I’ve been putting off talking very much about Star Trek Online here so far. It’s not that I didn’t want to, or were under any NDA (they were kind enough to not have a NDA for the press), just that I wanted to give it more time to sink it. After all, since my initial reaction was “oh my, Champions Online in space, where’s the exit button?”, I think I made the right choice.
Because, well…Star Trek Online is not Champions Online in space.
Here’s the thing though; a lot is similar to Cryptic’s last MMO, including graphical design and UI design (at least on the ground). I really had to get over that before going forward, which luckily went fairly fast. It’s not surprising in the least, the STO and CO teams have probably shared a lot of assets between each other, working on two MMOs under the same roof.
That being said, STO – at least during closed beta – didn’t run very smooth while on the ground. Space combat felt much more fluid, while the client had a tendency to stutter and spit at me at times. My rig might not be top of the line, but it is quite capable. I had similar issues with CO for some reason. I hope it will be better closer to launch.
So far, space combat is the most fun I’ve had in STO. While I haven’t been in any huge battles together with other players, the few space quests I’ve done have all been a lot of fun. Constantly making sure that my strongest shields are facing the enemy, while making sure I can turn quick enough to fire my torpedoes when their shields are down, makes for dynamic combat. It’s nothing like EVE Online, considering this is twitch based, and it is this I am looking forward to the most when STO launches in February.
Down on the ground, the game turns into a more traditional MMO, except for the fact that you always bring a crew with you. So far I’ve only unlocked two bridge officers, one science and one engineer, that both follow me when I beam down to a planet or into a ship. The actual team you will have is much larger though, so the game fills up the empty slots with security officers – the good old red shirts that tend to get killed all the time in the series.
Beaming over to a beset spaceship to save the crew is one thing, battling pirates while trying to make your way through the tight corridors. It’s standard fare, nothing to write home to the blog about. The diplomatic mission, where I had to listen to the complaints of a couple of miners and then answering a questionnaire about what those complaints were, was more interesting – no real action, it only took a couple of minutes to complete, yet was interesting enough to warrant more investigation further into the game. I truly hope the devs have done something good with this type of mission.
One thing we know Cryptic are really good at, after City of Heroes and Champions Online, is customization. STO is not an exception. You can customize your ship in a wide variety of ways, you can spend a lot of time tweaking your own appearance (and create your own race, of course) and you can do the same to your bridge officers. I’m really looking forward to creating my own, personalised team and take them out on adventures across the galaxy.
There’s a lot of things I haven’t had time to dig deeper into, like the leveling system where you get to spend points in a whole bunch of different skills (both for yourself and for your crew). I haven’t bought a new ship or fitted it with very exciting equipment either. There will be enough time for that at a later point.
So, where do I stand on the subject of STO? I will play it at launch, that much I know. It’s more fun than I thought it would be, especially the space combat. But when I think about it more, I am not sure I see it as a MMO right now, I see it more like a single player game where I can create my own bridge crew and customize my ship. There’s a danger in that, absolutely. Hopefully, that part will emerge when the game is finally released.
There was a major patch to the beta client a few days ago, I haven’t had time to check it out, but when I left the game it didn’t feel ready for release. The clunkyness of the client needs to go. It might already have been fixed, perhaps that last patch was some kind of “miracle patch”, perhaps Cryptic have a lot of updates to the client in the pipeline. But February still feels too soon.
We shall see what happens. I am glad we are finally getting a Star Trek Online. I was not, to say the least, a fan of Champions Online, but I hope that Cryptic will redeem themselves in my eyes with STO. They have some good stuff in there.
No, make that great stuff.