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First Impressions of Star Trek Online January 26, 2010

by Kayla Iacovino , Filed under: Review,Star Trek Online , trackback

Star Trek Online, the new Massive Multi-Player Online game from Cryptic, comes out February 2nd. We’ve had the opportunity to play STO’s open beta of the game, and we’ve summarized our first impressions of the game for Trekkies, non-gamers, and avid gamers alike. So far we like what we see. Read on for a quick breakdown of each aspect of the game, what you’ll love, what you’ll hate, and what needs improvement.

Gameplay
In general, gameplay in Star Trek Online is very intuitive. The controls are easy to master whether you are an avid gamer or not. For those of you who are familiar with the controls on World of Warcraft you will be pleasantly surprised to find that the controls are quite similar and implemented very well. And even if you haven’t played a MMO but are familiar with other games, actions are intuitively tied to traditional keys (W-A-S-D keys for movement, spacebar fires weapons, etc). When commanding your starship, you are in a 3-dimensional space, so controls are slightly different. I found it frustrating at times, navigating the Z-axis (up and down). The objects in space are spread out throughout a 3D area, but your system and area maps are in 2D. Interaction of your character with the world works just as it would in real life. If you need instructions for a new mission, you can hail Starfleet from anywhere in the galaxy. If you need to upgrade your ship, you can go to the shipyard and talk to the Starfleet officers there. Being an MMO, a large part of the game is working with other players in battle and on missions. STO attempts to get people involved in this experience early by automatically placing you in a team on certain missions. However, they still allow much to be done in the game as a solo player.

If you’ve never played an MMO
Star Trek Online starts with a tutorial mission that both sets up the story for the game and also teaches you how to play, with Zachary Quinto voicing the EMH guiding you along the way. You should not find it too difficult to learn the basics of how to control your character and how to use the user interface. You may, however, find it frustrating when you are given very little guidance on what to do and how to do it. Sometimes, you are thrust into a mission that asks you to find a person or anomaly. And, that’s it. An MMO is meant to be an immersive type of gameplay that lets you discover your world and make the experience your own. Once you realize that, I think you’ll have more fun exploring new worlds and making your own story.

If you’ve played MMO’s
You’ll find the controls very intuitive, and you’ll be able to take charge and explore the STO universe very quickly. Many of the controls are taken directly from other MMO’s such as World of Warcraft, which makes STO feel right at home. You may have to get used to controlling the flight of your ship. In space battles, the controls are very different from flight in other games.

Gameplay: 7 out of 10


Space gameplay and interface

Customization & Graphics
The graphics in this game are fantastic! Characters and ships are super customizable, so you get to see a wide variety of people and species running around, something that Trekkies will immediately like. The people you encounter, and even your bridge officers, are only occasionally human. The worlds you get to explore are just as varied as we see in the Star Trek series, and navigating them is intuitive and fun, as you get to explore very large and detailed worlds. The space stations are sometimes my favorite places to be. They are super detailed, and they will really remind you of places you get to see in the shows. Space looks great, too, and each planet has its own look and feel. I personally love the “sector space” a region where you can navigate your starship to different solar systems. You see a grid-like interface with each solar system or place of interest in it, and there are paths denoted in between each system. It makes it very easy to get around the galaxy.

If you’re a Trekkie
You will love the look and feel of STO. Depending on how strict you want the game to adhere to Starfleet regulations, you may be annoyed at the level of customization allowed for your character. For example, you can be a science officer with a red uniform and an engineering com badge. Or you can have a purple jumpsuit, green hair, and yellow eyes. It’s up to you! Then again, this amount of personalization also allows you to adhere strictly to Starfleet Uniform Codes. Personally, the customization aspect of the game is awesome to me. It’s goes along perfectly with the ideals of Star Trek. Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations.


A lot of choices for customization of your character

If you’re a gamer
You can expect the great detail-oriented graphics you’re used to. And you’ll love the customization of your character, your ship, and the UI.

