An Hour With… Star Trek Online

By Alec Meer on February 11th, 2010 at 10:18 pm.

I’m a space captain, ma! Yeah, it’s amazing – I was only an Ensign 20 minutes ago, but they’ve given me my own ship already! I’m going to fly it into the sun and see what happens – I expect it will be lovely and warm there, so the crew will surely be delighted.

STO made me feel pretty important pretty quickly. I like that, even if it seems like open foolishness on the Federation’s part. I was deeply curious to try this here MMO back when it was in beta, but knew that sitting down with an MMO can be like giving a vampire permission to enter my home. Danger! Danger! However, as I currently have a work calendar more frighteningly empty than the soul of Haliburton executive, I quite literally have nothing better to do – I can justify getting my Captain’s Log on for a little while. As the title states, this isn’t a review: it’s just me dicking about in the first hour of the game then deciding if I want to continue playing or not. If I was going to give it a score, though, it’d be eight fourths out of C.

I called my Vulcan Science Officer ‘Spork.’ I am a comedy genius/idiot/completely predictable/delete as obvious. Between borderline copyright-infringement (albeit the game’s own copyright) and being the most obvious gag in the world, I’m pretty sure I’m going to annoy a lot of people. Thing is – I almost couldn’t help it/ There’s something about Star Trek Online that makes it hard to take it seriously. I don’t mean as a game, but in terms of being a Star Trek product. It’s a series that’s largely speaking very serious, even despite the giant hands and pratfalls of the recent movie do-over. It always come down to the universe being imperiled, but I’m not convinced this could ever entirely convey that.

It doesn’t seem to take Star Trek seriously either, despite its somber text-boxes and urgent pleas to rescue people. It’s openly cartoony, sharing as it does much of the same tech as Cryptic’s other MMO, the ostentatiously comicky-booky Champions Online – which means it feels a long way away from the formality and seriousness of the Federation. And the character creator may be stuffed with pre-made options for Vulcans and Klingons et al for the more devout Star Trek fans to flock to, but for a more casual follower such as I, it’s hard to resist the option to create a new species, which inevitably gets far wilder than anything Star Trek has historically included. This guy, for instance:

Yeah, well done me. Captain Obvious, I am. I’m quite sure everyone comes up with something pretty similar when they create their first character, but don’t deny me my enormo-foreheaded fun. This kind of thing is a major lure to such as I – if I can’t put my own visible imprint, no matter how asinine, on my player character, I can struggle to connect to an MMO. Trouble is, this chap here has absolutely nothing to do with anything; he’s based on nothing other than pulling most of the sliders to extremes. In other words – I’m not treating this like Star Trek. In other other words: Star Trek Online isn’t encouraging me to treat it like Star Trek.

That isn’t a criticism, just an observation. I’m not sure I could even stomach a super-serious Star Trek MMO, to be honest, but certainly the obvious commonality to Champions forces this down a slightly tongue-in-cheek path it may not intend to be on. Or maybe it does; who knows? It’s enjoyably relaxed as a result – very much a plug straight in and have a good time affair. To the point that I’m worried it steals its own thunder with the tutorial missions. They include pretty much every Star Trekky element you could name – a Borg invasion, Phaser combat, explodey spaceships, Phasers on stun, an Away mission, warp speed and plenty of beaming up. What else do you want from a Star Trek game? Oh yeah. That, but at higher levels. Yay MMOs! But it’s an impressively fun, explodey intro, well-paced and managing to introduce the game’s core concepts without seeming patronising. I just hope it manages to outdo the precedent it immediately sets itself. I’m a bit worried it’s shown its most interesting enemy too soon, but at the same time I’ve very glad I didn’t have to wait until I was level 48 or something to see them. Hook me in from the off.

I’m not much beyond the tutorial, but I’ve really enjoyed having an AI squad – so far, just bald, scarred, bearded Vulcan first-mate Spork, but there’s space for a couple more. It immediately makes this not Just Another MMO and, in contrast to what I said earlier, a lot more like Star Trek. It’s a team thing, but moreover a military team thing – something you wouldn’t get with a squad that was purely made up of players, as they’d all try to run off and do their own thing rather than follow orders. No idea how that’s going to play out when there is a whole mass of players and their robo-chums, but I’m definitely interested enough to find out.

