Star Trek: Picard season 2 may have done something a little different with the Borg, but as Star Trek: Armada proves, you can’t beat a bit of good old-fashioned assimilation.
It might not seem like fun when you’re on the receiving end, but this turn-of-the-millennium RTS is so much better when you’re the Borg. I’m not talking about the single-player campaign so much, although it’s fun to conquer Earth, even if the game does undo it almost immediately after.
No, I’m referring to Star Trek: Armada’s skirmish / multiplayer mode. As the Borg, you can conquer the Federation, and no one’s there to tell you it’s not canon. Assimilating your foes is the perfect way to rub it in. Why? Because instead of a pile of space debris, your enemy’s ship — or ships — now serve you and can be tasked with annihilating their former comrades.
You do have to work your way up to it, constructing the various tech nodes and manufacturing stations that let you build a Borg Cube or four. They’re not as massive as they are in the series, presumably for the sake of balance, but just watching them glide through space always makes me grin.
Then the assimilation starts. Lock a cube’s tractor beam onto a ship and a sinister green beam grabs the vessel. Provided the vessel doesn’t break away or annihilate you first, it’ll eventually be in your power.
What’s especially pleasing is that it’s the same ship; it doesn’t magically morph into another Borg cube. Instead, parts of it are covered in Borg technology, just enough to underline your victory.
So if it’s a Galaxy-class ship like the Enterprise, (Each in-game ship has a name.) it joins your, er, armada, assimilated crew and all. Admittedly, I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of corrupting former enemies — Dungeon Keeper, for example, lets you enslave former enemies. Is that a little messed up? Yes. Am I a terrible person? Also yes.
Even before you do anything with them, it’s satisfying to watch the vessel just sitting there. Even if you’ve not bagged the Enterprise, rather something smaller, it’ll still have you grinning. And then, when you ask an assimilated vessel to move, it’s a Borg voice that emanates from its corrupted hull.
Finally, you get to experience the mustache-twirling joy of sending those same Borgified ships back to your enemy. The last time I played Star Trek: Armada, I chose a map with wormholes, and I’m so very glad I did.
Every now and then a small Federation ship would swing by, taking the long way round. Once I’d remembered I could order my Borg not to blow it up and manually assimilated it, I got into the habit of sending them back through the wormhole. Computer opponents may not get frightened, but in my head, they were shaking in terror as their former friends paid them a visit, eyepieces and egg whisks attached. And if your Borgified vessel is destroyed — well, it’s not like it cost you anything to build.
If you’re thinking that assimilating enemies seems like a sure-fire way to steamroller your enemies, there’s a catch, something that stops the Borg from being too overpowered. Assimilation is slower than just blasting an enemy to oblivion, and since battles can be pretty frenzied, with multiple ships involved, it also means exposing your vessel to concentrated fire.
So, as Star Trek: Armada’s Borg commander, you have to decide whether it’s worth the benefit and buzz of assimilating your enemy. I’ve lost more than a few skirmish matches because I was determined to capture rather than kill. I wanted my enemy to know how thoroughly I’d beaten them, and my arrogance was my downfall. But, hey, there are always more Borg.
At least, there is in Star Trek: Armada — the signs are that Picard’s new Borg won’t be appearing in season 3 and that the current Borg Queen isn’t signed up. The old Borg are still out there somewhere, according to season 2 showrunner Terry Matalas, but I doubt we’ll see them anytime soon.
So why not hop over to GOG, pick up Star Trek: Armada, and make the Borg Queen proud?