Review-in-Progress: Star Trek Online

Cuddle up with your tribble and set your phasers to stun: We've been playing Star Trek Online and have some initial impressions to share.

by

It's that time again--time for another licensed online role-playing game to vie for World of Warcraft's stranglehold on the US market. Developer Cryptic Studios' Star Trek Online was released earlier this week, much to the delight of Trekkies everywhere, and it doesn't seem to have a shortage of players in its first few days. We're still a week or two away from being able to deliver our final verdict in a review, but fellow editor Justin Calvert and I have spent a healthy chunk of time with the game this week, and I wanted to give you some early, top-level impressions. Our initial thoughts? Star Trek Online is underwhelming, though as any veteran role-player could tell you, 15 hours just isn't enough time to draw too many conclusions about a massively multiplayer online game.

If there's one thing that's not underwhelming, however, it's the character creation (though there's a caveat even there, which I'll get to in a moment). Cryptic is the same studio that brought us City of Heroes and Champions Online, so if you've played either of those games, it's not so surprising that the tools here are flexible and robust. You can stick to the basics, choosing a known race and skill template, and tweak your options from there, but if you want some real fun, choose the "alien" option and start from scratch. You can mix and match everything from facial ridges and beards to breast size and tattoo color. You should note, though, that you must play for the Federation when you begin, though at level five, you unlock the ability to create a Klingon character. It's wholly clear, however, that the Klingon side is simply unfinished now, useful only if you stick with just player-versus-player combat. Character and ship creation are incomplete (some dropdown lists contain only one option, for example, and ship customization is much more limited when compared to the Federation side), and player-versus-environment content just fades away after a short time.

Most of your time is spent in your ship, which you fly from sector to sector to complete missions in the various solar systems you find there. Early on, you choose either a tactical, engineering, or scientific career, and set out to boldly go where--well, you've heard this one before. And obviously, you'll be seeking out enemies to blast into smithereens. Space combat is slow and mildly tactical; your initial ship (you'll get a better one about 10 levels in) has slots for fore and aft weapons, and four shield arcs surround your ship and take local damage when hit. For now, at least, combat has been relatively simple against the majority of enemies--just blindly fire your shield-weakening phasers (you can even have the game fire some weapons for you automatically) and hull-damaging torpedoes, occasionally activating your special powers (siphon emergency power to your shields, for example) while maneuvering to keep your strongest shield arc pointed toward your enemy, or repositioning so you can fire a specific weapon.

The space combat makes for a good first impression, and large-scale battles, in which you join other players to defeat masses of Klingon Warbirds and other imposing-looking ships, look bright and colorful and feel appropriately explosive, if not quite epic. Why not epic? Because for now, combat is exceptionally easy, so I rarely feel like I am struggling against powerful battleships. And if you do die, no matter: There is absolutely no death penalty--you just respawn at a checkpoint and start from where you left off. The combination of easy combat and lack of a death penalty means that there's little tension to combat. However, even if it isn't grand and challenging, it can still be fun; there's something satisfying about defeating an enormous vessel, and the resulting explosion, even if it took patience rather than skill to make it happen. Even now, however, tedium is setting in, and I look forward to purchasing better ships and earning new skills to see if they can add a little of the oomph that battles currently lack.

Blue moooons…

Battles in space are generally more fun than those on the ground. You will requisition officers who man particular stations (again, engineering, tactical, or science), and they join you on the ground as away team members. This means you get to manage multiple paper dolls, not just those of your own character and your ship, so loot sorting has some appeal as you decide the right weapons and shield types for your various officers. You also get to customize their looks and uniforms, which lets you again play with the cool customization tools. The combat itself is much less compelling, perhaps because it's just as easy as, if not easier than, skirmishing in space. It's somewhat typical of an MMOG--you use hotkeys or click on the interface to fire weapons and perform special skills, but it's all a bit messy and dull. You can do things like sprint and tumble, and being able to do flanking damage when hitting an enemy from behind is a good idea. But right now those things feel superfluous, since you can just sort of hammer on hotkeys and make it so, while your teammates and enemies flit around without much rhyme or reason.