The space combat I’m not so sure about – the controls feel a bit off, imprecise and unresponsive. I’m surprised there isn’t a click-to-move-to-target thing on the ships, as that would seem to have more in common with Star Trek navigation as we know it. Clearly, it’s more hands-on this way, but I’m not convinced a city-sized spaceship from the far future should handle like a broken kite. Maybe I’ll get used to it, but right now it feels like an uncomfortable halfway house between, say, Eve and Freelancer. It’s a jolly nice change from running around pressing number keys, at least. And I can’t pretend I wasn’t thrilled that the name I gave my ship – the U.S.S. Pripyat – appeared on its hull:

Odd spacefaring aside, STO feels a whole lot fresher and more interesting than Champions Online’s introductory gobbets, though there has been a little touch of the Tabula Rasas about the ground combat. As long as the missions and the worlds are interesting it’ll do fine, though. A far greater – the greatest, in fact – concern is how hideously convoluted and poorly explained the skill upgrade system is. I’ve assigned points to the preposterously large grid of similarly-named statistics pretty much at random, with only the vaguest guesstimation as to their effects. Hopefully it’ll take greater pains to clarify it a little later, but right now it’s making exactly the same mistake as Champions’ messy stat-fest did. Which is a sad surprise, given it it was probably the most common complaint about Champions. Surely Cryptic would have been determined not to do it again?

Still, would I play more? You betcha. While there are some major areas of concern, there’s certainly not been anything to scare me away at this early stage. In fact, I’m going to boldly go where I went about two hours ago right now.

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74 Comments »

  1. Vinraith says:

    The two primary things that put me off STO were 1) Borg in the tutorial. I mean, really? 2) The mission where I had to go around, talk to miners, then take a quiz on why they were upset. That’s what we’re doing in games, now? Reading comprehension tests?

    Death having absolutely no negative consequences was also rather demotivating, but I assume that was a beta thing. Right?

    • bleeps says:

      “The mission where I had to go around, talk to miners, then take a quiz on why they were upset. ”

      That actually sounds interesting to me; more so than killing ten rats, anyway. So yes, please give me some quests that involve exploration and reading in addition to killing shit.

    • Dante says:

      A lot of people have voiced that about the tutorial, but honestly it’s only about half and hour long, so you can quickly put it behind you. I played quite a lot of the open beta and I only saw the talky mission (which would be good in theory bleeps, but the writing is very shallow and uninteresting) pop up once.

      As far as I know there were no plans to implement a death penalty in the full release, and having played it, I really wonder why they would. Once you’ve played the game with it taken out, forcing it back in seems like inconveniencing the player for no good reason.

    • Vinraith says:

      @bleeps

      Killing rats was more interesting than reading what these idiots had to say, I assure you. Also, it would be one thing if the game provided you some dialogue and forced you to take that information into account in your actions or handling of the situation, it’s quite another for it to literally give you a bare bones set of 5 facts and then have stilted “dialogue” that asked you what each of those facts was.

      @Dante

      No death penalty? Seriously? So… what’s the point, then? It’s not like enemy damage isn’t persistent between respawns, the result is that you can accomplish anything just by respawning it to death.

      Oh, and as to the tutorial, it undermines one of the better threats in the Star Trek universe to the point of absurdity. It’s short, sure, but it’s not exactly encouraging as far as the quality or “Star Trek-ness” of the narrative. And if the game’s not going to feel like Star Trek, again, what’s the point?

    • cliffski says:

      I skipped through everything the miners droned on about and still guessed the answers correctly on first try. So total fail there on the need for immersion.
      Eve on-line is 1000x more impressive, and it does so by clever game design, not by forcing you to read anything specific.
      The quests are predictable, dull, cookie cutter MMO crap in this game. It’s a huge disappointment.

      Plus it should require 50+ players at the top of their game at maximum level to even survive an engagement with a borg cube. Sticking a dozen in the tutorial is truly pathetic and the sign of desperately poor game design.