Graphics: 9 out of 10

Sector Space

Story
The story of Star Trek Online is where Cryptic really blew my expectations out of the water. The amount of detail they put into every mission, and backstories for EVERY character (whether it is important or not) is astounding. Even at the loading screens, you get insights into little fast facts telling you something about the back story, or maybe something that has happened to your favorite character’s great grandson. Seriously, Cryptic is either a team of uber-ttrekkies, or they did some serious research. Yes, they did create a NEW Star Trek, in effect, by setting the game so far into the future, but purists will be happy to know that they really stick to canon. You’ll see elements from very specific episodes throughout all of the Star Trek series’ and movies that pop up in little ways throughout the game. Additionally, the story is absolutely immense. Every mission has so much story to it, and there is an overarching plot going on at the same time. The story is by far my favorite aspect of this game, and whether or not you’re a Trekkie or a gamer you’re going to love it.

Story: 10 out of 10!


Backstory really makes STO awesome


Loading screens give little story tidbits

Playing in Groups

Team gameplay is an important aspect to Star Trek Online. Being an MMO, much of the game’s appeal is in the interactions you have with your fellow players. Teaming up can give you a huge advantage over your enemies, and some missions are impossible to accomplish without reinforcements. The experience becomes much more fulfilling when you combine gameplay with voice chat. STO, like other MMOs, does not host its own in-game chat client, so you’ll need to download something like Teamspeak or Ventrilo. TrekMovie is looking into eventually hosting a fleet and voice server of our own, where TrekMovie editors and readers can come together to battle the Klingons. But there are many other fleets out there for you to join, but teaming up with people can also be done on the fly and you don’t need to be part of a fleet to get the benefits of playing with others.


My away team

Sound & Music
Right from the get go, you’ll notice some very familiar music. At startup, the game music is very reminiscent of the Star Trek: The Next Generation theme. Throughout gameplay, however, the music seems a bit lacking. Sound effects and voices are fantastic, but music really helps to immerse you into the game, an aspect that is very important to MMOs. Hopefully, as time goes on, Cryptic will add more music to gameplay that will make you feel excited and triumphant to do battle and explore the galaxy. Character voices and narration is very good, and Cryptic has given dialogue to the important characters that gives them personality. Sound effects are fantastic, especially in battle. We’ll even ignore the “no sound in space” thing, since hearing your enemy ships explode is just so darn satisfying.

If you’re a Trekkie
you will absolutely LOVE the sound in this game. Some of the characters are voiced by Star Trek actors. Zach Quinto voices an EMH, your guide throughout the tutorial, and Leonard Nimoy voices your narrator, which give important backstory on what’s going on in the galaxy. Sound effects are great, too. When you scan for anomalies, you actually here the tricorder sound! When you beam to your ship, you hear the beaming sound! It’s pretty awesome.

If you’re a gamer
You may be disappointed in the music thus far. As I said, music makes for a very immersive experience, and the current background music is lacking there. Some more variability in the music we hear would help this issue. However, sound effects are still great, and you should appreciate that.

Sound & Music: 6 out of 10


Beaming out

Overall Impressions

Overall, I love this game! It is a chance to be immersed in the Star Trek world, and collaborate with Trekkies from across the globe! Seeing the amount of creativity trekkies have is really apparent in the massive amounts of character and starship designs seen throughout the STO universe. And, I can’t stress enough how much I love scanning for anomalies and reporting back to Memory Alpha for scientific analysis. There is so much detail and forethought that has been put into this game. It is truly a game worthy of the Star Trek name, and I think Trekkies will recognize how true to the Star Trek universe it is.


Warping out to my next mission

More to come
TrekMovie will have more articles looking at each of the above aspects of Star Trek Online, in more detail. Plus we have some exclusive interviews.

Pre-order and get into the head start
Star Trek Online is officially released on Tuesday February 2nd, but for those that pre-order you can get into the ‘head start’ which launches on Friday January 29th. You can pre-order the game from TrekMovie’s preferred retail partner Amazon (where you can select either the Standard or Collector’s Edition). The Amazon editions also include am exclusive Borg bridge officer, and a $10 credit for a future game purchase at Amazon. (Remember purchase of the game includes 30 days free trial, after that there is a monthly fee).

(Cryptic also has a list of additional retailers)

Many thanks to David Rynearson, one of our resident MMO experts, on a comparison of Star Trek Online with other MMOs from the point of view of a gamer.

 

 

 


Comments

1. Jeyl - January 26, 2010

Hmm. I don’t know. There’s got to be more meat to this game than just combat based scenarios.

