Those who finished watching the available Star Trek Material up to Voyager most likely felt a sense of emptiness, especially when Enterprise dropped the ball. Enter Star Trek Online. Like the original series it didn’t quite get off the ground the first time, but after being picked up by Cryptic, the game has thrived surprisingly well as a celestial MMORPG. The storyline in Star Trek Online is canon, for all anyone knows, as it does stick with the events following Voyager, even picking up on older storylines that fans had been wondering about. For example, Tom Paris’s daughter is present early on in the campaign, addressing issues that were brought up during the final seasons of Star Trek Voyager. So now that you know the game continues the story you came to love, the big question, is whether or not it’s worth playing. That’s a great question, actually. Many games look great in concept, but fall short when it comes to execution. This is especially true when it comes to games based on famous franchises. So let’s get to the down and dirty of it, shall we?
As you would expect with a game like Star Trek Online, you get the chance to pilot starships, and those who dabbled with the likes of Starfleet Command and Star Trek Legacy will probably feel right at home. Unlike Starfleet Command, however, the game actually allows you to travel through space in three dimensions. You can go up, you can go down, you can fly right into a planet if you really want. This makes the combat considerably more fun, and while you are in space, the game functions like a typical MMORPG, complete with buffs. Firing is controlled with basic skills on the hotbar which are of course tied to the weapon systems that you have attached to your ship. Oddly enough, you can equip these systems in the midst of battle without heading back to dry dock for a refit. This, of course, is just one of many anomalies I found during my time with Star Trek Online.
The game comes in two parts really. The first part, as we mentioned, is the ability to fly a starship, the second part however, is a bit more impressive: the ability to disembark from your ship and walk around as an avatar. That’s right, unlike nearly every other space based game, you have the distinct ability to not only disembark for ground missions, but also for your own entertainment. Iconic locations such as Sol Spacedock and Deep Space Nine are there for the exploration, and you even have the option of beaming down to different planets. Once of the first planets you may visit for example, is Vulcan, and shortly after, Earth. The one problem I had with Earth was the fact that you could only visit Starfleet Academy, and there were no other locations available other than the Spacedock in orbit. Of course, the amount of fun you can have in these two locations is not to be understated. You can enjoy a drink at the local bar, or view the items on sale at the market. There are plenty of things to do, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Apart from space stations and planes, there is yet a THIRD place where you can walk, and that would be inside your ship. I wasn’t there for this game at launch, but as I understand it, you were only able to walk on the bridge of your ship. Now, you have the option to enter the ready room or perhaps hop into the turbo lift and visit ten forward. In the various rooms, such as engineering or sickbay, you can talk to NPC’s and have items crafted if you wish. Keep in mind however that unless you purchase one of the bridge packs, your starship bridge will simply be the default.
To Boldly Go
I mentioned that this game continues the Star Trek storyline, and it does so without including in the alternate timeline from JJ Abrams. Picking up after where Voyager left off, the questline you are given plays out in episodes which you can replay as needed. Now you are allowed to skip some of the storyline if you wish, and this is helpful if you are starting a new character that has been there and done it, however, you need to reach a certain level before you can actually move on to the next. Unlike most other MMO’s, this game will not allow you to Boldly Go on suicide missions.
Getting to your missions can be achieved in one of two ways. You can either choose to use transwarp at the expense of energy credits, or you can warp to sector space and move to the correct system. Think of sector space as a sort of conduit that runs between solar systems. If you like, you can think of it as your ship being at warp, though really it’s just a giant map that allows you to enter mission instances. If you’re in the mood to do some grinding, you will have the option of encountering enemies on the way there, though you do have to go out of your way a bit to do so.
Each mission involves a space segment and then a ground segment where you will either clear out a section of a planet’s surface or perhaps beam to an asteroid facility/ station where you can clear out the enemies, set explosives, disarm explosives, whatever the case may be. You will have an arsenal of weapons at your disposal, or at least what you took down with you. Typically, you will be using a Type II hand phaser for short range fighting, while the phaser rifle is available for full assaults or sniping.