    • Wulf says:

      @cliffski

      With all due respect, I don’t think it’s poor game design so much as that you’re failing to understand Cryptic’s design ethic. To get away from the gruntwork of beginning an MMORPG and to make it feel not like a job, they put the player in a situation of importance. It might be a bit silly but then it’s supposed to be, because that’s just how they are. And if you can get over preconceived notions over how progression should be and try to see it for what it is, you’d find more enjoyment in it.

      No, we’re not spending the first 5 levels cleaning out the jefferies tubes of tribbles, and scrubbing the warp coils, thank goodness for that. For the opening segment of the game they have us doing something particularly exciting, to make the tutorial genuinely interesting. That’s one thing I actually like about Cryptic. It’s similar to how the Qularr invasion works in Champions Online, and where most MMORPG tutorials are dreadfully boring, Champions Online made the player feel like a real hero from the outset.

      I think that the nerd factor is overbearing here, and old ideals are being clung to. If the content is cookie cutter then that I can understand, or if the game is buggy then that I can understand too, but I find complaining about a Borg cube not needing 50 ships to take down hilarious and kind of sad.

    • Wulf says:

      @Vinraiith

      You can get past anything in VVVVVV by respawning through it, it doesn’t mean that you’re not getting better at the game in the process, though, does it? And that’s the thing, all a death penalty actually achieves is an inconvenience for the player, as it doesn’t teach the player anything at all, it never does. It’s just pointless setbacks.

      Imagine if VVVVVV set you back to the start of a level every time you died, you’d probably not be very happy. And the same works for any game. Just because it has no death penalty doesn’t mean that the players aren’t bothered about dying (I get bothered by it) and don’t try to do better with each successive run.

    • Clovis says:

      @Wulf: That’s a terrible example. The challenges in V*? don’t get easier when you try them over and over again. In STO you can slowly whittle away at the enemy. It is like the Vita-Chambers (or whatever) from Bioshock, except a whole lot worse.

      Having said that, I think it works for the audience they are aiming at (ie, not me).

    • Dante says:

      @ Vinraith

      You say what’s the point without it, I say what’s the point with it? Not being annoyed every time you die doesn’t take away the sense of accomplishment from succeeding. Doesn’t quick save render us essentially immortal in most games anyway, personally I think death is overrated.

      Incidentally, enemies do regenerate shields and repair hull when you’re being dead, a tough cruiser can be back to full strength by the time you’ve died and respawned.

    • Taillefer says:

      It could have been interesting to mix modes of play within the game. Have a quick play mode for people to jump into a non-persistent character at a mid-rank level, but at the cost of not being able to develop them, maybe they could even die; call it “red shirt mode”, perhaps. And have a career mode for people who start at the bottom of the ladder, with a fully customisable character and allow them to develop their character as they see fit.

      It would be a nice way to demo the content and also allow career players to get their friends to try it out. Although, I don’t actually know how the game plays at all, admittedly.

  2. Orange says:

    curious to hear if the quality holds up in the later levels, most mmos are pretty captivating at the start.

    • D says:

      I found it to be not, when I played the open beta. Got to level 11 (the time you get the second ship class), played with it for a few hours, looked at the xp bar for the next ten levels and thought “nope, just another MMO.”
      The ship combat was the main draw for me. Fighting harder opponents and managing the shields, power, trying to edge in the close win or get away in the last second. It is really good and provides lots of replayability, just in being both tactical and skill based. It also has some very cool ideas for bridge officer powers (altho the interface to learn about them is awful), which periodically refreshes the game, but theres just too much time sink in between the big upgrades. I would probably play it from end to end if they quartered the length.

    • Stromko says:

      Same here. It had some fun moments, I found the combat to be fun and varied (thought there was far too much of it, to the point where most missions just felt cookie cutter and grindtastic). I realized, 15 hours in, it was going to be about another 10 hours devoted to one character, just so he could finally get rid of his old starter ship (that everyone gets, regardless of class) and into a more unique ship.

      As a result the experience with different classes didn’t feel differentiated at all. The most customization you could do was rejiggering how many beams, disrupters, mines and torpedoes in the two front and one aft weapon slot– and you could easily just do that with one character. There’s no need to make an alt, that’s kind of nice, but it’s far too long before you get a non-generic experience.

