Ok, we are into it now. And let me tell you as much as I have enjoyed the game so far it is beginning to get on the repetitive side. Star Trek Online is now focusing heavily on combat and less on what made Star Trek what it's been about, exploration and discovery. That is not to say Star Trek has not had war or battles but it's never been only about that.
Now to be fair what there is in Star Trek Online has been good. The space battles are the highlight without a doubt. The ground missions are still quite buggy but have potential. However almost all involve fighting someone for some reason or another. In fact there have been basically only two missions I have encountered that involved no combat. One was a diplomacy mission that was more like simple fetch quest that you talked to NPC then answer questions about what you talked about with each NPC and it was over. Took no more than five minutes total. The other mission involved just bringing supplies to a colony of some sort. Which I didn't have all of them and there was no actual way I could see of giving them the supplies they just seemed to get them somehow. So that was about it for non-combat related missions. No exploration or problem solving. Then back to space battles. Something just doesn't seem right about this. The battles are fun but not the only thing I was expecting from a Star Trek MMO. Sure some will say that is what you get from an MMO, battles that lead to leveling that lead to new equipment to upgrade for more battles later on. That isn't what an MMO simply has to be but rather has become expected to be. And this is where Star Trek should diverge from the pack. However I am going to give Cryptic the benefit of the doubt in the fact that not all of the games content has been unlocked for the beta yet. There is still more factions and more missions to be revealed and that includes the deep space ones that might give us an idea of what the badges of exploration are and where you get them. By the way, the badges of exploration seem to be some type of currency you can use to buy higher level equipment that I haven't yet come across yet.
Last time I mentioned I had recently gone up in rank and gotten a new ship and I want to get into that a little. Once you get to Lieutenant Commander rank you get access to the tier 2 ships. From that tier there are three types. Escorts, which are your main fighter types that are smaller, more maneuverable which means they have a smaller turning radius which is very handy since escorts are the only type that can equip the heavy cannons in the games and have such a small firing arc that you need to be able to turn quickly also you get an extra forward weapon slot but have a downside that they have weaker shields and less crew that can repair your hull if you receive damage. Also each ship gets an extra console slot for what type of ship it is and since this is the tactical type ship you get a second tactical console to equip for an extra offensive boost. Then there are the Cruisers, these are the big ships of the fleet and have very large crews so they can repair damage quicker and have larger engines so they have the strongest shields but they are hindered by a much slower turning radius so you have a hard time lining up torpedoes. You get a second engineering console slot and another rear weapon slot so it you are able to load up front and back torpedo launchers which is nice as you find yourself wishing you had one quite often in the first tier ship battles. Then there is the Science vessels. They are a middle size between the escort and cruiser ships and offer a better turning radius than the cruiser but lower firepower than either ship. They offer a more powerful set of shields and a bit more repair speed since they have a larger crew than the escort ships. They have access to more equipment though that uses your science training. I am not sure on this part as I chose a cruiser for my second tier as I wanted the classic ships from the movies and TV series. Each ship also gets a second slot for another bridge officer depending on its class. So escorts get a second tactical, cruisers get a second engineering, and science get a second science officer slot. Since your officers are your ships abilities you get more abilities that coincide with the class of ship. Also once you upgrade your officers to lieutenant now that you are lieutenant commander they open up their second tier skills. So now one of my engineering officers now has two abilities for the ship. For mine I gave him emergency power to shields second level that compliment his first level emergency power. This comes in handy when in fights as the second one can be used after a shorter cooldown time and recharge the shields during a fight. Thats another point to make is that your bridge officers can now go up in rank if you reach your next rank and with that it opens up their next skills slot to upgrade. So not only do you go up but everything you control does too which is a nice feature. However you need to use all your skill points when you get them as that somehow affects how you rank up as well. I am not sure how that works but I ranked up but my second tier skills were not available to me until I spent all my previous skill points on previous ones. Weird.
It was a good thing I got this new ship as I soon found myself needing it badly in a mission I was in earlier. One group of missions are known as fleet battles. Basically they are large group battles with set objectives to accomplish such as destroy a certain amount of ships or one particular ship. I went in with about fifteen other ships perhaps more it was hard to tell with so much going on. We started off simply enough by taking out groups of ships that appeared. However you never want to be first to encounter a group of enemy ships as they all focus on you immediately and tear away your shields pretty damn fast and blow you to hell in seconds. It is better to try and time your attack range with some other ships so you don't get overwhelmed. The exchange of fire is quite impressive as you weave in and out of ships trying to take down the other fleet. The real shit hit the fan when we had to take down a ship with a name. The rest of the ships were just by class but this named ship was a real beast. It was a dreadnought class of ship I had not seen before and it was a tough sunavabitch. It could easily handle more than ten of our ships attacking it all at once. But the real problem was that there was also a second dreadnought and several warships guarding this one and it was completely wrecking our shit as we all tried to take them out. We were getting slaughtered left and right. Took use quite a while to whittle those bastards down and finally get the main ship alone and even that took a lot of firepower. Now this ship was only around level 13 or so I would think if I go by his rank compared to mine. I can only imagine how powerful the later ships are that you will encounter.
That is another thing I quickly found out. The difficulty of the enemies seem to ramp up considerably at this level. After the fleet battle I decided to go do a mission in the Admiral Quinn line of missions. Quinn is one of the mission giving NPC that you get from hailing Starfleet by the way. I followed the mission and started to notice just how much stronger the enemies were which really kicked into high gear on the ground mission part where I and my away team have to board the USS Kirk and help them fight off Klingon invaders. And damn, that is where shit meets fan big time. I walk in and me and my away team are blown away in seconds. I mean just damn seconds. They blow away our personal shields and health meters so quickly we can barely react. I was just shocked to see such a difference in difficulty compared to the earlier part of the mission. I mean I could see the little red number 3 next to the enemies names that let me know they were three levels higher than me but I had fought the ships just outside before beaming aboard and they were 3 levels higher and not nearly as tough. For some reason the away missions seem to be far higher in difficulty. Mostly this is due to the rapid fire that some of the enemies have that just eat away health and shields.
Now to close out this posting I will say that as much as I enjoy what there is here I am still feeling unfulfilled for my Star Trek jones. Come on Cryptic, make every Trek fan happy and make sure the rest of your content is more in line with what we expect from Trek.