Since Star Trek Online is now free to play, there is no real reason to buy it other than to save yourself a 4 GB download. This is a massive multiplayer online game that is part role playing game, part over the shoulder shooter and part star ship navigation and combat. I love Star Trek as we probably all do to even be here reading this. I’ve always wanted a game that gives you the total feeling of captaining a star ship, commanding an away team and interacting in a universe. Star Trek online feels shallow and hollow in some areas, yet needlessly cumbersome in others.
The game is shallow with interactions and choices. The game delegates talking with characters down to a portrait and written text. No voice acting, but maybe I have been spoiled. I take that back, there is some horrible voice acting from Leonard Nimoy to start the game and the holographic doctor that acts as a tutorial is one of the flattest and worst voice acting I’ve ever heard. Especially when the EMH doctor on Star Trek Voyager uses the same lines with a pop and snap. The dialog is so bland that I just skip through it because everything you need to do is marked with an exclamation point. It would have also felt better to be able to interact with more random objects like scan flowers that are not marked and have a 1% chance every hour to find something. There are still interactions like anomalous readings that open up a wave pattern mini game that is very easy to say the least.
Right off the bat it is a disappointment as you are thrown into a conflict with the Borg who in the Star Trek universe should not be for beginners. Nor should they fall easily, but you might as well have a fly swatter for all the Borg you’ll encounter.
Luckily if you have a problem with the missions, there is an actual mission editor. You can submit your missions and have them put into the game which is a nice touch.
Like any MMO, you get to pick a race, pick a class from three (red, blue and yellow). Everyone seems to pick red. Each race has special traits and you can customize your look with excessive detail. It all feels very superficial.
When you’re not walking around and talking, you’re either flying a ship or shooting things. The shooting is good and pretty easy even if its one dimensional. Point your phaser at the target you want to die or blow up and keep firing til its dead. Shooting civilians doesn’t matter… and it should. You get an away party that you make up of crew members that you find or recruit throughout your play. Its a fun micromanagement thing and your allies are pretty competition and takes away from a MMO when your party is made of computer characters. The ability to just jump into someone else’s party to replace the computer would have been nice.
You have some basic controls to fly around, but it seems a little cumbersome, throttling up to go forward and then going to impulse… Flying around objects and toward objects to blow them up or beam off survivors. The visuals are beautiful here, but the fact you’re over dead space makes things seem pretty lifeless unless there’s a space battle going on.
Space battles are where the game excels. You have 4 “power” settings… attack, defense, speed and balanced. They all do what you’d think to make it easier for you to survive. In a space battle, your star ship has 4 shields, front, rear, left and right. Taking too much damage to one shield will leave your ship vulnerable and easy to kill. So you need to maneuver around the ship you’re facing firing off phasers to drain their shields and torpedoes to finish them. Oh and aft weapons as well. The weapons have cool down times just like any MMO. Some space combat missions feel like a slog when you’re on your own… kill 4 enemies here, fly there, kill 4 more enemies, fly there, kill 4 more and go back and they respawn… 1 ship vs 4 quite frequently. There are no quick battles until you level up. Then there are massive battles MMO style where its 10 players vs 1 super ship or 10 players vs 10 ships then 10 more then 10 more then 10 more. There is a noticeably slowdown on my laptop for those.
You can visit your bridge and ship interior from your vessel, but there is little life there. There are plenty of NPCs and big hollow areas, but no one speaks and its more of just a little head nod that… yes we have your ship interior. Perhaps in further stages of the game the bridge opens up, perhaps when your ship is boarded by alien hostiles… but that is just a prayer that’s what happens. Perhaps drama of your ship filling up with deadly gasses and you and a party need to save everyone. Oh and another glaring detail is the fact that when you start the game you pick how your uniform looks… why is it no one else from my crew is wearing the uniform I have chosen? Am I the rogue ensign captain that does as he wishes?
The missions greatly vary but after a while they feel very copy and paste. Some missions are well thought out with plot twists. Other missions seem one dimensional, like space battles where you need to destroy 4 satellites protected by a squad each… then fly to pick up dilethium that is guarded, then drop off dilethium but you can’t, because your transporters are being blocked by a jamming station that is guarded, so when you return after destroying the jamming station the dilithium drop point is guarded. Constant space battles are not a good thing. Neither are the missions where you are exploring random planets where 2 of which have been baron and devoid of life or action. You are sent down to scan 4 objects on one with no enemies and barely anything to look at. Another planet had me in a cave with no enemies downloading audio logs that I couldn’t listen to… what? Those are the bad missions and the missions seem to each take 40 minutes with sections that take 10 minutes.
5 or 6 hours into the game, you get duty officers that you get to send on away missions. These are not missions that you do, but rather as a captain you need to assign the right people for the job. Its a nice little add on, but not needed for sure. The officers have jobs and personality quirks like stubborn, a team player, logical and so on. The missions specify what traits and jobs are best suited for each away mission.
In all, with no voice acting for the flat characters and bland dialog coupled with mediocre missions I can’t get into it and I’m a big fan of the lore. I really think that the game makers missed the point of Star Trek and that wasn’t space exploration it was drama. Sure you travel to far away planets and dogfight against other star ships, but the point of the TV series and movies was the characters and this game has flat characters. The game doesn’t really feel like an MMO. After 15 hours I’ve never really interacted with anyone except for seen them flying by and the big boss battles. Nothing seems to have consequence, there could have been factions and alliances instead of just Federation vs Klingon. Or your own personal alliances like Morrowind.