Star Trek Online – Ten Ton Hammer’s Hands-On Beta Impressions

Posted Mon, Jan 11, 2010 by Dalmarus

The closed beta for Star Trek Online came to a close this week, but rather than a time of sadness, it marks a new testing phase for the game. Open beta begins on January 12th and fans around the world can't wait. Over the course of the last four decades, there have been numerous Star Trek television series that have arguably been awesome. There has also been a number of good, if not great, movies as well. Unfortunately, the same can't be said when discussing video games based on the iconic Star Trek IP. While there have been some that were far better than their predecessors (Bridge Commander), none have managed to truly capture that Star Trek feeling... until now.

Before I explain why I think Star Trek Online might finally live up to my Star Trek expectations, keep in mind that at the time of this writing, it was still in closed beta.

The first thing any player, reviewer, or Star Trek fanatic has to admit is that once again, Cryptic has proven why they are the undisputed character creation masters. Starting with City of Heroes, and then further expanded upon with 2009’s Champions Online, the team has continued their relentless pursuit of allowing players to create the character of their dreams with Star Trek Online. The uniform choices may not be quite as extravagant as in the previous titles I mentioned, but character heads, bodies, and faces get the full Cryptic treatment we've come to love and expect.

The first time I had an hour to play the game I managed to make a character and talk to the first NPC in the game's tutorial. As seems to be a repeating pattern when creating a character in one of Cryptic's games, I lost track of time as I tweaked and altered my character until it was just right. The true beauty of the character creation system is that you can make a character in under a minute or take over an hour. The team has recognized how important a feature like this is for so many gamers while not punishing those that couldn't care less about how their character looks. Once again, Cryptic fails to disappoint in this category.

After deciding which officer track to follow (Tactical, Engineering, Science), choosing a race (such as Vulcan, Andorian, Ferengi, or other), and fiddling with my uniform far longer than any self-respecting male should, I was ready to hop into a nice relaxing tutorial. That lasted for all of about two minutes as I wandered through what looked like Ten Forward on the Enterprise-D before being thrown into the heart of a crisis. You may be nothing but a newb Ensign, the starting rank in the game, but you're going to test your mettle against the Borg, so buck up soldier and get to it.

Throughout the battle with the Borg, you'll fight in the hallways of the ship, transport wounded personnel to a science vessel, take on Borg spheres, infiltrate a Borg ground camp, disable a shield generator, and take on a Borg cube with the help of some other Federation ships. Gone are the days of boring tutorials and I say good riddance. I honestly can't remember the last time I not only paid attention to what was going on in a tutorial, but also actually cared. Fascinating.

During the tutorial and your beginning missions, you'll quickly realize that the space and ground combat scenarios are almost completely different games, even though they both take place in the same universe. If my own experiences and the chatter of those in the beta test are any indication, each player will have their own preference. I've been a space combat junkie since I played Wing Commander back in the early 90's so naturally, the space portion of Star Trek Online has been my favorite so far.

Fighting against one ship by yourself is pretty fun. Fighting against multiple ships by yourself is even cooler. Taking on a small squadron of enemy ships with another player or two is awesome. None of that compares to the space battle you'll enjoy during an early mission where you need to protect a Starbase though. Imagine fighting along side approximately 15 other players and taking on what seems to be a full Klingon fleet. You're tasked with destroying 50 enemy ships and 20 Battlecruisers. The fight that ensues is nothing short of pure epic awesomeness! And by the way, this happened when I was level 4. That's right, I said 4. Not 40, not 50, not at the end-game. This took place after approximately three hours of game play. These are the things that will set Star Trek Online apart from the slew of MMOGs currently on the market.


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