The True State – Star Trek Online

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Star date 2-2-2010. It was a very emotional day for Star Trek fans. It saw the release of Star Trek Online. Initial reactions were mixed. Some couldn’t stop complaining about pitiful ground combat, various bugs, and the fact that space looked like a trip to Candyland. Fans were completely dazzled with fact that they had their own little bridge officers to push around. Later, when the populous boldly went to end game, where they found very little content, and even more… horrid ground combat. Still, many of the diehard fans would go on to purchase lifetime subscriptions. We would also see Cryptic laying claim that the game’s 50-80 dollar price tag was perfectly acceptable.

In all fairness, Star Trek Online’s release was not the worst we’ve ever seen and they have done quite a bit to make the game more interesting over the last few months. I would even go as far as to say that Cryptic has done a good job. This, however, was not completed by listening to the community. Nearly 8 months after launch, features requested by the community still go unanswered or half-implemented.

Join me after the warp and I’ll try to take you beyond all this negativity to the point where Star Trek Online is today, and where it continues to fail. I promise not to make too many more bad Star Trek puns.

lil_planetCombat – Space
On the surface, space combat is very simple. Just turn your ship within your  weapon’s firing arc, and bam, you shoot. It can be far more complex than that. To truly master space combat, you must balance power usage with damage output, damage potency with usability, bridge officer abilities with available slots and more. Once you get involved with space combat, it really sucks you in. Space combat really is the crown jewel of Star Trek Online. I’ll go into more detail later, but know this about space combat: It can be very complex, especially when you are attempting to outfit your ship ‘just right’, but anyone (absolutely anyone) can just pick this game up and go. The core of space combat is just plain fun.Very little good could be said about ground combat at release.

Combat – Ground
Very little good could be said about ground combat at release. Very little can be said about ground combat now. There is no auto attack, you are constantly mashing the two firing buttons (one regular shot, one weapon-specific special) and using your abilities as soon as their cooldowns are up. Animation is disastrously poor as characters jitter, stumble, and slide all over the place. To top it off, combat takes incredible amounts of time. Incredible you say? I timed one ground fight at 13 minutes for one fight! While it might not be the norm, I’ll have you know at no point was I losing the fight. It wasn’t a challenging fight. It simply tested my patience. On a side note, it is possible to avoid ground combat almost entirely and still be entertained by the other aspects of the game.

Social and Non-Combat Activities
It’s highly possible to believe there is nothing social about STO. You can go through the entire leveling process without teaming once, and at end game, never speak to another soul. This doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to do with friends.

The tradeskill process has received a major overhaul or two from the beginning which consisted of a lot of guessing. Tradeskills lead to economy. Economy leads to business. Business leads to business deals. Business deals lead to friendship… at least, it could. You’ll never be forced into a social situation in Star Trek Online, but you should definately go look for it – I assure you, it exists. The way two ships fight together, sharing aggro, healing each other… It’s adds serious depth to the game. Adding more ships enhances this even further.

tribblechartBreeding tribbles is also proving to be highly popular. Yeah, that’s right. I said ‘breeding tribbles’. Turns out, you need to do more than let them exist in order to have Tribbles procreate. The act of Tribble breeding is simple. Take one (or two in some cases) parts Tribble and have food in the same storage container as the Tribble(s) reside. Over time, the Tribble will eat the food, and spawn a new Tribble. As I said, you can use any storage container. This can be your bank, your inventory or even your character’s utility belt. I would suggest that if you are attempting to be a serious breeder, use your belt slots as you can direct the outcome a bit easier. Who knows what happens when that Tribble eats the Gagh you just picked up… icky. We can’t have Tribbles breeding all willy-nilly now, can we?

Who says you can’t level without shooting something? Diplomacy missions have turned out to be an absolutely fantastic addition. Full missions that require no combat. You are also issued Diplomatic experience which, in addition to roleplay titles, allow you to trans-warp to many social / diplomatic locations such as Sierra 39 and Deep Space 9. It should also be said that some combat missions do reward diplomatic experience. It is said, that with enough diplomatic experience, you can even be commissioned for a fabled “First Contact Mission”.

