We’ve been pretty Star Trek centric lately here at The Robot’s Pajamas and this post is no different. I checked out the MMO Star Trek: Online to see what it was like. Is it awesome like Wrath of Khan or the worst thing ever like Nemesis? Let’s find out!
Lately I got it into my head to try out a few massive multiplayer online games (MMOs). I used to play Everquest (never really good at it) and Dark Age of Camelot (only okay at it), but gave up on the whole scene before World of Warcraft came out. They just weren’t for me, especially with their monthly fees and hours upon hours of time needed to get anything worthwhile in the game. But I figured that now that there were some free ones with a few years under their belts I’d check them out to see if they were worthwhile.
The first MMO I really got into trying was Star Trek Online. I originally passed on this game because, well it’s an MMO and I didn’t want to play a monthly fee. Now with it being free and being more into Star Trek than usual (probably due to Star Trek Problems), the time was ripe!
The first step was downloading the game and I immediately encountered two problems. The first was that after registering my account and downloading the installer, when I tried to sign in it wouldn’t let me. After futzing around and re-downloading the installer, it worked, except when I tried to launch the game the button didn’t do anything. Strike two. The next time I tried it, it worked, and then began the night of downloading patches. Holy crap, this literally took five hours on a fairly decent internet connection.
By the time I got it up and running I got a nice little video explaining the current situation in the Star Trek galaxy narrated by Leonard Nimoy. I’ll give it to Star Trek games, no matter how abysmal they are they have usually have the voices of the actual actors from the various series. You don’t really get that with Star Wars.
Star Trek Online takes place several decades after the last Star Trek: The Next Generation crew movie and it happens after the big fuck up by Spock when he wasn’t able to save Romulus from blowing up. Ooops.
Despite the fact that it’s rather far in the future of Star Trek, a lot of the technology, uniforms, etc. still have a resemblance to well known Star Trek trappings, particularly Star Trek: The Next Generation. The future Star Trek seen in Star Trek Online is a closer match to what people think of when they think Star Trek than Star Wars: Old Republic (the current Star Wars MMO) is to what people think of Star Wars. In Star Trek Online you have actual ships and costumes from the movies. In Star Wars: The Old Republic you have sort of likenesses of those familiar things.
In Star Trek Online the new stuff looks pretty cool, though many of the higher level ships look incredibly militaristic. There’s enough older stuff to please nostalgia junkies like me; any ship I’ve ever seen on the Star Trek TV show or movies is represented. Also, while I couldn’t get Next Gen TV era uniforms due to them not being free (more on that in a bit), you can choose to have your character in a Next Gen movie era uniform (aka DS9 uniform).
As a free player I could pick from three factions: Federation, Romulan, Klingon. I went Federation, then I picked a Trill because they seem kind of cool. I went through the tutorial and discovered the graphics for the ground based stuff are pretty much balls. The reason for this is my laptop is only a year old, but apparently not made for gaming. Frown face. That’s why my screen shots look so terrible, it’s not the fault of the game, it’s mine.
In Star Trek Online every player gets to be the captain of their own ship, following the naval tradition that anyone in charge of a ship is a “captain” regardless of rank. And every captain needs a crew! In addition to creating your character you’ll end up with three bridge crew members. This is one of the coolest parts of the game. They are essentially “pets” that will follow you around in missions, give you access to special abilities during space combat, and are also the department heads for the ship. They are really customizable much like your main character, they can gain better skills, and be promoted in rank. The one customization I found hilarious is the “bust size”. At first I just laughed at it, then I set it to maximum boobage.
Speaking of maximum boobage, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that Star Trek Online creator Cryptic charges for different uniforms, since they have to make their money somehow. You can get the Troi uniform, or T’Pol’s from Enterprise, or Seven of Nine’s sexy cat suit… each for a separate charge. Hell, you can get more open shirt uniforms, but that is another cost on top of buying the uniforms in the first place.
