As the open beta for Star Trek Online (STO) comes to an end, we reflect upon our experiences in this Star Trek Online preview. The player starts aboard a Federation starship and begins the game’s tutorial (voiced by Zachary Quinto). The tutorial summarizes the key points of the game mechanics, and introduces the story of how your character becomes the captain of a Federation ship. After the tutorial the player is free to follow the main storyline and partake in the game’s many side missions.
STO comprises mainly of space combat; somewhat similar to which can be experienced in Pirates of the Burning Sea (POTBS). Space combat is comparable to submarine warfare. The battles are not extremely fast paced and strategy plays key to victory. The ground combat is a bit more in-depth than POTBS; although, at times it too can be rather mundane. One of the most enjoyable aspects of ground combat is the ability to select your away team and to equip them with items and abilities such as you would in a RPG game. STO offers a large amount of customization. Not only is the player customizable, but also the bridge officers and the ship itself. This can include designing and customizing your ship, or changing the costumes and physical look of you and your bridge officers.
One of the notable aspects of the leveling system is the inclusion of skill points and rank. Each rank has 10 grades, such as Lieutenant – Grade 5. As you progress in rank, you obtain access to new ships, and as you progress in grade you will achieve new skill points to spend on yourself and your bridge officers. The skill point system adds variety to player builds, similar to what Star Wars Galaxies was pre-NGE.
The game allows you to play as two factions; the Federation or Klingons. The Federation side allows you to experience a pve storyline, as well as participating in pvp combat. The Klingon faction is more pvp oriented, and at the time of launch will not include much pve content. Klingon characters can level up primarily through participating in the pvp zones. Each faction allows for different race selection, and each race has particular traits associated with it. If you choose to do so, you can create your own race and select your own traits. Some races such as the Cardassians are not available as a playable race; however, you can still create the look of one using the custom race creator.
Star Trek Online includes plenty of lore and references for Star Trek fans. Leonard Nimoy provided the voice-over work for the different space sectors, and for some of the missions. Occasionally the missions are based upon the films or movies; such as The City on the Edge of Never which references the original series episode The City on the Edge of Forever. You do not have to be a die-hard Star Trek fan to enjoy this game, although that does add to the immersion.
Although the open beta has been met with mixed results, the game does fulfill its genre of MMO quite well. Additionally, Cryptic Studios has been impressively responsive to player feedback. While the game is not for everyone, it certainly offers a lot of content and immersion for Star Trek fans. Star Trek Online officially launches on February 2nd, 2010. May you play long and prosper.