Star Trekkin’, across the blogoverse..
I’m a Trekkie… sorta. I grew up on reruns of The Original Series, loved the later seasons of The Next Generation, tolerated Deep Space 9 until it got really good, laughed at Voyager (though “Timeless” is one of my favorite episodes across all ‘Treks) and had an allergic reaction to Enterprise. I disavow knowledge of the J. J. Abrams production.
When Cryptic announced Star Trek Online, I was tentatively curious. I figured after the ENT era, the IP was pretty much gutted anyway, so I didn’t expect anything like the classic (surprisingly good) adventure game Star Trek 25th Anniversary. (Hey, GOG.com, when do we get that one?) When it was noted that there would be tanks, healers and DPS roles in ‘Trek combat, I shook my head and shrugged. When it was announced that it would require a subscription, I gave up.
…When Steam had a sale and offered the game with 30 days of play for $3.something, I buckled and bought it. Longasc has been enthusiastic about the game for a while, and I guess it rubbed off. (Articles from Tipa and Blue Kae have been good reminders, too. I’m sure there are others I’ve read, so please forgive me for not remembering who wrote them at the moment.)
And, y’know… it’s a game that I would buy happily as an offline game. It’s a game that I’ll play if/when it goes F2P. I still hate subscriptions, but the game itself, well… I like it. More than I thought I would, actually.
Interestingly, it plays a bit like Dungeons and Dragons Online in my mind, in that a lot of the content is mission-based, effectively little encapsulated instanced stories, stitched together with an overarching shared space. (Conveniently monetizable via selling content in mission packs, not unlike DDO or Wizard 101, while we’re at it…) It doesn’t play like a MMO in the sense that anyone can bother you wherever you are (instanced raiding and dungeoneering aside). It’s more like a giant shared interstellar space lobby with nuggets of story to play alone or with friends. The thing is, that works perfectly for the ‘Trek IP, what with the theme of missions and “episodes”. The quasi-military nature of Starfleet in a time of interstellar war makes mission-based play work really well. (It makes me wish the Stargate MMO hadn’t folded; that’s another game that would have been perfect for mission-based play.)
Of course it’s silly in the way all MMOs are silly, in that the bad guys respawn for the next player, wars never end, combat is way too prevalent, and the economy is wonky. Animations are weird, the Uncanny Valley causes a few stumbles, the Admiral stands on his chair, and I’m still not sure how we got Spock’s context-relevant voiceovers if he’s stuck in Abrams’verse. Character development is a bit unclear as to what really matters down the line (yeah, there are wikis, but the in-game descriptions aren’t terribly helpful) and respeccing costs real money. The item shop layered on top of a sub is a dumb cash grab. The fact that I had to officially register for a subscription (PayPal or credit card) just to gain access to the thirty days that come with the box still annoys me, especially with all the hacking going on lately. The Klingon war declaration is a bit… forced, but hey, I guess playing as Klingons was more appealing than playing as Romulans if players didn’t want to be good little Federationistas. It’s still just a little rough around the edges in a lot of little ways, but then, what MMO isn’t?
It’s not a perfect game, but I still like it. I have fun playing it, and in the end, that’s the important part.
The sounds are great, the ambiance feels Trekkish, the visuals are sufficiently Okudaish, and the little nods to history and canon are like a bunch of easter eggs for an attentive nerd, er, fan. (I even got an ENT reference… for shame.) Space combat is great fun and ground combat is pretty good. The incidental Scienceish objectives (go scan that anomaly!) are a nice nod to the exploration mandate of Starfleet… though I wish there were more of that. (Yes, I’m playing a Science officer… which is ostensibly a Healer, but whatever, I’m going to be the best Spock Dax I can be.) Conveniences like remote contact with quest, er, mission-givers makes sense, as Starfleet really can’t function if everyone had to come home to Earth to turn in personal reports.
I’m sure that true blue diehard fans have quibbles with the game, and I’m sure many MMO devotees don’t like its departures from the DIKU mold. In the end, though, taken for what it is, a big ol’ Star Trek multiplayer game, it’s been my experience that there’s plenty of fun there to make it worth playing.
…at least for the 30 days.