Complexity
Unlike most MMOs, STO has no set level of complexity. As I touched on earlier, the game is as easy or difficult as you make it. Duct-tape some weapons to your crew and ship and you’re ready to fight. Set your skills with thought, design your ship with intent and purpose, and you’ll see an exponential performance increase. Very few games have the ability to allow anyone to complete a quest or mission with nearly any gear, and still leave a challenge for those in the best gear. An individual’s playstyle change the game entirely, both from playability, and difficulty

Character / Ship Customization
From launch, customization has been excellent and still unmatched by any game currently on the market. The level of customization detail you can use when creating your characters (yes, more than one. Your captain is only 1/5th of your bridge crew and you get to design them all) is unmatched by any game. Ship customization offers a similar feel but not quite as many options. In the end, you will definitely find a ship style that pleases you for your level bracket and if you aren’t happy with the way your character looks, simply try it again. I should point out that for in-game credits, you can customize your character and bridge officers as many times as you wish. My only real gripe about customization is that many of the options available come from the C-Store, Cryptic’s cash shop for Star Trek Online.

The C-Store
The double-edged sword of any subscription MMO. The cash shop. The C-Store offers several products that allow you to change the appearance of your ship, your crew, and more. Mainly, your purchasing options consist of simple cosmetic changes, but it should be mentioned that you can buy your end game ships from the C-Store. I would give STO serious bad marks here because no one wants a Pay to Win game, but STO allows you to earn the ships offered in the C-Store for in-game currency, making it a choice to spend real cash in order to compete and not a requirement. For a roleplayer though, customization is most important and for that, you will be spending a little extra cash than most. One of the most common requests since launch was for players to be able to actually -use- their ship. At launch, there was only the bridge and a door that would lead you to space flight. A perfect example of Cryptic adding ‘only what they have to’ while adding ‘whatever they want to’. Cryptic finally added ship interiors. You can now visit your 10 Forward, Engineering, Sickbay, and more. The problem is, while these places now exist, there is absolutely no point to travelling to them. People have been asking for holodeck missions or missions involving the various parts of the ship when the game was still in the hands of Perpetual Entertainment. This has still not come to pass.

New Content Since Launch

Negativity aside, the addition of weekly episodes have been a great success. These play out as standard missions, only they are highly developed, contain multiple scenes, and offer excellent rewards. If there was one person responsible for this entirely, they need to be promoted… to the king of the gaming world. Yes, the weekly episodes are that good. Weekly episodes are released in a ‘series’ with a short break between series. They release at 11pm EST every Saturday night.

Coming Soon
Seems Cryptic is starting to listen to their audience, at least somewhat. With the promise of revamping ground combat a constant state of cheer has surfaced regarding the issue. I would love to believe this, but I don’t think this is a reason to succumb to blissful joy. Cryptic has said that ground combat will be turned into a First Person Shooter. While I like the idea, I hold judgment till the execution.

The Foundry is a set of tools coming available to the users very shortly. These tools allow players to create UGC (User Generated Content). Players will be able to create quests by creating their own races, planets, terrain, and NPC dialogs. Players will also be able to use existing NPC’s as quest-givers and storytellers in their quests. I wonder how many times Sulu will be reused during this? While I have mixed feelings about users creating story, I do believe we’ll see some seriously awe-inspiring content coming from the Foundry toolset.

The Good
Intense space combat and simply fun
A level of complexity that player dictates
Player verse player combat is thrilling, rewarding, and incredibly accessible.
The Foundry toolset is looking pretty good.

The Bad
The C-Store doesn’t add to the game at all. It’s simply a place to spend money.

The Ugly
Ground combat is absolute torture.
Requests by the community tend to go unanswered or half-implemented

wheres_the_beef1Final thoughts
The game does a good job balancing playability with expandability. If you can avoid the torture that is ground combat and aren’t looking to have your issues addressed promptly, your time in STO will be enjoyable. To say that STO has changed completely and is now everything you’ve ever wanted in a Star Trek game would be a lie. Many of the problems that plagued launch are still there. This however, does not mean there is nothing you can find enjoyable in the game now. I’m most certainly not cancelling my account.

1 Comment

  1. Spot on about ground combat being the culprit here.
    Isn’t it weird how PotBS had the same issues when it came out with awesome ship combat and boring avcom, so FLS spend half a year to rewamped avcom to be me exciting and guess what happened? Nobody cared for the new avcom system because that was not essential to the game anyway.

    STO should stick to space combat and expand the game around it, forget the ground combat since it is not what Star Trek was about anyway.

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