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Star Trek Online – First impressions

January 17, 2010 Leave a comment

Blowing up Borg cubes in the tutorial

First impressions do so much, too much really. MMO’s are supposed to be deep and shouldn’t be judged until some serious time investment has been done. On the other hand, when you walk into a building and you see the cracks in the wall and feel it collapsing, should you walk on or run the hell out of there? I know what I would do. The following happened during my first Open Beta hour: I finished the tutorial while experiencing horrible lag, went to Earth Space Dock and bought a Bridge Officer. Only, I spent the credits (the combat log showed this) and the BO never appeared in my inventory or in my BO list. Of course, I had only cash to buy one BO. Then I went to do the first mission, Lost in Space, and got stuck in the instance after finishing the mission. Yes, I know how to get out of the instance by using the map screen, but the exit button should have appeared. I logged out. First impression: not good, not good at all.

The character creator is not as rich as CO's, but it is still pretty impressive

This was not really my first impression of STO since I had already clocked in some hours during Closed Beta. It was a buggy and unfinished game by then with some decent potential. The ship to ship combat is a nice departure from standard MMO combat, but Pirates of the Burning Sea had that already. The third axis added in STO barely adds anything (well, it adds confusion). Nevertheless, space combat is great fun, maybe even fun enough to compensate for all the current problems. The squad based away missions are another nice touch, but the AI made the Bridge Officers act like retarded lemmings. They actually ran into fires to attack those.

The worst offender for me was the way the map and mission direction worked: it may the setting feel low-tech! Low-tech in Star Trek! Directions in the missions where either vague or non-existent. A ground mission in which I had to find five objects had me wandering aimlessly over the map while looking for the things. My advanced tech was apparently not able to distinguish rocks from metal.

The episode missions did feel like Star Trek and there were even some nice twists and turns in the plot. The patrol missions on the other hand became repetitive quickly (fly there, kill some opponents, rinse and repeat). A better kind of mission are the Fleet Actions: large Open Missions that anyone can join. These play and feel like giant space battles. PvP on the other hand seemed decidedly unbalanced: Klingon Bird of Preys are very fast, hit hard and can cloak while attacked making them difficult to kill. They do pay for that power by having next to no shields and hull. Still, my short time in PvP did feel like more and if anything makes me buy this game it will be the PvP.

I reported lots of bugs during my play sessions, but in the end the game felt to unfinished to me to continue putting much time in. My major complaint about Champions Online is that it is too shallow. It has many features but each and every one of them, except the character creator, is quite limited. The same seems to be the case with STO. I felt it needed a solid three to six months more development time.

Fleet Actions (open missions) feel like real large scale battles

Star Trek Online has a lot of potential, but the slow reaction time on issues with CO has made me cautious and even a bit cynical of Cryptic’s abilities. It is definitely a game that I’m going to keep my eyes on, but I’ll let it mature a few months first.

The view from Earth Space Dock.

Away missions are a nice break from space