I had my doubts about this game last year when I first heard about it. I’m not really a huge Star Trek fan, though I did watch some Kirk episodes, a few Generations, a little bit of Deep Space 9, but I stopped with Voyager and never even looked at Enterprise. While I do prefer the lore of Star Wars to Star Trek, I am a bit of a Star Sexual, as a friend of mine describes, in that I do like both genres.
While I stayed away from beta, finishing up some achievements in WoW, I did continue to read about the game online. One thing that had interested me was all the different purchase options the game had. It seemed like every retailer had a special exclusive offer of their own that gave you some “fluff” items within the game at the start. In addition, and the item that caught my eye, was the option for a pre-orders where a lifetime subscription of $240 would get me a playable Borg character. While the abilities had similar effects to other racial attributes, and it’s simply a cosmetic skin I really wanted one.
Unfortunately after buying the game from Gamespot, I found out that they weren’t giving out the pre-order cd-keys after last Friday and therefore I could not qualify for subscribing early. I posted on the Cryptic forums, with little in the way of help other than people telling me not to order from Gamestop and instead use Steam or Amazon. I eventually canceled my order, and purchased from Steam. Unfortunately, Steam had an issue downloading the game, and after trying the Cryptic torrent with all of 4 seeds and 40 peers on opening day I had to wait until Wednesday morning for the game to finish installing for me. All in all, it was a hassle, and from the look of things, many other people had similar issues as me.
In the end, I chose doing a single month subscription instead of a lifetime.
Intro, Character Creation and Tutorial
The official STO website made it a point to mention that this game doesn’t take place in the world created by the events in the latest Star Trek movie, however, that’s only half true. During the introduction, which is Spock explaining what he did in the latest Star Trek movie, we find ourselves as an Ensign in a ship during a battle. Much like the latest movie, everyone in the chain of command is killed except for you and therefore, you become the Captain. The movie similarities end here, but I wanted to note them.
During the tutorial you do the basic interactions of talking to people, equipping items, skilling up, beaming, ground combat, ship combat and all the things that will become second nature in a short while.
While the game borrows heavily from Cryptic’s previous games, mainly CoH/Champions in character creation, it’s also worth noting that the abilities, while very Star Trek in look, feel and naming, are really just the same abilities as many super heroes have had. For example, my Science Officer, can adjust the gravity around enemies to make them fall down, knockback or hold them in place. But this isn’t a complaint as unless you’ve spent a lot of time with their previous games, you wouldn’t know or even think about this. In fact, I think most normal people wouldn’t.
That said the character creation didn’t seem as detailed as the Champions or CoH ones, though still very fun as I made my own alien race. The customizations in look follow over to the ships as well, though I imagine more options will open up with this later as you get new base model of ships.
After the tutorial you find yourself docked on earth’s station in the Sol system, and it’s worth noting, I only knew I was in the Sol system because I looked on the larger Galaxy map view. Had I not, I would have been like many other people later on who were asking where earth was once they had left this station. This lack of description carries over to many of the quest information, where you’re told where to go, but rarely given directions on how to get there. Fortunately most quests lead you in a logical pattern of exploration, meaning you go to the nearest sectors first, then as you go up in command you receive missions to go further out.
It’s worth noting that this game doesn’t work like any other previous MMO’s when it comes to character advancement. Every time you kill something you may earn one to five skill points for your bridge officers or you, as well as completing missions will get you a significant amount as well. These skill points are used to skill up your abilities. After so many skills are spent you move up in rank and new abilities open up to you.
Now, in the past I have opted to discontinue play of CoH/Champions as I always found them extremely fun, but lacked enough depth for me to justify paying $14 a month to continue playing. This game finally got it right in my opinion. They have the similar fun and exciting combat of CoH/Champions, but with phat lootz.
For example, I chose to play as a Science Officer, who many could describe as the healing type class in the game. However, since this is a Cryptic game, you need to keep in mind that you don’t ever have to sit around waiting for a Science Officer to come along as the instances scale in difficulty to amount of players in them. In addition, you can have three Tactical Officers clear an instance just as easily as three Science Officers or a group made up of an Engineer, Science and Tactical officer.
Getting back to my character, while I play a Science Officer I am able to equip any weapon and armor type I want, which makes my character currently play more like a Cleric from the D&D world, where I am able to hold my own along my crew. This same customization flows through into your Bridge Officers.
Bridge Officers are awesome
I’ve received three Bridge officers from quests so far, but you can also purchase them at the earth station. They can either join your crew in one of four slots (I think this may increase later, not sure though) or they can train your existing officers new abilities that they didn’t have, which is what you’ll more than likely be doing later on.
Their AI is fairly decent as well. Where my Tactical officer will always throw a grenade out in groups that are clumped and then fire a spread type of beam, or she’ll stick to single rapid fire if the enemy is by themselves.
As a Science officer I originally chose a Tactical officer as my first choice, and then an Engineer as my third, then a Science officer, but I purchased an additional Science officer. Why two Science officers? It’s more for my play style, but one is focused on healing abilities, while the other is focused on controlling/buff/debuff abilities. My own toon is usually leading the charge or clicking on the environment to complete objectives while they cover me. It’s worth noting that I had originally thought about doing all Science officers, but I like my current mix, and it’s needed for ship stations.
When you’re in a ship, which is often, your officers each have abilities they can use at designated stations. So while you could have four Bridge officers that were all Science officers, you would have empty slots in your ship’s Tactical and Engineering stations.
It’s also worth noting that equipment labeled as BoE, is BoE to you and your crew. So when you upgrade from one rare armor to the next, you can still give it to your Bridge officers to use just fine, you just can’t give it to other players and their officers.
Your ship also has some customizable options as far as weapons, shields, etc which can affect your play style greatly. For example you may like really high capacity shields, but they recharge slowly typically. Or you may like low capacity shields but they recharge extremely fast. Other options include consoles that allow either further scanning for stealth detection or maybe just more defense abilities. In either case you have a fair amount of option on your equipment choices, though they can get expensive.
Things I didn’t like
While I think this is a great game that I will continue playing and has made me hibernate my WoW toon until Cataclysm, there are some issues I have.
The first is that while the missions are fun, they do get very long, and while you can always exit and continue, it gets very annoying with the auto group feature where you can have players come in, make the instance harder, but not actually contribute to the battle going on. We need a kick feature for deadbeats basically.
Also, while ships move somewhat realistic, it may be too realistic, even with a 9/9 skill in my ship command I take forever to swing around unless I pop evasive maneuvers. Come on guys, ease up a little, you don’t have to make driving a big rig, like actually driving a big rig.
That’s it. No really. That’s it. You should go buy this game if you haven’t.
But what about the server issues?
I don’t mark down for server issues in the first week a game has been out. As someone who has played many online games on opening day I can honestly say that every game, even the almighty WoW, has had significant, game and character breaking issues the first week of launch. Hell, Blizzard was probably the worst opening for a game ever as they grew so fast they had to keep opening up servers every few weeks.
I think the only game I ever played that didn’t have issues was FF-Online, but that game had already been out for over a year in Japan before it was released in the states, in addition, you didn’t get to pick which server you were on, you were designated one and it took about a month of play time before you had enough Gil saved up that you could afford to move to your friend’s or roommates server.
That said if these problems persist for the next couple months then, yes, I would stop playing.