Having crew members fight at your side is really quite terrific at first; it's like having your own little group wherever you go. But while having them there to draw aggro is handy, the poor AI makes them a liability sometimes as well. Officers get stuck in the environment quite often; I'll be running along and suddenly notice I've left a crew member behind, so I'll go back and find him running helplessly in place because he couldn't find a way around a crate. Or perhaps I'll return to find him dead, because he stood in the middle of a fire and didn't think to move. At least crew members can be easily revived--even if their bodies have been engulfed in flames for 10 minutes.

If you're interested in the game because you're a Star Trek aficionado, you'll be glad to know that the game, more or less, feels like a Star Trek game should, making any number of clever references and rendering the various races with care and detail. The visuals aren't stellar by any stretch of the imagination, but they look appropriate and have been solid enough in spite of some noticeable annoyances, like jarring texture pop-in and slowdown during ground battles. Considering the potential for excellent storytelling here, however, it's too bad that the mission design is so cut and dry and that the NPCs have so little personality. In fact, some missions involve beaming down to a planet, activating a series of consoles, and then…beaming back up. Others don't even make a whole lot of sense: Why would a Ferengi captain decide to trust me only if I inspect for safety violations? Why would bar patrons attack a Federation officer for turning off the holodeck? Another oddity: Space, as depicted by Star Trek Online, is not vast and expansive, but rather made up of small pieces riveted together. This might make the game easily digestible, but it also makes exploration feel chunky and awkward.

At least our time has been relatively stable, though on one of the three systems I've played on, I have run into some crashes during ground missions. Most of the technical annoyances I've encountered are minor--tutorial pop-ups that never stop popping up, errors when spending skill points, and whatnot. Of course, I have a lot more time yet to spend with Star Trek Online, so consider these impressions as highly preliminary--as MMOG players know, a lot can change as you progress. Look for a full review in the next few weeks.

Discussion

140 comments
Severe_Gamer
Severe_Gamer

Just because combat is easy doesn't mean it's not interesting. I find (space) combat far more interesting (and fun) than any other MMO I've ever played. There should be some sort of death penalty, yes... but dodging and weaving in epic (yes, epic) space battles, trying to time a torpedo to hit right as you finish off opposing shields (before they recharge) requires forethought and tactics. Also, for those who click through quest text without reading it (i.e. the writer of this article), the Ferengi never trusts you, nor is he a captain. He tells you what you need to know because your health inspections are hurting his business (and the Ferengi hate bad business). The bar patrons get angry because it's a den of smugglers and thieves and you just took away the holosuites (VR pornography/prostitutes) and are threatening to close down their watering hole. While this game has its flaws, please criticize it for its actual shortcomings.

Punisher1972
Punisher1972

Like most here I have been playing since the BETA. During the BETA the pre-order customers were screaming about server down times and lack of content. Even with all the issues a gamer friend of mine leveled to Admiral in two weeks!!! So far STO is lacking. This game should be EPIC but falls short in every area. Communicating with NPC's is bland at best, here's a pic and her'es some chat dialog, no voice, no reasoning, nothing. Missions are repetitive almost a carbon copy of previous missions with only slight changes. "Story line missions" are mildly entertaining with incorporationg space and ground combat. But still there are only so many story line missions. Ground Based PvP is somewhat boring, weapon ranges are very close, the server tends to lag at times so running into walls is common. If you organize a group and have communications the play is better only because you work as a team. Without verbal communications ground based PvP a free for all. Ship based PvP is lack luster with generally ships staying in groups and engaging when the group can single out an enemy ship. Having the numerical advantage. Usually Space PvP works like this " The one with the most players on thier side wins" Overall the Universe is small and plays like a two month game. Overall STO lacks depth (in all areas) that you would find in most other MMO games. This product was most likely rushed to market witha 25% complete stamp on it. My Score 1.5 out of 5.

