I pickedd this up on the Chrissie Steam Sale for $7.50, and as it came with a month's free gameplay, what could it hurt but give it a go.
Was I surprised. After deciding to just a play around with it, as I did with World of Warcraft, 20+ hrs gaming later I'm pretty stoked.
Star Trek Online puts gamers into the Star Trek universe 30 years after Nemesis. Players have a choice between 3 classes, Science, Tactical and Engineering. Each class have different strengths and weaknesses. Once you have chosen your class you then begin creating your virtual character. You have various races to choose and then a very in depth body/costume editor at your disposal. Don’t worry you can tweak your character during the game, but many tweaks will cost you some energy credits(in game currency).
STO starts off with a very in-depth tutorial that shows you every major aspect of the game before letting you run wild in the universe. Your goal is to work your way from an Ensign to an Admiral. Once you have completed the tutorial you will find yourself with a basic ship and a single bridge officer. Don’t worry you will quickly start customizing your ship with upgraded weapons and defenses from quest rewards and mob drops. You will also quickly gain two additional bridge officers to fill your beginning officer openings.
The gameplay is very solid and fun for an MMO. While yes it does suffer some of the repetitiveness of all MMO’s, it can be played out like a single player campaign. This is all due to the games great auto grouping/teaming and instance use. As you enter a planet system you will automatically be teamed with other players within the same area working towards the same quests. This system really makes it easy for the casual gamer to pick up and play STO. Unlike other MMO’s you won’t need to spend countless hours searching for groups or need to deal with clans/guilds, you can just play.
The actions and controls are nothing new and any MMO player will pick them up instantly. You have various customizable action bars, which change if you are on the ground or space. And the best part is the very simple UI editor that allows you to move the different UI components around the screen as you desire. Similar to other MMOs a simple mouse click locks you on the target, which also causes your camera to remain focused on the camera. Interactions can be executed with either a double click or press of the F (mappable) key.
Quests do range in both type and length, form the simple defeat an enemy contact to the more complex eliminate enemies from the space of a system, beam down to complete a task and then eliminate more space enemies or travel to another system. Also the use of Starfleet communicators makes questing easy, as you don’t need to return to an NPC you can simply hail them. Hailing Starfleet is a big plus, as the game is BIG and it would be very annoying having to travel back and forth on a constant basis.
Star Trek Online uses a rather unique rank system. Instead of the straight forward level 1 to whatever, STO uses a more military type ranking system. As you complete quests and kill enemies you get skill points. As you gain more skill points you increase in grade (ie Commander 1 to Commander 2) as you spend the skill pints furthering your skills you gain new Ranks (ie Commander to Captain). This makes for a game where your not focused so much on XP and more focused on your different skills. As you skill up you’ll become strong in areas and evolve your character down your own desired path. As you increase in rank you will also begin to unlock more of the game. As you progress you will get the chance to purchase bigger and more powerful ships. You will also unlock the ability to create a Klingon character (Level 6, from memory).
Besides quests, the economy within an MMO is big. While at first I found the economy to be baffling in STO, coming from World of Warcraft I know copper, silver and gold. But STO has a real diverse and varying economy depending on what space sector you are in. Firstly, there are Energy Credits, these are pretty much dollars(or “space bucks” as I like calling them). Energy Credits are for buying goods and services. Next up is Starfleet Merits, these are used for training your Bridge Officers. Wait there’s more, then you get different Exploration Credits(and others), the best way to explain these is they are like the Battleground credits in WoW. These change depending on the quest/sector you are in and can be used to buy specialized items, again similar to WoW’s battlegrounds. Wait there’s more, Commodities. These right now are the most unknown and must annoying. Commodities are such things as Medical Supplies or Provisions, which are just two and there are MANY more. As of now these are drops or very expensive to buy from vendors. They are used in some quests, but seem to be grossly over priced for there return. AND WAIT THERES MORE….. Alien Artifacts, Radiation Readings and others. I don’t’ know what to exactly call these, but as you travel through space you will be scanning for “readings” and after scanning a reading you get one of these items. This is similar to a gathering item like in other MMO’s. These items are used to again be combined with weapons to get even more powerful weapons. As you can see there is a very vast economy and it can be very daunting. I hope over time the economy is worked out and made a little more streamlined. Commodities for one seem to be something everyone should just not pay attention to right now, as there is no real explanation of them until you need them for an Aid Quest.
Graphically the game is the best looking on the mMMO scene today, but is a system hog. While I can run both WoW and STO smoothly at full settings on my machine, STO does the odd hitching and looping. You may wish to turn the settings down...I wouldn't as cranking the graphics gives you an amazing experience. The particle and lighting system is great and looks like no other MMO I’ve played (and I've tried a few over the past ten years). The UI is also very well done and feels like something in the depths of space travel. The best part of the UI again is the ability to customize the UI’s layout.
The game also has great sounds all of which will bring back memories of the movies and tv show. The game has some voice over work done by the great Leonard Nimoy, and very 'Trekky' music.
While STO like any MMO is an ongoing work in progress and will change over time, it is a great start. The game graphically looks great and offers lots of hours of fun. The change from space to ground is great as it switches up the pace of the game. The game does have a few issues the biggest issues besides rocky servers(they are getting better) are the economics. Right now it seems easy to get money and I really have no idea what to do with it, but then there are so many different economic aspects that make the economy daunting. And like every MMO there are bugs here and there, obviously the game is being patched many times like any other MMO and with Season Three here, it's looking better and better.
STO is easily the best MMO for the more casual gamer. You aren’t forced to seek out groups to play with, as the game has a good auto grouping system, and having Bridge Officers at your side helps with soloing. It’s hard to give an MMO a rating as the game can change greatly with a quick patch so I will leave you with this. While STO is an MMO many non MMO gamers will find this game easy and fun to pick-up and play. If you play MMO’s check out STO if you haven’t played an MMO check out STO if you are a gamer and a Star Trek fan CHECK OUT STO.