Revisiting Star Trek Online

As we all know, Star Trek Online went freemium last week, and since then I’ve managed to drop a couple of hours into the game. I’d last tried STO a couple of months after launch, I think, and kind of liked it, rough and half-done as it was. But there’s that little guy in my head that asks, when trialing a subscription game, “do you like this enough to pay $15 a month for it?” And the answer was no. It’s the same process I went through with Rift and later, SWTOR, that led me to not buy those games as well, even though neither was bad in any substantive sense.

Although I am indeed able to spot some changes, I don’t know that I can see a remarkably changed game today versus when I was last logged in. But then, a big part of the issue at that time was lack of content, and that seems, by all accounts, to have been remedied — at least as long as you’re Federation, and aren’t at the level cap. There has been an almost year-long content drought for reasons Cryptic discussed with Massively today.

Star Trek Online is a conventional MMO in most respects… very conventional if you look only at the ground game, which functions mostly as a veteran of WoW or any of its clones would expect. But not entirely — you have an Away Team to back you up with their own progression and abilities, and some of the missions do seem to require some care and attention to get through. So that’s novel.

There’s also crafting, which appears unsophisticated to my eye. It’s similar to but narrower than the system in Champions Online. The in-game economy… well, I haven’t seen any sign that one exists, really, so this really isn’t out of line with the source material.

And there is, of course, the space game, and I give Cryptic a great deal of credit for including both ground and space operations in the finished product. The space game is both more interesting and better-developed than the ground game (which I’m told is much improved from where it was.) It’s no EVE Online, but it captures the basic feel of starship combat in Star Trek fairly well; I’m definitely getting a Star Fleet Battles vibe, although it’s not nearly as complicated at least at the start. Just as you can improve your character as you advance, you improve your ship as well, and eventually you unlock new ship slots and ships.

STO is also pathy and linear, but not quite in the usual way. In most such games there’s a linear quest/mission progression that you go through one piece at a time. The main story sequence in STO is like this, and there are side missions as well, but there’s also a great deal of content that scales to you, and a regular cycle of in-game events. I think the variety of content I have seen so far is pretty good, although I am guessing (and I hear) that this gets stale after a while.

It’s early yet (I just hit Lieutenant 7 today) but I’m enjoying myself reasonably well so far. STO is not a flawless game by any means, but you know, at least it took some chances, and I’ll take an ambitious but flawed game over a polished but pedestrian one any day.

3 responses to “Revisiting Star Trek Online

  1. Downloading it as I type. I wouldn’t have bothered if it hadn’t been for Tipa’s posts about it on West Karana, which made it sound a lot more interesting than I’d imagined. Never would have tried it if it hadn’t gone F2P though.

    If it all downloads smoothly I hope to take a look at it tomorrow.

  2. Very similar experiences to my own of late. Using the Episodes as a backbone, its permitted me to get back into the swing of it without being overwhelmed by all that has changed since launch (or that I just never knew). I had clawed my way to Lieutenant Commander before I bailed out. Now I’m about midway to Commander and the pacing feels about right.

    Yes, still a bit rough, but small regular doses, quite enjoyable so far. Haven’t seen anything I’ve needed or wanted from the cash shop yet. Well, maybe those TOS alternate universe uniforms…

    Looking forward to hearing more as you go.

  3. I got a 10-day code from Alienware not too long before f2p was announced, which meant I got in early on the f2p as a “former subscriber.”

    Just hit Commander yesterday with my second char, having abandoned the first still somewhere in the LT levels. Picked up an unopened Collector’s Edition off Amazon for about $7 which just arrived Wednesday, so I’m now in a 30-day gold sub. Have a new Caitan alt sitting at level 2.

    I am finding it is not uncommon for me to create a character in a game, use it to learn, then abandon it a little way in when I create my first alt and find how much smoother things go once I know the basics. I rarely *intend* to follow the paattern, but I frequently find I’ve so messed up my initial char that repairing it is not worth figuring out. :>

    So far I’m quite enjoying the game. In order of playtime, though not necessarily of liking the game, I think I’m on STO – World of Tanks – LOTRO – Pirates of the Burning Sea. There’s a lot of depth to STO that I haven’t bothered to figure out. As long as I can keep advancing without knowing the ideal item for X situation, we’re good. If ever I can’t advance in the game without researching a special playstyle, I’ll probably leave it. That’s one of my primary fears regarding PVP in STO and most any other game, that I will have to buy specific gear and learn a specific playstyle to be viable. That becomes work instead of play.