Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Federation, Klingons, and Romulans... OH MY!

Star Trek Online remains a common favorite.  You just can't beat free and as far as "space combat" goes, it doesn't get much more painlessly fun than STO.  So what's new with good ol' STO? Romulans, of course.

This "season's" expansion is Legend of Romulus and features the lesser known pointy eared space elves.  Let us review the timeline...

The Star Trek that original fans remember officially ends when Spock is thrown back in time in the JJ Abrams reboot.  From that point we were on a new timeline and we have seen two movies of the "new" Star Trek starting back in the early days of James T. Kirk.  So what about the original timeline that Spock left?  Romulus was destroyed and Spock had disappeared.  Those days were fairly far in the future of the to the original timeline and many of the old characters were retired or dead.  This is where Star Trek Online takes over.  STO is the original timeline told well after Romulus has exploded.

In this season, we see the Romulans attempting to rebuild their home on a new planet while the politics and warfare of the galaxy continue around them on all sides.  This is one of my problems with the STO game is that it turns Star Trek away from its roots and squarely back in to the space combat genre.  I lament this track, but I do actually enjoy space combat so I'll forgive it.

LoR does some pretty cool things with characters.  Besides adding Romulan as a fully playable starting race with its own storyline, the Klingons are also being given their own storyline starting from 1st level.  This is new ground for STO where Klingons were only playable *after* you had run a Federation character to 24th level.  While awesome! I also find this really annoying.  For years, Dan Stahl, the lead developer for STO has said he isn't developing the Klingons as a fully playable faction because "most of the players wanted to play Federation."  Well if that really is true, Dan, then why create a 3rd non-Federation race?  I'm glad of the change of heart, but I'm not sure what to believe out of you now.  Either your numbers were really bad or this was just the best thing you could come up with.

Anyways... There are new ships, new worlds, and graphics improvements across the board.  I personally saw less bugs than usual for STO, but the whole system has been suffering beta disease with daily outages and multiple patches.  This is partially due to Cryptic Studios also deciding to beta launch an entirely new title, Neverwinter.  Two betas at the same time... Really, Cryptic? Kudos for bravado if not brains.

The missions are good, the visuals are good and there are enough buttons and knobs to have fun with it.  There are some annoying bits... Free 2 Play doesn't mean free of course.  The developers count on gaining some revenue which I fully support.  In STO this comes in the form of buying access to ships and convenience items (like more bank slots).  These purchases are often tied to each individual character and thus would need to be purchased many times if one were to make many characters.  A theme of Cryptic game design is the encouraging of creating many characters... Cryptic games have lots of options locked in to the classes you pick and level quickly.  It is designed to create alts and each alt requires some revenue... that gets a bit annoying when you look at the total spend on a game.  Federation ships purchased are not available to Klingon characters for example (or visa versa).

The expansion is well worth a look for the price (free!).  I do love the ship combat.  Ground combat needs some work (still).  Overall there is easily a month or two of content in STO worth exploring.  PS: the picture is Masada as a Lethean... Game ON.

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