Friday, July 19, 2013

JL - 3 Star Trek Online Review

This article was originally posted here:
http://my.mmosite.com/4069628/blog/item/nanbos_star_trek_online_review.html


This is one of those titles I joined way late into the F2P conversion. It will be one of those titles I end up uninstalling and then some years later, re-installing. It is currently on my hard drive and updated. Here is my review of Star Trek Online (STO).

I remember when this game launched because of the Taco Bell advertisements (giant size cups with STO on them). I was subbing to an MMORPG and flirting with the F2P title Perfect World (had a family member drag me in to check it ou). So I was pretty familiar with PWE titles back then. 

I stayed out for a long time because of my impression of both Perfect World Online, Forsaken World, and other titles I tried out and did not really like. I already was turned off to the fact I could not Forum post on the STO forums unless I invested my time in game for a long time... But I can post whatever in any other PWE forum board...what was this nonesense? It turned me off ALONGGG time as it reeked of PWE corruption...but, reviews kept popping up that it was not "P2W" and a great game minus some smaller snags...I was itching..I was itching...ahh hell I will scratch. I was used to the PWE installation process so it was no big to me (some times new client installs bug me as they install sneak things in the background). I also read it had lack luster ground combat and ran into a farm wall (typical of PWE games). But I got in and liked what I was playing up to a point. Then I stopped, uninstalled, and forgot about it. Then a friend of mine, trek fan, got me into the old episodes. He never played MMORPGS before and I showed him STO...He was hooked immediately and we passed some epic times in game together. This brought about a new look to the game for me (to play with a friend new to the gaming community) and it also was perfect timing as allot of patches had passed to update the game. Recently the Romulus expansion has released and I will not be covering that in to much depth as I have not had time to play that faction, but I will note on some of the changes. But first:


1) Graphics: They are great and generally can run on any modern system. They can be cranked up depending on your system to really stand out. I can run in on my 5 year old ASUS laptop and it looks great (where these screen shots are coming from). I can not max out on the lap top but on the home system the game looks beautiful full settings with sun reflections glittering off the ship. etc.
Planets and environments are rich and really feel "Star Trekkie". Not like some one had a spare SCI FI mmorpg kit and slapped together the game (like most mmorpgs I see). The detail put into costumes and how you can modify them are one of the best parts of the game. The effects are great! Not over the top sparkely fairy urine, but gritty combat enough mixed with the neon-esque perks of the sci-fi world of Star Trek.
Every screen shot I take, even on my low end system, seems like a perfect backdrop for my PC. All this, for a game that is pretty dated.
If I could say something negative it would just be sometimes they could have rendered something a little more thoughtful. I have seen alien housing on explore missions where it just looked like a grey box. Perhaps liven it up a bit. Other than that, it delivers on what it is supposed to. No more, no less.

The menus can be confusing, especially since 2 buttons take you to the same sub menu and vice versa, but once you see how it is all mapped out, it is easy. The key word, "it all does the same thing". Usually there are 4 primary sub menus to worry about, ship, crew, missions, tasks. EVerything else falls into place easily. But it can be frustrating to discover something later down the line. I discovered I can customize and give names etc to my crew later on and although not big of a deal, I freaked out and was wondering; "what else did I miss??".

