Review: Star Trek Online (F2P)

Space …. The OTHER space based MMO, these are the voyages of Brix’ starship. It’s mission… to boldly go where only Trekkies have gone before! I decided recently, to give the newly F2P Star Trek Online a try and see how it was.

I’ve only been playing it for about a week now, so I haven’t been able to experience everything, yet.  Read on for the adventures of the U.S.S Black Talon (yeah, I know.  I couldn’t think of a good ship name when I started 😀 ) as I venture into the great unknown of Star Trek Online.

Star Trek: Online (F2P)
Release Date: February 2, 2010
Link: Official Website

Getting set up:

It was really easy to get started, except for finding out someone was already using my name shakes fist. Once I came up with a bastardized version of my name, I downloaded a small sized file, and began to install the game. After it had completed the install, I began the usual process of patching. I was worried it would take a pretty long time because I didn’t know how many updates I missed, but it wasn’t so bad. I was able to log into the game a short time later. But while I waited I got to listen to the loud intro movie tell me how I was going to explore the universe for the Federation in a very Picard-esque voice.  Which I’ll admit, gave me some chills of excitement.

Background:

From what I can tell the game takes place somewhere after the recent Star Trek reboot movie.  You get a movie playing once the game loads up, explaining how Spock tried to get the Romulans to like the Vulcans again, and how the star went supernova and he promised to save the planet but failed.  You don’t get to see all the stuff from the actual movie though, the game takes place after that.  But you get to see that in the aftermath, the Klingons began trying to take over, and spread into the territory once inhabited by Romulans, the Dominion is gearing up for an assault and the Borg are making themselves known with attacks against colonies.  Leonard Nimoy provides a large amount of voiceover throughout the game, as well as Zachary Quinto (Spock from the new movies).  I haven’t been able to locate Kirk or anyone that might be familiar, though there is a Captain Sulu on the Earthen Spacedock that I can only assume is a relative.

Character Creation:

I’m going to be blunt this was the most confusing, least enjoyable character creator I have ever dealt with. They had a wide range of species that you could choose from, which was great, and they each had their own pros and cons, depending what you wanted to do and how you wanted to play the game.

You got to decide which type of officer you would be, tactical, science or engineer, and each had their own role. They had variations that you could use for every option, body type, face type, hair style, whatever. Then you could go into further detail and by further I mean minute detail to make your character look how you want. I could totally see someone who was just casual and wanting to try the game out since it’s F2P totally getting lost at this point, hell I almost did. I could also see those types of players who enjoy spending more time making their character look a specific way, feeling right at home.

I ended up getting fed up with all the options, and simply picked a female human, and kept hitting random until someone not resembling a freak showed up. I tried going in to make minor detail changes to her face, but changing the length of my chin… didn’t really seem to make any kind of difference for me graphically even if I went from one extreme to the other. So I just gave up and finished creating her out of frustration. Something a bit more in the middle would’ve made creating my Officer more enjoyable.

Tutorial:

If I thought the creation was crazy, that’s only because I hadn’t started the tutorial yet. My character shows up on a ship, alarms are going off, NPC’s are running around like chickens with their heads cut off, the usual scene. Someone is shouting at me to come talk to them and I’m immediately getting my first mission. This is good, I’m getting pop up messages telling me how to maneuver through the game, and how to interact with NPCs… awesome. Now if only it didn’t feel like my character was running through a swamp of knee high molasses I’d be happy. The character movement just felt so slow and sluggish. It wasn’t something I was used to. I often complained to my guildmates that going from SW:TOR to WoW felt like I was moving in slow motion. Well going from any game to STO felt 10 times worse.

The basic movement keys are the same, but to “sprint” you need to hold the shift key down. This drove me nuts because I kept forgetting to do it, so I ran really slow, it was more of a light jog. The tutorial itself tried to cover as much as possible, but at the end I felt like I had missed a huge chunk or tips. I defeated the Borg, I took over the bridge of my ship after all the command crew had been eliminated, and I was going to speak to an Admiral on the Spacedock.

