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.
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
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.
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
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!
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.
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
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.
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.