Star Trek Online - First Impressions

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Trek Online

officially went live almost two weeks ago and it's
time for our initial impressions of the game. Rather than jumping on
the "publish review the day it's released" bandwagon like so many
others, we feel very strongly that not only is that approach to MMOG
reviews wrong, but detrimental to the game in question as well. If
there was ever a game that proved things like performance could be
drastically different between its head start program and official
launch day, Star Trek Online
is it. The constant down time that
happened on a regular basis even just the day before was nowhere to be
seen on February 2nd and players were grateful for it.

When you first start the game,
you'll be able to create the character
of your dreams or least the closest proximity to it. Cryptic Studios
came out of the blue on April 27, 2004 and completely crushed
previous competition for the "Most Awesome Character Creator Ever!"
award. Star Trek Online
proves yet again that they have no intention of
letting that title go, even for a moment. At this point, it's almost a
given that the
character creation process in any Cryptic game is going
to be nothing short of astounding. STO is no different so rest assured
that you'll have plenty of tweaks and modifications to fret about as
you build your new Starfleet Ensign. Until you unlock your Klingon
character slot, you will only be allowed to create a Federation

Upon entering the Star
tutorial, you'll be
thrust into a
battle of survival within minutes. Even though the action is high, be
sure to pay attention to what the NPCs are telling you. The lessons
learned here will serve you well later on. You can get by with ignoring
most of them, but you'll pay for it in the long run. Survive your
battle with the Borg here and you'll be given command of your own ship
and set on a course of greatness.

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Early on, you'll be introduced
to the basic components of both ground
and space combat. For an excellent overview of these game aspects, be
sure to read our href="">Space
Combat Guide and href="">Ground
Combat Guide. Want to
take your game even further? Check out the href="">Advanced
Combat Tactics
article posted last week (be sure to add your own tips in the forums!)
If you want to know what all the funny little buttons on your screen
are for, you can also use our href="">Space
UI Guide and href="">Ground
UI Guide for
reference material. For even more tips, be sure to read the
Blog each week.

By a large margin, I think the
space game is still more engaging than
that of the ground. At the end of closed beta, I posted an href="">initial
impressions piece and spoke
about the lacking ground game. There have
been definite improvements since then, and the ground-based missions
are more involved and fun now, but there is still a lack of good enemy
AI. Enemies have gotten better about using their special abilities, but
inevitably, the big boss always seems to run at me, I root him or knock
him down while my team chews his ass to pieces. I've kept things
interesting by playing around with the placement of my away team, but
there's still something lacking there.

The space game, however, is
always just what the doctor ordered. I've
been a space combat junkie for well over a decade now and there's no
sign of me slowing down any time soon. I love the space game without
reservation. During your first ten levels of the game, you'll only have
access to your starter ship, but take that time to learn the basics of
blowing things up in the sky. There are numerous tactics to get under
your belt and the sooner you do so, the better off you (and your
teammates) are going to be. You can get by without doing so, but you
don't want to be one of those
players later in the game. The type
that gets shot down the moment they actually bother to engage an enemy.
Train now, live later. Learn it, live it, love it!

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Not everything with the
missions (or the instances they take place in)
is perfect though. While the majority of non-working issues with the
auto-group feature have been resolved, it still doesn't improve your
fellow party members any. You can still have someone bail after
entering the system and screwing you since the game adjusts enemy
strength based on the current players there. Even worse, there are a
number of players that seem to think there's nothing wrong with flying
around to do their own thing while you’re embroiled in the
fight of your life with a Klingon squadron. On top of them not doing
anything for you, they still get credit for completing the mission.
Personally, I'd like to see something put in place so that if your ship
doesn't do anything, you don't get anything. I doubt it will happen,
but a man can dream, can't he?

The early missions of the game
range from the "Rescue the crew of X
Ship"-type to escorting an ambassador to Vulcan space. There's not a
whole lot of variety to the quest objectives so, aside from the
separation of ground and space combat, things can feel stagnant. href="">As
mentioned last week though,
don't let the simplicity of these early
mission lure you into the trap of complacency. As you progress through
levels, the game's objectives will begin to branch out, be comprised of
more pieces, last longer, and become far more interesting.

Rather than flying into a
system to just blast some Gorn out of space,
you'll need to take out the Gorn battle groups, scan and repair
satellites, beam to a planet's surface to rescue the research team,
take out a ground combat boss, find yourself in the middle of a battle
when you beam back to your ship, and chase a criminal across the sector
after questioning patrons in a bar. This all took place somewhere
around level six. These are the types of quests that get my blood going
and keep me excited about a game. Add in the fact that I could easily
picture each arc as a Star
Trek: The Next Generation

episode with ease
and you've got something special, especially since you're playing the
central character.

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During the time it took to
reach level ten, I became completely
engrossed with the unfolding storyline. For the first time in years, my
heart actually dropped to the floor when I discovered something
horrible had been released and set free in the galaxy. Something that
earlier in Star Trek's
history had nearly wiped out an entire race.
When's the last time you can remember caring that much about a quest
storyline? I know I was completely caught off guard by the emotion and
I can't wait to see if the team can pull that particular trick off a
second time.

When you're not out saving the
universe, it pays to do some exploration
missions to fill the time. Not only will they help you level, but
they'll also provide you with exploration badges. These badges can be
turned in for some cool upgrades for both your equipment and that of
your ship. Sometimes you'll discover a new planet, new species, or a
combination of the two. Whether you're providing needed medical
supplies, or saving a dying pre-warp capable race by repairing alien
artifacts that have malfunctioned and are now poisoning the
environment, there's always something to do.

If you tire of the PvE-focused
content of the Federation side of things
and you've unlocked your Klingon character slot, you can join the
Empire in their quest for conquest.
The path
of the warrior is href="">
not an easy one, but if PvP
action is what
you're in
the mood for, this is the place to get it.

Trek Online
has all the
components to make for a great MMOG and
time will tell whether or not the consumers of the world continue to
show the team their support. The graphics are solid, the sound is spot
on, and the action is as "Star Treky" as anything else we've ever seen.
Can STO finally be the game to end all the pain in suffering Star

fans have had to endure with virtually every other incarnation of this
beloved IP? So far, I believe the answer to that question is a solid
“yes”. The proof of this is the change of tune from
some of the game’s most vocal early detractors. If
that’s not a ringing endorsement for the game, what is?

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Star Trek Online Game Page.

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