Star Trek Online

This game has been out for two years, this weekend.

I kind of ignored it pretty much that entire time. I have been known to enjoy MMOs from time to time. The thing is though that I don’t really care for strangers, strange I know, for someone who is currently projecting words out into the aether for general consumption. The playing of MMOs also tends towards the unreasonably expensive, I’ve already been playing WoW and it didn’t seem reasonable to pay for another one.

Then we add on to that the IP itself. I’ve never been a huge Star Trek fan. I’ve always fallen more on the Star Wars side of the great divide. Lately though I’ve been hankering for some hard core Sci-Fi rather than the space opera fare I typically go for.

I read some where, I don’t recall where exactly, that it had gone Free to Play, so I thought I’d try it. Turns out that it going F2P is something that happened only very recently. Man is this a really good game.

The game was taken over from Cryptic by Perfect World. Perfect World has been in the F2Pmarket for quite some time and they are masters of the art. I think much of this comes from the polished game they acquired in the first place, but still.

Initially you choose from between three careers Tactical, Engineering, or Science. Tactical is pretty much your straight fighter simple straightforward and easy to play. Engineering is a little more complex, the play of the class differs a bit based on whether you are on a ground or space based mission. On the ground the engineer controls the battle field with mines or turrets and other hazards or shields. In space Engineer play is more about survival with the ability to rapidly repair shields and hull damage and even launch boarding parties. The Science career on the other hand is more of a healer on the ground and a debuffer in space, sort of the reverse of the engineer. I don’t play with other people so Science just wasn’t fun for me.

As far as species goes there are limitless options. You can play as a human, andorian, betazoid, vulcan or numerous other standard options by default, there is also the “alien” species option, which is completely customizable, in appearance and in racial abilities. This is where the free to play aspect begins to come into it, in addition to the (incredibly ample) choices that are available by default you can purchase other options as well, such as the Federation Klingon, the Caitan, and the Joined Trill (regular Trill is one of the available by default options). I want to buy some new species but just have been having ample fun without, so it’s something I can look forward to in the future.

The play is pretty much everything a player of a Star Trek game could want, it has a pretty even mix of Space and Ground action, both are polished and fun. On the ground you can switch between “Rpg controls” (which behave like other mmos like WoW) and “Shooter Controls” (which behave more like a third person shooter) in certain situations one will be better than the other and changing between them is as simple as hitting a hot key (“B” unless remapped to be something else) Most of the keys retain their functions regardless of which control scheme you are using, so there’s no button confusion. Space combat is equally intuitive again with many of the buttons retaining more or less their functions from the RPG control scheme.

There is PVP and PVE group play, I’ve done a little PVE (in space) and it was nice. Coordination is good and it certainly helps, but if another player (typically me) is kind of an idiot, the mission will not be overly negatively impacted, unlike the multiplayer required portions of other MMOs where if one person (hi again) is not holding up their end the party can expect to wipe again and again until the party dissolves in cascading rage-quits. I can’t say much about PVP it exists a lot of people seem to like it, and if you have your chat window open in a populated area (unnecessary) you will hear a lot about how one ship is “better” than another.

In addition to the missions available from cryptic/perfect world, there are also a whole slew of community authored material as well. Much of it is lovingly crafted with the attention to detail one would expect from die hard Trek fans. It is in many ways better than what was put out by the developers.

That’s all good stuff.

Now the less good.

It’s F2P which means there are a lot of ways to spend real money on this game. Fortunately very little is required to fully experience and enjoy the game. Well that’s misleading, actually you could fully enjoy the game without ever spending a single dime on it. Some things like additional character slots, certain species, a lot of costume options (this really seems to be the way for game designers to get customers to spend real money), certain ship options, and a fair number of just fun little things like the Tribble of Borg, cost Cryptic points, which you can pay for with a credit card, or you can translate from Perfect World zen points, these can be purchased on a game card at any number of stores. You can also use the in game exchange to to trade Refined Dilithium for Cryptic points, Dilithium is acquired from doing missions and having your crewmen perform a number of minor duties. Assigning these duties also makes it feel like you are running a starship, which is pretty cool.

The initial install when I did it took literally all day, the game is now available from steam so it seems likely that there is a faster download and set up available now.

In short I really don’t remember ever having this much fun playing a video game, I wish I had discovered it sooner.

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One Response to Star Trek Online

  1. ShadoWarrior says:

    I started playing this exceedingly addictive game, to the exclusion of doing almost everything else in my life, for the past 4 days. I’m achieving about a rank a day. I’m currently halfway up the (full) Commander grades on the way to making Captain.

    This game is the most fun that I’ve had in an MMO since Star Wars Galaxies, and it has none of the bad aspects of that game. Especially since STO is free, and SWG wasn’t.

    There was absolutely no gameplay documentation, at least none that I could find, included with the download. However, there is a TON of useful documentation available on the game’s wiki and on other fan sites. So once you get past the “how do I do stuff” phase and get serious about what you’re doing you’ll have most of the info that you’d ever need. Provided that you do as I do and play the game in a window and keep a bunch of tabs open on your browser (which should be Firefox).

    BTW, I should also mention that the server(s) appear to be quite stable. Which I find refreshing. Perhaps things have improved in the world of MMOs in the past 4+ years since I last played a MMO, but uptime is important to anyone who’s addicted.

    Another aspect that I love is that if you exit in the middle of a mission (deliberately, or because of getting unexpectedly booted) the game will take you back to where you last were and you lose no progress. I can’t emphasize just how wonderful this is.

    Last, but certainly not least, is that ‘dying’ seems to have no long-term detrimental effects. None whatsoever. This is in marked contrast to the XP losses that I’ve been used to in other MMOs. The most that may happen is you suffer an injury. Which can be readily healed.

    I’ve used the ‘noble sacrifice’ technique a few times in Borg battles today to help my teams achieve mission goals. Charge in, take out out a key enemy vessel to bump up a kill progress counter, then get blown away by that vessel’s now-angry guardian cubes trying to escape. Game resets you to someplace outside the edge of the combat zone. Wash, rinse, repeat.

    My ship and crew are now powerful enough that I, without assistance from any other ships, can chew up a Borg sphere in under a minute. I can take a solitary cube to about half it’s hull before it obliterates my ship. And I’m doing this with a cruiser, not an escort (which are purpose-built warships). Through watching others, and my own experience, I found that loading the ship with all beam arrays (no torpedo launchers) and giving enemies ‘broadsides’ (where both fore and aft arrays can fire on the target) I maximize my firepower. Currently, that’s SIX beam arrays (3 fore and 3 aft) all ripping into a target once I turn broadside to them.

    Escorts can pack more forward firepower, and mount powerful cannon, but they are vulnerable to being flanked. Given my general ineptness at fine motor control, I get flanked a lot. So I opted for a ship type (cruisers) that has a stronger hull that mounts more guns and in a balanced distribution, and have much larger crews so that my ship can take lots of crew casualties and stay in the fight.

    Well, that’s enough for now. A huge thank you to Lambach for cluing me in to this game via this blog. Perhaps we’ll meet in-game sometime.

    — Commander Kitano Jin, U.S.S. Osprey, 5th Exploration Fleet

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