Updated Mon, Jan 11, 2010 by Medeor
From the opening music there is no mistaking what game has just started, Star Trek Online fires photon torpedoes right from the start. It's also a Cryptic Studios game which means that the character creation is crazy cool. I won't delve too far into the character tools and uniform selection this week except to say that many people will spends hours in this area of the game prior to even getting to the first mission.
The first few hours of the game highlight the fact that STO will be pulling players from both single player games as well as MMOG veterans. The launch of the game puts you squarely into tutorial mode in the middle of an epic battle. The Borg just won't rest and they're out flexing their muscles by using some of our friends as punching bags. Well we won't stand for that now will we? The first round of missions will round out the introductory knowledge of the player-NPC interaction mechanics, controlling a ship and ground combat. This all happens in short order so strap in and get ready.
The first thing any soldier wants to know is how to get into the battle. Star Trek Online starts right off with showing the different methods for moving within a ship and then between ships. The primary objective is to clean out the Borg scum that have taken root in the ship. While making your way there, you will learn about the high-speed elevators and then end up in the teleporter room where you will indeed be "Beamed up" to another ship. From these rooms you can get to other ships or beam down for ground combat with your crew (once you get some bridge crew members). Thus far I'm pleasantly surprised with the lack of running. It's a high tech universe after all, we shouldn't have to run, we should be beamed!
Once the Borg expansionary crew has been handled it's time to go help other ships suffering a similar fate. At this point you are launched into space and receive some tutelage in operating a space vessel. The space travel is fairly straight forward and most of the user interface is explained, but I still feel a bit weak in the knees when it comes to prepping for all out warfare. Thankfully the first targets are stationary or friendly, thus keeping my crew safe for future journeys. Through the spaceship portion of the early tutoring area there is plenty of margin for error and I used as much of that margin as possible. Having played very few flying-type games, I'm still learning the 3rd axis and the impacts of the lack of gravity.
The space combat is interesting and really makes you feel the impact of your decisions. Should you choose to go faster, your shields and weapons are penalized with lower power. The inverse is also true, so space flight and combat are a constant balancing of speed versus defense versus offensive abilities.
After saving crew members of other ships, the time has come to venture down to the planet surface and really put the hurt on those Borg invaders. Beaming down for the first time offers a glimpse into gameplay with groups as you get to bring your bridge officer along for the ride. The two of us sauntered into the Borg offensive and took out the bad guys through ranged and melee combat. It always feels good to save a few team members which is exactly what we did prior to taking out the Borg technology. Each weapon has a special attack so be sure to read the tool tips for optimal damage. I appreciated the crowd control type mechanics at an early level when trying to rush a group of three bad guys.
I'm sure much of the game will change in terms of leveling speed, rewards and details, but the overall game is well on its way to launch. The first few hours offer a glimpse into the much bigger picture of the game and it certainly has me gloomy when the server test time comes to a close. I look forward to diving into the different aspects of the game whether it's in my ship or on the ground. Watch for our weekly updates as we march towards the launch of Star Trek Online in February.
Looking for more Star Trek Online content? Be sure to check out our latest exclusive interview to learn all about Klingons and PvP. We also have an excellent FAQ covering numerous aspects of gameplay, from combat to crafting and beyond.
Also, be sure to beam down to our Star Trek Online forums and join in on the discussions. Whether you want to voice your opinions on the latest STO news or just want to share some of your awesome Klingon haiku, Ten Ton Hammer's Star Trek Online forums are the place to be!