Vidharr
Vidharr

I've made it to admiral, and yes you can choose subsystem targeting amongst other things. Combat definitely does get harder as you level, and pve is a far different animal than pvp. One of the good things about the game is that there are many skills to choose from as you gain rank, and there is no 'one thing' that you must have. You can do well based on trying things and deciding what works for you. Cryptic has plans to add more and varied pvp to the mix and I'm looking forward to that. I'm also advocating patience, as with any mmo it's going to take time to adjust things as they see what works and what doesn't with their real audience. I've played nearly every mmo since UO, and this one 'will' be one of the good ones, but it still has some growing pains to make it through (like getting the Klingons fleshed out, adding Romulans, etc). I give the game a solid 8.0, and I point out that the above reviewer did NOT pay attention to the story lines in a couple of quests he mentioned, because the Ferengi in the bar did not agree to trust him after finding the deficiencies in the bar, he was basically threatened with sanctions after they were found. The bar patrons were in fact smugglers who didn't like their bar being ****ed with, so that is why the attack. If the reviewer from Gamespot had bothered to read the text, he would have known this.

The_Exculpator
The_Exculpator

not sure what to make of this, too many mmorpgs out there and upcoming gems that an "underwhelming" title doesnt seem worth the time and effort, i shall be keeping my eye on this though...

meworden
meworden

Been playing this game since the open beta. Give it an 8.0 so far. Not seen the bug posted by impost3r--currently LCDR lv 4. penpusher--yes you can target indiv ship subsystems but only thru higher level bridge officer skills. Would like the opinion of someone who's made it to ADM--gotta believe that the early levels are intentionally designed to keep players from facing enemies way above their characters skill level. Space combat is harder now than it was as a LT, especially once you start facing ships that are the same or higher level. Same for ground combat.

penpusher
penpusher

@kargion sorry to break it to you but it is too easy, 4 ships on one yeah a bit hard ut only because its like playing a FPS than a star trek game,,,there are no tactics, no way of choosing individual weopons or targeting individual subsystems like most star trek games that talk about stuff as cryptic have about this one, hell theres not even any point thinking about attacking from front, back or above as shields and weopon strength of an enemy is the same all over what I'm trying to say is this is not star trek, this is essentially world of warcraft in star trek clothing, you dont have to think about what youre doing just point, shoot and blow up the enemy while occasionally making sure youre shields are fine and using the occasional special ability

impost3r
impost3r

@rann89 That's a pleasant way of thinking about it, but untrue. They don't release games because they are too anxious for their dreams to come true. It all has to do with money. The guys in charge of everything (Producers/Investors) often do not know what they are doing and think releasing a project sooner will be better for them financially. It seems like common sense to us to not release an unfinished game, but that's because we are gamers and have experienced it first hand. These idiots are not gamers who want to see their dreams come true, they are business men who want your money.

rann89
rann89

Sounds like another studio failing to make a MMO not because the game was bad, but because they were so eager to fulfill their dreams that they released a game that wasn't even finished.

impost3r
impost3r

I like this game. I was playing it... but I ran into a bug that was so bad that I can no longer play. I am no longer receiving missions, a basic function of the game, the quest system, is completely broken. And it looks like Cryptic is ignoring everybody so it may be weeks before I can even play again.

kargion
kargion

Um no. STO is probably one of the better mmo's i have played in a long time, if you want to be a stupid elf again and run around kill 10 rabbits over and over again maybe you should go back to WoW. And it is very easy if you do things that are 4 levels below you, try soloing missions that are +4 ;) then tell me its easy.

ocksfoo
ocksfoo

STO is way to easy and I'm not even a hardcore MMO player...

kpsting
kpsting

STO is a very solid game now, like a block of concrete - no crashes and no appeal whatsoever.

silentgrabbler
silentgrabbler

Now, after more then a week, where is your second "RiP"? I think there is lots of stuff you could tell the ppl what has happend in STO in the past days. Yea, it was an awful start with tons of bugs and glitches after release, but hey, I survived the the launch of Anarchy Online so handling STO wasnt a real problem after all. And after little more then a week we got enhanced server capacity, lots of stuff fixed like missons, graphics, performance, tech-issues and even got new content added already. Sure it wasnt real funny having a daily maintenance, but logging back in after 2h it was clearly noticeable that they not only reboot the server and had a coffeebreak, but they were working on the problems. Great job here Cryptic, its been a while I had the feeling that the devs really care about the "inconvenience". We got TOS skirts, all will be good ;P