  3. Andy_Panthro says:

    Does everyone get their own spaceship?

    I find myself wondering what the point is… but that’s not constructive… um…

    When I played Ultima Online (way back in the day!), I positioned myself as a wandering lone adventurer, helping those in need. The way the system worked, I never found myself needing to kill X of a monster, nor grind to get my skills up, because the system worked quite well to be inclusive of new and old players alike. Various players made weapons and armour, and there was a hugely inflationary economic system, which was amusing and horrifying in equal measure.

    In that respect, how is STO good for the sociable wanderer, can you hitch rides on other peoples space ships? are there many planets to explore? what can you do besides kill critters or other players? do you get credits, and if so what is there to spend them on?

    • lafinass says:

      @Andy_Panthro

      You are the captain of your own ship. Though more often than not you will end up teamed up, against your will by default, with other captains and their ships for missions. And the larger fleet actions can get pretty crowded.

      As for the rest, there is exploration- but a vast majority of the quests are kill/defend/escort. It’s a universe at war type of affair, and yet you do infact earn currency with which you buy upgrades for yourself and your ship. Because I know Picard was always having to sell off random loot to buy an upgraded phaser array.

  4. GCU Speak Softly says:

    I loved the beta and will buy a sub once the major server issues get sorted – that’s server in the singular, which is the crux of the problem.

    You do get a ship each, you get to do a few iconic missions amongst the usual go there kill x of them type things. There’s little leeway for the Rogue Trader type style, but you could spend time exploring the sectors and seeing some of the more interesting places – Risa, Vulcan, DS9 etc.

    There’s three or four types of ‘money’ and lots of kit to spend it on, either personal kit or ship stuff. There’s Fleets for clannish types and the game will team you with others for space missions and some other interesting takes.

    There were a bunch of bugs that remain since beta and there’s a bunch of issues with claiming extras such as the Original Series uniforms, which I see in the pictures here. However, the official forums seethe with angry internet men who have burned through to max level in a matter of days – this is very much a “play the story, smell the flowers” vibe, not a “leet loot, all rare, look at how big my sword is.”

    • Jeremy says:

      I think Angry Internet Men would cease to exist if they played games that fit into their preferred niche.

  5. Wulf says:

    No offence meant, Alec, but it looks like your Captain was originally some sort of Elf (possibly of the Warcraft variety given those floppy ears) who fell prey to an abominable transporter accident involving a tree stump! I’m reminded of Professor Monkey-for-a-Head!

    This, of course, is really very funny.

    • Wulf says:

      Also, Alec’s Captain would work pretty well as the mascot for Elfwood!

      /guffaw

      Okay, I’ll behave now. Sorry.

  6. Tei says:

    Re: teleportation errors..

    The problem with the latest MMOs is that look like a erroneous teleportation experiment of WoW and a fly :-)

  7. Dante says:

    I found the Ship combat a little odd at first, but when you get used to it it becomes fantastically fun, additional bridge officers with new powers make things really interesting too.

    I do recommend doing the story missions (Admiral Quinn) ahead of the patrol missions (Commander Sulu) in the beginning, as they’re miles more interesting, patrol missions are very grindy, while the story arc ones conclude in a that spectacular back in time/old fashioned Klingons mission that turned up in all the previews.

    • dadioflex says:

      Now that’s interesting. I tackled the patrol missions first and quit the beta soon after. Perhaps it would have been different if I’d stuck with the story missions. No way I’d go back now though. I really didn’t like the ship combat.

    • Dante says:

      I loved the ship combat myself, so I guess taking my advice would be a bad idea for you.

  8. Mavvvy says:

    The instancing used in the game kills the immersion, at times since the missions are limited to only having 5 people in your party. I would compare this mmo to paying to play left 4 dead sometimes.

    …and then I have a epic space battle and I forget about its failings for a few minutes…… its a very bi-polar game.

    • Dante says:

      Funny, I thought the instancing was the best thing about it. It actually improves the immersion a great deal, because you go into your own story rather than queueing up to kill the same re spawning wildlife as everyone else.

      To some people, less MMO like is a compliment.

