Star Trek Lower Decks: The Badgey Directive Review
Star Trek isn’t exactly lacking in mobile games, but Star Trek Lower Decks: The Badgey Directive is the only one that features things from the show almost as soon as the episodes are out. If you weren’t watching the latest season when the Moopsy appeared, it was a bit of a spoiler. This is an idle game, and I’ve put off this review for a long time because something about it rubbed me the wrong way when it first released. Has that changed over time, or have I just adapted?
As any fan of Lower Decks will know, Badgey appeared in the first season of the show as a homicidal hologram, created by engineer Ensign Rutherford. Well, he’s back and has trapped the crew in a holographic version of the USS Cerritos, running drills often based on past episodes of Star Trek. “NuTrek” is all about that nostalgia, after all, but that’s the subject for another time.
As an idle game, The Badgey Directive sees you watching timers run, upgrading things, and tapping to view ads so that you get double whichever currency it’s currently trying to make you watch an ad for. Each character is assigned to a simulation which earns merit points — for instance, Captain Freeman works the shuttle bay — and each character and simulation can be levelled up to make them earn more points or earn them faster. Completing tasks (you’re given three at a time) will unlock the next story chapter for each episode, and tasks are usually “earn [x] merit points” or “upgrade [x] characters”. Tasks will also reward you with a crate of random amounts of currency or chips, and sometimes both.
The story chapters are actually the main reason I’ve stuck with this game for so long. They are often genuinely funny and match the tone of the show really well, though it’s clearly in its own continuity. Well, to be fair, the entire game takes place on the holodeck, so technically it’s outside of continuity by default.
The thing that initially soured me towards The Badgey Directive was how often adverts came up. Admittedly, I’ve not played a whole bunch of idle games in the past, but when some ads would run for up to two minutes while others were 30 seconds, it was really frustrating. You can watch an ad to earn 2x merit points for four hours, and bank up to 12 hours at a time by watching multiple ads. Then you can “buy” 30 dilithium (the currency used to upgrade) from a Ferengi every so often by watching an ad. Not too long ago a new mechanic was added where a transdimensional energy sphere will move up or down the screen, and tapping on them before they disappear will give you either dilithium or merit points, and about half of the time you can watch an ad to get 5x the amount.
Of course, instead of watching ads for dilithium, you can use microtransactions to buy premium currency in the form of gold-pressed latinum. It comes in six amounts, from 20 latinum for £1.49, and to buy 250 dilithium you need 50 latinum. Latinum is also used to get crates, which give you character & simulation chips, as well as a random amount of dilithium, however every four hours you can get a free crate (so long as your device is connected to the internet at the time). There is the chance to get latinum, chips, and dilithium upon completing episodes, but the amounts all vary wildly, and the character chips will probably not be the ones you needed.
However, The Badgey Directive also has events a few times each week, running for about a day up to four days. Events are exactly the same as the main game, except character and simulation upgrades are separate from the main game, and they have their own event currency. This is where you can earn quite a bit of latinum over time, even without spending any real money, because earning merit points is all you need to do to complete an episode. Of course, you’ll need to watch ads to get doubles and such, but when the event finishes you’re given rewards up to the tier you reached, and can track that progress as you play. There is even a leaderboard where scoring more merit points places you higher, and the higher you score the better the rewards, usually an exclusive new character (which will be more easily available in a later event) and more latinum. Any excess event currency (such as Borg babies) are converted to dilithium for the main game at a rate of 4:1. When the game launched, this was 3:1, but things have changed over the months…
While the ads are better than they were, and the egregious amount of notifications to buy microtransactions has somewhat lessened over time, it can all still be a bit frustrating. Watching an ad can still take over a minute — that grandma mansion one is especially long — and it’s not like the long ads are for one thing with short for others, it’s entirely random. You might see the same ad six times in 10 minutes for three different things! Various updates have actually caused some ads to not work properly, so after a minute and a half you still wind up with nothing.
I’ve been playing The Badgey Directive since it soft-launched in late 2022, and I’ve never bought anything with real money. As it currently stands, I have over 1,000 latinum and 18,000 dilithium, and it’s rarely below that as I don’t spend latinum in every event (and never in the main game) and am cautious with my dilithium. Depending on the event I will end up between 10th place and 120th place on the leaderboard, with one being when I spent latinum to upgrade things, and the other when I just didn’t bother, either way making some progress in events will always get you some dilithium at least. Since I stopped trying to get through the main episodes as quickly as possible and focussed my attention on events, I’ve been enjoying the game more. What’s more, the game gets frequent updates with new characters and episodes, as well as testing new mechanics; the latest one that has appeared in a few events now even gives premium currency every few hours.
If you’re in the mood for some chuckles with a free-to-play mobile game, then definitely check out Star Trek Lower Decks: The Badgey Directive. So long as you’re not in a rush to get through it and happy for it to take its time, then it won’t cost you anything but time. If you’re in a rush, then the option is there to spend a lot of money if you prefer, but I’m sure that the developer has plenty of ad income from me alone to tide them over.
Star Trek Lower Decks: The Badgey Directive (Reviewed on Android)
This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.
While the advert situation could be better, a pocket-sized hit of Lower Decks is never a bad thing.