Last night and well into the night and early morning I was enjoying Star Trek Online. And here I will share with you what I experienced there. I will try and update sporadically on my experience and how I feel about it personally throughout the beta. This is not so much a review as it is a observational memo. If that isn't what it's called well to hell with it, it is now.
First off this game is drenched in Star Trek. From the opening screens to the character creation to the space battles it feels, plays, controls, sounds, and smells like Star Trek. You never feel that this is some generic space game. The aesthetic and design of everything is true to the Trekverse. However they have made it more streamlined and updated a good deal of the uniforms. However you have the option to start with to wear the TNG uniform as well as the newer stuff which is a nice touch.
The character creation is fairly through, you go through race, gender, size, skin colors, facial scars, hair, facial geometry as in depth and width, uniform colors and type and then finally choosing your track of either Engineer, Tactical, or Science. The races only really matter in look and some starting stats. Such as Betazoid have either empathic or telepathic abilities though it only really affects some away mission type stats. I chose Human as it seemed a good bet to just go with what you know. Klingon as I have been told you can unlock later on although I have no idea if the leveling up is from PVP or not though that seems to be the strong indication. As part of the Federation you don't level you gain rank. You start out as Lieutenant and work your way up. You do control your own ship but are not Captain rank right away.
The game proper starts you out straight into a large battle with the Borg. The intro area is narrated by Zachary Quinto I am told and it is a welcome help as you quickly pick up the movement and interaction functions. It is pretty standard fare for an MMO. You have your mouse to interact with objects and people or you can use the tab key and you can move items to your action bar to use with a number key. You start out with a hand phaser to fight Borg that have beamed onto the ship you are trying to rescue. The combat is fairly fast paced and yet simple. You target your enemy with either a mouse or the tab key and use your attack function. However it is a bit different in that you can actually dodge incoming attacks. There is a dodge roll you can execute by double tapping the movement key in the direction you want. Brilliant! There is also a melee attack you can use when enemies get too close or you want to get up close and personal. It smacks the enemies and tosses them back onto the ground which is nice. Smacking a Borg in the face is very satisfying. There is a flanking damage multiplier in the game so you can get behind your enemy for some fast damage spikes. You don't have to stand there and just soak up damage as you have a personal shield similar to Borderlands that recharges. However if you have an Engineer with you or you are one yourself you have the ability to recharge the shield in a hurry using a tricorder. For health you can pick up hyposprays or food off enemies or lockers to recharge your health or if you are a Science officer or have one it can recharge your health. Items are dropped off enemies in standard fashion and can be equipped. Nothing too surprising there.
Once you leave the rescue ship you get to take control of your own ship and get to play with that. The starter ship differs depending on what track you choose. I got a Miranda class vessel similar to the one in Wrath of Khan that Khan took over. It maneuvers through a very gorgeous rendition of deep space that Cryptic has designed. Space is nowhere near empty as you move around asteroids, debris from destroyed ships, allies, enemies, and a shitload of other obstacles. The backdrop of space is well done as gaseous nebulae bring color to the dark and phaser and disruptor beams lance out in a patchwork of light to pound onto shields. Your shields are vital to the space combat as you have four quadrants that need to be kept up or leave your hull vulnerable to attack. Once your ship's health reaches zero you are blown to billions of little bits in a fireball. Respawning seems to have no penalty as I have seen but I will keep looking into it. You always appear right back where you started from in the sector or map so it's not a major problem. To keep your shields from going down too fast you want to move about to keep stronger shields facing the enemy to spread the damage around. Your shields regenerate over time so you need to keep moving and strafing the enemy. Phasers are used to weaken shields while torpedoes are fired once they are down to damage the hull directly. You have forward and rear weapons so you can always be firing no matter if you are coming or going. Movement of your ship is controlled by the WASD keys as well or you can hold down both mouse buttons and manually maneuver the ship if you wish. All of these can be upgraded later on as you gain merits to buy new equipment.
Merits take the place of money in the Federation and you earn said merits by either selling items you come across in the game or gained from completing missions given to you by superiors. You didn't think it was going to be easy to get shit did you? Of course not this is an MMO after all what would you do with your time if it weren't for getting new stuff? That in itself is a reflection on life, getting new stuff to keep it interesting. But I digress.
You get crew members too, mostly you work on your bridge officers who offer abilities not only on ground missions but in space battles too. You can upgrade their abilities and get new officers if you so choose as you progress and gain new points to spend on them. During ground missions they use various abilities such as medical tricorders, grenades, melee abilities, shield recharges, buffs and debuffs, etc. In space they can regenerate shields faster or overload phaser banks for more power. They are vital to your continued progress so choose them well.
So far the experience is what I was hoping for. The space battles feel epic and intense, the ground missions are interesting and even frantic at times. Combat feels good and not cheap or stale as you dodge all over the place avoiding fire. I will update with more as I go further in and get a better feel for it but I hope you get a good idea of what to expect should you try it out for yourself.
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