out ship can easily take out opposing ships. Yellow orbs will randomly award the player a power-up, a la Mario Kart. Players can become temporarily invisible, invincible, or gain homing missile capabilities.
When players get shot down, they'll only have a few seconds to eject and safely escape the battlefield. When in your escape pod, you are incredibly vulnerable: there's no way of counterattacking, and a single hit from a stray laser will destroy you. It's a very high-stakes mode with a rather significant reward. Successfully escaping will let you respawn faster while retaining most of your weapons energy. Get destroyed in this mode, and you'll wait quite a long time and you'll lose all your energy. Players have good reason to go after the escape pods when on the attack: destroying the escape pod counts as a full extra kill to your score. This post-death minigame introduces a nice high-stakes feel to the game, and is easily the best addition to DAC.
DAC isn't particularly innovative, but it does offer a solid amount of fun. The fast-paced shooting, coupled with the rapid respawn system, make for competitive battles for checkpoints. The different crafts all control very differently, and being able to switch vehicles between lives allows players to change their gameplay strategy on-the-fly. While online should offer the best experience, the arcadey nature of the gameplay makes it no less fun to play against bots.
Star Trek DAC launches on Xbox Live Arcade next Wednesday, with PSN and PC releases to follow in the weeks to come. It's fun, albeit unambitious. While DAC is more than a competent game, we don't really see it taking off. With so little done to take advantage of the Star Trek brand, we wonder if fans will bother giving DAC a try.