One of Star Trek's most divisive characters is undoubtedly Q, an extra-dimensional troublemaker who delights in hassling the crew of the Enterprise, and has appeared in numerous spin-offs including Voyager and Deep Space Nine. Some people hate Q episodes, but I love them—largely because of John de Lancie, who plays the character with absolute relish. So when I heard about Star Trek: Borg, an FMV game released by Simon & Schuster in 1996 that is essentially an interactive Q episode, I had to play it.
You couldn't move for terrible FMV games in the 1990s. These 'interactive movies' were notorious for having cheap production values, bad acting, and lacking any identifiable interactivity. What sets Star Trek: Borg apart, however, is that John de Lancie is brilliant in it (he's brilliant in everything), it was filmed on the same sets as the TV show (specifically Voyager), and although it's just as linear as the worst low budget CD-ROM games, it uses Q's dimension-hopping powers to do something a bit more interesting with the genre.
It's no Tapestry (my favourite Q episode, from season 6 of The Next Generation), but it's one of a handful of '90s FMV games that is actually still worth playing today—and for more than just laughing at how bad it is. Of course, your mileage may vary if you don't like Star Trek—but would you have read this far otherwise? The game was written by Hilary J. Bader, a writer on TNG, Voyager, and Deep Space Nine, and was directed by Star Trek veteran James L. Conway, which makes it feel like an authentic part of the universe.
You are Qaylan Furlong, a Starfleet cadet whose father was killed by the Borg in the infamous Battle of Wolf 359. The Borg have invaded Federation space again, but Starfleet command has denied you the chance to fight them and avenge your father. Enter Q, who offers you an opportunity to go back in time to Wolf 359, alter history, and prevent your old man's death. It's a little absurd that Q would concern himself with some random cadet, but hey, let's not think about that too much. The Q Continuum works in mysterious ways.
Brilliantly, if you refuse Q's offer he clicks his fingers, the game unceremoniously quits, and you get kicked back to your desktop. But if you agree, you're whisked back to your father's ship, the USS Righteous, and begin recklessly meddling with the space-time continuum as John de Lancie prances around being extremely Q. All the game's FMV is filmed in first-person, which gives you the strange sensation of being in an episode of Star Trek, rather than just watching it, which is kinda nice. It's a shame about the heavy interlacing, but you can blame the limited space on your average CD-ROM for that.
The reason I like this more than other FMV games is how it makes failure fun. When you play games like this you're usually forced to tediously replay sections over and over again until you do exactly what the developers want. This game is no different, but when you make a mistake you're rewarded with a pithy line from Q or a dramatic scene that shows you just how badly you screwed up—whether it's a Borg drone killing a crewmate or the entire ship being destroyed. Some puzzles (if you can call them that) even require you to fail on purpose to find the solution, which taps nicely into the time travel concept.
Would Star Trek: Borg be half as good if Q, and by extension John de Lancie, wasn't in it? Eh, probably not. But if you love Star Trek, and you have a fondness for that omnipotent trickster, it's basically a must-play. Finding a copy and getting it running on a modern PC is hard work, but not beyond the means of anyone with a search engine and a powerful desire to experience a CD-ROM from the 1990s that doesn't totally suck. And with the Borg being part of the story in Picard, the latest Star Trek TV series, this is the perfect time to learn more about the history of the Federation's war against them.