MMOHub Previews Star Trek Online…part one


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Star Trek Online — Preview, Part One

By Cody ‘Neramaar’ Hargreaves

Iâ

€™m going to come right out and say this now, in the hope that doing so will deter you from leaving unsavoury comments in the forums regarding this preview: I don’t care for

Star Trek. In truth, I’m a Star Wars guy. I like Lightsabers, force powers, Jedi battles, and bad-guys that can strangle you from across the dining table without having to

leave their seat. I don’t like pointy ears, split infinitives, or skin-tight body suits on older males. It an each-to-their-own scenario for the most part, though

I mention it now as a disclaimer should you feel unhappy with the preview you are about to read, and attempt to pin the findings on my lack of enthusiasm for the source

material. I don’t care for Star Trek, but that offers no bearing on my judgement of Star Trek Online. I didn’t care for that for another reason entirely. Let

me tell you about it.

Paint Colours: Orange, Green, Yellow, Star Trek.

Star Trek Online is the

latest title from developers Cryptic Studios, the team that bought you Champions Online a few months ago, and City of Heroes/Villains back in 2005. Like

Champions Online, Star Trek Online begins by assaulting players with a magnificent character customisation toolkit, beginning with choosing a faction (The

Federation is the only available option to begin with, though later in the game the Klingon become available), a race from a range of different species or by creating your

own, and ending with almost limitless customisation options ranging from hair and eye colour, all the way to uniform type and head deformities. Also like Champions Online,

Star Trek Online uses the Cryptic Studio in-house game engine. Most of my issues with Star Trek Online are largely a result of exactly that.


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You see, in Champions Online, that engine worked wonderfully. It offered a comic-book-meets-cell-shading visual style that fell nothing short of a

veritable feast for the eyes. Everything from the font style to the character models fit the superhero genre perfectly, and I reserve nothing but praise for it now unto the

end of days. Using it for a Star Trek title… well, I just can’t abide that. It feels cheap, to be frank, and it looks a lot like a Champions with a Star Trek paint

job. That my first issue with the Star Trek Online engine. The second is far more game-breaking.

While I understand that the current

build is a beta release, and too, understand the inherent difficulties that come included with such a package, the current state of Star Trek Online is, in a word,

abysmal. Graphics and frame-rate issues bordering unplayable, technical glitches in almost every aspect of the game, severe login issues and more bugs than my garden shed are

just some of the issues inflicting Star Trek Online right now; and horrifyingly, they’re less than two weeks from release. Why is this such a big deal? Well, because

they’re using the same engine they used for Champions. One would imagine that the lack of innovation shown here in terms of style would have amounted to a perfect

release; in reality, we received the polar opposite. It simply doesn’t make sense, and it makes it incredibly difficult to review.

Beam me

up, Jedisrgay3451!

Now that you know why I’m sitting on the ‘less than pleased’ side of the proverbial Star Trek Online fence, let talk about

how it plays. The gameplay in Star Trek Online is split into two different categories, ground and space. On the ground, as mentioned above, it looks and plays a lot like

Champions with a new coat of Star Trek coloured paint. Talk to NPCs, complete mundane quests, shoot bad-guys with lazer rifles. It all… underwhelming. ‘Beam

up’ to your ship however, and you’ll be playing another game entirely.

Space battles are the bread and butter of Star Trek Online, and

fortunately, they make up a large part of the game as a whole. In space, you’ll be commanding your own ship; complete with a crew hand-picked by you and designed from the

ground up to suit your individual play-style. I say commanding because that exactly what you’ll be doing. If you were expecting high-octane space blasting action at

three-hundred-parsecs-per-minute, then you’re looking in the wrong place. Instead, the space battles in Star Trek Online play out much more like the ship battles did

in Pirates of the Burning Sea; that is, slowly. You move slowly, turn slowly, and fire slowly; and as a result, at times it can become quite stagnant. Fortunately, when

the battles are in progress it hard to imagine anything more enjoyable. In a nutshell, your ship is surrounded on all sides by a regenerative shield that protects you from

taking hull damage; however, should your shields take too much damage on one side, you’ll leave your hull exposed. Thus, it your job to simultaneously rotate your ship

(or divert power to the side taking the most damage) in order to prevent being destroyed, while also trying to line up your firing line of sight with your enemies shields. It

sounds complicated, but it an amazing amount of fun in short bursts, made even better by the ability for random players to join your ‘space battle instance’ whenever

they choose, and vice-versa.

Sadly, these magnificent space battles are often broken by the need for you to board an enemy ship, or beam down to a

planet, forcing you to choose an ‘Away Team’ from the officers aboard your ship, and descend into mindless MMO monotony once more. Thankfully, the combat on the ground

isn’t as unpleasant as it easily could have been, and there are a range of different weapons, skills and strategies that can be employed when you’re down there. If only

the quests weren’t so horrifically… samey.

Next week, we’re going to take a look at the second piece of the Star Trek Online puzzle,

Klingons. Unlike The Federation faction outlined above, Klingons are primarily a PvP faction, and from what we’ve heard it through PvP alone that they increase in rank

and progress through the game. For us, this is the most exciting feature we’ve seen in Star Trek Online thus far, as it opts to offer a fresh gaming experience that

might just provide it with the innovation it so desperately requires.

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