I give this 4/5,


2) Character Creation: I know this game is CRYPTIC at core, but since it merged with PWE,I have to say it is now one the top customization character creators competing in the top 3! Perfect World still being on of my favorites (even though I do not like the game itself), AION and STO being runners up. STO asks you to chose a faction at start. Federation or Klingon or Romulan. I have created both Klingon and Federation. Starting with Federation, there are pre-set designs. Along with these designs you can chose your traits. So you have the typical "Volcan" look with science and intelligence traits assigned. You can modify a little, redo entirely or keep. You chose the sex and look to the T. Nose, head size, stance (relaxed, military, haighty, etc.), eye size, posture (twitchy, hunched over, elongated, etc), the list goes on. As a bonus you can even chose "ALIEN" this allows you to not be boxed in by the Star Trek guide lines and create your own new alien to enter in the Star Trek Universe. And although you are using templates for some of the other presets, you can really get original! This is a small detail, but a detail that is very important in my oppinion.
This is like playing Star Wars, seeing "Wookie, Human, and Ewok" as a race. No imagine if you were given: "Other" as a rave and the entire graphics board to piece together your new alien. THAT is STO! That, in my oppinion, is pretty darn cool! And it is FREE (not a VIP thing). I have seen some interesting players in game, RARELY do you run across your clone, the choices are so open ended! I have seen giant space babes, tiger like race, weird fish head races, hunched over elongated fingers and twitchy aliens all porting the Star Fleet uniforms (or something they modified) running around Federal Space Stations...pretty cool!
The clothing is the next perk. You have a generous list of costumes and uniforms to wear, all with color pallets to compliment! You can mix and match and change the colors down to the stitching! Like I said, it will be VERY rare that you run across your clone in this game.
On the Klingon side, I made a hideous alien amphibian like creature. I can chose fins and gills, and put them anywhere on the head, and use a rotater to position them in any direction...Pulsating tendrils are an option...It is just fun to play around in! This game is very underrated and over looked when it comes to character creation.
I give it a 5/5!
Game play: This is normally the meat and potatoes of most games. But this is not like most games, this offers rice, bread, and wine! Romulan Ale at that! I will hope right into the negative. The start of the game get's you used to the controls etc. It is a bit of a theme park launch. The game has two elements of game play. Ground based missions and content to dive into and Space. There is a perfect balance. You will usually be using space ports and Planets as a place to do daily transactions from simple quests to ship updates. As Federation I was taking quests from the Earth Space Dock right away. This Dock is orbiting Earth. At any time I can press my communications button to request a beam between my ship, planet, or dock. This includes the animation of your pressing your Com button on your shirt like in the show /movies, and dissolving into particles. I like this. Little details like this make up for allot of the errors one encounters. It is the CHARM of the game. Another overlooked piece to this game. The built in voice chat, if you use it, when you begin to the actual mouth on the CHARACTER MOVES with the voice recognition. I never noticed this until a friend pointed it out and we tested it together...Woah! 
I am getting a little off topic, back to the ground game play. On most ground elements, you will have your Auction house, bank, ship modification station, etc.. all located at base. The ground missions usually are woven in directly with space missions, allot of them require shooting your way through bad guys and talking, scanning, and minor interacting. Before, this felt half fulfilled. This game suffers from dull "stand there and shoot" action and limited interaction. The second time I installed this game and got into it. I noticed we now have free aim shooting (for FPS fans that want to use NON TAB TARGETING). Rolling, diving, and other dynamic moves to get you behind cover and forcing enemies to hunt you out. I was for sure moving ALLOT more in combat and it felt more "real / Fluid"...but then hey...if you ever watched the series...none of that was Rambo jumping though aliens nests....it was kirk...slowly punching lizards in the face and a few red shirts taking direct hits my a PEWWWW... that sums up the TV series. It was not PEW pew pew, but PEWWWWWWW... The game, after several patches, is actually more action packed than the series, but for the better. You will be forced to skillfully place yourself, and use your skills. A good healer with a good damage dealer and you are having a BLAST of managing your team and mission. 
There is a difficulty setting to be set before starting missions, you can set this to low, med, high, and each setting offers better loot. Soooo. that is a bit of game changer for ground combat If you thought it was to easy, it is now essentially hard if cranked up, but equally rewarding. 
The dialog has been tweaked to be more "jump outish" with a few added voice dialogs, and personalized animated frames. The Story and game missions are epic. I found myself edge of my seat sometimes thinking, "that is epic!" or "that is corney...but Trekkily epic!". One example is when you are used to the daily grind of ship and planet combat, but are assured you always are safe with a good team and unbeatable...then there is a story quest that removes you of all you have and you are taken prisoner and forced to break out! This story is so well done! I felt desperate, I was thinking "crap crap! have no chasers, my team is separated, we are lost in time space, and prisoners on an alien dimension...will I Really lose my ship? IS this really happening???" Ends up I get saved after sabotaging the bridge of the prison mining ship, and the captain is from the FUTURE FUTURE and saves me and returns me back in time because "I have epic things to do in my life time"...and I am returned one mission done...yeah...what did you do in your mmorpg today? Oh that is right, kill 10 rats. 

