When I review games, I usually focus on whether or not a game is worth a purchase at its current price. But with Star Trek Online being free to play, that approach simply won’t work. So I will just stick with giving you my impressions now that I have sunk many hours into this title. (For the record, I am currently at level 55 out of 60 and completed a vast majority of the main missions).
“Helm, lay in a course.”
First off, I like to inform people of my own perspective when going into a game review. In this case, I am a mega Trek fan who never played the game on PC, so this is all brand new to me. I can’t speak directly to how much better or worse the controls are than on the PC. I can only say that after you get used to them they won’t feel cumbersome (unless you are already too comfortable with a PC layout). I will add that several commentators who have played the PC version actually said that they prefer the console layout and how streamlined they made everything. I feel that Cryptic has taken what was obviously a very large control scheme and done the best they can to give you an experience on consoles that doesn’t leave you wanting to throw your controller out the nearest airlock. At the higher levels you will have to learn how to use your ship’s consoles and switch them up on the fly during combat (via the control wheel), but you can get by for a long time only having one or two selected and using them when needed. So despite the depth of the controls you won’t feel like you’re juggling a mess of command inputs while you play until you reach a higher level of gameplay.
The graphics themselves are not up to par with the lofty standards of today’s AAA titles, but they are noticeably improved from the PC version and I honestly didn’t have any problem with them. They are able to create a world for your character to inhabit that is both large and believable. The game is really more about the content, and there is quite a lot of it here. Some of the PC expansions are present from the start, and ones like Agents of Yesterday are slated to come out later on. But there are more than enough main missions, PvE missions, side missions and more to give you something to do at all times. In fact, if you are a big Trek fan you’ll probably end up spending too many hours immersed in this game’s very believable Trek universe just taking in all the references. (Geek confession. I actually warped to Wolf 359, saw the wrecked ships, and said out loud “The Tolstoy…the Kyushu…the Melbourne“).
The gameplay itself is fairly simple. Each of the main missions is laid out just like an episode of the show, complete with episode title at the beginning (which is a nice touch) and you’ll find yourself doing much the same as they did on tv…technobabble included. In ship to ship combat you have your beam weapons which auto-fire at your targets, your torpedo attacks which you launch via the R1 button, and your defensive shields that have 4 sides that you need to keep tabs on. Your enemy also has their own shields and your job is to break through them and then damage their hull until they make a satisfying “Boom”. It’s somewhat like the navel combat from Assassin’s Creed, except with starships. Lots of turning and firing and trying to keep your weapons pointed the direction you want them while watching your shield/hull damage levels. It’s honestly not very deep, but if you are a fan of the space battles from the show then it’s really quite satisfying. The other main component is the ground combat. And the best part about the ground combat is that when it’s done, you get to do the space combat again! Seriously, no one likes the ground combat. It’s easily the largest misstep of the game, and unfortunately you’ll be spending about half your time doing these types of missions while hoping that they at least made the story dialogue interesting in that episode.
Guest stars EVERYWHERE…
I can bottom line this game fairly easily. As much as this sounds like generic review talk, I can honestly say that if you are a Trek fan then this game is for you. And if you’re not a Trek fan, then there is nothing here that will entice you to spend your gaming time in this world. The bigger a fan you are the more you will potentially enjoy this game as it is packed to the brim with references from the TV shows and movies. The writers really know their stuff and they make you feel like you really are in the Trek universe set 30 years after Star Trek : Nemesis. And the funnest part of the game is easily the large scale multi-ship battles, which make it look like you are playing one of the late series episodes of Deep Space Nine during the Dominion War. And isn’t that what we all really want in a Star Trek MMO?
Conclusion. Recommended, but for Trek fans only.
Now it’s time to go and continue the voyages of Captain Freedom Gizmo and the USS Black Star…