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Star Trek Online Impressions Finale: The Voyage Home


Ok, so the beta is over and the dust has settled. As of writing this its been a couple days since the last time I played. I was collecting my thoughts on the matter and looking back at what I had experienced in the Star Trek Online world. I will try to summarize my thoughts and opinions that have accumulated up to this point.

The game's presentation is top notch. They nailed the atmosphere of Star Trek wonderfully. From the opening menus to the characters to the world your character inhabits its easily recognizable as the Star Trek universe. Every sound, every wall panel, every flip of a tricorder to scan something immerses you in that mindset of being there. The details do not only go into the window dressing but into the stories and missions as well. You not only meet some characters from the Trek universe but get to go on missions with them. They tell you bits of their back story that you might already know being a Trek fan and new information that is all new and expands the universe even more. I got a major kick out of Leonard Nimoy having some voice over work in this game and nostalgia flooded over me in a nice warm wave. Those touches to a franchise so ingrained in our culture really give it some appeal there.

Now for the gameplay there is really two games here. The starship portions, of which there is a large majority of, and the ground missions. As I have said before the starship battles are very well done here. The backdrop is meticulously detailed with asteroids, gaseous nebula, planets, moons, ship debris, and all manner of starstuff to fill the vacuum of space. The lighting effects really work well here as phasers, disruptors, torpedoes and the like act as active light sources that reflect off ship hulls and whatever else is nearby. The battles in space feel tough as your ship takes a pounding from barrages of beams and torpedoes hammering at your shields. You almost feel each impact and can imagine your little guys on the bridge being tossed around in true Trek fashion as they battle Klingons. A good sound system really brings it all together as with surround sound you can hear the direction of fire and explosions. The closer you zoom into the action the louder it gets. Just try to get over the fact of no sound in space and you will enjoy the hell out of it.

Then there is the ground missions. This is an entirely different animal. If you are alone you control your away team of whoever your bridge officers are that you selected to go with you. Thankfully the ally AI for your team is very well done. They know when to heal and when to buff. They do not often screw up and many times will save your ass if you get incapacitated. The weapons and armors you get throughout the game are typical of an MMO. Always seeking out the next best thing. But you also have to keep in mind your NPC team. Keeping them decked out as well as yourself will be key to this game. As for the ground missions themselves there is a fair amount of combat involved here too. Although the enemy AI can be rather dull witted it makes up for it in sheer strength. Very few pushovers when it comes to the NPC enemies. In fact many of them can be real tough mofos and teach you about the virtues of dodge rolling really fast. A alternative to fighting missions there are some talk to NPC type missions. Where you try to solve things with words and scanning things. These were rather rare in the beta I played. I hope that they flesh out more of these missions to make them more in depth in the full release. The actual mechanics of movement and combat are fairly straightforward and simple to pick up. No big surprises here. Your team has their own abilities as well that you can activate or they will themselves. As of the beta it seems you get a maximum of 4 away team members. However if you invite another player into your team they will replace an NPC team member at random. This was a bit of a gripe as if they replaced a Science officer and there were no others then there would be no one that could heal in the team making it rougher going. In space battles it doesn't usually matter who joins your team but on ground missions the setup needs a bit more strategy.

The missions structures are defined by who gives them. There are simple ones such as kill x number of enemies in y location. Another type is to explore a portion of the galaxy map. Usually this involves flying around in a space until certain anomalies appear and you enter a system for a random encounter of some kind. It can involve fighting or scanning objects or away missions that involve fighting or bringing supplies to colonists. There are also fleet action missions. This involves you and other players completing goals in large scale battles against enemy fleets. These are rather fun in the sheer scale of them. Then there are the story based missions. These usually progress the main story of the MMO forward. And this is where you usually run into characters from the Trek universe. Homage is paid to the franchise in these missions very often. From nods to characters, episodes, stories, or just small details. It's all there for you to explore and interact with. Settings in the Trek universe are well thought out and interesting to visit. But this is more enjoyable for a fan of the series and not so much a newcomer. Though they make it all interesting enough that even a newcomer would find it interesting. Or at least that is the hope here.

Overall the game is a good representation of Star Trek but still needs more work to truly capture the heart of the franchise. More focus is on battles rather than exploration and diplomacy that made up more of the majority of the movies and shows. Perhaps the full retail will have more emphasis on these. But as this is an MMO they probably wanted to appeal to a wider audience. The gameplay is fairly solid and they have worked out a lot of the initial bugs that were hindering the game up to this point. Also they improved the interface system and NPC system as well. Who is to say what other changes will come about once the game is fully released.

My final thoughts is that this is a good game and has a lot of potential. During the beta there were many enthusiastic players to meet and join up with for all sorts of missions so I think the community is already in place coming out of the gate which is important. For now all I can say is that if you are going to get this game and are a fan of Star Trek you will enjoy yourself. I know I did.
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About Bigbyone of us since 12:12 AM on 07.19.2008

Oh, homicidal tendencies, where would I be without you?

A gaming enthusiast, (don't you love that word?), with a dabbling in everything. Also, a bit of an ahole, or rather, a large one in fact. But don't mind that, as I have some redeeming qualities, I just haven't figured them out yet. To hit me up I have some contact info here.

Emails: [email protected]
PSN: Bigby_G
Live: Bigby G Wolf
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Feel free to harass me at your leisure, as I feed on others ire and disdain. Soon enough I'll have this little profile all pretty like so you can relax your eyes by looking at it.

For now, I will leave you with some likes so you know what to expect should you encounter me in the wild. Movies (no particular genre, whatever I fancy, the best movie ever of course is Ghostbusters) Books, (yeah, I read, suprised?) Games, (if you just know figured that out, wtf are you even doing here), Music (no, not a ton, nor do I know band names and histories, so don't ask), Comics, (graphic novels, plz), Computers, Gadgets, Science, Your mom.
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