Star Trek Online
The much anticipated MMO is quickly approaching its release date. Star Trek Online has been in the works for several years now. It is on schedule to be released on the 2nd of February 2010. I am lucky enough to have a beta key for the game, and have been playing it. I am by no means any reliable judge on MMO's as I do tend to be a more casual gamer. But I shall relate my thoughts thus far about the game. I do hope to include a review by a friend as well.
I enjoy Star Trek. I have always liked Star Trek over Star Wars. Mainly due to the fact that everything in Star Trek is explainable, or if it is not explainable, a theory to explain how things work exists. Star Wars does not stand up to such 'science'. Therefore I freely admit that I am a trekie, and have been for some time. I also have some experience in the MMO community as having led a couple larger casual guilds for about 3 years on WoW. Social interaction is my prime drive for any online game. As I do understand that virtual 'gear' and 'wealth' is only fictional, and not worth wasting time over.
Perhaps that is my biggest flaw, and the reason why I can not enjoy such games as they are intended. Or perhaps I am unique in the few people who are able to resist addiction to an activity which is counter productive? I am unsure, but alas, my main draw to a game is its social groundings.
Star Trek Online has so far shown little in the way of social interaction. But first lets warp back if you will (pardon the pun) and look at the first 10 levels of WoW. The first few levels are quick and you learn how to play the game. Afterwards the challenges increase and you are often required to seek out and join groups in order to accomplish quests. Within those groups you communicate with your party members, plan and socialize. Sure there are flaws to this... Sometimes if no one is online, you may not be able to find a group. Or you may end up with someone who is griefing or otherwise not a good player.
Star Trek Online works around that by automatically creating instances and adding a group together. In a way this is working off the success of Guild Wars, another MMO which utilized a similar style of grouping and instance play. While yes you do get grouped together and quests get done, there is much less of a requirement for social interaction. Therefore, there is less of a need to make friends - at least in the lower levels.
As far as combat goes, space combat is much like any other space MMO out there. You fly a ship, and attack an enemy, usually many enemies. Deaths do not seem to have any negative effect, you simply respawn. Nothing is lost that I can see. Combat itself is very simple, usually button mashing your weapons, and also ensuring your shields stay up. Each personality also has special skills which aide you in combat, as do your bridge officers skills. The thing which does set this space game apart from others is the fact that you can beam down to some planets and have away teams made up of your bridge officers. You have handheld weapons and can engage in face to face combat with enemies. This makes a space game much more interesting.
You can also walk around on your own bridge, however I am unsure what purpose that really serves, as you can not control your ship from the bridge. More on that later... But I assume it is ment to be an invite only 'house' of sorts so you can interact socially with friends in a non public environment. As far as public environments go, there are public social centers like planet vulcan... Which I have been unable to beam down to as of yet. One of the flaws in the game is the inability to beam down to any planet whether or not you have a mission there. Maybe there is a way to do it, and I haven't figured it out yet, but so far, I can't seem to simply 'explore' planets.
As for the bridge crew idea... I think what would be very interesting is for friends to man a single ship. Like a raid group they will work together, managing various aspects of the ship, in order to battle an enemy. That would make this game very interesting. Instead of a fleet of ships controlled by single players, how about a ship run by many players.
Anyhow all dreaming aside, the game does have a lot of potential. The missions are varried enough to encourage me to return time and again to try the next mission. However you can expect your typical WoW like missions or quests. Kill these ships, protect this area, deliver these supplies... As for political missions, I have not really seen any yet. Carrying diplomats and actually engaging in political roles was one of the secondary functions of the Enterprise.
Note: This snippet of a post was first written by me when I was beta testing Star Trek Online.