Star Trek Online

By | January 15, 2010

I’ve been playing the beta of Star Trek Online over the last two days, and let me tell you – it’s really fun.

When the game was announced, I was worried that Penny Arcade’s comic would reflect the gameplay; that is, I was worried the missions would feel contrived to prevent you from using the types of technology that make Star Trek what it is.

More recently, I’ve been worried that the writing would be terrible; the reason for this worry was that the developers, Cryptic Studios, did an absolutely atrocious job of writing in Champions Online.  (The fact that I still liked it despite the writing and terrible balance speaks volumes about how entertaining the gameplay can be.)

Instead, what I find is a surprisingly well-written, non-contrived set of missions.  Indeed the game refers to them as “episodes”, and that’s kind of how they feel.

Space battles are quite entertaining, especially when they get large – two dozen player ships fighting a bunch of NPC battlecruisers makes for an epic battle scene – and the little touches make the battles that much more interesting.  When an enemy ship explodes, you need to get out of the way; I’ve been destroyed more than once when my shields were low and I was too close to a defeated enemy when his warp core exploded.

Ground battles are, similarly, well done.  I had been worried because in a lot of MMOs you just stand there trading blows with the enemy; that’s not how Star Trek portrays ground combat.   Instead, you get a personal shield, and you can dive and roll out of the way of incoming shots, and you have an away team to help you.

I also like that group missions are automatically grouped for you.  Say you’re patrolling the Risa sector; the game automatically matches you with other people also patrolling the sector so you don’t have to sit there waiting for people in chat to say they need to do it too.  It makes perfect sense, and it’s so convenient.

The beta has some bugs; sometimes missions won’t complete, or the graphics glitch and you spawn in ground areas with the ship model instead of the player model (or vice versa, in space).  But these things should be expected during a beta.  In fact the most annoying aspect of the beta so far has been players complaining about bugs.  Guess what?  If you want a bug-free game, the beta is not something you should be playing.  There is a price for early access.  (The other annoying thing has been players not reading mission text, or not looking around.  The answer to “where is the Admiral’s office” is “right where you beamed onto the station, under the big sign that says Admiral’s Office“.)

As a result of the entertaining time I’ve had playing the beta, I pre-ordered the Star Trek Online Collector’s Edition from Amazon.  Now I just have until the game launch to decide whether I want a lifetime subscription; I’m leaning toward “yes”.  I’m having far more fun playing this than I had playing Champions or Lord of the Rings or any other MMO I’ve tried.

At any rate, once the game is officially released and (hopefully) the beta’s kinks are worked out, I’m planning to do a Let’s Play series with Star Trek Online in the spirit of Shamus Young’s Let’s Play Champions Online series (which itself was in the spirit of Rutskarn’s Let’s Play Morrowind series).  I’m hoping it will be an epic story of a young Starfleet officer’s efforts to defend the Federation, rather than a story about how a young Starfleet officer retired at age 30 due to nonsensical plots (as Shamus’ series ends).  This will be an experiment which may fail completely, but nonetheless I’ll try.

6 thoughts on “Star Trek Online

  1. marshzd

    Being the person who asked where the Admiral’s Office was…I was on a phone with a girl at the time!

    However, there are some SERIOUS issues in the Open Beta which may not reflect in the final version, but we’re really close to the final version so they need to be addressed.

    The auto-grouping is great, unless you actually want to play missions in which case you might not be so lucky. The auto-grouping sometimes sends you to a mission and it’s already complete, because the people there have just finished the mission as you arrived. Um…?

    And we’re not just talking bugs. During closed beta people with ATI video cards were able to play fine. For some reason now they’ve changed something and removed anti-aliasing for ATI and the cards are no longer working. Now, ATI may be an inferior card, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t support a large chunk of the market.

    The missions are non-specific. I’ve READ the missions and it’s still unclear where a lot of things are. In fact, one mission tells you to go to the wrong place completely (which place doesn’t exist on the galaxy map which you tell people they should look at, which actually most people in the game keep saying ‘Check the galaxy map/sector list!’ but guess what…It’s NOT there). Even after you find out where the right place to go is, the quest is glitched and you can’t finish it. We’re talking one of the very first quests of the game once you’re out of the tutorial.