2. Zirclet - January 26, 2010

Those customizable uniforms would drive me NUTS! I’d rather know who’s who and what’s what upon first glance- but the rest of it looks rich, fascinating and addictive.

3. S. John Ross - January 26, 2010

“The story is by far my favorite aspect of this game, and whether or not you’re a Trekkie or a gamer you’re going to love it.”

Any hints as to why? Lots of praise, no details :( Is it still under NDA?

4. Craig Keith - January 26, 2010

this looks really good but im worried … i only have a medium spec windows 7 laptop. how good does it need to be to run this ?

5. Anthony Pascale - January 26, 2010

RE: Story
we have more articles coming up what will focus on each aspect of the game, including one just about the story. Plus we have an interview with the story editor. This is just a first overview.

patience.

6. Omer - January 26, 2010

I played open beta 1,5 weeks and I think this is not how a Star Trek mmo should be like. Story was good, tough I didint play every mission. But missions were extremely dull. You took a mission, go mission area blew some ships or some group of people up and mission is done. Or there was a rescue mission that yo find ship escort it to mining station, in which ship cant keep up with you and you cant use a tractor beam or something. dull… Grounds and Stations are lifeless, you cant sit, drink or do any other interaction with anything or any other npc… And there is no talking with a klingon ship, not even a swear from klingon ships.. just target/fire. There should be several options both on ground and space missions to lead you alternative ends. That is how episodic content would be like… Yeah, space, ship and uniform designs and sounds are all Star Trek in this game but not its atmosphere… it was just someshow… empty…

7. NCC-73515 - January 26, 2010

“When you scan for anomalies, you actually here the tricorder sound! When you beam to your ship, you hear the beaming sound! It’s pretty awesome.”
Yes, impressive ;P (All the Trek games feature such basic sounds ;))

8. Daniel Broadway - January 26, 2010

In some screenshots the graphics look fuzzy and pixelated. Is this the norm, or a problem with your screenshot software you used?

9. TJ - January 26, 2010

I am waiting for the Klingon Warrior to be as inclusive as the Feddie. Now that here the Klingon Empire is at odds with the Federation.

10. Tanner Waterbury - January 26, 2010

I have to say, I LIKE the game…BUT there still needs to be time for more improvement. Like what some of the peeps here said, the missions can become repetitive and even repeat themselves in a different sort of way. And there needs to be more options with ship customization IMO. But other than that, this game is a pretty fun game to play. Lets hope they add a First person perspective in the near future.

11. Markus McLaughlin - January 26, 2010

It would be cool if there was a monthly plan that’s 20 to 30 dollars a month, if you just want to play it for 3 months and get tired of it, it’s very easy to cancel the subscription. Is WoW like that? I never played that game…

I hope some game programmer is working on an open source (free) alternative to STO that is similar in structure! :D

Live Long And Prosper!

linuxglobe on twitter.com

12. Mantastic - January 26, 2010

I definitely have to disagree with the graphics being a 9 out of 10. The amount of customization, and the detail for certain this is quite astounding, but from a technical standpoint the game looks like it’s 5 years old, if not more. Mass Effect 1 looks a lot better by comparison.

Also, the character models are incredibly stiff in their movement. It looks like there was no motion capturing done, so they all run and fall like marionettes. It’s really noticeable in combat situations.

Overall things are still fairly pleasant to look at, but I’d give the graphics a 6 out of 10 at most.

Additionally, I’m surprised at how little voice acting their is in the game. Almost all of your missions are all text. For me it takes me out of the Star Trek mood having to read so darn much, especially since we’ve been spoiled with lots of good (or at least decent) voice acting from older Star Trek games. The music is also very much lacking.

Gameplay seems very simplistic in space. Just mash buttons and manage your shields until the enemy is dead. Maybe it gets more complex later on, but as it is, it’s not very interesting.

Overall I’m not as impressed as I thought I would be, but it’s the start of the game so I’ll cut it some slack.

13. Solinus - January 26, 2010

@4 My work laptop that has a crappy integrated intel graphics gpu works just fine. Obviously it doesn’t look as good as my desktop, but I get good frame rates and it has been an enjoyable experience. Great game!

Oh, and @1, the game has WAY more than just combat situations. Granted there’s a lot of combat, but I’ve done missions that I was pleasantly surprised that didn’t include fighting at all and where missions of exploration or diplomatic disputes.

All in all, good game. I’ve bought it and plan on playing it for a long time.

14. Mantastic - January 26, 2010

Yikes, I forgot how to speak above. I meant to say “The detail for certain parts of the game is quite astounding”.

15. Losira - January 26, 2010

My children are going to teach me how to play. If what it said is true I should catch on easily. I like that I can devote. To exploration and contact . Away missions discribed sound like a lot of fun. Hoping for the best, the graphics are breathtaking

16. Sean - January 26, 2010

@ #1:

The game is a bit heavy on combat. It IS an MMO AND a video game, though, so what else would you expect?

Also, if you want a break from the combat, Exploration missions can be quite varied. Sometimes you beam down to a planet and scan gaseous entities to find out what happened to the population, or collect parts of radioactive debris to keep the primitive culture from hurting themselves. Sometimes the mission is just to collect 5 Crafting Materials in orbit of a planet. It definitely keeps things more balanced than the rest of the game.

17. Will_H - January 26, 2010

I hope the graphics are better than they look in those screens because the ships look pixelated and choppy as hell. Being a broke college student, though, I can’t invest in it yet so I’ll probably wait for a mac or xbox version.

18. Mantastic - January 26, 2010

Part of the problem with the pixelation is that anti-aliasing isn’t supported on certain cards (mostly ATI). Outside of that, increasing your resolution will help with it.

Unfortunately it doesn’t make the ships and characters look any less blocky and outdated. I really hope they release a high quality graphics option sometime down the road that will feature models with higher poly counts and better textures.

19. Scott - January 26, 2010

Game is a 5 out of 10 to me. combat can be repetitive. I HATE patrol missions with a passion. basically waves and waves of killing so many ships. I never really got past LT8 in beta. I would just get bored and stop playing for a while. That and half the time I couldn’t log in during OB due to the servers being full every time I tried.

graphics are nice. Music was eh.. ok. The game has potential. But they need to add more diplomacy. Not just asking a bunch of miners why they refuse to work. Exploration would be great too.

20. peb - January 26, 2010

gotta disagree with the comment on graphics. detailed yes, but after playing a slew of other games, sto graphics are lacking. im interested in playing but theyve gotta do something to take me away from mass effect 2. by the way anthony, you should do a story on how much mass effect 2 is like trek, even right down to the scottish engineer! there are so many tie-ins its crazy and im only at the begining of the game! oh and michael dorn is one of the voice actors. so awesome!

21. Harry Seldom - January 26, 2010

I need some insights for an old guy.

Imagine I have a life (admittedly, a stretch). Say I get to play for an hour or two most weekends. Can I

a) Have fun at this?
b) Avoid hurting my side with my incompetence?
c) Rise above ensign before First Contact Day?

Thanks,

– Harry

22. Tarrax - January 26, 2010

Running STO at 1680×1050 on a 4890 with 4x AA looks beautiful. I often just zoom around a system after the mission is complete admiring my ship. :)

SPOILERS
.
.
.
.
As for missions, I don’t want to give away too much. Lets just say I was neck deep in Klingons at one point, when the Enterprise herself warped in to help me out. Then Spock’s actual voice comes across the comm chiding me for asuming he knew nothing about time travel. That’s all I’m gonna say. :P

23. Anthony Pascale - January 26, 2010

Harry

a. yes, STO sets up various missions or ‘episodes’ which take maybe 40 minutes each so you can pop in once or twice a week and just do a quickie

b. the factions are not really helped or hurt by anyone except in ‘player vs player’ so dont worry about being noob. You just stick to the missions at your level.

c. you rise above ensign pretty fast, and then you work your way through Lt. which takes a while to get to Lt. Cmdr but they have mini-milestones along the way

We are going to do more in depth articles on all this stuff coming up. I know there are lots of people still ‘game curious’. Current poll shows about a third of readers are interested but not committed. I think the game is probably a good fit for most, but it isnt for everyone.

