Starfleet I: The War Begins is a 1985 computer game designed by Trevor Sorensen and developed by Interstel (some versions by Cygnus Multimedia). It was released for Apple II, DOS and Commodore 64. Versions for the Atari ST and Atari 8-bit were released in 1986 and versions for the Amiga and Macintosh were released in 1987. The game was successful enough to spawn sequels which are collectively known as the Star Fleet series.
In the game, the player is a new graduate of Starfleet Academy in command of a starship. The Federation is at war with the Krellans and Zaldrons, so the player has plenty of combatants to engage from the beginning.
Eschewing digital graphics, Star Fleet I presents all its information in color ASCII characters. Gameplay centers on two main activities: navigation and combat. Navigation takes place on the Main Computer GUI. It consists of a main star chart map, the player's current position, and visual displays. Other information may be accessed using appropriate commands. Navigation may be conducted manually or automatically.
Each area, or quadrant, on the map is displayed as a series of numbers representing asteroids, starbases, and enemy ships present. The ship's long-range sensors can detect entities in adjacent quadrants, while short-range sensors detect items in the current quadrant. The ship also has a limited number of probes for very long-range exploration.
Combat is the primary activity of Star Fleet I. Combat is initiated whenever the player's starship enters a hostile area. Each quadrant may contain a number of starbases, space marines, and Krellan (maximum of five) or Zaldron (often just one) enemy ships. The player may find hostile quadrants by chance or may be summoned by a starbase under attack.
Enemies automatically engage the player's ship with phasers. While the player's ship outmatches Krellan starships, several can prove dangerous. Zaldron ships may also be present, but cloaked. The Zaldron ships must de-cloak before engaging the player, also using phasers as a primary weapon.
The player may either destroy or disable enemy starships. Disabled starships can then be captured and delivered to friendly starbases.
The player has a lethal arsenal at their disposal with which to engage the enemy: phasers, torpedoes, and mines. Torpedoes destroy enemy ships (provided they strike the target), while the other weapons may disable (or ultimately destroy) enemy ships. When disabled, a ship may only be captured by ordering space marines to board the vessel. Automatic combat between the enemy's crew and the marines will then ensue. If victorious, the player receives some power and a number of prisoners. The captured ship may then be towed to a starbase.
During capture attempts, however, enemy spies or prisoners may escape on the player's ship undetected and disable vital systems. Such situations result in an "Intruder Alert", forcing the player to search for the culprit.
As a last resort, the player may to choose to self-destruct his ship, adversely affecting the final score.
After completing a mission, the player is rated on several factors, including number of enemies eliminated or captured and starbases rescued. Successful missions may result in promotions or commendations.