Star Trek Online Quick Second Look (August 2011)

Posted by Brackynews (4045 posts) -

With the recent (and expected) announcement and detailsof Perfect World/Cryptic taking STO to the free to play business model, you might be pondering if it's a game worth getting in to, or getting back to. If you're, um, lucky enough to have a lifetime plan, you're all set. Now's a great time to jump back in and see where they're at, with another season update in sight at the end of September.

But if you're undecided, there's not very much info to go on. The STO beta/launch content on GB is naturally out of date at this point, so I thought it was worth a Quick Second Look. Here's ~25 minutes running through one of the Feature episode Devidian missions. Note: For spoilers' sake I do not show the first 5 minutes of the mission, which is pretty cool in itself. You'll know it when you play it.

The narration gets a little goofy. Sorry for the audio pops, had the mic too close for a few minutes.

A lot of players came back shortly after the Season 4 Crossfire update, and tend to agree that the game has evolved in a lot of ways since launch. But as this summer was the Atari to PW transition period, it wound up having quite a content-drought and a whole lot of "wait and see" promises to go with it. As a new player I don't really give a crapdamn about content pacing. I subscribed in July after installing my $5 Steam sale copy, and I like it. I tend to like Cryptic's games anyway. I haven't played Champions but it's a decent example of Cryptic doing well after making the F2P switch. So they've done this before, and they have a successful Chinese MMO company backing them up for improvements.

I'm not going to give you any hard sell or doom and gloom, there is clearly a lot of room for improvement, and a lot of life left in the property to see where they go with it. Try the game if you feel like it and make up your own damn mind. If you think it's very likely that you'll sign up after the F2P launch, you might want to consider getting a cheap copy off Steam now and use your 30 days to lock down your privileges, as new "Silvers" will have a certain amount of probation to contend with. Check the features matrix to see how all that evolves. At the end are some free guest pass codes if you want to have a pre-F2P-trial, and yes my account gets some perks, so it's up to you. :)

I will probably suspend my sub this month and decide when to come back based on the timeframes of F2P versus the launch of TOR. I bet Cryptic is thinking hard about that too.

I have one more Q2L Romulan mission already captured, and now that I'm up at Rear Admiral rank I will probably do something with the new Borg Red Alerts and the Undine story missions. Fluidic space is pretty rad. :)

LLAP

>B

Edit: VIDS!

#1 Edited by Brackynews (4045 posts) -

With the recent (and expected) announcement and detailsof Perfect World/Cryptic taking STO to the free to play business model, you might be pondering if it's a game worth getting in to, or getting back to. If you're, um, lucky enough to have a lifetime plan, you're all set. Now's a great time to jump back in and see where they're at, with another season update in sight at the end of September.

But if you're undecided, there's not very much info to go on. The STO beta/launch content on GB is naturally out of date at this point, so I thought it was worth a Quick Second Look. Here's ~25 minutes running through one of the Feature episode Devidian missions. Note: For spoilers' sake I do not show the first 5 minutes of the mission, which is pretty cool in itself. You'll know it when you play it.

The narration gets a little goofy. Sorry for the audio pops, had the mic too close for a few minutes.

A lot of players came back shortly after the Season 4 Crossfire update, and tend to agree that the game has evolved in a lot of ways since launch. But as this summer was the Atari to PW transition period, it wound up having quite a content-drought and a whole lot of "wait and see" promises to go with it. As a new player I don't really give a crapdamn about content pacing. I subscribed in July after installing my $5 Steam sale copy, and I like it. I tend to like Cryptic's games anyway. I haven't played Champions but it's a decent example of Cryptic doing well after making the F2P switch. So they've done this before, and they have a successful Chinese MMO company backing them up for improvements.

I'm not going to give you any hard sell or doom and gloom, there is clearly a lot of room for improvement, and a lot of life left in the property to see where they go with it. Try the game if you feel like it and make up your own damn mind. If you think it's very likely that you'll sign up after the F2P launch, you might want to consider getting a cheap copy off Steam now and use your 30 days to lock down your privileges, as new "Silvers" will have a certain amount of probation to contend with. Check the features matrix to see how all that evolves. At the end are some free guest pass codes if you want to have a pre-F2P-trial, and yes my account gets some perks, so it's up to you. :)

I will probably suspend my sub this month and decide when to come back based on the timeframes of F2P versus the launch of TOR. I bet Cryptic is thinking hard about that too.

I have one more Q2L Romulan mission already captured, and now that I'm up at Rear Admiral rank I will probably do something with the new Borg Red Alerts and the Undine story missions. Fluidic space is pretty rad. :)

LLAP

>B

Edit: VIDS!

#2 Edited by lockwoodx (2479 posts) -

The STO quicklooks are what brought me to giantbomb.com in the first place, I'm even in the last one when beta ended. They are also the first time I was misled by quicklooks into thinking a game is fun when it's unfinished ass. I've since grown the wiser.

#3 Posted by Brackynews (4045 posts) -

@Buzzkill: Is there such a thing as a MMO launch that isn't "unfinished ass"? :) But yeah, I can't imagine enjoying STO if I was playing it with half the features, half the missions, and worse graphics. No wonder people got pissed.

