Star Trek Online: A Second Look

Updated Tue, Aug 02, 2011 by jeffprime

star trek online

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.

star trek online
Space travel goes from butt-ugly...

star trek online looking really good.

Starship Interiors

One 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.

star trek online
My ship finally feels alive to me.

Fortunately, Cryptic has added two levels for you to explore on your starship: the crew quarters and the engineering level. Now you can enter your ship’s lounge, check out the sickbay, go to the transporter room, and watch your warp core in the engineering room. Better yet is the constant stream of crew members walking around your ship doing various tasks. All of this really helps bring the starship to life. For an extra bonus, you can invite others to join you on your ship or you can walk around theirs and hobnob over Romulan ale.

More Places to Socialize

Talking 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.

star trek online
Enjoying the gardens at Starfleet Academy.

Also helping out on the social front is the dabo mini-game, which gives players a reason to visit Deep Space Nine rather than just to gawk at the scenery. I would like to see more mini-games to come out in the future to encourage players to hook up and have some fun. Players want to feel that they're part of a larger universe filled with other players, and fostering social interaction helps to build a strong community.


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