As with any MMO, tasks assigned by NPC’s are the biggest part of the gameplay in Star Trek Online. As I mentioned earlier, missions are broken out into either space and ground based. Some combine elements of both in a string of specific elements in order to successfully complete the mission.
From the beginning of the game missions originate from Starbase One, the hub of Starfleet operations. The initial missions following the tutorial work to give the player a functional exploration of the sectors of space designed with the lower level of player in mind. As the player advances, the primary line of missions advance in difficulty, while following a story line that fits to the state of relations between the factions represented in the game. Whether ground or space, the missions have 3 major themes: combat, exploration, or some form of diplomacy/aid.
Space combat makes up a majority of the game between missions (as well as PVP), and in general it’s very well done. All of the combat is done with capital ships, which I have never previously seen a game do very well. The space combat feels very much like what we saw in The Wrath of Khan between Kirk’s Enterprise and Khan’s Reliant; space ships moving in much the way of ships on water. Ships turn slower at higher speeds, weapons are only available from certain angles, and shields have both sectional and overall reactions to damage. If there’s anything truly right with this game, space combat is it.
Ground combat missions are also fairly well done. I believe this is where the strength of having well trained bridge officers truly pays off. Increasing the ground combat skills of your officers and providing them with quality equipment allows you to focus on the most powerful opponents while your officers keep the foot soldiers occupied.
Aid missions are simple and relatively quick; you drop off X amount of a resource to a planet or station in need. Boring, but over quickly. Oddly enough, diplomacy missions usually involve very little diplomacy. Instead they involve shuttling some scientist or diplomat from one system to another, almost always encountering some armed resistance along the way.
Exploration missions are far and away the worst missions. These are essentially the resource farming missions, and result in you mostly flying your ship through a nebula waiting for random resources to appear. Once they do, you simply fly in close enough and sensor scan them. Not only is this boring, but it leads to perhaps the least well thought out part of the game, crafting.
Crafting in Star Trek Online is beyond terrible. With all the possible options Cryptic had when designing the game, they choose to take crafting out of the players hands and instead stuck it on a remote planet. It’s crafting at it’s most simplistic; you gather resources through repetitive mindless missions, and take them to someone else, who does your crafting for you. To “mystify” the experience a little bit, you have to craft a certain unknown amount with each crafter before you can advance to higher levels of crafting. There is no skill involved in the crafting whatsoever. What’s really mystifying to me is that with all that a Federation ship has to offer that the developers couldn’t have found a better way to integrate crafting.
In the shows, ships like the Enterprise and Voyager were exploration vessels with a full complement of scientific laboratories, any of which could have been leveraged to bring a far more fulfilling crafting experience. However in one of several major shortcomings of the game, you are unable to visit any part of your ship beyond the bridge. Further, visiting your bridge is purely visual experience, as you can’t actually do anything involving your ship from the bridge.
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