I am a pretty big Star Trek fan, and have been since Star Trek: The Next Generation came out. I never really appreciated the original series, but in the context of this post, I don’t think my lack of love for the Original Series really applies.
Star Trek Online was instantly the MMO for me, just because it was Star Trek. I knew it wouldn’t be held in the Original Series era, and as such, I’d be familiar with the technology, races and ships.
This review won’t be overly optimistic or excited about Star Trek Online, and I am sure I am not the only Star Trek fan that will feel this way.
What Cryptic Did Right?
A few months ago, the Star Trek Online site looked and worked quite differently. The main focus wasn’t on game reviews, but instead, building the universe that Star Trek Online would take place in.
They slowly released informatino on new ships, and most interestingly, they had articles entitled The Path to 2409 which were amazing updates on the span of time between the last Star Trek movie, and the starting date of the game universe.
Since just before closed beta began, these posts have stopped. There was a little more on the ships, but nothing that really excited me. I was looking forward to playing as a Federation character, but the lack of Klingon related content was almost laughable. How could anyone be convinced to play the Klingons with only two ship related posts, and only one or two paragraphs dedicated to them in each Path to 2409 post?
These posts, related to ships, the universe, and the eventual gameplay, were released at perfect intervals to keep people hooked. Add to that an open forum where anyone could post about their hopes and dreams for the game, as well as organizing fleets, and you have a dedicated and happy community, excited about a Star Trek MMO.
Then they redesigned their site and had their closed beta. Their site was amazing, but the actual gameplay wasn’t.
What Cryptic Did Wrong?
Missing that Star Trek feel. One of the biggest complaints I have about the game is how combat focused it is currently. You take your ship and fight Klingons, and then beam down to a planet, and fight more Klingons. After you’ve defeated things on the ground, you go to warp, move to the next area, and fight more Klingons. It all feels like one big grind-fest.
Your character can be customized, but the uniform customization feels both limiting and too extensive for Star Trek. You can customize your ship, but until you level up a dozen times don’t expect to change how it looks compared to others in your level.
Star Trek wasn’t ever really about personalization, so I can’t really knock the game for that. We should all have the same uniform, and ships of the same class should look the same. But if we are all going to be the same, why can’t I easily make it so that bridge officers I add to my crew have the same uniform as myself?
It is glaring issues like uniformity in uniforms that ruin the feel of the game, and the lack of diversity in missions and objectives that destroy the rest of the game.
Star Trek is about exploration, but in my advanced star ship, I rarely know exactly where to go. I have to hover over planets, to see if it matches the name that I have in my mission briefing.
Star Trek is about crew interaction, but all of my crew are NPC’s, and they don’t really mean anything to me. I have two engineering bridge officers, and if one died, I wouldn’t worry about the chracter, but instead, just the loss of their special ability.
Star Trek is about fleet interactions. Some of my favourite episodes of Star Trek included bigger battles but Cryptic hasn’t made fleet interaction easy, simple, or fun. You can’t send commands out to lower ranked people, nor can you organize your attack.
Everyone just moves towards the enemy, wears it down with phasers, and then, if they are trying to be tactical, wait until its shields are down to fire torpedos.
Usually though, everyone just spams buttons, and buffs until whatever enemy is on the screen dies. Then if you can tell what colour the loot drop is, you can possibly get a new item.
Playing Star Trek Online isn’t fun, and beyond that, it doesn’t feel like Star Trek to me. You could have called it “Future Battles Ground and Space”, and I probably would have been nicer to it in this review.
Star Trek brings so much history, information and fandom with it, that to mess up the simple concepts of the Star Trek universe in order to deliver another generic MMO is just shameful. I now see why so many companies before Cryptic haven’t been able to bring the dream of a fun Star Trek game to people’s computers.
I can’t go through everything I dislike about this game, as that would take all week, but hopefully this review helps open your eyes, and give the game serious consideration before jumping in and buying the year long, or lifetime subscription. Try the open beta, open until January 26th, 2010, and decide from there.