  9. paul newman says:

    i started a blog about sto when i got into the beta, vowing to play for a while no matter how i feel about it, and lasted only about 4 hours
    it made me blush and feel embarrassment
    very simple gameplay like a quickly made movie tie-in game, too instanced to be called massively multiplayer, a bit rude to the star trek ip

    it’s bad for a current gen mmo, worse when considering the heavy heavy instancing, less bad when you’re not burned out by fetch and repeat questing and grinding

  10. kulantan says:

    Woah, 599 584 916/10? That is quite a high score!
    (I’m assuming that c is the speed of light)
    c x 8/4 = 599 584 916

    • Gnarl says:

      Well actually, he said eight fourths (or 2) out of C. Now if you assume C is speed of light in vacuum, which I wouldn’t given the capitalisation, and we’re in the common stated units, that would be 2 / (3×10^8). Or not very high, relatively speaking. But absolutely, 2 ms-1 isn’t that slow.

    • Matt W says:

      +10 points for the relativity joke

  11. G Morgan says:

    I haven’t played ST:O or C:O, but far, far better a messy stat-fest that the ‘streamlining’ that is affecting the majority of modern video games.

    • malkav11 says:

      I hate the streamlining (in, say, ME2), but not really. A shit ton of unexplained, unintuitive options means characters that are, more often than not, a horrible and quite possibly gimped mess. A tiny and inadequate set of options at least means you can make steady forward progress.

    • Thants says:

      “[Videogames] should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.”

    • Tei says:

      Who says RPG are videogames? most people (if not all) sould play LARP or other intense roleplay experience.

  12. Zerotime says:

    That second Borg is totally going to assimilate that dude’s boots.

    • Cabbs says:

      We are The Borg. Remove your boots. Your fashion sense will be added to our own.

    • Nick says:

      We are Borg, We need your clothes, your boots and your motorcycle.

  13. Tusque d'Ivoire says:

    I had two weeks of considerable fun playing my first MMO ever in the open beta (thanks to RPS), still remember the Alec Meer Risen Diary very fondly and would wish nothing more than hear more about Mr Meer’s adventures in the 25th century!

    Especially because my own impressions of the game are still very much divided. Because of my lack of experience with MMOs i really didn’t see much of the massively multiplayer part except for some fleet actions, or the very much unreadable main channel. The missions however were so repetative and Lo-Fi that i had to assume it’s an MMO thing, but i was still alone most of the time – the downside of the instanceing system.

    I loved the space battle and it felt very much powerful and mighty, but that might just be due to the ground battles being so horrifyingly ugly, boring and overall terrible. However I’m perfectly fine with playing the game for months just to get a galaxy class ship to cruise around with. Glad that i only played the open beta which was free and – your vampire analogy being very fitting – over after two weeks.

    • Tusque d'Ivoire says:

      Oh, and i left out the saddest part, especially for Mr Meers love of gameplay anecdotes: Consider it a stroke of luck if a mission is about ANYTHING BUT killing a certain amount of enemies, which is even less Star Trek, a resource already scarcely supplied.

  14. jti says:

    I wonder if anyone would bother to try this if it wasn’t about Star Trek? Seeing the first reports and the videos I wouldn’t even bother to ask without ST connection.

  15. Ginger Yellow says:

    I’m almost tempted to buy the game just so I can give my ships Culture names like the USS Resistance Is Character Forming or the USS Now Look What You Made Me Do, but almost everything I’ve heard about the game has turned me off. The space combat sounds interesting enough, but by all accounts that’s it. The ground combat sucks and the missions get stale fast. The devs have made some noises about giving a bit more variety to the game, but I’m not going to buy it on the basis of vague aspirations. Maybe after a year when they’ve fleshed it out some more

    • cliffski says:

      Dude, try Gratuitous Space Battles. It auto names your ships with those kind of names
      (sorry for the plug!)

    • Ginger Yellow says:

      Dude, I’ve already got Gratuitous Space Battles

  16. The Dark One says:

    My experience with the game is limited to the open beta, but I did have good fun. The thing I’d change, though, is when you get to branch out from the default jack-of-all-trades ship. It felt like it was taking forever to get to level 11, especially when it was hard to find a mission that would give me experience and not just merits or energy credits. Besides, there’s even an appropriate rank they skipped: Lieutenant JG.

