The Star Trek series of television shows, movies, books, and games might not currently be at its height of popularity, but it has built up quite a library of rich lore over the forty or so years of its existence. Unfortunately, though this game's uninspired "episodes" let you play, more or less chronologically, with the ships from Enterprise, Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and the original series, the closest you ever get to a character is picking up his or her collectible portrait for a performance boost.
Encounters' battlefields are strictly two-dimensional, giving you an overhead view of a plane of movement that can be shifted up and down with the left triggers. This is retro arcade action rather than starship simulation: enemy ships take little more than a few seconds of phaser fire to disintegrate, and a single mine can destroy your ship in a moment.
Unfortunately, rather than going full-bore on the arcade angle and delivering a satisfying visceral experience, Encounters divides its focus with tired cliches like ludicrously frustrating escort missions that have you towing disabled ships and crates through enemy gauntlets and asteroid fields, and racing ships through warp rings over and over again against flawless and indestructible opposition.
This sort of nonsense encourages you to actively avoid combat rather than seek it out, dragging your payload around the fringes of trouble wherever possible, and missing out on all the excitement in the process. That's assuming you can even manage to survive some of the more ridiculously one-sided scenarios. Encounters forgets that the more challenging something is, the more rewarding success has to be, or irritation will quickly outpace satisfaction.
There are some interesting embellishments, like performing manual sensor sweeps to find warp signatures as you cruise through space, and balancing weapons against shields and sensors against mobility, but even these elements seem to belong in a different game altogether. Meanwhile, William Shatner's cold read voice-over occasionally gets syllables chopped off, though stirring music captures the aural flavor of the classic first film sequel. As low as Encounters seems to aim most of the time, perhaps it still shot a bit high for its own good, mixing too many disparate elements.
Disciples will be disappointed by the fundamental lack of gameplay depth, even as they might like the surprisingly high level of difficulty, but more casual fans might appreciate being able to grab a quick space battle here and there in skirmish and multiplayer modes. Trouble is, that sort of thing can already be found elsewhere. Star Trek: Encounters could've been interesting for its nostalgic arcade sensibility, but instead emerges from hyperspace as an utterly forgettable hodge-podge.