Star Trek Online: A Second Look
Since its launch, Star Trek Online has both pleased and angered Trek fans. After a year away, Ten Ton Hammer’s Jeffprime voyages back to where no man has gone before to give STO a second look.
I’ve been a lifelong Star Trek fan, and I wear my Trekkie badge proudly. (I’m a Trekkie, not a Trekker--I roll old-school, baby!) I grew up watching the original series and have seen Spock’s brain stolen probably a thousand times. I’ve seen all the movies, watched the newer shows, and even trekked to see the Star Trek Experience last weekend at the Kennedy Space Center in the blistering thousand degree Florida heat. Therefore, I eagerly awaited the arrival of Star Trek Online, and when it was launched in February of 2010, I gladly bought my collector’s edition version of the game so I could wear an original series costume in-game.
To say that I was underwhelmed by STO would be an understatement. While there were aspects of the game that I liked (starship combat), the overall experience feel sparse, rushed, and incomplete to me. I didn’t feel that I was part of an MMOG, but rather I was playing a single-player game. I’ve been away from the game for a year now, but I’ve kept abreast of the additions to the game made by Cryptic and I thought it was time to take a second look at the game and see if it was worth coming back to.
Space Looks Like….Space!My first impression was a positive one in that you can now finally turn off that ass-ugly astrometric grid for space travel. when I first played I always felt as though I wasn’t travelling through the majesty of space, but rather that I was just moving across a giant piece of graph paper. Now, with the ability to turn off the blue grid, the game feels more immersive to me as I travel from system to system. While this feature isn’t a huge gameplay mechanic, it directly impacts the visual appeal and immersion of the game especially since you spend most of your time in your starship.
Starship InteriorsOne thing that always grated on my nerves was your inability to walk around your own ship. You spend most of your time on board your ship, so you'd think that you would be able to enjoy the amenities found there. One of the key factors in any Star Trek series is the depiction of shipboard life. Crew members walking through the corridors on their way to important tasks, the medical dramas that enfold within sickbay, and, in the case of the original series, the engine room where any hostile forces will be sure to seize control of first. Your ship should be a living, breathing entity and this was not realized at STO’s launch. When I left the game originally, Cryptic had just added bridges so at least you could walk around your bridge and invite friends and guild mates.
More Places to SocializeTalking about starship interiors reminds me that there was also a lack of places to socialize in STO when the game first came out. I always felt all alone in the cosmos as I warped from one sector to another. Now it seems that Cryptic has paid more attention to giving players areas to socialize as people, not starships. I particularly like the Starfleet Academy as a nice place to gather, as well as the starship interiors.
Diplomatic MissionsContent is the most vital issue in any MMOG, and STO had a disturbing lack of content in the beginning. Cryptic has addressed this in a few ways, one of which is the diplomatic missions. The diplomatic missions are not my favorite cup of tea because there's no combat, but they do provide more missions for players. Even more importantly, they pull the player deeper into the lore of Star Trek, thus immersing them in the game world even more. Besides, any new content is welcome in my opinion even if my idea of diplomacy is a warm phaser!
Featured EpisodesAnother welcome addition to game content is featured episodes. These episodes are story arcs comprised of several different missions, all revolving around a central theme. To date, there have been three arcs (the Breen, the Devidians, and Cloaked Intentions). Personally, I love a campaign where you play a number of missions that follow a specific storyline. You become personally involved and engaged with the ongoing story, and you gain a sense of accomplishment when you resolve the story arc. Of course, the special loot isn’t bad either!
I enjoyed the three story arcs that Cryptic has put out so far, and I hope that they do more in the future. The reason why most Trekkies became so is because of the stories told in Star Trek. Everyone has a number of favorite episodes that they can instantly reel off the details of at a moment’s notice. Strong storytelling is a mainstay of Star Trek and the featured episodes do well to follow that mold.