If, in the course of playing, you get tired of the typical RPG controls, there is a hotkey that switches you to shooter controls while you are on the ground. You will be able to aim and fire just as you would if you were in a standard first person shooter. Now what you should note here, is that RPG rules are still in effect, meaning a single phaser blast to the face won’t actually take an enemy down. It can be a little disappointing, but considering you get to bring an away team with you, you’ll probably survive the mission. That is, of course, assuming you’ve upgraded your weapons and brought a good personal shield with you.
As a bit if an AI oddity I ran into a mission where a space station had a fire in one of the hallways, and my away team actually refused to cross the threshold. I walked through the fire, allowing my personal shield to take the hit, and as predicted, it simply recharged when I was on the other side. Once I completed most of the mission on the other side, I ran back only to find that there was a secondary objective which involved putting out the fire. Once I had done so, my AI away team seemed to get a lot smarter.
Free to Play
This game dropped the subscription fee some time ago (though you can still gain premium access to it if you want to pay the fee), so what’s the catch? If you’ve been playing MMORPG’s for any length of time, then you know that there is always a catch, and nothing is ever completely free unless it’s Lineage II or a Buy to Play game. There is a cash store in this game, but I found that most of the items sold within are actually just cosmetic. For example, if you’re interested in having the TNG uniforms rather than the new uniforms, you can buy them in your class color. Another cosmetic addon would be the bridge, and you can buy several different configurations. The most notable bridge for Star Trek fans will be the Enterprise D bridge from TNG which comes in two different color themes.
For paid players there are plenty of perks which are listed in detail on the website, and there is even a lifetime membership option which grants you immediate access to the Captain’s Table, which is a special hangout for lifetime members or those who have accumulated a certain amount of time as a paid member. Still, all of the regular content is available, and you will be able to play through the entirety of the game without paying a dime if you wish.
Alone or with Friends
Obviously, because this is an MMORPG, you are going to encounter other players, and you have the option of forming into fleets which serve as guilds for the STO universe. A fleet can tackle missions together and given enough resources, they will be able to build space stations, dilithium mines, and even diplomatic headquarters. Plus, having a fleet gives you someone to talk to while you are away from the normal areas of space.
Friends can be invited to your bridge if you wish, though I was slightly disappointed that going to warp simply kicked them off of my bridge. You see that’s one of the biggest problems; you can’t work the ship from the inside. How nice would it have been to be able to man a station in engineering or actually take the helm? That could have opened the door for some amazing Star Trek roleplay, though I guess if you really want to use your imagination you can come up with something.
Speaking of friends, I noticed that your friends list in game actually connects you to your other friends across each Cryptic game. This includes both Neverwinter and Champions online, which will certainly help you to keep in touch, even if you want to visit a different universe.
Where no Game has Gone Before
It is safe to say that there are no other games like this one on the market, the only one even coming close being Eve Online. This game, however, should not be mistaken for Eve Online, as the play is entirely different. The direct control over the ships, for example. I did have a few qualms with the game, for example, everyone gets a starship regardless of their rank. The excuse given in-game was that due to the present conflict, ships were being handed out based on ability rather than rank. Okay, that I can buy. Another issue I have is the player’s inventory. There seems to be no weight limit, so for some reason the player is able to walk around with a phaser bank in their pocket. I kind of dismissed this by saying that the player inventory was actually on the ship and the inventory screen was just a PDA.
So on to the million dollar question: is this a good game? Is it worth playing? Absolutely. There is enough game here for both starship captains and ground pounders so long as you can get past a few inconsistencies and areas that just seem outright unrealistic. You, however, have nothing to lose by giving it a try, and it’s even available on Steam! See what you’ve been missing and catch up on old episodes. It’s time to boldly go, and see if you want to stay there for a while.
-Oddly Sized Building/Starship Interiors
-You get a starship, you get a starship, everyone gets a starship!
Rating. 8/10Related: Cryptic Studios, Review, Space MMO, Star Trek Online