King_Wii
King_Wii

I love STO, it has its rough edges but I'm hoping the dev team can realy polish it in the next few months and continue to add to the game asap.

szabilove7
szabilove7

Interesting Review i hope it will just get better in time , i diapointed by the lack of klingon content :(

ronnieo54
ronnieo54

Hmm, in my opinion, they should of gotten into the headstart weekend like any respectable game journalist would of and spent time actually playing the game. 15 hours to write an MMO review, no matter how arbitrary is an injustice to any MMO that isn't straight broken. The amount of content, stability improvements and minor fixes that have been released since Feb. 5 are insane. If anyone is reading these comments, ignore the reviews, try the game and kick some ass with the rest of us!

macleod7000
macleod7000

I really wish that Gamespot had given us a review-in-progress such as this for Aion, which they hyped considerably. Am I wrong to say that there was several weeks of hush before they finally came out with a proper review? I'd like that $60 back, tyvm. It makes me wonder if certain publishers are favored over others due to advertising revenue or some such relationship. Anyway, thanks Gamespot for an honest in-progress review of STO.

Ovaskilled
Ovaskilled

Why cant they make it more like the SNES Star Trek game, Star Trek: Starfleet Academy Starship Bridge Simulator. Sure it was made for Hardcore Trekkies, but ake the game a little easier to understand, and upgrade the graphics, put some more missions into it... and that would make a game both fun AND challenging!

Foxbat44
Foxbat44

The ferengi bar owner you are refering too only agrees to tell you where a hostage is after you bust him for several safety violations. Kinda like how Odo would twist quarks arm on the show DS9. The patrons are so angry with this ferengi bar owner about him ,rigging a tongo wheel and diverting life support to power a holodeck, that they attack him and you defend the bar owner to keep the peace. Its actually a nice mission if you bother to read it.

Silvershadoh
Silvershadoh

@ silver_armanis clarkydm is correct. If you watch the science channel, you'll see that many physicists are investigating just how real the technology used in Star Trek is (transporter, tricorders, warp drives, etc), and they say that most of that stuff (not all, mind you) is realistic but currently out of our technological standards. One example my Mom talks about a lot (she keeps up with that stuff like a fanatic =p) was the transporter. We know how it can be done, but we can't yet harness the sheer amount of energy needed to pull it off.

clarkydm
clarkydm

@ silver_armanis Actually the Star Trek writers took great pains to research their science and check it with actual scientists before they put it on screen as they knew many of the fans are nerdy tech geeks. You might want to check your facts before you babble non sense and BTW it is Star Trek not Star Treck. As for the game, its fun and that is all i ask.

earlthecannibal
earlthecannibal

iron_zealot7531 Nope not kidding ...sad thing is Perfect world and Jade Dynasty both have better graphics and more content than wow...and here's the kicker..they are both FREE to play and download :)...wow has so many resources available ,but as long as the idiots keep telling themselves it's good why would Blizzard change the game at all?...

big-boss-91
big-boss-91

star trek online isn't star trek unless you get to explore strange new worlds and to seek out new life not just blowing ships up, i want to explore planets like Kirk and Picard did. and to explore stuff online games is just a way for sucking money out of the public, i hope muliplayer online like WOW die off while brilliant games like Mass Effect 2 rely on the great stories instead of doing chores in a virtual world

silver_armanis
silver_armanis

@theR34p3r You say that star treck is a "realistic look" at the future. I must say that this is not true, Stargate SG1 was a program based upon scientific theory's and such, where as Star treck just put words together and called it science. As for the MMO, ive played a short bit and watched a friend play for days. And there was no sort of exploration aspect whatsoever. and this was upsetting. I remember watching star treck and seeing them pick up strange readings from XYZ and then explore it. This mmo was just 'talk to npc 1 then go kill people 2 3 and 4. rinse and repeat.' I was hoping that Id be able to land on planets and explore for fun, or maybe find long lost wrecks in space that i could salvage for items. Ill be sticking with eve online :)

theR34p3R
theR34p3R

@blackfray You sir are wrong... Star Trek has the richest universe of all. 5 Series (almost 50 years now) and a dozen movies. There are tons of "lore" and "cannon" in both aliens, their planets, history, culture, you name it. Star Trek has its fair share of battles. Almost half of the entire Deep Space Nine series was filled with war and battles. Also TNG and Voyager have their fair share of battles. But Star Trek is not about battles like Star Wars is, it is more a realistic look into what could be the future. Star Trek is more science (fiction) based than Star Wars, which is more fantasy based.

