Star Trek Online – Best SciFi MMO Ever
Okay, I’m excited about the newest SciFi MMO hitting the streets, Star Trek Online [a.k.a. STO], by Cryptic Studios. I have had the privilege over the past few months to watch the game emerge through closed beta. From the beginning Cryptic has been transparent about how they wish to develop the game. Simply, use everything from the series and movies to stay true to the fan base. Cryptic themselves worked diligently to create the timeline of events and place the game in the most appropriate time, the future. The game is based starting in star date 2409. Well beyond all the series and movies. The players will tell the new story of Star Trek.
During closed beta the testing forums were on fire with awesome suggestions on how to improve the game. Amidst the suggestions were interspersed concern around story points or how PvP might be more engrossing. This wasn’t just a group of closed beta testers this was a fan base with in depth knowledge. Cryptic had the daunting task of balancing the first ever release version of Star Trek Online with a waterfall of highly requested functionality. MMO gamers expect basic functionality and UI to be in the game at launch. There should be banking [personal and guild], auction house, shops to buy and sell items, personal inventory, weapons, armor, gathering/ crafting, guilds, travel system [seriously, slow is annoying], and as much customization of everything possible. Then there is functionality MMO gamers would like but can live without [for a short time]. These would include personal housing, pets, complex emotes [fully animated with sound], reputation leveling, guild leveling, guild housing, show/ hide items, and <your favorite here>. Cryptic needs to balance releasing the game with expected functionality as well as balancing delighter features. I believe they are off to an excellent start and can quickly iterate stellar new features soon after the initial launch.
Cryptic proved themselves to be the masters of player creation for Champions Online with their hero creator. They did not disappoint with Star Trek Online. You can select from starting phenotypes [how a race looks] like Human, Vulcan, Trill, or create an entirely new race. Always wanted tentacles, long neck, antennae, and head crest? No problem. Part of character creation is also selecting your race’s special skills and what uniform to start with. Then select your career path as a tactical [red shirt, careful of the monster behind you ... never mind], engineering [yellow shirt, She can't take much more of this!], or science officer [blue shirt, I'm just a country doctor!]. Each career class have different skill trees plus common skills. For example, all Starfleet officers learn command skills. Warning, I haven’t scratched the surface on how in-depth the character creation process truly is. Plan to spend some significant time creating your character.
The space travel is fully 3D and incredible. Customize the look of your ship and armaments and set out to photon torpedo the bad guys. Warp, full impulse, scanning, and tractor beams are but a few of the ship’s arsenal for combat and everyday exploring. Go to warp and use the sector map to see the entire universe. Drop out of warp and enter a system [planet, asteroids, you name it]. Explore strange new worlds, seek out new civilizations, and go where no <your customizable race here> has gone before.
Space combat is tactical to say the least. In a fully 3D world space combat requires positioning which enables weapon fire arcs. Huh?! Think of it this way, a pirate ship is attacking another ship. It has cannons on each side of the ship which can all fire if in full broadside [the side of the ship is facing the other ship]. The same applies to your ship’s weapons. A phaser can fire in a 200 degree arc from the front or back of your ship. The photon torpedo is less and maybe 0nly 120 degree arc forward. In order to fire your back and front phasers at the enemy at the same time you will need to have the side of your ship facing the enemy. This allows both the front and back phaser fire arcs to fire at the enemy. As you may guess different weapons have differing firing arcs like the photon torpedo mentioned and tachyon beams. Positioning is everything to fire your weapons and to minimize shield exposure as well.
Shields! Your defenses are your shields and good news, they are up all the time. Shields protect your front, back, left, and right sides of your ship. While in combat at least one side of your ship will be losing shields during the fight. You can divert power to shields and away from weapons and other shields. The best is to keep maneuvering so not just one side is exposed to attack giving your shields time to regenerate. Phasers and other energy weapons destroy shields. Once your shield is down you are open to a hull damaging torpedo. Torpedoes do little damage to shields but immense hull damage. Having no shields on the same side a photon torpedo has been launched at you is definitely a brace-for-impact moment.
Pick your bridge crew and customize them to your play needs. As of beta a starship can have three bridge crew members: tactical, engineering, and science. Each has special abilities to help with ship operations as well as ground. Further, each bridge officer can be customized with skills and promoted as your character is promoted. Bridge crew members can be traded with other players or requisitioned at a starbase. As a captain you can skill up your crew members and promote them. The bridge crew is always one rank below your own and as such can only be promoted to that rank as maximum. Sorry, no all admiral bridge crews. It is for the best as nothing would get done with that many admirals.
Player versus player will launch with the Klingons as the adversary. Once your Starfleet officer has reached a certain level [level 6 currently] you can roll a Klingon. Klingons level through PvP combat and objectives. They are tactical focused and have some powerful front facing weapons. I’m sure we’ll see other races join the PvP adversary world as well.
The game is structured to be enormous in the not too distant future. Cryptic wants Star Trek Online to encompass a massive universe that encourages and rewards exploration. Blow me away, Cryptic, I’m ready.
Star Trek Online is currently in open beta and will launch for head starters January 29, 2010. If you haven’t done so yet, go pre-order to get in the headstart then buy the lifetime subscription. You’ll thank me.
See you in the Star Trek universe. I’ll be the Borg.
Disclaimer: This article was written as my personal views and unmarred by personal gain from Cryptic, CBS Studios, Atari, their affiliates, or anyone for that matter.