It's been said that good things come to those who wait. The old saying neglects to mention that bad things sometimes come to those who wait, too. Patient Star Trek fans have waited a while for any Trek-related game, and it's too bad that they'll have to wait even longer for a good one. Star Trek: Encounters is an absolute mess, crippled by a terrible control scheme and frustrating missions that wear on seemingly forever. And even with six editions of the series supplying the narrative, it's a waste of a great license, offering very little to anyone looking for a franchise fix.
The game's 20 missions stretch across the entire Star Trek universe, from Enterprise to Voyager, including two in the unfamiliar Sovereign iteration. It's a nice idea but features none of the elements that would have made it work. The story of each episode amounts to nothing more than scraps, and you don't actually interact with any non-player characters, let alone any series mainstays. William Shatner is along for the ride, voicing mission objectives, but he can't seem to work his way out of a catatonic stupor. And it doesn't take long before that sleepiness wears off on the player.
What you're left with is a series of objectives that require you to go one place and shoot targets, and then go somewhere else and shoot more targets. Shooting objects isn't necessarily bad, but Encounters tries very hard to keep it as uninspiring as possible. The biggest annoyance is the cumbersome control scheme. Navigating your tiny ship is easy enough with the left thumbstick, and you aim your targeting beam with the right stick. But actually shooting is an enormous chore, since you have to cycle through your various weapons with a single button. Pressing the X button activates your primary weapons and cycles through the available choices, while the circle button switches to your secondary weapons. Once a weapon is chosen, you lock onto a target with R2 and then fire at it with R1. So there are many button presses for the simple act of shooting a phaser or laying a mine, while the square and triangle buttons go completely unused.
While you don't navigate 3D space in Encounters, there are three depth levels. Pressing L1 and L2 moves you higher and lower, respectively, while the default plane is in the center. A blue line and circle will indicate whether an object or enemy is above or below you, and it's a decent addition to the combat that adds a modicum of strategy. However, the depth indicators don't appear until you're relatively close to the object. This makes it easy to run into objects like asteroids or miss enemy ships because you're not on the same plane.
The depth-level controls are fine on their own, but once you add the power controls to the mix, carpal tunnel ensues. You can divert power to different systems like shields or weapons with the D pad, but doing so while battling on the high or low plane requires you to use the left thumbstick, shoulder buttons, and D pad at the same time. Unless you have a third hand, it's annoying and somewhat painful, particularly since your right hand will also be twisted, aiming your targeting beam, switching between weapons, and firing at enemies.