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Star Trek Online: Day 1 impressions

by: Ben Berry -
More On: Star Trek Online
Stardates 2010.33 and 2010.34: After all of the chatter on the STO official boards yesterday following launch about problems logging into the system or worse, losing access to your game code because the payment server ate it, I got in without a hitch. I sat down, installed the game and off I went. I had already created my STO forums account, and your game account links to that, so I simply put in the payment info and got into the game.

Because I purchased the game as a pre-order through GameStop, I received a Constellation class light cruiser a la the Enterprise from TOS (The Original Series). I didn't use it initially because I didnt understand how to claim it. Instead I started with the Miranda class (think of the ship that stumbled on Khan in The Wrath of Khan), and cruised around in that for a while prior to opening up my free ship.

New ship classes are the main reward in STO. You get access to a new class each time you receive a full rank promotion (each rank is broken into 10ths, ie a Lieutenant 5 is halfway to Lt Commander). As you journey through the various levels up to a new rank, you can upgrade yourself, your crew, and your ship.

Upgrading yourself is done through a skill tree, applying what is essentially experience gained through combat or finishing missions. You start as one of 3 classes, Science, Engineer, or Tactical. Each offers different benefits, and all are eligble for ship command. In fact ship command is really the point of this game. You take over your first ship within an hour of being in the game, and you're flying through the galaxy not long after.

Upgrading your crew is much the same as upgrading yourself. You simply choose what skill sets you'd like your bridge officers (up to one of each of the 3 classes) to have, apply the earned points to them. The points you apply to yourself differ from the points you apply to the crew. They are independant, and I haven't really figured out a ratio or how the crew points are determined.

Upgrading your ship is interesting, because most of the things you want to upgrade to are either not easily available or are prohibitively expensive, at least early on. You can buy parts to upgrade your ship from the Earth starbase, from trade freighters as you encounter them in space, earn them by completing missions, or as loot.

Missions are assigned by various members of your factions command. I chose Federation (the other faction is of course Klingon), and I get missions from Admirals and scientists alike. In about 10 hours of game time, some of that spent just exploring, reading and learning, I have advance to Lieutenant 5, and am closing in on Lieutenant 6.

So far, here's what I like:
  • It feels like Star Trek. All of the usual names are there (great-grandson of Sulu, Daughter of Mr. O'Brien, etc.) as well as many of the usual places.
  • The uniform, ship, and character customizations. You can make yourself and your clothes look any way you want. Whether that means a total departure from Federation uniform code, to creation of an entirely new race of beings, you can do it. Ship customization is limited to moderate appearance changes and internal functional upgrades.
  • The game is easy enough to learn. Sit down, start playing. All the usual controls do the usual things.
Now he's what I don't like:
  • Ship customization is limited. I'd like to be able to pick a saucer, pick the number of nacels I want, the type of bridge, you name it. There are far more types of ships seen in any of the TV shows than what are available in STO.
  • space travel. While they came up with an inventive way of handling longer trips (sector space, which is sort of like flying through a 3D map), it could have been done so much better. You set the destination, hit the warp button, and then you go do something inside the ship to advance your character. Instead, they chose to shorten travel to the point where it's not much of a hinderance to advancement or enough of a balance to self-improvement.
  • You dont see inside your ship. Not really anyways. You can pick out a bridge style, but at least through the first several levels, I haven't seen it.
  • So far, the content is almost all about war. While i recognize it's the only way to get people really actively involved easily, the Federation is about space exploration, and there should be more to that than there is right now.
I'll have more impressions later this week, with details on my next major promotion and the ship I choose.