Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Star Trek Online review

    At last, I am now a Captain.

    I signed up for Star Trek Online almost a year ago when it was first coming out. I even bought the Collector's Edition which came with a free in-game Constitution-class starship (Kirk's ship) and a metal Starfleet insignia.

    Some context for those who don't understand my love of Trek: I have a little Spock Christmas ornament over my computer desk next to a Captain Kirk figure, a Romulan warbird, and the U.S.S. Enterprise. I'm pretty much the target audience for this game and was all gung-ho for it. I immediately loaded up the game and got started, fully expecting to be blown away.

    A good description of the game from a friend of mine was, "so mediocre it's average."

    The game wasn't bad by any stretch of the imagination but it wasn't exactly Mass Effect either, which I always likened to being a better Trek game than Trek has ever managed to put out. There's never really been a Sandbox Space Exploration game with hundreds of missions, an overarching plot, and great NPCs with the Trek label on it. Effectively, the Fallout 3 version of Star Trek.

    Well, until that game comes out, Trek Online was a poor substitute. It was mostly very repetitive game play with minimal NPC interaction, minimal interaction with other gamers, and a story that was sort of thin. "The Klingons, Borg, Species 8472, Cardassians, Romulans, Remans, Hirogen, and so on all decide to go against the Federation at once. Go kill them, Ensign!"

    There were some good bits, especially in relation to the Klingon plot line, but I started to feel that the game play mostly consisted of me depopulating species in the Alpha Quadrant. If there was a Star Trek equivalent to Master Chief, that would be my character. I like to think the Klingons will build a shrine to me in the centuries to come as the Great Klingon Slayer, a terrible demigod of destruction.

    There's probably an accolade for it.

    Anyway, I quit not long after journeying through the Guardian of Forever to kill Ambassador B'vat. He was a criminally underused NPC that actually managed to keep my attention long enough to stay a week longer in the game than I planned. After he was gone, I canceled my subscription and gave my Collector's Edition box with a couple of week-long subscriptions to a friend.

    Then I heard the game was going free-to-play.

    Now free is a price that's hard to argue with, but I wasn't about to be sucked back into the game without an idea of how it had changed. I signed up for a month's subscription and decided to see if the game had gotten any better in the past year. My thoughts after playing for two weeks?

    It's now so above average, it's fun.

    The addition of a couple of new campaigns, including ones against Space Ghosts and the Breen (enemies seen briefly in Deep Space Nine which sort of resemble Cylons crossed with the costume Princess Leia wore to Jabba's palace - no, not the slave bikini), really add to the overall experience.

    There's more variety in the missions, albeit not much, and the storytelling has definitely moved up a notch. You can also move around your ship now, which was sadly missing when I first started playing the game.

    The games aren't perfect, I'm still doing a 90% "kill five squadrons of Romulan starships" over and over again, but it's actually something I'll play on a regular basis. I liked it enough that I've actually climbed my way up to being a Starfleet Captain - of a Galaxy-class star cruiser no less (the ship Picard used in TNG).

    So while I still hold out for "my" Star Trek game and hope for further improvements from Star Trek Online, I will say that I genuinely enjoy this work.

    Bravo, Cryptic. You earn a 7 out of 10.

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