Game Review: Star Trek Online

Published on Jan 19, 2010 Games Review « Prev Next »

Star Trek Online Review
Star Trek Online Review

Firstly I want to say that I personally think it’s extremely hard to judge a game entirely by the first 15 levels.. Any MMO to date that one cares to name changes drastically as you play across the level range and to judge that game by the first couple levels is simply foolish. You haven’t experienced the whole of the game.. So I’m going to post my review about it, but I want you to keep in mind that there are going to be a lot of things I simply haven’t done yet..

Also, there are a lot of people on the forums bashing the game for one reason or another, some reasons are valid, some aren’t. I would argue that most of those people really haven’t truly experienced the game in its fullest, but at the same time I will concede the point that if it doesn’t appeal to them early on, it may not later either and that they should just move on without the flames.

What you’re not seeing on the forums is the influx of praise or posts by people who are largely happy, not because they don’t exist but rather because the complainers are typically a lot more vocal minority.. People that complain loudly are typically those people who think they are righteous and have entitlement issues..  They are “right and by god you’re gonna know my opinion..”

So with that – here’s my righteous opinion on the the first 15 levels of fed play and the first 12 or so of Klingon.. I only really have 2 major complaints.

But first some general over arching comments – please keep in mind there is no order to my thoughts;

The server’s are completely flooded and Cryptic wasn’t ready for the load.. Completely understandable if you consider that they just opened up the beta for quite possibly the single most popular science fiction IP on the planet. (Is star trek more popular than star wars? I don’t actually know..) They are aware of the issue and have stated repeatedly that they are taking action to fix it. Kudos guys.

I have seen people bitch that “this has been the worst beta ever” and that simply isn’t true.  Not even close.  I’m pretty sure Anarchy Online still holds that title firmly, and likely will forever..  In fact I don’t really think this beta has been all that bad considering the volume of traffic they are getting.. Sure there are queues, server lag, and disconnects but all of those are brought about by the volume of players..  In fact the majority of the issues the game has can likely be traced back to simple server lag due to volume.

Is it bug free?  no.   But then neither is WoW or EQ and those games have been out for years. I don’t really understand why people expect a brand new game to be bug free.. shrug  I do take it as a very positive sign that they have patched the game every night during the open beta..  That implies to me that they are actively working on the issues which is great.

I think the game graphics look good.. I have seen quite a few threads on the forums about how they graphics look poor, and I just don’t agree. It doesn’t look photo realistic like some of the very early preview teaser images did years ago, but that’s okay.. It looks good and succeeds in suspending my disbelief into thinking I’m playing a game in a Star Trek universe.

The UI is good though the map system needs to be better explained. It took me a while to understand the area map and the galaxy map and why some systems were in my system list some of the time, and not in my list other parts of the time..etc.. It’s easy once you understand it but completely confusing while you don’t..  Lack of documentation or explanation is almost a theme in this game..

The skills are confusing but mostly because they don’t explain what they do well enough. It also doesn’t explain well enough things like your characters class to ship class combination’s.. Is it a bad idea to be an engineer, in a science ship? Why? If it is bad that means if you go science you’re stuck in the same 2 ships for 20 levels.. ouch.. (maybe longer, I don’t know what ships are available at T3)

What does +18 in Science Vessel Captain actually do for me? Games like WoW, Eve, and even Champions to some degree have a LOT of math behind it.. This game clearly does too but you don’t really expose that math to the players in a clear way. A lot of players, myself included, actually enjoy pondering the right character build and the best way we can achieve what it is we want to such a degree as to actually build spreadsheets.. Eve is a game totally about spreadsheets ( a little too spreadsheety at times ) and players love that.. Expose those numbers to us.. Let us know what skilling up something actually does, or all of those skills you invested all that time in to create for us mean nothing.

I’m sure all of these things will be documented eventually but right now it smacks of information that the developers all know and think of as obvious where as the players coming to it for the first time just stand there confused.   Documentation is your friend.

The ground combat is a little weak right now and I personally think it’s boring, repetitive and painfully scripted but I think it will develop over time.  It very much smacks of CoH door missions and that system needs more versatility.  Give players options that change the outcome.. etc..   I can’t say as I enjoy the ground combat much though because every game to date has been about ground combat.  I’m much more interested in the space combat, that being said they still have a lot of work to do on the ground if they plan to serve both..

As to space combat, Right now I can say I really enjoy it though it gets very “samey” pretty quickly.    I think that’s largely due to the fact that I have experienced basically 4 ships total..  And flying around seeing nothing (mostly) but Miranda ships get’s old..

Personally I hope there are a lot more ships in the game come release. I love how the ships are customizable but there still aren’t enough chassis and what not to choose from. Maybe that gets better later on, but in the beginning its weak as you have 1 ship. Then when you level up to get your tier two ships, you have a choice of three technically but since you already decided your officer type (tactical, engineer or science) you only really have 1 logical choice.

I think players identify with their avatars a lot more than most game creators take into account and as such they need to give us even more options.  Plus the ability to add fleet markings would be handy.  It’s minor I know, but it helps establish community and a sense of pride which is important in an MMO.

I could make a long list of other complaints like, why did they go with left and right versus port and starboard.. Or why isn’t there any Klingon PVE play etc.. but really at this point I’d rather talk about whats there than what’s NOT there.. So with that – I have two complaints:

Major Complaint One – One of the worst mistakes they could make in this game is the same thing that in my mind killed the City franchise and Champions.. I’m gonna call it “Mission leveling” for the lack of a better term. The concept is this; You get a mission and the more people that do the mission with you, the harder the mission gets. So if you solo a mission you fight one or two weak mobs, but if you bring a whole group suddenly its 3 or 4 hard hitting bosses and several weaker mobs..etc..

Sounds like a good idea on the surface, but CoH and CO proved it to be a horrible idea because it actually encourages players to NOT group.. this kills the need for “community”.. More over it gives players no sense of accomplishment because they know a mission is simply a cake walk if they solo it. There should be things in the game that require groups and missions should be statically leveled.  Do away with this balancing thing..It’s a failed experiment..

You should be able to get missions that are so hard you can’t do it without help.. Missions that scale like they do is just a bad design and this is the third time they have done it..

A mission that is the same level as you, should present you with mobs that are roughly the same as you.. If it’s a higher level mission they should be harder hitting.. if it’s lower level they should be weaker..etc..

I realize that this is very much the WoW and EQ model for doing quests but it has stood the test of time and it’s a known..  Right now I can’t help but think they have broken this very simple concept.

Major Complaint Two –  I want crafting.. I want to be able to harvest asteroids like in Eve and create stuff.. I can’t fathom an MMO game that has virtually no crafting system what so ever..  And sorry but the current system they have that they say is like crafting simply isn’t.

Mindlessly warping around a mission looking for the various anomolies that you get crap from that let you turn in for an upgraded item.. yeah that’s not crafting.. I hope they fix that..

In the end there is a little bit of the “city of star trek” that I was worried about in my earlier post.  There is a little bit of champions in it.. there is a little of city in it.. etc..  Cryptic is going with what they know.. But they might have enough of a winner here because its sort of two games in one (space and ground) and with the addition of PVP in both places you sorta have 4 games in one..  Now consider the ability to play both sides, federation or klingon and now its x2 again..

There might be enough different options to keep this game going for a while.. I’m enjoying it for now at least..