The preamble – yep, that one … “Space, the final frontier …” – is expected but
not heard, though the theme music certainly is. It begins with the orchestration
that keyed in the television show four decades back, and then changes to embrace
so much more that belongs to the Star Trek legacy.
Usually, a game shows what it purports to have with the barest of tastes known
as a tutorial, and Star Trek Online is no different. The flavors are there, but
just in minimal quantities. It’s like the scent of rich chocolate that dances
across the tongue, but is more of a tease than a true taste.
part one of this rolling preview, GameZone took a look at character creation
within the game. Now it is time to talk about the initial experience, which
would be the tutorial. Concepts central to the game dominate this portion. STO
is about ship combat and moving the controlled starship through space, finding
firing arcs, presenting shields to the brunt of the enemy attack. The Borg are
the first of the enemies encountered, but sandwiched into the combat are rescue
missions where the player’s ship is powered within teleportation range of
disabled ships and then survivors are beamed aboard. Those survivors are not
carried for long, though, as they are dropped off on a medical ship.
Circumstances dictate that the player, one of the officers onboard the ship
named in the character creation phase, takes control of the player ship, and
that leads to selection of officers that may or may not accompany the player on
away missions. Each of the officers has specialties that work like buffs, and
thus selection of the right officer is important to compliment skills already in
Oh, wait … Was the term “away missions” used? Does that mean …?
Yep, STO is not just about piloting a starship into sectors of space and
clearing away the baddies. Sometimes the captain and officers have to beam to a
location and engage in some phaser action with a little hand-to-hand thrown in
for good measure.
Skills can be upgraded and even the ‘pets’ – officers that are chosen as staff
and are controllable by the player – can have skills upgraded to form a better
In ship combat, there are torpedoes and the phaser array. To begin with, the
items on the player character and the ship are standard, but as the journey
begins through the game, there is the chance to find better gear through drops
or through the exchange. Everything is stat rated, and it is relatively easy to
compare stats to outfit both the character and ship for maximum performance.
When it comes to the ground missions, players have weapons, can crouch to do
bigger damage and have a knock-back attack capability. But whether ground or
spaceship combat, there is a flow that is consistent. Ships have shields – fore,
aft, port and starboard. Characters have personal shields. In combat the shields
are whittled away first and then the actual damage begins. Ships explode or
characters drop down dead. The player character, of course, never actually dies;
he or she is incapacitated.
In honesty, though, dying in the tutorial is awfully hard to do.
The quest structure of the tutorial is rapidly paced. The idea – at least at
this stage of the game’s development – is to get players through the
fundamentals as quickly as possible and into the beginning phases of the game.
Quest NPCs have icons floating above their heads and are easy to spot. Mobs
don’t take forever to put away, and the rewards are useful.
The game looks amazing. The ground missions are solid with good animation
(rolling and tumbling from enemy fire is fun), but the art direction really
shines when it comes to the space elements.
Star Trek Online has a lot of character and it has – so far – a lot of depth of
play to it. While the core is obviously the quest-oriented combat, this is
definitely not a one-dimensional game.