    The game became much more enjoyable when I was able to requisition myself a pretty little Science vessel.

  17. Stabby says:

    GiantBomb did a pretty awesome 11-part feature on ST:O, each part is around an hour long.

  18. Lucas says:

    I now have the urge to replay Strange Adventures in Infinite Space for a while.

  19. MWoody says:

    I’m stunned that you found space combat unwieldy or poorly designed, as for my money, it’s the best reason to play STO – and a pretty damn good reason, at that. I strongly urge you to give it more of a chance, and discover how positional mechanics and the targeting angle for specific weapon types adds a whole new level of strategy into the mix.

    And another note if you choose to keep leveling: don’t think you need to do all the missions. After being bitten in CO with there being insufficient missions to hit the cap, they’ve apparently decided to go way in the opposite direction. So at any one time you’ll have named, specific “episode” missions, but it will always give you either randomly generated (“exploration”), pre-made (“patrol”), full-on space combat (“defend”), or pug raid boss (“fleet”) missions you can repeat as many times as you’d like for XP. It’s a good move on their part, as it means you can – for the most part – focus on what you enjoy.

    Don’t get me wrong; the game has flaws. Ground combat is actually better than I was expecting, but the ground levels – particularly the interiors – are painfully linear and outright boring. The servers need some work, but having tried to play Mortal Online over the past week, I’m not sure I’ll ever complain about an MMO being “laggy” ever again. As you level up, the missions structure I described above doesn’t really change much, opting instead to just give you the same general options (permeated by a fairly large sprinkling of story missions, mind you) but add a lot of complexity to the space combat. I’m probably about halfway to the cap right now, and I have more abilities on my escort than I can hotkey with two bars.

    I just don’t think it’s fair to badmouth one of the very few MMOs that at least has some parts that are entirely unique when the rest of the genre grows so stagnant.

  20. spinks says:

    Just wait till you get your first tribble :) (My friends who don’t play STO are only interested in the tribbles, it’s a bit strange. And tribble breeding has got to be one of the odder minigames anywhere.)

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      @Spinks

      Wait, you have to put effort into breeding Tribbles?

      I don’t think that’s how it works…

  21. Plinglebob says:

    I played both the closed and open Beta and my 2 biggest complaints were a) It took far to long to upgrade your ship and b) The space combat got a bit annoying and repetative. It was done far better in Star Trek: Bridge Commander (under-rated game that).

  22. Mr_Day says:

    I have been enjoying Star Trek far more than I perhaps should be. I am not what you would call a fan of Star trek, in that I fucking loathe it, but I buggered about on the beta and enjoyed it enough to order it.

    Anyone ever play Pirates of the Burning Sea? The space combat reminds me of that, only with an extra axis and the sweet spot of your ship being to the bow or stern, depending on how you set the weapons up. If you are federation and do pvp, get a cruiser and stick all the weapons at the back. Really annoys those Klingon fellas.

    I love your character, by the way. I forget, was it you that played Whatever Man on City of? With that character, I kind of suspect it was.

    • Ginger Yellow says:

      See, this is the thing. I like the ship combat in PotBS, but it wasn’t enough to make me keep playing for weeks on end, let alone pay a subscription to do so. If they want me to pay for a sub in STO, they’re going to have to have a bit more variety in the gameplay.

  23. Morph says:

    You get your own ship despite being an unqualified idiot? It is just like the new Star Trek film.

    • Mr_Day says:

      It is the new promotion option Starfleet have implemented.

      When someone claimed in chat that you got a new ship when you hit Lt Commander, my immediate thought was that you punched a higher officer and stole all his stuff.

    • Bobsy says:

      That’d be a great surname to have on entering the military. If you were called James Commander, you’d just lap up promotions like an overexcitable puppy lapping at a toddler’s face, because the reset of Starfleet would just assume you had authority. A bit like Major Major Major Major, I guess. Only with authority.

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      So is Lieutenant his first name, or is Commander his last name?

