I Boldly Went…then it crashed

Captain’s Log, Supplemental:

If you haven’t yet heard Cryptic Studios has just launched the Open Beta for Star Trek Online. After reading several reviews and thoughts on the subject, and being a closet Trekkie from years gone by, I decided I’d take the plunge.

Now, this isn’t a truly “open” beta, as you must first have a key to get in. Luckily for me I waltzed over to Ten Ton Hammer and snagged one. I then spent about 4 hours downloading the 7+ GB install package (using BitTorrent btw, I highly recommend) and then…there it sat.

I was on the edge to begin with, as I’ve heard lots of negative things so far and I really didn’t want to set myself up for disappointment. But finally this morning I felt compelled enough to fire up STO and see for myself.

The installation went quite smooth, no real problems there. When the client finally loaded I jumped directly into character creation. For the most part I enjoyed this stage and had only a few issues with it. You can tweak nearly all areas of your character, but nothing to the extreme. When I adjusted, for example, the width of my nostrils it was hard to tell too much of a difference no matter how far I dragged the slider in either direction. I guess it might make a difference if you exaggerated every slider possible, but for the most part you can never get too extreme, just subtle changes. Finally, the color selection was pretty vast/tacky for my tastes as the choices were from a giant grid of colors ranging the spectrum, but they never felt natural once applied. Anyways, just some minor details.

In the end I chose a Human: William English “Bulldog” McQueen

William English "Bulldog" McQueen

Once that was finished you found yourself aboard a starship being attacked by The Borg. The initial tutorial consisted of getting you familiar with character movement and object interaction, standard stuff for any gamer used to the genre. Overall I felt the game was a bit “sluggish” if you will. Player actions and movements were just subtly delayed and didn’t feel immediate. I’m comparing my experience to World of Warcraft and therein I always felt everything was snappy, not a huge knock on STO but one nonetheless.

The starting tutorial area is instanced, so you will see your fair share of other players, mostly named XXUberDudeXX or HelloKittyVII or whatever nonsense, but it didn’t feel too over crowded. Eventually you complete the ‘run-around’ portion and advance to the starship control section. I quite enjoyed this stage, though it’s nothing like EVE, again slow, deliberate movements and actions of your ship…but ultimately it worked. The final stage of the tutorial is an ‘Away Team’ mission where you attempt to learn to control your NPC party members and more advanced combat controls.

My major problem with the tutorial, mainly the ship control and away team sections, was that the majority of features and UI were not explained and felt clunky. There is a narrator and for the most part you can get by with self discovery, but it should be smoother than that. If they added giant arrows or made sections of the UI flash that would be a great start, but for the most part nothing is explained fully and you just have to “wing it”. It took me a few minutes to figure out why my away team wasn’t following me…turns out they were set at a ‘rally point’ and I couldn’t figure out how to ‘un-rally’ them.

Once the tutorial was finished, and you were back at Earth, you could begin to play with the character skills, missions & limited ship creation. There were several NPCs that attempted to explain these various activities, but again I think they could do a bit better job of in-depth descriptions. Perhaps I’m just rusty, because again if you play with them enough it makes sense, but there is no clear cut advancement outline. What skills depend on other skills, etc.?

Eventually I took on my first mission which was to find a lost freighter, which entailed heading out to a space map which outlines the various systems. Again, I was a bit lost on what and how to do anything. Turns out the freighter was there on the map, but actually warping to it involved maneuvering close enough to the object on the map to then interact with it. Once you dropped out of warp you had to kill a few ruffian ships and then transport down to the ship to help. At this stage of the mission, the difficulty seemed to ramp up substantially and I found myself dead, or ‘incapacitated’. A quick re-spawn found myself attempting the mission stage over again, but in the heat of battle the server crashed and here I am writing this review.

So all in all, I’d say I enjoyed my time with Starfleet. I understand that this is still a beta and things will be fixed/improved, and I will continue to enjoy the beta and who knows, I might even subscribe. Ultimately STO did an amazing job of making you feel a part of the Star Trek world, from the environments, sounds & interactions, it just felt Trekkie to me, which is a good thing. There were some subtle issues with the speed and interaction of the client (I had to turn lots of the video settings down to make the game playable, even though my video card can easily handle the maxed out settings), but again this is a beta and those are to be expected.

Ultimately I think the success of the game is going to be it’s depth. I didn’t see any semblance of a player economy or trade skills, but again they might be there and I just couldn’t figure it out or being that the server is still in its infancy those portions aren’t flushed out yet. I would hope large scale fleet encounters and player battles are possible (ah la EVE Online), but I didn’t get the feel that was part of STO. So I can see this being a fun escape during breaks from more permanent commitments (i.e. – WoW, EVE, etc.), but I’m still unsure of it’s staying power.

We’ll see how the rest of the beta unfolds!

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2 Responses to I Boldly Went…then it crashed

  1. Chris says:

    im in too and about the same review, nasty bug they cnat seem to fix is being a human floating in space, or a space ship inside a station moving around like a person very disturbing….

    PVP matches are insane took me 40 minutes to get into 1 and the create queue one doesnt work, i hate the fact that everything is instanced, it made it feel like champions or something.

    No theirs no massive fleet combat, theirs no over-arching effect to your actions, and theirs no player run economy all of which left me depressed, it just feels very arcady. And un thrilling.

    Ill play it for the beta just to get a feeling for it, the battle system is nice and i like the control of your systems shields etc, and the fact that weapons have arcs, something i really really wish eve would add, to make engagements more skill based.

    But again STO is just a stock generic instance based MMO with a star trek face lift to be honest. It’s a bit addictive but its pretty boring at the same time i like to orbit and kill ships, it feels fun managing all the systems, but overall it feels useless, without a player run economy or goals, or trade, or manufacturing…

    I mean if this was run off of eves engine and the federation or klingons could actually expand their empires etc, like nullsec in eve, then it’d be wicked, but as its basically just instanced PVP and instanced PVE, it wont happen, its at best a stop in and shoot some klingons then go back to eve affair.

    • Facepalm says:

      I completely agree. There is so much that, if added, would make this game rock! Like large scale combat, trade skills, space expansion, etc.. If they could make you feel like part of the war, taking systems, defending, etc., then they’d have it. But you’re right, it feels like a generic MMO with a Star Trek face lift. I hope they can improve upon it because I am enjoying the basics so far.

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