24. Trekwebmaster - January 26, 2010

Gamer to Gamer:

Well, suffice it to say, that out of all of the Star Trek games I have played in the last 15 years, this one totally RULES! I have seen the coming and going of such games as Starfleet Academy, Starfleet Command (in all its flavors,) Klingon Academy, Birth of the Federation, Armada, and the Voyager series, but this one totally rocks and takes the cake.

Worry not, I am sure there will be finalized enhancements which Cryptic will no doubt roll-out this Friday to make this game truly remarkable. After waiting 4 years for this game to come to fruition, I am excited. The movie in ’09 was a long-awaited event, but after movies come and go, Star Trek Online will be there daily to thrill the die-hard Trek fans to no end.

Set your courses to launch this Friday on head-start and if you see me flying around, add me to your friends list, we can share an explosion or two; it’s going to be a blast!

Don’t forget you can set “sharing” to add updates to your Facebook, Twitter, and other social network for updates — see http://www.trekwebmaster.com for mine, I am surely going to add those!

25. jonboc - January 26, 2010

The aesthetics are way too 24th century for my tastes. Create a spin off to the era of the cage or TOS and I’ll be there with bells on!

26. TheHellfire - January 26, 2010

Dude are you paid by cryptic? I played the game and professional revieewers will destroy this game. It is a travesty

27. Magic - January 26, 2010

You don’t have to be paid by cryptic to enjoy this game that’s for sure.

I have had the most fun playing this game, even more than when I played birth of the federation.

Exploring strange new worlds – it’s got that

Ship battles better than Star Trek II and with a Star Fleet Battles feel – it’s got that

I’ve got a customizable ship and crew ready to go anywhere I want.

To me, so far anyway, it’s been a beautiful Adventure.

Bravo to the cryptic team. Can’t wait for more.

28. Newman - January 26, 2010

I just upgraded my RAM so I can play this game!

29. NightWatcher - January 26, 2010

I bought a Lifetime subscription. I know I get to play starting friday but I took tues off so I have mon through thurs to hide from reality…….. if my wife and 5 yr old son will let me.

30. Dr. Cheis - January 27, 2010

I still think the character models look kind of uninteresting. The rest of the graphics seem great, and I’m glad to hear that so far the game is better than I dreaded it would be.

(I still won’t quit World of Warcraft for it though)

31. ProperTrekkieUk - January 27, 2010

I love it, thought it was excellant, pre-ordered it, fact. There are issues with the repetitiveness of the missions but I found that with WoW too.

A note on graphics, as its an MMO, the graphics are designed to run on the lowest best system, to increase the amount of people who can play it. Hence why it doesn’t look like Mass Effect, just like no MMO looks that good! I am and continue to be hugely impressed by the graphics in an MMO AND a Star Trek game.

Current game reviewers love it, especially those that know what goes into an MMO…

By far the best Trek game to date!

32. The First Son of Krypton - January 27, 2010

#19 You CAN explore if you choose… I did the first couple of missions up until the end of the 8472 mission. After that, I just decided to explore.

Merely out of curiosity I wanted to explore the regions of the beta, then I kept doing so after being awarded merits and a badge for exploration. If I ever got bored of that then I would respond to the ‘Enemy Signal’ stuff… although, as soon as I answered one near Cardassia I was instantly destroyed by some Jem’Hadar ships which being the Niner that I am, I loved.

I’ll give this game an 8 out of ten, simply because walking around Vulcan was dull when the NPC’s hadnt been added yet… and, I think most importantly, Quarks bar seems to have been destroyed on DS9 :(

Roll on Friday

33. Lyle - January 27, 2010

Definitely interesting, thanks for the review! I’m still on the fence about whether I’m going to try this game out or not, though.

The graphics strongly remind me of a previous Cryptic MMO, City of Heroes. A lot of other things I read in this review remind me of CoH also, such as the “stiff” character movement, lots of text to read with little voice-acting, etc. The controls for CoH were also very similar to World of Warcraft.

Open beta will differ, I strongly suspect, from retail in another aspect – When the game goes live, there will be lots of people suddenly show up who care very little about Star Trek itself and are simply playing this game cause it’s a new MMO. Having played World of Warcraft since 2004, I worry that STO will be inundated by immature kiddies who deliberately go out of their way to ruin immersion for everyone. I hope that doesn’t happen but my MMO gaming history says it will.