  24. Sharpblue says:

    I had very good first impressions of the game. really enjoyed my first day with the game and was loving the space combat more than the ground. all was fine and dandy until i came across a ‘patrol’ mission. after doing its long, boring and tedious tasks and finally completing it i was immediately tasked with doing another =( it was then that i realised/assumed that patrols would be the majority of quest types in the game so i uninstalled.

    Such a shame because i feel that there is so much potential there that they could have done so much more with. hopefully things will change for the better in the future as i would like to try it again in about a year or so.

  25. Jimbo says:

    I quite like it, despite not being into Star Trek at all.

    The space combat is like a cross between Pirates! and X-Wing(!). It’s quite engaging in the beginning, but you’re in your starting ship with limited skills for about 5-10 hours too long. I found it started getting interesting again once you get to choose your second ship and a little more tactical variety is introduced.

    It’s a similar story with the ground combat. It’s entertaining enough to start with, but then drags until you start getting a few more skills, better equipment and a hint of group dynamic starts to emerge. Your away team members get replaced with human members if you are in a party. Essentially you have a full MMO group with you at all times, whether it is AI, human or a mix – I think it works out pretty well, and I really hope TOR takes the same approach.

    The skill tree is definitely overwhelming and poorly explained, but luckily you don’t need to worry about it too much in the long run. By the time the second column is available, you will have mostly maxed out the entire first column anyway (ie. you can’t really get it wrong) and the time spent playing the game will have given you a grasp of the different mechanics that are being referred to on the skill tree, so you’ll know what you’re doing by the time it matters.

    • Dante says:

      You’re right about the ships, it’s biggest problem is that you only real feel like you’ve progressed every ten levels, when you get a new ship.

  26. GCU Speak Softly says:

    The Giant Bomb videos “Set Phasers To Fun” are very funny, perhaps Alec might do something similar for a RPS special?

  27. Bowlby says:

    Imagine an MMO with STO’s character creation, universe and ship combat, EVE’s economy system and Mass Effect 2′s ground combat. That would be awesome.

  28. Sarble says:

    Is it worth a tenner a month? Sounds like a mildly diverting game, but not worth ~£30 plus subscription.

  29. Sorcefire says:

    Just curious, based on the comments so far, whether anyone actually enjoyed playing with other people considering STO is an MMO. All I’ve read so far are people for/against the missions or space combat, but very little about the whole multiplayer experience.

    Personally I found that due to the nature of missions (very soloable mostly) and the heavy use of random instancing pretty much negated any sense of community. While you could turn off the auto-instancing, it was hidden and not something a lot of people discovered easily. That meant you randomly grouped with people you never knew for 20-30 minutes, at most, to do a mission and go your separate ways. Very one-night-stand if you ask me.

    • TRJP says:

      In reply to Sorcefire, the game is as group/social friendly as you want to make it – I don’t think it’s optional to make an MMO ‘require’ grouping for progress these days tho…

      There are some issues with the way instanced/group missions work atm – esp the War Zone missions which are royally broken – but mostly the game encourages and rewards casual co-operation without demanding careful organisation/group building.

      The lack of a death penalty is one issue – the lack of a challenge in some cases is another (it gets boring doing 20 fights which take 2-3 mins each and you’ve no chance of dying at any point).

  30. Cooper says:

    Ceci n’est pas Star Trek

  31. Malibu Stacey says:

    I miss the days when people made original games & created a setting to enhance the game rather than shoe-horning existing settings into an already well used game format & calling it good.

    • TRJP says:

      The 2 are not exclusive – you can still have original content (CO), semi-original content (Conan) and “playing at being a fictonal character content’ (STO) without them affecting each-other.

      In theory the idea of an MMO set in a existing fictional place gives more material to work with and moulds players into becoming part of that world faster – although you could just do what Blizzard do and steal wholesale from other fantasy universes instead :)

  32. SLYBRI says:

    I wish they had licensed the Star Trek MMO to Bioware and given the Star Wars MMO to Cryptic or someone else. Star Trek was always more about individual characters and stories and exploration, a “trek” through space if you will, which is Bioware’s specialty. Star Wars was more about running or flying around and shooting stuff repeatedly…you know, like you do in wars. Mass Effect 2 feels more like Star Trek than STO does.

