“Space...the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise…” Any trekkie knows these words by heart. The original Star Trek series celebrated its Golden Anniversary this week – 50 years since Captain James T. Kirk and his crew set out to explore that final frontier. While the show lasted a mere three years, Gene Roddenberry’s brainchild survived and spread its influence for decades through multiple iterations of the franchise. One of those iterations is Star Trek Online, a Cryptic Studios developed MMORPG that has seen a lot of popularity on PC since its debut in 2010. The free-to-play title has now made the jump to consoles, so what can gamers expect from the latest trek into space?
As the game begins, the galaxy is going to hell in a hand basket, as the expression goes. Set 30 years after the original Star Trek, the current woes of the galaxy are succinctly explained by a most trusted source - Mr. Spock - who narrates the game's opening. The Romulans have lost their home world and resent other races as they wander through space. The Klingons are on the warpath, happiest when they’re fighting. Not only does Star Fleet have to deal with these old enemies, but the Borg are making incursions into the solar system, as well, prompting immediate action as they search for new bodies to add to their collective. Honestly, things aren’t going well at all, and this is where you come in – a fresh-faced cadet amidst all of the chaos.
As you begin, you’ll be asked to choose the faction that you wish to join: Federation, Romulan, or Klingon. You will then choose which species in that faction you wish to be. You have the most choices among Federation members, the fewest with the Romulans, who don’t appear to have any friends. After choosing your species, you then customize your character and it is in this area that Star Trek Online truly shines. You have the option of choosing a pre-made character and then tweaking it with new hair, eyes, and uniform to make it your own, or you can go into the Advanced Customization option and build your character from scratch. Consoles have seen some disappointing customization options, even in magnificent games like Skyrim and Mass Effect. Star Trek Online gives you a breathtaking amount of customization flexibility, making it a genuinely personal experience to create your character in whatever way you wish. One word of warning, however -- make sure that your character has at least three letters in his or her name or the character customization will fail, which is quite frustrating if you’ve spent an hour making the perfect character.
Choose your faction.
Another thing the game does very well is attention to detail, especially as it relates to the Star Trek universe. Using Leonard Nimoy's voice to start the game immediately pulls players in, or at least anyone who is familiar with Spock, but then who doesn't know Spock? One of the characters that is available among the allies of the Klingons is a Gorn, which is quite an obscure species. It made a single appearance in the original series, but it was one that was very memorable as it was pitted against Captain Kirk in an arena-type setting, Kirk fighting for his life as his crew watched helplessly from above. While various games and cartoons have different versions of Gorns, here we see the original from the series itself. These extra touches by the game's developers not only serve as a fitting tribute to the franchise but also bring a smile to fans' faces.
Once your character is ready, you will enter the tutorial phase. If you choose the Federation, you will find yourself at Star Fleet Academy on graduation day. You will be given simple, straightforward tasks to complete that will serve to teach the basic controls, such as talking, sprinting, interacting with objects, using a weapon, etc. In this aspect, the game dims considerably from the wonderful customization section. Land battles aren't that exciting; the missions feel very average and the controls feel clumsy, especially when trying to handle a weapon. The instructions say to use to equip your weapon, but this doesn’t work properly, which is a real pain when you’re being targeted by a Klingon. Manipulating and together seems to do the trick. Character movement is also a bit stiff, almost wooden at times, giving missions a clunky feeling even if the game runs smoothly for the most part.
The original Gorn
Once you have returned to Star Fleet, you’re ready to begin the real adventure. You will pick up missions from talking to various people you meet. It’s up to you in which direction to go first but this is another area that could use some improvement. Missions aren’t organized in such a way that they're easy to follow, making it a chore to navigate to a particular destination. Upon entering the first ship, you become part of the crew. Before being deployed, you choose the job that you want: Tactical Officer, Science Officer, or Engineer. The three categories have distinctly different tasks. As Tactical Officer, your primary focus is offense; Science Officers are defense and healing; Engineers are more about communication and improving the ship. All three have a place on the bridge.
When you're in your own ship, you can navigate wherever you wish and engage in space battles as you meet hostile ships. Space battle is visually interesting and you can be surrounded by enemies both horizontally and vertically, adding that 3D sense of flight. When shooting your phasers, attack is instantaneous since lasers move so quickly. Photon torpedoes, however, move at a comparative snail's pace as they travel the distance between ships, adding a nice touch of "realism". Unfortunately, aiming is a problem. You can close the distance with an enemy ship and be facing it dead-on, but when you fire your weapon it will auto-aim at a ship at the edge of the screen, requiring you to turn and face an enemy that might not be your most immediate problem.
Now that's a ship.
The positive side to exploring and completing missions is that more of the beautiful customization system becomes available, this time for your ship. As you travel through the galaxy and gain experience and in-game credits, you can make improvements to your ship in any number of ways. Again, the options available are excellent. Of course, like most MMORPGs, you can do this much sooner if you're willing to use real money.
The achievements for the game seem fair enough. Given that most of them see you playing through a particular story arc, these will take a good bit of time since one story arc can incorporate many missions. There are also achievements for leveling up your character and exploring the lore of different races, which adds another dimension to one's exploring of the galaxy. It’s very easy to get sidetracked with customization, but this is a lot of fun in itself, so how quickly one starts tackling the achievements is entirely up to the player.
SummaryStar Trek Online is a nice addition to the Star Trek family. Despite some awkward controls and less-than-exciting missions, the game gives a loving nod to the Star Trek universe. Its fine eye for detail in the Star Trek mythos and its excellent customization options add an extra dimension of depth to what would otherwise have been a hum-drum game. For non-fans of Star Trek, the game could begin to pall rather quickly, but for trekkies the game is well worth the ride.
- Great customization system
- Attention to detail
- Pretty space effects
- Clumsy controls
- Run-of-the mill missions
- Clunky land movement
EthicsThe reviewer spent about 11 hours in space and making characters, picking up only 1 of the game's 36 achievements. An Xbox One code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.
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