The tutorial covered ground mechanics, and how to open my character screen and whatnot, it even covered how to do basic space combat. But it tried to cover so much that by the end of it I forgot a bunch of stuff in the middle, not to mention all the game systems the tutorial hadn’t even touched upon. I had a headache trying to figure things out.

The Admiral let me turn my mission into him, and then gave me a few more to talk to various NPC’s on the spaceport. This brings up the next section, the UI.

UI:

The UI is so cluttered. There are buttons within buttons, upon more buttons, there are buttons for buttons, and then when you think there can’t be more…. there is! Now I know that it’s a F2P MMO and they have the online store in hopes of making money from the microtransactions, but I would’ve loved some kind of hovering tooltip that at least told me what all these points were. If I accidentally went into a section of the UI that I shouldn’t be wandering into until I’d achieved a few more levels, I was totally clueless about what all the crap on my screen was for.

I don’t know if it was the slowness of movement, the cluttered UI or a combination of the two, but I could only stand to play the game for an hour at a time. I’d end up with a headache and a bit of motion sickness.

Another unpleasant thing about the UI was it was so huge, I haven’t checked to see if there is some way to make the scale smaller, but dear god I hope there is. I also didn’t enjoy that I was told that NPC’s with a ! had a mission for me, only to be turned away by all the NPCs with !’s above them for one reason or another. If there’s a damn ! give me a freaking mission!

If you haven’t played this game before and are just beginning, don’t lose hope. Don’t let the cluttered UI scare you away, push through it. Once you’ve gotten a few levels, and get familiar with where everything is, you won’t feel so lost. Also once you hit a certain level you’ll unlock new sections of the UI with new game systems, with tutorials for each.

Community:

I haven’t looked at the forums for the game yet, but the in-game community was pretty helpful. If someone had a question there was always someone with an answer willing to help. Not only that but the community seemed very healthy. There were always ships flying around in Sector Space, and there was always people talking in general chat when on the Spacedock. There was the occasional spammer, or kid being immature, but that’s what /ignore is for right?

Space Combat Gameplay:

The majority of my gameplay has taken place in space. I’d say if I had to divide it up, it would be 75% space combat, 25% ground combat. Someone asked me if the space combat was much like Eve Online. Sadly I haven’t played Eve to compare the two, but after watching some videos yeah it’s pretty close. I can’t speak for later levels, but right now at my current level there really isn’t much to Space combat. I slowly move around my target in a circle shooting off a combination of phasers and torpedoes. Making sure my shields don’t fail, and I spread the damage as evenly as I can so lower shields have a chance to regenerate.

Every now and then I pop a cooldown from one of my bridge officers that are either an offensive ability, or defensive/recuperative one. If you are doing space missions and have to do a patrol around a planet this felt so slow to me. Even moving at Impulse speed, it felt like I was dragging. I’m sure once I get more upgrades for my ship this might change, but still it wasn’t enjoyable taking forever to get to the next group of ships I had to destroy.

Ground Combat Gameplay:

Ground gameplay is pretty much like any normal MMO you’d come across. It reminded me more of Guild Wars than anything, because it was me and 4 NPCs who ran around shooting things with me. I ran across a couple issues doing ground missions. My character had problems going up ramps, she would constantly get stuck at the top, not able to get off the ramp. I also had issues with my Away team, they would get stuck on corners, not follow me through the map, and wouldn’t catch up to me ever. I’d have to finish some maps solely on my own, making it increasingly more challenging to get any objectives complete.

So far I have only a few attacks as well, 2 ranged attacks and one melee attack, I’m not including the grenade ability I have, but the UI makes it extremely difficult to understand where my abilities really are. You have three abilities in action slots 1-3 and directly behind them you have 3 more abilities, that you can barely see, these are for your other equipped weapon.  In my case it’s a rifle.

You have the ability to switch to another weapon you might have equipped, it will swap the action buttons as well to a few new attacks, but for me, it’s pretty much the same three attacks I had before except now one is a snipe ability. I have the option of displaying more actionbars to pull abilities onto, but I won’t tell you how long it took me to figure out where my abilities were. Pro-tip: Never leave your toddler alone with your mouse while you try to change the channel on the TV, you will come back to 15 minutes of trying to find one of your basic attacks. >_>

I’m sure  my Away team and I get more abilities this will be more fun, but right now Ground combat is really boring for me.

