One year ago Cryptic introduced Star Trek Online live to the world. With the game being built on a franchise as rich as Star Trek there was bound to be a few bumps in the road, no one however expected the off road ride this game initial took. In 30+ years of computer gaming I can honestly say I have never before seen a game garner such a level of love/hate. There was no middle ground and trying to stand it meant flame wars on many forums.
I myself was subject to many of those flames when I said a year ago that, “While STO is a good game is not a great game.” However that was a year ago and the very nature of MMOs means that it will grow and evolve over time. So one year later what has become of Star Trek Online?
Well first the premise of the game itself has remained solid, set in a period of around 2409 (30 years after the movie Nemesis) the game is firmly in the original time line, not going the direction of the new Star Trek. The Federation is at war, with everyone it seems. The Klingons have built a coalition of races and has gone back to it’s aggressive roots. The Romulan Empire is in chaos after losing their home world, the Cardassians are actually quiet but a splinter group has begun to cause trouble, the Undine (Species 8472) has openly engaged in hostilities and various other hotspots are everywhere. This is not a time of peace but of turmoil for the Federation.
It is against this backdrop that your character is thrust into Star Fleet and command of a starship. When I first reviewed this game I was playing a character that was basically myself, I wanted to feel like I was living the dream as it where. Well that is still the case, though I have been through a few characters over this year my primary is still me, though now an Engineering officer and proud member of the 3rd Fleet.
Fleets in STO are like guilds in various games or corporations in EVE Online, they are a social group in game that work together to enjoy the game. It is possible for someone to literally find any combination of characteristics to the various fleets. They range from uber-military style, the role play and super casual, plus of course everything in-between. I would advise anyone looking for a fleet to play with to take their time. Some of the recruiters out there are slick and will get you in a fleet before you know it only to find that it is not what you are looking for. Check around and be picky.
While the premise of the game has not changed the feel definitely has. The game now feels more polished, more completed than it did on release. While some areas such as exploration and ground combat still need work, other areas have begun to come into their own. The crafting system that before was overly simplistic has now evolved into a decent system that requires a bit more thought and effort but also makes more sense and has better options.
A diplomatic system has been put into the game. It is still a little bare but I would think we will begin to see it beefed up. Doing the diplomatic missions has the nice benefit of allowing you transwarp capabilities to various star systems in the game, making travel easier.
One of the complaints I had with the release of the game was during movement in sector space the game mechanics felt like they where getting in the way of the immersion. At the time sector space was filled with lines and grids, however Cryptic heard that complaint and the result is stunning. The shot above is in Sector space and trust me when I say down left and right, no lines.
The ship in the shot above is an Excelsior Class, taken from the early movies and Next Generation series. Other ships have been added as well such as the Nebula Class, a dreadnaught and numerous ships for the Klingons.
Speaking of Klingons, one of the complaints early in the game was lack of Klingon content, this is changing fast with the Klingons still not up with the Federation but nicely improved over the release.
One of the biggest changes though is the addition of the Featured Episodes. The idea is that an series is announced and then once a week for 5 weeks a new mission is posted in game, all part of the series. These episodes have a very good storyline to them and the game play is just plain fun. I do not think anyone has ever taken this kind of content approach before and Cryptic has done it well. The result is a literal buzz in the STO community as the day of release approaches and then excitement as we await the next installment.
There are a lot of other changes on the way as we discuss in the interview linked below but for now I want to look at STO as it is today.
In a years time the team at Cryptic has managed to take a game that was decent it grow leaps and bounds. The game has more depth, more excitement within it’s community and realized a lot of the potential we spoke of in the first review. The STO team is to be congratulated for living up to Captain Montgomery Scotts definition of Miracle Workers.
With that in mind I have to say that STO is at the precipice of being a GREAT game. With the direction the game is going I have no doubt they will achieve greatness but they must stay the course just a little longer.
As the game stands today however I have no issue with telling any MMO player, particularly anyone that likes Star Trek that this game is a MUST BUY! Future looks bright, the ideas ambitious and the people at Cryptic seem passionate about the future of Star Trek Online.
If you will excuse me now the USS Adventure is waiting for me to beam up before we head out. We recently received an assignment from Star Fleet to head for the Quadra Sigma system and investigate reports of a Borg fleet massing. The future of the Federation could be at stake…
Crisler to USS Adventure, one to beam up.
Interview with Daniel Stahl of Cryptic, Aired 30 January 2011