A couple of weeks ago marked a watershed moment in MMORPGs: Star Trek Online wrapped up its mostly-open-beta program, and went live with its early-access-for-preorders launch. Delighted with the quality of the game, we sprung for a lifetime membership, which is approximately as costly as paying per-month for a year and a half. (I wish World of WarCraft would offer such a deal.)
The boys and I have been hooked. (Isaac, the weasel, has remained several levels ahead of me, and is about to get a promotion that will give him access to even better ships.) The game features space exploration and combat, and ground exploration and combat. The missions are described as “episodes,” and, like the plots of a television series, often require following unexpected developments and changing tasks as the plot unfolds across planetary surfaces and space. Each player captains his or her own starship, outfitting it with weapons, equipment that gives bonuses, and senior officers who also provide special abilities. I’ve attached a couple of screen shots of the gorgeously-rendered space exploration scenes below. The planets are beautiful, often including moving cloud layers that partly cover the ground below, as well as appropriate atmospheric illumination by the planet’s star, depending on one’s location in orbit.
(My first ship is named the USS Nichelle.)
Ground locations are often also highly detailed, with a wide variety of plants and terrain. Some of the outdoor ground locations (there are also caves, and starbase and other complex interiors) sometimes seem very reminiscent of the ToS set locations, although generally with more detail than the show’s budget allowed.
Combat and exploration are both integral to the game. Combat is far more skill-intensive than most MMORPGs, particularly as one commands an “away team” to whom orders must be given, and as space combat works in three dimensions and often against multiple enemies. Some missions automatically draft the cooperation of other players, and nearly everything can be accomplished by choice as a teamwork exercise. Like the best MMOs available, there are also large PVP combat areas where players can earn even more rewards.
The game is still in early release, and is apparently only going to get better, but it still shows some weaknesses of an early release with higher-than-expected levels of demand on its servers, and some frustratingly common bugs, such as the game locking up.
Overall, though, our romps through the Star Trek universe have been delightful, with much future enjoyment anticipated.
Addendum, Stardate 201002.18: I am fully convinced that this game was worth every penny. Even my beloved World of WarCraft has never captured me with this intensity.
8 Replies to “To Boldly Go: Star Trek Online”
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Nice writeup. I've been thinking of trying this out.I did get a nice chuckle when I saw in the second screenshot someone was gold spamming you. LOL
Yeah, they were gold spamming during the pre-launch. Crazy. What annoys me is it keeps ending up in my in-game mail in large numbers. Cryptic will have to fix this.I also think I've fixed the crashing problem by updating to the latest nVidia driver, although mine was only a month out of date.GREAT experience last night. Following orders to investigate the Orion system, I had to fight off 3 groups of Klingon ships (not easy) who were blocking comms and transport, then beam to the planet where a peace conference was going on, to discover more Klingons to fight – and a bunch of plasma charges to disarm over a large area – and colonists to heal. Just when I finished that, I learned that the lead Klingon had taken hostages in the embassy building … so I rescued them. The head Klingon beamed up to his ship, so we had to fight him back in space (seriously outclassed), while getting help from a Klingon faction who was sympathetic to the peace process.This does well to illustrate the type of storytelling that is built into the missions. It's much more compelling in that aspect than any other MMO I've played.
One of the interesting problems (IMO) that WoW and other MMOs have is quest crowding. You end up having several other players in the same immedate area doing the same quests and competing for the same resources, which kinda kills the immersion factor, when you are going to kill the big bad guy holding the innocent villagers hostage … but you have to wait in line to kill him because he's still respawning from the guy ahead of you killing him. Does ST address this at all?
Hey, can I copy (or get you to copy) your comments to my BLOG entry?
Actually, they handle this very well. Virtually every "quest" is instanced. So, if it's a solo quest you (or anyone else on your team) will perform it alone. Some quests, like the larger space battles, require teammates to succeed, so teammates (if you're not already in a team) are automatically drafted in to your party.Also, away missions (again, unless one is not teaming) are filled in by reasonably capable AI players – beginning with one's bridge officers, and filled in by security; the captains can override any of these selections. So, even solo away missions are party-based.
GREAT story experience last night. Following orders to patrol the Orion system, I entered the system and had to fight off 3 groups of Klingon ships (not easy) who were blocking comms and transport, then beam to the planet where a peace conference was going on, to discover more Klingons to fight – and a bunch of plasma charges to disarm over a large area – and colonists to heal. Just when I finished that, I learned that the lead Klingon had taken hostages in the embassy building … so I rescued them. The head Klingon beamed up to his ship, so we had to fight him back in space (seriously outclassed), while getting help from a Klingon faction who was sympathetic to the peace process.
This does well to illustrate the type of storytelling that is built into the missions. It’s much more compelling in that aspect than any other MMO I’ve played.