Group Play:

While I was sitting in Sector Space trying to figure our how to research schematics and failing miserably, I had something pop up in the lower right of my screen. Big red letters saying “DISTRESS CALL”, the first time I saw this I ignored it out of pure frustration at the UI. The second time I got it I thought “Screw it… I’m trying it” and wow am I glad I did. This was the most fun I’ve had so far playing the game. I warped into an area of space being attacked by the Borg. Everywhere I looked I saw Spheres and Cubes, and the usual Borg smack talk was ringing through my ears.

I immediately got invited into a team group, and I just followed the guy with the biggest ship around and shot whatever was beating him in the face. We got the first objective completed, and because of some super fantastic XP boost, I was getting level upon level.

The last objective displayed, a short movie clip played of some huge Borg ship showing up and it was our job to kick their collective asses (pun intended) 😛

There were only 6 of us there I believe, and I was definitely the lowest one there. I was totally being carried, but I was trying to hold my weight. Sadly the Borg bigger guns than I did and resistance really was futile. We failed, we failed hard… but dammit it was super fun.

All I know is if I get another distress call, I’m totally taking it.

Game Systems:

So doing that fun group thing with the Borg, I was able to get a couple levels and am almost finished being a Lieutenant. I had all these new skill points I had to allocate between myself and my bridge crew. Got some new abilities, and I gained access to Duty Missions.

I was really excited because this was one of the many screens I had tried to play around with when I first started and got nowhere fast. After reading the tutorial from the dude that looked like a dog, I realized I get to have 20 little NPCs run out and do missions for me. And depending what missions I send them on, the rewards, items, and points I get in return, which started making a lot more sense.

Think SW:TOR’s companion system, but on steroids. The missions can take anywhere from 20 min to 20 hours, and the rewards vary depending on the length, and you have a chance to fail them, and crit succeed them like you do in SW:TOR. It was pretty comforting to come across something I was somewhat familiar with.

 

The other neat thing I’ve come across in STO is they have “episodes” that are pretty much missions, but they also have events. They take place for a specific amount of time, and there is always something going on, and they take place throughout the entire day. It’s always something different, whether it’s a crafting bonus for an hour by going to a specific place to craft, or an increase in unknown astrometic anomalies that can be scanned for crafting materials, to space battles.

 

The other facet of the game I enjoy that is almost like a mini game, but sometimes when you are doing missions in space and on ground, you’ll run across small anomalies that need to be scanned. Well when you do scan them a window appears, and you have a pattern that needs to be matched. If you fail to match the pattern in the alloted time you still get some crafting mats, but if you succeed in matching the pattern, you’ll get more of the materials. I liked this idea a lot, it gave a feeling that you were actually trying to accomplish something for a purpose. If you failed you only had yourself to blame, but if you didn’t then you got something making it worth it.

Conclusion:

All in all, the game is ok, the UI is soooo cluttered, and movement feels clunky, but if you are looking for a F2P MMO to play that has lots to offer, and a very active community I’d give this game a try. As for myself, I’ll probably keep it installed, and play it casually off and on when I want a break from that galaxy far, far away.

brix
Written by
I started gaming on a crappy old computer, playing DOOM and Duke Nukem. It started it all. My first MMO was Ultima Online, I didn't do much in it, I just crafted and had a house and decorated it like the typical chick. I moved from UO to SWG.. and fell in love with what MMO's are really about - meeting people. I was the weirdest combo in the game - Master Dancer / Master Creature Handler. It was awesome! I kept in touch with a handful of people from SWG, and moved onto WoW. I've played it since launch, I've raided everything since Vanilla, and met many more friends there. Since then I've added SW:TOR to the mix, trying to balance being a GM of a 10 man raiding guild in WoW and starting an 8 man Ops guild in SW:TOR. It's a tough act to juggle, but it's a gamer's life for me!

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