#4 Edited by lockwoodx (2479 posts) -

Not only did I get my money back, but they gave me a free life-time sub for the hassle. I've tried going back to STO at various points over the year but every time there have been major issues with the Klingon side, and grouping together with other Klingon players in the nebulae so it's not worth the hassle. The most recent time I checked it out was july, and the game is just a clusterfuck now. They've condensed everything so compact, then stuffed it full of NPCs so the game feels alive, that it's too maze like and claustrophobic to bother with now. Ground combat is still garbage too which doesn't help. Being sold to the Asians is the nail in the coffin and I'll be avoiding Cryptic's future products.

#5 Posted by MooseyMcMan (10457 posts) -

I wonder what the chances are of convincing Jeff to take another look at the game (given his lifetime subscription and everything). I doubt he will.

#6 Posted by Brackynews (4045 posts) -

@Buzzkill: The KDF side needs some tough love, because it's tough to love! And PVP just bores me to tears. Sounds like PW/C want to overhaul the Klingon campaigh pretty drastically... and the rumors about a new playable Romulan faction just won't die down. Hard to swallow given how much other stuff needs work.

@MooseyMcMan: Heh, probably not for public consumption, no. Though if Jeff doesn't write or comment on the F2P news story that I hope to see soon on GB, that will be disappointing.

#7 Posted by MooseyMcMan (10457 posts) -
@Brackynews: He definitely knows that it's going free to play, because I specifically asked him about it on FormSpring (here). He did not seem surprised. 
#8 Posted by ahoodedfigure (4238 posts) -

So... I still remember my impressions of the original QL. Your quick run through there was both quick and knowledgeable, which was nice. I have to admit I'd rather have old-school Star Trek, fits the run-and-gun feel a bit more. But the word "timeline" reminds me why it's best just to avoid that evil altogether.
 
So, what's the difference between branches for your main character? Is it just a different spread of powers for the science specialist? It seems so heavily combat focused that it's hard to imagine anything but tactical making much sense, but maybe they mitigated somewhat?
 
I have a soft spot for Trek (and I'm surprised with how much I know about the series (pl.) even though I was never one for canon or stardate-spotting) but I've never quite managed to be a fan. I like it better when the Federation is flawed, so I'm one of those DS9 weirdos.

#9 Posted by Brackynews (4045 posts) -

@ahoodedfigure: Cheers! Yes there are players who roleplay entirely within the TOS and mirror universe canon. Personally I like the Babylon 5 fans. To be clear, the timeline of STO has you meeting the children of TV show chars. Kirayoshi O'Brien works in the crafting complex for example and wants you to fetch him some Bajoran take-out. Quark's Bar on DS9 is where roleplayers spend a lot of time. (I even have a screenshot for thatat the bottom.)

Like many MMOs, main character branches/classes are decided upon character creation and do not respec. This determines your power set and the powers you can give to Bridge Officers (yours and other players). I didn't really illustrate the skill tree in the video, but any character can put points into any box. Yet as a Tactical captain I will not be able to train my Engineers, hence the co-operative aspect of player training for top tier abilities. You can also buy from ability vendors, and top-tier officers are sold on the marketplace. If you choose not to recruit an officer they are "consumed" to train a single ability, so there is flexibility if you solo.

The majority of players are Tac or Eng, but Science are the medics so they are just as important as in other games. As I discovered yesterday, not having a medic for five-player-raids really sucks. As seen in the September Ask Cryptic, they are overhauling the top tiers of the skill tree from being ship and weapon specific, to being more general so that no points are wasted based on your ship and weapon loadout. The ship consoles already serve the purpose of boosting specific abilities. Considering they sell a lot of respec tokens to max-level PVPers, that's pretty good.

This may also be a good moment to mention that you can basically play the game co-op as a team of Ghostbusters. ;) My weapon in the video was the proton/antiproton pack, and it is leveless.

#10 Posted by shhetghost (59 posts) -

do the fish now have hands? 
#11 Edited by PhatSeeJay (3322 posts) -

Certainly growing anxious to get back to STO, though I'm not able to afford subscription fees right now. So the F2P decision is certainly one that brings excitement to me.

I quite miss playing my space dwarf.

I miss my beautiful ship.

Not to mention really curious to see what they'll do with the new Enterprise.

#12 Posted by WinterSnowblind (7613 posts) -

I've been playing the game with a trial account for the past few days, and I must say that I'm actually really impressed by the game. Okay, it's an MMO and it has a lot of very obvious flaws and annoying little details that should have been fixed a long time ago, but as a Star Trek fan, I've found it immensely fun to play.

The ship combat is essentially an updated version of the Starfleet Command games and while the ground combat is pretty janky, it's brief enough to provide a good break from the ship to ship stuff. If you're a Star Trek fan, I'd definitely recommend you check it out. It captures the Star Trek feel really well and the ship and crew customisation makes it pretty easy to get attached to.. Just cruising around in your own ship and exploring new galaxies is just really appealing to me.

