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Star Trek Online review

Star Trek Online review

 Genre: Sci-Fi MMO

 Free to play

 Released: 2010

Star Trek Online
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"If you want a glimpse of how to do a decent Sci-Fi MMO, check out Star Trek Online – you won’t be disappointed"


Star Trek is more than just a TV series and a set of movies. It’s a way of life. It exploded into a phenomenon far beyond what anybody on the team could have ever expected and it became one of those things that you know more about than you care to admit, even if you’re some culturally backward person who hasn’t managed to watch a single episode, a culturally backward person like, for instance, myself, who has seen several hundred clips, several hundred parodies and met several million die-hard fans but not actually managed to settle down and enjoy a single episode. Depending on who you ask, that might not be a bad thing, but considering the high price of the series on Play, it’s obvious that it’s still something that’s in very high demand.

TV series taken to a new level

This is perhaps why people got so excited with the announcement of Star Trek Online in mid-2008. It was going to take the TV series to a new level, offering a title that allowed you to explore locations from the films and TV series to your heart’s content while at the same time having your own adventures, making your own stories. For several fans it was a dream come true and when I’d finished downloading and installing Star Trek Online, I knew I was entering into a world I’d never really seen before. I was boldly going into a game that would inevitably lead me to type the words “boldly going” in a Star Trek Online review. I admit, I had mixed feelings about the whole thing.

The character creation screen was one of the best I’ve seen. It provides both a basic set of faces, uniforms and body types to choose from, but also offers advanced options for players who want more control over their avatar. It’s more or less what I’d expect from Cryptik, the same people who created the excellent creation system in Champions Online, and they managed not to disappoint. Whether you want a fairly normal looking human or something a little more alien, there are a huge variety of options and you can change just about anything about them. If you don’t like the pre-determined races, you can create your own race and choose from all available skills. In the first few minutes of the game, choice is definitely king.

Explore the ship or what's left of it

I suited up - a red outfit, of course - and plunged myself into the heart of battle. The Borg, it seems, are attacking the USS DevilsMMO and it’s up to me to save the day. The controls are fairly easy to pick up and, for the most part, will be recognisable to anybody who’s ever played an MMORPG. There are some additions however, you can interact with things using either the keyboard or the mouse. A little button will pop-up on screen which you can press to do an action. It sounds more cumbersome than just pressing the item you want to interact with, but actually it’s a little cleaner and leaves less room for bugs. You’ll explore the ship, although it’s mostly in ruins by the time you get there.

Battle has also received something of an overhaul, although it remains true to the genre’s roots. You can click on an enemy if you want to fire up combat and you’ll use your weakest attacks repeatedly. It’s been used by World of Warcraft, The Old Republic and every other MMORPG your care to think of. But in addition to that, you can also aim down the scope which ends up doing a little more damage. To be fair, it doesn’t make a huge amount of difference to the outcome of the battle, but it makes it that more interactive and it’s nice to see something different, even if it’s mostly just for looks. Again, you can do everything with the mouse (including shifting to other panels of abilities or commanding teammates) or with the keyboard, so, again, choice is of the utmost importance.

Blow up the angry robots

And then, just as you’re getting used to blowing up rather angry robots, you find that everybody you knew and respected has died and you, a lowly ensign, are the highest rank aboard the ship and you must go into space and battle. It’s nice to see how early this feature comes into the game; some MMOs (and I’m thinking of our recently reviewed RODE Online) would have used space battle as an excuse to keep you playing, but Cryptic have it as a feature right from the get-go. You’ll need to equally master space and ground combat if you plan to play Star Trek online for any amount of time.

Graphically, Star Trek ranges from pretty average to pretty good. While Champions Online managed to hide its average graphics with bright, varied colours, a lot of what you’re seeing on Star Trek Online is less varied. Thankfully, it seems there’s been a decent graphics boost, especially when you’re looking at the depth of space, but perhaps don’t go in expecting too much. At the same time, this means that the vast majority of people are going to be able to play and love this game without the need to bust the bank buying new computer parts. At the very least it’s not terrible and, when compared with the majority of free-to-play games, is actually pretty nice looking. You won’t be put off and you might just be impressed.

Expertly composed music

Music I presume is either from the series and films or at least in the same vein as the series and films. It’s not something that I’d listen to outside of the game but is fit for purpose and suits what’s going on. It’s expertly composed and really adds a layer to the game. On top of that, the occasionally voice acting is pretty good, especially when you consider the involvement of Trek alumni Leonard Nemoy. You’re not going to get cut scenes on the scale of The Old Republic, but it’s nice to hear speech, although it comes at odd times.

As an MMO, I’ve never seen so many people playing through the early stages of the game, with the exception of World of Warcraft. Never before have I been trashing enemies with potential allies as early as in Star Trek Online – it took maybe 30 minutes to find other players. And I’m not talking about a single player, but a whole group of people willing to accept help and help me. It was quite impressive and sets the game apart from its competitors. Later in the game you’ll be able to fight other players, but from what I saw, it’s nice to see a decent community and one that comes along so soon.

Star Trek review

User created missions add freshness where it's needed

It would be fair to worry that the climax of the game comes to soon, that offering space battles and the like too early will mean the rest of Star Trek Online will become a slow mess of repetition and dullness. I can’t speak for the end game, but from what I’ve seen it stays pretty fresh. When you’ve got far enough in the game that you’re sick of the main missions, you can access user created missions and there’s always going to be something there to keep you going. Add to that that it’s pretty damn entertaining and you’re left to enjoy a game that pushes the boundaries without straying too far from the beaten path.

Star Trek Online review

The conclusion:

Star Trek Online impressed me where other MMORPGs failed. It has taken what works best from the genre and built on it, offering different systems, a little action and all for free. What impresses me most is how Cryptic have stuck with it, improving things that were knocked by critics at release and continuing to fix problems since it went free-to-play earlier this year. In short, it’s a success and you wouldn’t necessarily have to know the TV series to get the most out of it. If you want a glimpse of how to do a decent Sci-Fi MMO, check out Star Trek Online – you won’t be disappointed.

© 2012 -
M. Growcott

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