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First impressions of Star Trek Online: Part 1, Lore

January 26th, 2010 by

Space: The final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship U.S.S Essess.

It’s two week mission: To explore a strange new MMO. To seek out new purps and rep quests.

To boldly go where one geek has been a few times before.


Cyptic Studios, hot off the heels of Champions Online goes deeper into MMO lore with Star Trek Online.
Its two week beta half over, Cryptic are “amazed” by the interest, crushing initial expectations. Many beta testers have completed all the available content, hitting the restricted level cap of 16 (out of 50).
Players will also be pleased to hear that Cryptic plans to remove the current level cap at some point this week, opening up the entire game for testers. This means you’ll be able to visit DS9, Memory Alpha and advance your characters past Lt. Commander.

The game’s set to launch on February 5th.

Note: What follows below can be construed as a very negative view of the game. Please bear in mind that this is part 1 and things do look up in the 2nd part. Also, please note that I’m a moaning old twat.


First impressions:

Upon starting the game, I am greeted with that iconic Star Trek riff, a step in the right direction.
Entering the character creation, I am amazed with the choice of character customisation available. Based heavily on the excellent character creator from Champions online, the possibilities are nearly endless. Each body part can be scaled to a huge degree, with several details for each of those parts. The main restriction is that your character must be a bipedal humanoid form. Possibly because they couldn’t make a Starfleet shirt for an amorphous blob, or they’re just racist  :wink:
Speaking of Starfleet shirts, you are not strictly bound by the traditional colour/style according to rank. A science officer could be wearing gold, an ensign in green.
There is also several preset races you can be including Human, Vulcan, Bajoran, Klingon, Andorian, Orion, Gorn and many more, each with their racial traits.

God dammit Jim, there's too many sliders!

After an unhealthy amount of time, I create Greebo. A 3″ tall alien with arms that reach the ground. I reasoned that if you have to stare at an arse for 100+ hours, it may aswell be green and hideous. (oh dear)
And then, with a bang, not a whimper, I entered the world.
I will not bore you of Greebo’s fate any longer, I’m in talks with BBC3 for a spin-off series. I will instead recount my thoughts on this ambitious game.
This article is by no means exhaustive, just merely some points important to me right now. Also, a lot of this is subject to change with updates. In the 2 week beta, there has been about 2GB of patching.

Lore-house:

I am not a huge Trekkie. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen my fair share of episodes of all series (apart from Enterprise because it was shite).
This game is set in the year 240

9, after all of the series and the movies. On one hand this is good because the storywriting is made easier without having to weave itself through the twisted timeline. This gives creative freedom, allowing Cryptic to create big events without muddying the waters. However on the downside it detracts from that very history is so heavy references. On the Earthbase is Admiral Sulu (ok the great-great-great-great grandchild of the orignial). There isn’t many other references to the days of yore, making a slightly more fallow experince.

The game reveals itself as an MMO quickly. Traditional MMO systems aren’t entirely suited to the Trek source material.

Example 1:
The game starts, you are in the ship’s bar. After a brief introduction of basic movement/interaction commands you are instructed to take the turbolift to see the captain.
Striding onto the bridge, the captain is sat in his chair, icon floating above his head, shouting out “help!” when you approach he calmly says “hello”.
Come on, this is Star Trek for Tribble’s sake! Why is the captain of the whole ship sat on the bridge shouting “help!”. He is the captain, he’s the one you go to for help.

I feel this totally broke immersion. Although this games uses the same engine as Champions Online (from now on refered to as CO), it also seems most of the systems involved are pulled directly and had a Starfleet skin wrapped around it.
It is functional, efficient and appropriate in the polarised good/evil world of CO, but 2 minutes of writing woud’ve made it Trek worthy.

Captain, the sub-space anomoly is creating icons above peoples heads.

Example 2:

After reassuring the captain you will complete his quest, you are sent to a ship in distress. The Borg has decimated the ship inside and out. In this heavily scripted tutorial (actually quite good, it takes about 2 hours) you must repel the borgs and make the ship safe. Basic phaser in hand you roam the corridors, dispatching 30 or so borg wherever they show their eye-pieced face. Not quite satisfied with this act of herocism, you are tasked to dispatch 3 damaged borg cubes in your starting ship.
Right, this is just wrong. Any casual viewer of Star Trek (refered to at ST from now on) know that the Borg are potentially the most dangerous force in the universe (apart from Q). One lone borg is a match for a while security team, but you can combat roll your way through the corridors zapping them with gay abandon. And then, in your small ship you blast a Borg Cube into pieces.

“But its the tutorial, its supposed to be easy.” I hear you cry. So why couldn’t they make it another race? It could be Orion sector pirates raiding ships, not the frikkin’ Borg.
I want to slap the taste out of Cryptic’s mouth with Riker’s beard.
(Notice how you never see Riker’s beard and Chuck Norris’ beard in the same place at the same time? Rumour has it the beards are one and the same. This is what gives Riker his power with the ladies.)

Set phasers to roundhouse kick!

Example 3:
Ah the trusty Phaser, set to stun it can knock out a target. Set it to kill and it will vapourise anyone standing infront of it.
Except in STO, here you must whittle down the target’s health bit by bit until his health bar depletes and he dies.

I feel bad for criticising this one. I understand that this damage system is a vital part of all MMOs to date. It would be very hard to implement a one-shot-kill system that would make any of the combat seem fair. I just felt that I couldn’t omit such a thing.

Assimilate this!

Okay, thats the lore out of the way. I am fully aware I sound exactly like Comic book guy from The Simpsons.
I think we can all agree that STO does not, and probably cannot fully replicate the Star Trek experience due to many factors. This game is an MMO first, and Star Trek second.
If you aspire to play this game just for the Star Trek content, you may walk away disappointed. However, if you were only just interested in the Trek part, go watch some Trek!
Apart from these initial clangers, it doesn’t fare too badly from here on out. Please don’t be put off and join me for part 2, where I’ll go through the gameplay.

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