I was surprised that the ship I started out with wasn’t just some piece of garbage. If anything, Star Trek Online is really great at not making you feel like a peon in a world of gods. Sure there’s these massive ships flying around that I don’t think I’ll ever get, but the ship I started the game with was effective enough in the starting missions that it didn’t feel like I was in something that was far inferior to everyone else. I still have nightmares of beta testing Star Wars Galaxies and the first thing I could do was shoot space butterflies.
It also helps that the choice of ship (at least for the Federation) is a Miranda class ship, which if you’ve seen Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan you’ll recognize it as the type of ship Khan stole.
There’s basically two main sections of Star Trek Online. One is where you run around and blow stuff up in a third person perspective. These are the ground missions or away team missions. You can have your bridge crew coming along on these ventures. This is my least favorite part of the game, I think mostly because it’s pretty lame, but also the graphics are the worst for me in these segments. I feel like there’s a dozen other games I could be playing on consoles that are far better looking and more fun.
The space stuff though, that’s got me hooked for awhile. In the space missions you get to do stuff, but basically most of it shooting at other ships until they blow up. I could see it being boring in the long run or some people not digging it, but I enjoy it. I didn’t like at first having to maneuver my own ship like I’m some lowly helmsman as I’d rather have it act more like a bridge simulation, but over time I got used to it and it doesn’t bother me at all now.
Star Trek Online is pretty good at leading you through various quests and not leaving you with a feeling of, “Well now what do I do?”. The story missions make this game feel like a “real” game for a lack of a better term. You’re not just fetching stuff for people and getting XP (which you still do), but it’s framed in such a way that makes you feel like you’re playing a regular RPG that just happens to have tons of other people playing it.
Once you hit level 10 the game opens up a little more. You get your second ship with a couple of free options available. I went with the Constitution class refit, which is what the Enterprise is in the original cast movies.
You also have access to duty officers who are basically the background characters in Star Trek. Duty officers can be assigned to your ship to help augment it and possibly provide bonuses. They can also be assigned to ground missions where they can provided bonuses for those. The most interesting use of Duty Officers is selecting them to send on missions. These missions are varied and occur in real time and depending on the quality of officer you send, their expertise, and their personality, they could end in disaster.
Playing with Others
Now here’s where I admit a funny thing: I don’t like a lot of the social aspects of MMOs. Probably one of the reasons why I don’t play them that much. No, I like exploring and defeating stuff on my own, soloing. I like seeing other people running around and occasionally gathering together with them in battles (like a daily Borg invasion. Man, living in Star Trek is dangerous business).
Star Trek Online has fleets that are basically guilds. I don’t know much about fleets yet except that they can build their own facilities and some of the best equipment in the game is for fleet members only. I joined one from a random invite. Haven’t said a single word to any one of them or joined in any of their matches, but maybe that will change in the future.
So if Star Trek Online is free to play, what’s the catch? There really isn’t any, at least for your first 10 levels or so. Once you get hooked on the game, then you’re tempted to spend money. And boy, do they have lots of things you can buy with real cash (which is turned into stuff called “Zen”).
The most useful of these items are ships, extra equipment slots, and various other options that make game play easier, but you can also spend cash on stuff like uniforms as previously mentioned. I did spend some real cash on the game for more bridge officer stations. When you start out you get 3 stations and that’s fine because that’s all you ship starts out with. As you progress though your ship has more stations which limits the amount of options available to you in combat, so purchasing some extra slots isn’t necessary, but extremely helpful.
If you didn’t want to spend any money on Star Trek Online I think you could get pretty far, I made it all the way to level 15. I could see myself buying some uniforms and maybe a ship in the future, but I’m not going to go too crazy. With the amount of stuff available to purchase it could get much more expensive than if it had a monthly charge!
I think I like Star Trek Online as much as I do because it doesn’t feel like an MMO. Sure it’s got lots of MMO elements, but I don’t have to team up with anyone, I can just cruise around the galaxy on my own. And the missions I’m given always give me a sense of purpose.
Furthermore, leveling was fairly easy and I didn’t hit too much of a difficulty curve until after about level 15. I like not feeling helpless in a world full of impossible challenges and enemies.
I do think that my bar is set pretty low for Star Trek games, but even taking that into account I really dig Star Trek Online.
Score: 4 out of 5 “Make is Sos”