    I love the game, the gameplay, the story. It’s interesting, unique, fun. I have all sorts of good things to say except for the quest system and the mini map that is near useless. I’m definitely not the only one. There’s hundreds and hundreds of complaints about the state of the Open Beta. DDO wasn’t even remotely this bad…

    As for complaints, I actually watched peoples complaints and many of them were valid (similar to mine, the quests were unclear even when you read the quest dialogue…a good bit of that because of typoes). I assume a lot of the typoes are because they’ve changed names and places (Starbase 13 is Starbase 24, by the way). It’s just a touch ridiculous.

  2. Dan

    The mission that tells you to go to the wrong place is one of the sector patrols. It says something like this:

    – Patrol the Celes system
    — Go to the Celes system
    – Patrol the Foobar system
    — Go to the Foobar system
    – Patrol the Kanjai system
    — Go to the Mec system

    The Mec system doesn’t exist, but the Kanjai system does and it’s the correct one, so you should have at least checked for that one too 😉 However, that does not excuse the problem – they really need to comb through everything for typos.

    The Starbase 24 mission text refers to it as Starbase 13 several times, but the actual mission headers always call it Starbase 24.

    I’ve completed several quests that other people say are completely glitched, so I don’t know what their problem is… and I have only once been confused about where to go for a mission. I think overall the mission texts are pretty clear, as long as you check the galaxy and area maps.

    Here’s what I think the problem is: People are used to the minimap telling them which direction to go for each mission, and when it doesn’t, they don’t know what to do. STO’s minimap doesn’t have a compass or a mission direction arrow.

    As for ATI cards, well, ATI cards simply suck. Cryptic may have updated STO’s graphics between the closed and open betas, and I happen to know for a fact that ATI’s defaults for a lot of graphics settings are simply wrong (if you compare their defaults with the defaults listed in the OpenGL spec, for example).

    Basically, ATI’s drivers suck and it often takes some extra work to make things play nice with them. (They disabled anti-aliasing because it just plain didn’t work.)

    I think the biggest reason there are so many graphical problems with STO is that they took their Champions Online engine and revamped the graphics to play nice with Star Trek (e.g. space mode vs ground mode), and they’re simply not done with the revamp yet.

    DDO sucked, but for different reasons.

  3. Zachary Marsh

    The Mec and Kanjai quest is bugged beyond just the text being wrong. A number of people have reported that the quest is not able to be completed even after going to the RIGHT system. Among them was myself. I completed every other part of the quest, and that one part would not complete. I looked it up and it was a common occurrence (though I haven’t played in a day so they might’ve patched it).

    I did go to the Kanjai system, like I said before. I know how to use the maps. We’ve discussed this already. It’s not JUST a typo, it’s a quest problem that’s generally plaguing the game (there’s tons and tons and tons of complaints about this).

    DDO’s open beta was a million times better than this…It actually worked. 🙂

  4. Dan

    Well… I completed it without issues, so I dunno what’s wrong with everyone else 😉

    On the other hand, my game client crashes way more often than anyone else seems to, so… hmm.

    DDO’s beta may have worked, but it was boring beyond belief 😛 Even with the occasional crash and bugged quest, I think STO is a million times more fun than DDO ever was.

  5. marshzd

    I haven’t had a crash yet, strangely enough. Some disconnects, but never a crash.

    Also, NVIDIA SUCKS. Oh wait, let me fix your statement and mine…”ATI sucks for gaming” and “Nvidia sucks for video editing”. Remember when 2nd and third generation video cards for ATI did as well as the newest nVidia for video processing? 😛 What I need is to have both video cards easily accessible…

    For now, I’ll suffer playing STO on our 42″ big screen with a new nvidia video card and i7 processor…(it’s slightly more annoying than you might think ;))


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *