Friday, March 16, 2012

Star Trek Online

Star Trek Online (STO) is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) based on the popular Star Trek series. Developed by Cryptic Studios, the makers of Champions Online, the game launched to a lot of criticism in 2010 before Cryptic steadied the ship and moved the game to a F2P (free-to-play) format.

I will admit the Star Trek IP meant nothing to me and I avoided the game at launch due to the bad press. However since the game is now on Steam, I thought I gave it a try. It was a good decision as I found the game to be highly enjoyable.

The game is set in the 25th century and the player plays as the captain of their own ship. Players are able to pilot their ship in space, and can also beam down to planets and spaceports as a player character in an “away team” like in the Star Trek series. There are many missions/quests in the game which are very varied. I especially liked the way Cryptic separated the missions storywise. Diplomatic missions are missions that do not require any fighting, exploration missions are missions that require you to go into uncharted sectors, episode missions are missions that require fighting and are part of a larger story-arc. The decision to separate the missions this way make a lot of sense storywise and it's good to see the developers nodding at the way Star Trek should be.

One thing different about STO is that the design of the game offer players 2 different combat systems. During the space combat portion of the game, players need to position their ships to fully utilize their shields while during the away team portion, players lead an away team during ground combat. Personally I find the game's space combat to be very entertaining while the away team combat to be a little hit-and-miss. However both are fun in their own sort of way which is a good thing as most missions I had played through so far (especially the episode missions) required you to use both combat systems as the missions have both a space and away portion.

Star Trek fans would like this game as Cryptic stayed mostly true to the IP. Star Trek actors Zachary Quinto and Leonard Nimoy provided voiceovers in the game while most missions were filled with long logs that provide background stories to the game. The game also wasn’t shy about name-dropping. Kirk, Spock, Jean-Luc Picard, Wolf, Deep Space Nine; the game was filled with references to them.

I also enjoyed the Duty Officer System. The Duty Officer System allows players to assign NPC characters, called duty officers, to tasks both on and off the player's ship. Once the duty officer is assigned to a task, no further input is needed from the player to ensure its completion. This means that I could send the Duty Officer to a task and logout of the game. Once I am back in, if enough time has passed, the officer would return and I would gain in-game rewards for the completion.

Of course the game is not prefect. The mapping system is strange. A lot of times I have to re-read the mission text to find out exactly where I have to go and even then sometimes I can’t be sure as the name of the sectors and systems are slightly different at times. The leveling of the game also seem a little strange. I won’t say it’s a slow crawl like Global Agenda but the xp you gain on missions is a little off. Episode missions give you a lot of xp upon completion but other missions like exploration missions gave you almost nothing.

Still I have to say STO is a fun game that stayed true to its IP. It doesn’t do anything great but there’s enough uniqueness in the game to let it stand out from the other F2P MMOs out there. Definitely worth a play!

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