All that said, if you're not a Star Trek fan, I doubt there's much here that would captivate you and I think all the little flaws would just stand out even more, but it's still worth a look, I think. I see the F2P switch bringing in a lot of new players, it's something they should have done a long time ago.

#13 Posted by Mars_Cleric (1593 posts) -

I tried playing this game a while ago and it kept crashing on me so I just gave up on it

#14 Posted by Brackynews (4045 posts) -

@Mars_Cleric: You just summed up my PC gaming experience since 2000. ;) No worky, movin' on.

@WinterSnowblind: You just summed up my first two months with the game. :) Yeah without the trek lore the mechanics are not interesting enough to have just any sci-fi skin you'd want on it. It would be crap as BG or B5. Like I say in the video, if they called it Star Trek Online: Space Battles it would've sold twice as well! I can't imagine the shit I would be talking about the ground combat if I had seen it prior to Crossfire. gawd...

@PhatSeeJay: Good lookin' ship! Thanks for sharing. Here's my screenies too.The Enterprise-F plotline should be interesting to see, I believe they talked about making it a reward ship, rather than one to purchase. So we'll see a lot of 'em. Anyway, I am recording one more mission tonight, then bidding adieu for now. I don't trust that Season 4.1 will launch on time this week, the window is huge.

#15 Posted by The_Laughing_Man (13629 posts) -

I was thinking about getting back into it when its free to play. When does it go free?

#16 Posted by WinterSnowblind (7613 posts) -

@The_Laughing_Man said:

I was thinking about getting back into it when its free to play. When does it go free?

October-ish, with the next episode update, I believe. There's no specific date yet though.

I'm really happy to hear that they plan to let you set your officers to set positions, like first officer, chief engineer, etc, and expanding upon the ship functions (being able to launch shuttles from your shuttle bay and so forth).. I cant really figure out why the officer system didn't work like that in the first place, and there's literally no point in exploring around your own ship at the moment.

Another annoying little problem is with the uniforms. I can buy into the idea that starfleet allows ship captains to chose between a variety of uniforms, but not even the crewmen on your ship wear the same uniform as you do! This is something else that's apparently being fixed very soon, but couldn't their have been an option to set the uniform you design to all your officers and crewmen from the very beginning? Doesn't seem like it would be much work and it's a very obvious feature. Having to recreate your style of uniform every time you get a new officer is a bit of a pain.

The game is gradually getting better and better, it's just a shame more of this stuff wasn't there from day one.

#17 Posted by Brackynews (4045 posts) -

@WinterSnowblind: While you're right that they are making necessary improvements, the whole "why wasn't it this way from the start" argument is loaded and pointless. Why wasn't Assassin's Creed 1 as good as 2? Because hindsight only works backwards. They learned from the first game, and more time and money and talent made it better the second time. MMOs are the exact same way. Games would never be released if they could only be released perfect, ask any developer if they believe their game is in a perfect state. Entire GDC panels are devoted to post-mortems.

In STO the in-ship experience might as well not be there, it's so broken and insignificant. If it wasn't for mission replays I would never need to. But having it serves a small segment of the playerbase who values immersion. Never mind that your BOffs are cloned three times on your bridge. ;) Never mind that sitting in your captain's chair, you transport off the bridge to go back to flying your ship. >_< It's not like Cryptic thinks that's the right way to do things, there's limited resources to fix "atmosphere" and niceties when core gameplay elements need improvement first.

#18 Posted by lockwoodx (2479 posts) -

Every time I played Mass Effect, I died a little inside because that's how a Star Trek Universe game should have turned out.

#19 Posted by WinterSnowblind (7613 posts) -

@Brackynews: But the in-ship aspect is perhaps the most important part of Star Trek, it should play a bigger role in the game beyond "atmosphere", especially as the MMO and social aspects of the game are practically non existant.

#20 Posted by Brackynews (4045 posts) -

@WinterSnowblind: Yes. It's huge. But this is not yet a game where diplomatic missions and character development truly matter outside of Role Playing. It's not even a game where users can create Foundry missions that take you to your own bridge to solve problems on your own ship. (I don't know that for certain, but I messed with the Foundry and it didn't seem like a mission could involve my own particular ship maps, which I paid for btw, only a generic boardroom or other ships.) Some of the best Foundry missions I played were diplomatic "talkies". Did I play them twice? No. :) The strength of the Foundry is huge for a game like this.

It would be wonderful if they can integrate more of that in the future, and maybe the F2P playerbase can spur it along, *if* not all of them have a singular goal to tech up to Tricobalt torps and Borg gear. It would reinvent the game to enable a social, story based environment. Something beyond Jadzia toons flirting in Quark's bar.

#21 Edited by Brackynews (4045 posts) -

News today is that Dan Stahl is leaving Cryptic reportedly to go work at Zynga (closer to family in San Fran). He was Exec Producer for a little over a year, and with Cryptic for about 3 years since Champions.

The man has a lot of experience and industry cred. Will be interesting to see what he does next. Other devs like Gozer have left STO (to Bethesda I think?) and come back in the short time that the game has been running.

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