Star Trek Online PC Review - www.impulsegamer.com -

Gameplay 7.0
Graphics 7.5
Sound 8.0
Value 7.4
Developer: Cryptic Studios
Distributor:
Atari / Namco Bandai
Review Date:
February 2010
Reviewer:
Edwin Millheim

7.5


Star Trek Online

Game reviewed on an Alienware system

Check out Alienware at www.alienware.com

Space, the final frontier, bold words that invoke visions of exploration, adventure, seeking out new worlds and civilizations. To embody the essence of Star Trek...all of it's years of stories, of history...it's fan base. It's lightning in a bottle. Cryptic studios took on this daunting task with some mixed results. Do not let that opening statement detour you at all. There is a lot of good in the game and things that may need tweaking, but Cryptic plans on building on the Star Trek Online universe and making it progressively better.

The game captures some of what Star Trek is, and from the over all looks holds promise for so much more. Let's dive right in shall we?

At the start of it all, players are greeted with a character creation screen. Common with many of the MMO's out there. Some of the cooler things are the ability to drill it down and personalize the character a bit more. In costume, features, gender, facial feature, body type. A good thing so every one has some unique qualities, and not just a bunch of clones.

Once set up off you go . One thing that's important to mention here is the nice way the events and time line are justified, or more like legitimized. Thing's are a bit different here in this world of Star Trek Online. Historical events are some what different from some of the established time line of Trek, but what's wicked cool is that Cryptic had the class to have none other than Leonard Nimoy reprise his highly acclaimed role as Ambassador Spock... to explain how things came into being as they are now. The back story actually is perfect, tying the recent reboot of the franchise with the online game.

The star power does not end there, none other than Zachary Quinto lends his voice acting chops to the game. He plays an interactive hologram that assists the player onward in the first few acts of the games tutorial."Being a part of the Star Trek universe has been an incredible experience for me,” said Zachary Quinto from a Atari press release “Extending that experience into the gaming space - and sharing it with gamers and trek enthusiasts around the world - makes it even more exciting."

The tutorial and much of the game may put some off, it takes a hold the players hand and guide them along kind of approach. The guidance is a good balance though, because it would be more frustrating for a player, especially a new one, to be thrust into such a game and not have any direction on what to do at all. So the prompts are very much welcome.

From the start the player is thrust into conflict, The Borg are back and causing all kinds of chaos, worse they seem to be acting differently than any Borg previously encountered before. A good chunk of the opening events take place likes acts in a TV show, and also are a form of tutorial walking the player through the controls of the game, which is a good thing since they can seem rather daunting at first, but are thankfully rather simple and too the point in design. Players can get missions through several sources, some times some one may ask for assistance, or a Star Fleet Officer may assign you a mission. There are some forms of rescue missions thus far, but I am hoping for more actual exploration missions, not just warp to location destroy the bad guys, or beam to such and such a place... and kill the bad guys. More exploration , including more diplomatic missions would be welcome.... and they are there, you just have to play the game to find them.....it is a time of war , granted, but part of Trek has always been the whole exploration thing. Some missions may seem simplistic and repeat, but there are some twists here and there. A diplomatic mission I went on was not what it seemed. The events where mixed with some excitement and more ground based battles, and close to the edge of your teeth battle in space.... what a ride. These moments shine like a jewel in the galaxy, we can only hope for more.

One of the most enjoyable mission for me was a simple assist in some rescue in the middle of a space battle with the Borg. Flying the ship close to damaged ships and beaming it's surviving crew to my ship, and then taking them to the medical ship.

Later a missing ship mission also offers some promise. Will it be a simple they are broke down and out of communication? Will it be a rescue mission? There are some elements of the unknown here and that suits the adventure that is Star Trek Online perfectly. The opening of things with so much combat, worried this writer a little bit.... while it is understood jumping into an all out adventure is better than a boring tour of a star ship.

There is well over some 40 years of Star Trek to draw from, a simple space shooter in a Star Trek wrapper is not what we want to see. Cryptic sprinkles several other mission types through out, including diplomatic and rescue missions. We suspect there is a lot more to come...The much wanted diplomatic missions and rescue missions crop up and round things off pretty nicely. Getting such an ambitious game up and live is just the first hurdle. Star Trek Online in it's many nuances has a lot to offer and for just starting out, a surprisingly fun and at times engaging game.

As an MMO game it feels at times, oddly like a solo game. Even with other players around you in a space battle, they are on their own ships and you , yours. The multi-player part of things will shine even more when the real ROLE players latch onto the game. If we have to even go into and explain ROLE playing as apposed to ROLL playing, then you just don't get it.