34. Mantastic - January 27, 2010

@31 Everquest 2 has better graphics than this game (and WoW obviously) and it’s more than five years old.

MMO’s typically do have lower graphics requirements in order to allow more people to play it on their older systems, but they could have at least added the option to make it look like a current generation game for those who have systems that support it.

There’s also no excuse for the crappy character animation, no matter what kind of system you’re running.

35. Eli - January 27, 2010

There was a player on the Star Trek Online forums who posted pictures from MMOs from 5 years ago. Trust me, STO’s graphics are not 5 years old.

If they look 5 years old, it’s only because they’re limited by the machine they’re running on. They look pristine on my laptop with a Nvidia GeForce 9300m GS 512 mb video card.

36. Joe - January 27, 2010

i thought it was amazing…up until i got stuck on a planet and couldnt leave…then when i tried to contact for help, my ticket went unanswered…so i spent the last week of the beta playing as the klingons… I hope the customer service is alot better once people actually start paying to play.

37. The Chad - January 27, 2010

I played open-beta and I definately am buying this game. I love Star Trek and have never played any other MMO’s, but this game kept me interested.

@11, there is a month to month subscription for $14.99/mo.

http://startrekonline.com/subscribe

Can’t wait until Friday for early play!

38. Ashley - January 27, 2010

The game needs work that’s for sure. Definitely needs more of everything and then some, and needs to fix a lot of bugs. Missions can be very formulaic, and overall it’s pretty easy. However, it’s still quite fun and addictive.

Also, “some missions are impossible to accomplish without reinforcements” ?? I soloed and almost made it to Captain lol. Made it half way through level 29, and didn’t have too much difficulty along the way. I’ll admit though, some ship battles were tricky on my own and required some quick action and strategy with my officer skills and buffs. But it’s very rewarding making it through a battle with a big ‘boss’ ship with 0% hull and shields practically gone. :D

39. greenusmarine - January 27, 2010

I love Star Trek. That’s pretty much all there is to it. I watch the shows and movies. I read the books. I play the games, both digital and board. I will NEVER go to another convention again though. But since we’re talking about video games, I’ll stick to that.

After this one comment about Trek media in general; there is good and bad in it all. Even the shows and movies.

I can forgive Cryptic for a good many things about this game so far. I will actually withhold final judgment until after I’ve played the actual game for a while. I played for almost the whole of the open beta and hopefully there will be quite a few changes in the actual game but I saw many just playing the beta so I’m pretty sure I’ll have another hefty download come Friday.

I’ll admit to the repetitive nature of the missions and the almost total lack of options when it comes to how you want to handle them. This is one of a few changes I would like to see. But character creation and the organization of the bridge crew gets a huge thumbs up from me. When I say character creation, I’m not just speaking in terms of when you design the look but also the career path you choose for your player character and bridge officers.

Something I’d like people to at least admit is that while they can be any number of aliens or even create your own, ship customization can only go so far. This is based off a fictional organization, Starfleet, which is based off of a couple of real organizations such as the US Navy and Coast Guard. You’ll have some variety to the vessels but only so much. Being upset that you cannot make a fire engine red Constitution Class with the warp nacelles off of an Akira Class, with chrome Dub edition bassard collectors and the hull of a Ferengi merchant vessel is bit silly.

I was taught that if you have a problem, present a solution. Well, didn’t the Maquis take ships and cobble them together. I don’t think the Maquis would just disappear. Just an idea. Heck, you wouldn’t have to aligned with the Federation. Just be a Han Solo kinda character. Ha! Irony.

Graphics, at least in space, are gorgeous. And…interesting when on a strange planet. But they could be better. I very much agree with character animation. Try sprinting while using the tricorder. Very funny.

Anyway, the game is good for some and not for others. You’ll just have to see for yourself. Like anything else in life, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

40. GameGuy - January 28, 2010

From playing Open Beta:

Star Trek Online is a great game!

Fun to play,

Awesome to look at (especially with a nice card… those screenshots look like a low end system!)

… and has a TON of potential with upcoming expansions.

9.5 / 10 overall from me!

41. Drij - January 29, 2010

This game will flop. WoW will kill it.

42. Mara Valkris - March 6, 2010

WoW destroyed my desire to play MMO’s. I love this game. I have new worlds to conquer…er um…..”explore”

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