Silvershadoh
Silvershadoh

I agree with blackfray. Cryptic forgot one very fundamental and important aspect of Star Trek when they made this game. Star Trek is not built around combat, but that is all Star Trek Online is. Star Trek is built around exploration, which Star Trek Online has very precious little of. Edit: Err, yeah. I agree with blackfray as far as Cryptic is concerned. I forgot to mention that I do not agree with his statement that the Star Trek universe wasn't rich. It is rich beyond belief.

blackfray
blackfray

I don't want to be rude but Although the Star Trek universe isn't as rich as movies or games like Star Wars or WOW but they've pissed completely on everything that was left on star trek universe, what a shame.

skyydragonn
skyydragonn

I'm sorry but after Playing both CoH and CO...I'll be skipping on Cryptic games for awhile until they can manage to do soemthing NON-conventional for them. so far everything they've done in the last couple of titles is rehash everything they did in the last title with a new skin thrown on top. CoH- boring combat? check, awesome character tools? check lack of challenge? check CO- same thing. STO- more of the same (with Phasers now!) Cryptic is really starting to look like a bargain bin company. I've not seen one of thier titles in many years that wasn't in bargain bins 6months after release..... EDIT: after reading a bunch of oher comments why is that people think it's acceptable ONLY for MMO's to be unfinished at luanch? IF Modern Warfare 2 was released unfinished people would be screaming bloody murder. or any other non MMO title for that matter. If i'm going to pay full price i expect a FULL product, complete and finished, not a step above Beta for 6months...

gix47
gix47

wow is on easy mode,really how can anyone like it,STO is a nice change and will only get better as time moves on..hell in a few months,wow will be so simple that monkey's could get to 80 in a few days and be in t8 gear,really to all the fanboys of wow..its time to move on. and to those that say STO is only about making money,lol..what do you think wow is all about now.

penpusher
penpusher

why so many negatives to the comments that bash the game? I'm sorry people who are still clinging to your pre-orders but this game is just not good.

iron_zealot7531
iron_zealot7531

@earlthecannibal are you freaking kidding me, both of those games are god awful WoW ripoffs

InspectorK
InspectorK

The genre is now only about pumping out low quality, rushed MMO's to make lots of money. I have no hope for this industry after STO.

InspectorK
InspectorK

dont waste your time... cryptic has failed again. Once again you see how a gaming company has become geared to nothing more then making profit, this game was probably the biggest let down of the new year, just like crapions ( champions) online...

awyoung
awyoung

I wasn't surprised to read a lot of negative feedback all over regarding STO. I've always been of the opinion that something as massive as Star Trek's universe and the other franchise could not be possibly made into a decent MMO if it was developed in such a short amount of time. It's impossible, unless it's missing a great deal in both content and gameplay, which I suspect is exactly the case.

roff_5
roff_5

STO has so much potential. But it needs a lot, and I mean a lot of tweakings. I have a feeling that this game is rushed out of the door to compete against World of Warcraft. This game can't even come up to par vs. World of Warcraft on its first day in year 1. I had a lot more exploration in WoW than in STO. I'm sorry this is a pass to me. May be 2 years later down the road if and when cryptic is still at it improving the content, gameplay and feel, on top of technical issues.

mikeyvp87
mikeyvp87

I guess it's still Mass Effect as the best Star Trek game ever made.

