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Star Trek Online Review
publisher: Cryptic Studios
developer: Cryptic Studios
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Feb 02, 10 (released)
|» All About Star Trek Online on ActionTrip|
Space: The final Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) frontier. This is the review of Cryptic's Star Trek Online. My 4-page mission, to discuss the ups and downs of the latest offering from a company that knows a thing or two about MMOs. Their mission: to carefully create a game that is fun and engaging enough to convince players to part with $14.99 every month, while still remaining true enough the original material so as not to anger the legion of rabid fans worldwide. These are my adventures of a female (Of course. - Ed.) Vulcan Science officer named Major, the U.S.S. Pork Chop Express and the strange, sometimes fun, sometimes frustrating world of Star Trek Online (STO).
When I first heard of STO I was a bit skeptical as to how Star Trek would translate to an MMO environment. Without a doubt, it's a fictional universe that's ripe with conflict, drama, technology and mythos familiar to almost everyone, so in that respect, a large chunk of the developer's job is done for them right out of the gate. However, developing a MMO based on a beloved series is also a double-edged sword, because the Star Trek episodes and movies are not about 100% non-stop action. This is the first oddity I encountered wit h the game. Think back to The Next Generation with Captain Jean Luc 'Let's Talk About It 'Picard where diplomacy and non-violent solutions were his preferred course of action to most of the problems encountered in the show. Translating those sorts of diplomatic solutions into the primary source of player missions in a genre that is generally combat centered, would make for some boring gameplay. So, instead, Cryptic has opted to go in the other direction, in a big way. I think it's funny that the main point of the game seems to be combat, combat, combat. My point is, that it's ironic. Don't get me wrong, I personally prefer the two-fisted approach to solving problems of James T. Kirk, but there HAS to be some die-hard Trekies out there (like Vader) (Hence my knick, Vader - Ed.) who are probably LIVID that the whole game violates the Prime Directive like Oprah violates an all you can eat buffet. (And yes I know the Prime Directive is about not impacting Pre-Warp civilizations in any way, but the joke works better that way so spare me your emails.)
Now, let's show them what being a bad-ass Star Trek chick is all about!
Is there a way to land this thing?
But I am getting ahead of myself. Let's go back to the start of the game. Players start by creating a character who is a member of Star Fleet. Various races are available from the usual list of Federation suspects: Human, Vulcan, Trill, (among others) or you can opt to create your own custom alien. The choice is not mere window dressing as differing races come with their own racial perks that will affect (negatively or positively) different aspects of the gameplay. You can customize the look of your character using Cryptic's now famous character look generator. Just like its other games (Champions Online, City of Heroes) you have a nearly limitless list of ways that you can customize your look. This customization also carries over to your uniform and the Bridge officers of your crew.
Since the game is set in the same alternate universe that last year's Star Trek movie reboot (Red Antimatter, the destruction of the Romulan homeworld etc.) I guess I can cut Cryptic some slack for having a military organization allowing its members to wear a non-standardized uniform. However, it is a little off-putting at first to see so many different styles from all the series and movies in the same room at the same time. But frankly, after a few minutes, you won't even notice that some character from the first series is standing next to your toon who is wearing an outfit that would not be introduced some 80 years later in the mythos timeline (You insane, geek - Ed.). You complete your character creation process by choosing which (for lack of a better word) class you will play: Science, Engineering or Tactical officer. Each class has its own strengths and abilities similar to other games healer, damage dealer and tank classes and limits the kind of ships you have access to.
Once you have created your toon (Will you stop calling it toon! - Ed.), you are taken through a tutorial that guides you through the basics of space and ground combat, inventory management and mission acquisition and completion. By the time the tutorial story arc is complete, your character finds herself on the Stardock orbiting Earth in the Sol system and promoted to Captain of a starter starship (Miranda Class to be exact for us fans), which you get to name and design what it looks like and thus your adventure begins. The choose your own starship name is cool, but there are enough immature dorks out there that choose a stupid name for their ship (like The Pork Chop Express) that again reminds you that you are playing a game with immature dorks and geeks. From here you fall into the familiar pattern of visiting NPC's on the station accepting quests, visiting merchants to purchase or sell equipment from drops, browsing the exchange (basically the spacey sci-fi version of an auction house) and when ready, heading out into space to tackle your missions. From here you fall into the familiar pattern of visiting NPC's on the station accepting quests, visiting merchants to purchase or sell equipment from drops, browsing the exchange (basically the spacey sci-fi version of an auction house) and when ready, heading out into space to tackle your missions.
Missions are typically made up of ground and/or space combat, but some are the standard MMO fair of the Fed Ex style (of running and talking to an NPC in another location) or gathering a certain number of items to be turned in for a reward. Some missions advance the story arc and they play out like one of the TV episodes. These are multipart missions that flow naturally from one point to another. You may be asked to investigate a far flung star system where after combating some raiders, you find a clue that leads to a hidden asteroid base that you have to beam down to investigate. These are well done and offer a real sense of accomplishment when completed. Fans of the series will find lots of little gems hidden in plain sight through these missions but of course, knowledge of the Star Trek mythos is not required to play.
Beautiful graphics, great sound effects and music, fun space combat;
Currently no death penalty, ground missions are nothing to write home about, lack of documentation leaves players guessing on some game elements.