    Everything I’ve seen or read about STO just disappoints me. It doesn’t seem much like a Star Trek MMO. In fact it doesn’t seem much like an MMO at all. You can’t really immerse yourself in an open and populated, fully realized world, like WOW. It’s all instanced levels, like a single player game…one that costs 15 bucks a month on top of the 60 you pay for the game.

    In fact, I doubt I’d play this even as a single player game, even without a monthly fee.

    Maybe one day Star trek will get the game it deserves, but today is not that day.

    I hope Star Trek Online doesn’t live very long or prosper.

  33. dadioflex says:

    Anonymous Coward said:
    I miss the days when people made original games & created a setting to enhance the game rather than shoe-horning existing settings into an already well used game format & calling it good.

    We all miss that. Then the 16 bit era arrived and those pesky STs and Amigas came and gaming was never the same again. The bastards

    Right now, I’m happy if it runs out of the box and I don’t have to lop off a finger to satisfy the DRM.

    Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

  34. games says:

    I heard that Star Trek Online is awsome, Iam going to try do download it, I love all kind of space movies!

    greetings from Kansas!

  35. porps says:

    So the combat is actually slightly involved, and you need to log in more than once a month to progress? It already sounds much better than EVE.

  36. Andy says:

    I’ve been really enjoying STO but since I got my first upgraded ship (I went with a science vessel) I’ve barely logged on. It’s not that I don’t like my new ship, the U.S.S. Copernicus, I really do, it’s just that getting it seemed to be my goal from the start and now that I have it I’m not sure what’s next. Any new milestone seems miles away and it was about this time in WoW that I was trundling though my first dungeon instances (lfg WC!!) and I see no equivalent yet for STO. It’s possible that I’m just not looking in the right places but, as much fun as I am having, something significant is missing.

  37. Read this if you are considering buying this game says:

    Encounters are so similar it makes the game mind numbingly boring. The ship combat is very slow and provides no real challenge. The ground combat is pretty much the same thing. You have 3 abilities in both situations – yup 3 abilities. They change when you get different equipment but so far I have yet to see any type of expansion on this. On ground you have a gun which does a regular shot and an aoe or stun effect. Oh yea, there are kits so you get a 4th ability but…That’s it.. there is a way to make your character roll as if to dodge stuff but when you finally face a mob that doesn’t shoot (he throws rocks) and you try to dodge one of these rocks with your roll move it just moves with you and hits you. Ship combat is a little better but it is so slow you will get bored of fighting the same ship 5 times to clear a map. But that is just combat.

    The thing I was most excited about is getting to explore the galaxy I’ve watched on TV for years… except you aren’t flying in space – your flying in a grid map with sectors of space you can visit which have a part of space blocked off and when you beam to the planet your in a little map of the planet they have fenced off.

    This game is complete fail. I’m extremely disappointed in myself for buying it.

  38. Then read this too says:

    If you find space combat slow, you’ve forgotten to use the abilities you start off with. Did you remember to assign your Bridge Officers to their stations? Their skills will let you take down enemies very quickly. Are you firing torpedoes constantly, or waiting for when the enemy’s shields are down? The three classes and three different types ships will change how you fight- as a science officer in a science vessel, I’m using tractor beams and sensor jamming and all that stuff, while tactical officers in escort vessels will turn on their cannon spray and fill the area with phaser fire. In short, space combat is slow because you’re just hitting the spacebar all day.

    Ground combat takes a long time to get better- the enemies you fight rarely use any worthwhile special skills until level 15 or so. Once you start fighting enemies that heal themselves or replenish their own shields, you start finding uses for the abilities you let rot all that time. (BTW, rolling will let you dodge grenades.) Note that your away team members gain up to 4 skills each you can use in combat (the game even lets you pause to order them around; the pause is time-limited to prevent abuse). You’ll have six skills (3 basic, 3 from a kit) + items you’re carrying + away team skills to juggle, which is plenty.

    You can one-button your way to victory in STO, but doing so will be extremely slow and boring. Some people do this and complain that the entire game is about hitting one button over and over. Using your skills effectively will make the game much more enjoyable. (Whether a game should let you one-button your way to victory at all is a different question.)