Let’s Talk Star Trek Online

Me and my crew. The guys in the back are in big trouble.

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.

Space combat.

Space combat is a lot of lines and floating circles. Lovely!

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.

Firefight.

Even in closed spaces like this, the client can cough a bit.

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.

Earth.

Space, compared to on the ground, runs smoothly while looking amazing.

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.

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20 comments

  1. anonymous says:

    I’m breaking NDA so not signing this!

    Here’s my take. I think a lot of people will play this for a month. The ground combat isn’t anything special. Yeah you get some NPCs following you around and that’s nice, but nothing genre bending.

    Space combat is where the game could really stand apart. But routing power to different shields while bringing the enemy into your firing arc is only fun for a while. I had quests that put me into battles that took 20 minutes of turning and firing and I was thinking of taping down my “fire phasers” button since I just want them auto-firing as quickly as possible (maybe there is an auto-fire button actually…there should be). Photon torps you need to hold until you get the right angle and the baddies shields down, but phasers …yeah just blast them as fast as you can.

    When the game got really fun was with the Open Party system. You warp into a system and can automagically get grouped with anyone else doing the same quest as you. Once you get a couple of ships fighing in your side, space combat gets MUCH more interesting. Focusing fire on one ship, and ideally on one shield quadrant of one ship, takes some coordination and makes stuff blow up fast. :)

    I wasn’t going to pre-order this, but so many of my twitter friends are that I may change my mind. I know I’ll feel like I’m missing out when you’re all out there throwing red shirts at your problems. :)

    • wootage says:

      You can autofire your weapons with a key combo. I think it’s Ctrl + weapon firing button.

    • Longasc says:

      The anonymous commentar is/was not me, but after playing the Beta for a while I can totally understand him and sign what he said.

      But I will continue playing the beta, at least till I got a cruiser. :)

  2. Me Too says:

    Same here!

    I have to say that having been burned by CO, I’ve cast a more critical eye towards STO.

    STO’s beta, so far, reminds me a LOT of CO’s beta days, with the absolute abysmal performance. But, like CO, I thought highly of STO’s initial experience. What makes me wonder is how this duality of space-combat/ship-combat will stay fresh.

    I’m not so enamored of the space combat as others seem to be. It was fun — and a bit tense — for the first few missions, but after the initial “OMG!!!!1! Mah sheelds r down!”, controlling the ship became almost automatic. In fact, in order to see how ship death was handled, I tried VERY HARD to lose a battle. I’m sure that there are more epic scale battles in the game.

    Even so, the game has two modes: ship combat and ground combat. You vacillitate between the two, with the occasional layover at Sol for some R&R (retooling and refitting). Then you’re back on the treadmill.

    I have pre-ordered it, though, because at least one of my friends is a ST nut and has been waiting for this game since birth (his), and it’s difficult to get him to try anything other then WoW. I feel I’d be missing out on an opportunity to game with friends if I didn’t give it the old college try, but I don’t forsee myself sticking with this beyond maybe 60 days.

  3. Petter says:

    No, you both have valid points – it will be interesting to see how much staying power STO has. I haven’t burned out on space combat yet, but then I haven’t had that much time to play. There’s been reports on a few fights that’s gotten really hard lately. I’d like to think that’s because they demand better tactical decisions, but I fear it’s just down to plain old unbalance.

    It will be very interesting to follow this game as a MMO, as I said in the entry above, I still don’t really see that much “massively multiplayer” in it…

    And anonymous #1 – of course you’re going to order it! Come be my red shirt! :P

  4. Longasc says:

    Hm, so it is space combat in PotBS style. Hum. I doubt this has lasting appeal, that’s a though question inded. And “engine” troubles like minor hiccups or stutter – I thought they ironed that out in Champions already, hrmpf!

  5. Ysharros says:

    Fascinating, Captain. I’m *still* not sure what I’ll be doing about this one when it comes out…

  6. Nice write up, thanks!

    I’m really curious about ST:O. I think it looks like a lot of fun – mainly because it’s set in the ST universe – but I’m really worried about the fact that you said it’s like a single player game. I don’t want a single player game, I want a MMO :) Looking forward to checking it out myself in a few days.

  7. xXJayeDuBXx says:

    I want to play this game because I am a Star Trek fan, but I am not too excited about it after my experience with Champions. But if the space combat is like PotBS, which is the best part of that game and the one reason why I want to go back to it, then I will at least be playing STO for the first free month, after that I’m not sure.

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  9. Angry Gamer says:

    This pretty much confirms I do not want this game. Sounds like the same old Cryptic. Thanks for the write up

  10. openedge1 says:

    This game will suffer the MMO curse as most games of this type do.

    If you are not Fantasy….or EvE Online with it’s simulation style of play…then your chances are slim to none of getting that elusive 1 million players.
    Heck, even 500k will be out the window (but, at first subs may be good…but eventually, like all Sci-Fi games, it will fall).

    The Star Trek name may sell the boxes (Age of Conan proved licenses are worthy ways to make money in the beginning), but longevity is not a strong suit for these games.

    Good luck STO

    • wootage says:

      I agree about Fantasy themes – nothing causes people to lose their grip on reality quite like getting them to work with the concepts of elves, dwarves, magic and such, and that makes it easy to keep that sub rolling – but Eve Online doesn’t have 1 million subscribers. I don’t even think they’ve got their claimed 300k subscribers because of the relentless multiple account hawking they do. Given how many double, triple and quadruple/quintuple account holders I saw when I played, I’d bet real money that they’ve got 150k people paying for all 300k accounts.

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