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Star Trek Online Impressions

Now that I’ve had the chance to play some Star Star Trek Online I would like to share my thoughts.  Let me begin with a nice list of the Pros and Cons and then I’ll go in to discussing my thoughts on what I have played and seen thus far.

Pros

  • Skill System – Lots of skills and customization, lots of points to allocate, a feeling of progression.
  • Ship Combat – Like PotBS, it works.  The addition of the z-axis is good.  Feels tactical and like Star Trek.
  • Galaxy Map – Have to comment that the Galaxy map looks nice. (Hit M, go to Galaxy Map in the top left).
  • Star Trek Feel – Although it lacks in many areas, STO does have a sense of Star Trek.
  • Space Graphics – They look very nice.  I don’t think we could expect much better.


Cons

  • Performance – Like CO, it’s sluggish.  To get those nice graphics you have to crank the settings.  Cranking makes systems cry.
  • Ground Graphics and Animations – Need work.  Animations are really bad.
  • Ground Combat – Like PotBS, it’s severely lacking.  Ground missions feel like clusterflucks of annoying phaser sounds (Actually gave me a headache).
  • Sector Space – To quote Graev, “It’s like they tried to represent the entire galaxy in one little room.  It’s that feeling you get when they turn the lights on in a Disney Land Ride.”
  • Instancing – Entering Sol System #1345 (yes, there were literally 1300+ instances of the same instance) puts it in perspective.  The game is chopped into a bazillion instances. (Yet it still lags!) Instancing destroys a lot of the potential fun and actually hinders the design.
  • Server Side lag – It’s Beta, but it’s unplayable.  The three of us playing together logged out because of it.
  • No Ferengi – Whoever removed them, may you die slowly in a plasma fire.


It needs to be said: The game is not as bad as Champions Online.  However, I credit that entirely to the fact that this is a Star Trek game.  Yes, I am blinded by the intellectual property in use and that will create a bias that I am unable to recover from.  This allows me to discuss my thoughts on the game from the perspective of a Star Trek fanboy while at the same time critiquing the MMO elements.

The Star Trek feel is there which, as I said, makes up for a lot.  Knowing that the Trill have a symbiont, that the Ferengi have Rules of Acquisition, knowing everything about the little clips at the bottom of the load screen, etc., fill it all in like a botox injection.  Yet, there are parts of the game that it can’t make up for like the instancing.  Everything is instanced from your bridge to every mile of space to the Admirals office.  Feels like every time I press the F key I’m zoning into another instance.  I can appreciate that the instancing allows for dramatics and the telling of a story.  I will say that the tutorial/introduction benefits from the use of instancing.  However, the gameplay suffers.

Leaving the space station at Earth instanced me to Sol System #1345.  Before I could go anywhere I had to warp to Sector Space, which instanced me to Sector Space #418.  Flying around in Sector Space, which is like cramming the whole galaxy into a little pseudo 3d plane/room, makes you instance off before doing anything else.  The Sector Space area is the game’s answer to space exploration, or lack thereof.  You won’t be flying around space and encountering NPC ships.  You’ll encounter them within the instances/missions that you warp to from Sector Space.  The theme here should be apparent. The instancing, to this degree, does destroy some of my enjoyment.

Ship Combat and actually doing the content itself is fun.  I really like fighting in my ship, especially in a group.  Doing missions to destroy ships has a tactical feel to it.  There is more to combat than pressing 1-2-3, especially with the addition of minor sim elements.  I like allocating power reserves to different things, reinforcing my shields, using Bridge Officer abilities, and piloting my ship as I would if I were a Starship Captain.

I have a lot of the game that I still want and need to see.  I want to see if I can visit DS9 and do other activities to really immerse myself in Star Trek.   Right now the game is teetering on the edge of losing that initial burst of “omg it’s Star Trek” where it will promptly fall flat on its face with a resounding “okay, what now?”.   If the game can manage to continue spoon feeding me with the stuff that I love then I will continue to play.  Once that wears off it will only be a matter of time before I remember that it is a Cryptic game.

STO can develop into a good game (how’s that for a bassackwards way of saying the game has potential).  I don’t hate it like I did/do Champions Online and that really is saying a lot.  Cryptic’s choice to implement several things they way they have is questionable and it’s unmistakable how they’ve cut and paste then reboxed a lot of their “Cryptic model” or whatever they call it.  If they can see past their own flawed design elements and pursue the strengths that an IP like Star Trek affords them then they can do well.

Stay tuned for more of my STO thoughts as I explore see more of the game.

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