I did have a couple of offers to join a team, so things are getting even more interesting with the gamers themselves taking full advantage of the interactive role playing aspects of the game. So interaction is there, I suspect being just after the cusp of being so new, that players are trying to get their space legs on their own first.

Moving along through missions and completing them, your character gains experience that can be spent towards improving the characters abilities. Gaining experience also equates to gains in new rank, each rank has a certain amount of grades...as the character gains ranks and accomplices more mission successes, they also have access and gain bridge crew. Which in turn has to be advanced and trained by you. It's all very hands on and an enjoyable experience. It's nice to have a hand in the advancement of your officers.

Advancing through missions also entails gathering resources.

There is also the ability to scan areas, from either ship sensors or on away missions using your handy tricorder to scan and collect resources. Progressing through the game, the player comes across anomalies, a quick scan and they can pick them up and then in turn use the resources to get new items to upgrade the character, the crew and the ship. Some items found actually kind of throw me out of the Star Trek moment, I am sure they are some Trek fan obscure reference, but the last thing I want to find after blasting a Klingon warrior is Banana Pancakes.

Combat in the game has an interesting mix, and again, it could not have been easy for Cryptic to find such an easy choice on how combat would play out. The space battle mechanics are surprisingly well done and lends itself very well to the over all Star Trek experience. Balancing shields and even trying to maneuver to keep stronger shields towards the enemy, and weaker or damaged shields protected. All the while trying to damage and punch through their shields.

The ground based, or away missions combat are more of dodge and fire mechanics or stand and or crouch and fire away. Other than stepping behind something yourself, there is no take cover command so players have to be mindful there. Up close and personal there is the option of bashing or delivering a well placed palm strike to an opponent. This can have the effect of knocking them back and giving the player some breathing room for a few moments. Sometimes from phaser fire or melee attacks an opponent can become stunned for a few moments...take full advantage of it and finish them off. The ground combat is not as satisfying as the ship to ship battles at this point. Space battles start out pretty easy and can lull the player into feeling that it is overly simplistic and no real challenge. As the characters level increases so too does the ship combat, and the challenges.

Choosing your ships weapons and equipment and even your own Bridge Officers is well done. Some thought went behind the whole process and that shines through.

Warping through the expanses of space is accomplished by going through sectors. Using a sector or to use the well known Trek term Quadrant map, you first go at impulse speed towards either object or sector markers. The classic ship warping out animation flashes on screen and then a load screen precedes the new area loading. Each block or sector is divided into “Instances”, so if your playing with a bunch of friends you may not always warp into the same instance. This may be to assist in keeping the server from overloading so, while a trade off, it's understood why it's this way.

While at the time it is not the perfect Star Trek game, it's not a bad start. There are fun moments even with some of the silly ones that rip you from the moment. We will continue to report on Star Trek Online over time as it progresses and grows and adds new things.

Even as I was finishing up some of the gaming for this article Atari and Cryptic released a new Borg Hub, and a bunch of new assets to go along with it. The Borg update is the first of many planned post launch content packages that Cryptic will be releasing. This and other episodes will be for high level players. This Borg Hub release are of course Borg themed and reveals what happened within the Borg civilization between the time of Star Trek : Nemesis and the year 2409. (2409 is the year that Star Trek Online takes place.)

Players can get the chance to face the Borg Queen herself, but they have to first get to her. Upcoming episodes include :
The Cure - A planet has been completely taken over by the Borg. Fight them for control of the planet.

Khitomer Accord - Travel back in time and uncover and participate in the events that led to the release of old Borg you encountered in the Tutorial Episode.

Into the Hive - Track down a missing Starfleet captain and come face to face with the new Borg Queen.

Visuals and sounds are a mix, while not all visuals are perhaps what some would expect, some areas lack any real detail, the trade off for keeping acceptable frame rates and an online world moving along with out ungodly lag and crashes. Sure it would be easy to whine about 'Oh they need to optimize blah blah blah, for those that whine.... send your applications into Cryptic since it's so easy and get a job there and fix it yourself. Sounds are awesome, from phaser and photon firing... really immerses the player in the gaming world.

My opinion is...I like what I see thus far, Cryptic has some tweaks to do perhaps and more content coming... but it's a good start. I look forward to continuing coverage for Star Trek Online. We measure so much in a game, but the most important is the fun factor...is it fun? I enjoy the hell out of myself when I am trying the game out for these articles. So there is some fun there. Try it out, you be your own judge, if our articles assist you to even try a game that you may not have even tried and you find you enjoy it....we have done our jobs. Warp speed my fellow Impulse Gamers.... warp speed.

Have fun, play games
Edwin Millheim

 






 
 



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