Blank2k2
Blank2k2

Well after playing the beta etc, im a realistic MMO Player & i dont believe in the "Its beta! what do u expect!?" rubbish... beta for glitches/errors, fine... beta as an excuse for missing content rubbish gameplay or just lack of depth, thats the game not the beta. Anyway, long story but ill keep it short...i played the beta i watched the forums, i saw the moves the company was making, and it became one of the only games that i actually cancelled my pre-order over, and probably the first MMO ive ever cancelled.... and damn, i'm glad i saved my money... wish i did the same back when it came to Spore, but nevermind. Heart breaking considering i was hyped up & excited for potentially having a decent star trek game since Starfleet Command / Bridge Commander.

lightingbird
lightingbird

I'm a huge Trekkie and fan of mmo's. I was in beta for this game and I was very excited about this game. Highlights. 1. You CANNOT play the game from the captains chair. 2. You cannot be in a boarding party on enemy ships. 3. The does NOT have a massive space feel to it. 4. You will not feel like a captain of your ship more like a gunner in a shooter. 5. There is NO diplomacy in the game. Just shoot shoot. 6. You will NOT need to think much in this game. The quests hold your hand and guide you where to go. (maybe new mmos players) 7. You will NOT feel like you are making tactical decisions in your ship. Unless pressing two buttons is challenging for you. I was so disappointed when I played this game. Its nothing but a FPS, with quests at 5th grade level, limited movement since everything is instanced, and nothing that has all of the detail, management, and control of an actual star trek commander. Bridge commander had this perfect. What kills me are these people talking how the game will get better. Maybe it will. Don't be stupid and buy and pay monthly now. Check back and see if they add more. Right now the game is very imcomplete, entirely too easy, and will get boring very soon. Huge disappointment. Why on earth did they let Cryptic make this game?

elromandiablo
elromandiablo

I want to love this game, I really do... I like it alright, but so far it seems like it could have been just as good if made as a single player game. I'll keep checking it out every few months to see if (and how) it gets any better or worse, but as for right now, once my free 30 days are up I'm not rushing to re-subscribe. The game gets a little boring after a while,especially when you slowly travel from system to system to essentially do the same mission over and over again. The sights and sounds are fun for star trek fans but there needs to be some more variety in the style of missions. To that end, I also feel like the multiplayer aspect of it was just tacked on... It doesn't ever really seem like it matters if you get on teams or in fleets or not because the game will throw you in with whoever is close. Also, everything takes forever... it's not a good game to play if you can't make the time for it. At least with WoW I can hop on for an hour, get a few quests done and this and that. I can barely get anything done because the ship flies around pretty slow. I really hope it gets better, and I'll check back on it in a few months

Jay_KickButts
Jay_KickButts

I'll wait until Star Wars: The Old Republic is out to decide if I'll give up on MMOs for good. This, I'll pass.

edant79
edant79

Judging by the video......BARF! Sorry, but Cryptic Studios will butcher any franchise they touch.

penpusher
penpusher

exactly as I've been expecting since I played the beta and was disappointed to find the game to be a pile of rubbish ... not looking good? thats because it isnt

Darbius
Darbius

It's certainly not the most exciting game I've played, but I bought the pre-order with the intent of cancelling it if I did not like it. I actually chose to keep it because I found myself enjoying it and it is definitely very "star-trekky". I am not a trekkie myself, but I've watched my fair share of the various Star Treks over the years and I think this game gets the essence. Since this review is preliminary it misses much of the later levels of ship combat where, in my opinion, the game really starts to shine. Once the engy's get their cruisers, the scientists get their science ships, and the tackys get their fast-moving fighter/corvette-style ships, space combat starts to draw some real tactical differences. An engy in a heavy cruiser can drop into a group coming right out of full impulse to draw enemy fire, but if tacky tried the same thing it would probably be suicide. Space combat definitely shines in groups though so try not to judge it too much on solo experiences. Ground combat on the other hand....gets more interesting as you level up but...I don't know... It's not bad, just not great. Again though, it's way better in a group. But was the game ready to go? Who knows. MMO's are so fluid these days that it's really hard to say what's finished and what isn't. My main complaint is that cryptic puts in game mechanics and then fails to ever actually explain them to you, but they did the same thing with Champions so I'm not really surprised.

earlthecannibal
earlthecannibal

Play Perfect world or Jade dynasty instead ..they are free and much better games.

bigelf72
bigelf72

SilverBloo You need not forget about Warhammer 40k, there is still hope for us all.

SilverBloo
SilverBloo

This is my last MMO. The genre is now only about pumping out low quality, rushed MMO's to make lots of money. I have no hope for this industry after STO.