Space Battles are a very different ball game. And this is a make or break for most people. Most people like space combat and hate ground missions. Others love ground missions and story and see space story as an annoyance...And then there are others like me. We love both. It is a perfect balance in my opinion of "keeping busy". Space combat is based on managing your skills vs the enemy. Allot like Guild Wars 1 where skills are used to shut down the opponent skills, this works a little bit like that, and mix in just pure mmorpg elements of this number vs ours. The twist, is that it adds the ship battle element as well. You will have to gauge your speed, and position in battle, if one side is losing shields and power, you will have to manage the energy output to recover and turn ship to the other side. The cannons and lasers are built with targeting arcs, and positioning so that you might have flanks exposed, weaker vs stronger sides....You get the picture? It is tactile shoot out, and it is FUN (if you like that thing).
I have had edge of seat battles! It does not end there, you can explore as well, scanning to do things, talking, escorting, probing, delivering. A mysterious signal in a base, go check it out, AHHH cloaking bad guy, take him out! Sometimes you have decisions, help or kill some one. You then usually beam aboard bases, planets, or even other ships (taking you to the "ground combat" aspect)...
At this point there really is no game to compare this too. I can't say "EVE is better" because eve has no ground combat. I can't say ANARCHY ONLINE is better, because Anarchy has no ship combat like this. STO is STO. It was well made to be it's own beast. Now lets talk everything between ground and space:

There is allot, and I will not be able to cover EVERYTHING, but here are highlights. Missions are broken down into Patrol missions where you will go forth and do about 3 random missions, either space or ground combat, or both. Sometimes it is easy as scanning things and leaving, or fighting it out. Either way it is repeatable, easy, scaling, and rewarding. There are STORY LINE missions, which are exceptionally epic and the heart of good times and exceptionally rewarding and repeatable (play them on the 3 different difficulties for new challenges and rewards). There are PvP, random encounters, Player Made content, etc etc. I had a good time in player voted and created content...There is player made bases that trigger unique quests and other goodies offered to players taking the challenge to staff and build these player made housing.

Ship customization is EPIC! You can chose from several generous servings of skins, decals, parts, etc..what you see as a standard upgrade, is purchased, then you walk and talk to an NPC to customize it, you can start swapping parts and colors etc...all for free...This is a HUGE point overlooked by most players. Most people will look at this game and say: "oh I get that ship or that one as upgrades, I dont like either"...but no one will tell them unless they play and explore, that the ship can be modified BOTH INSIDE and OUTSIDE! Yes, inside too! You can invite players to the inside of your ship. It is basically the second form of player housing this game has to offer...



A little on the negative side: PWE does leave it's mark. There can be a wall of grind for the power rangers that log in only to get to the top. You can outright buy your ship and bundles, and for the rest of us, we need to grind out events, missions, and pvp to end up with loot. But it is well introduced in this game. Unlike Forsaken world and other PWE titles where logging in is just a chore of scheduled events to get 1 item, STO is rewarding at almost all levels and group play to reach your loot goals is very rewarding. There is also a VERY THEORETICAL build guide. No one build is better than the other but DIFFERENT. So this means you can be missing a TOP piece to your ship, but that does not make you less dangerous. Your skill and how you have built can be just as lethal to the guy that shopped his ship. Know your build, use it well, and you will have a great time. I think the PWE influence is a little less in this game because it is built around a solid paying fan base. These fans have been paying since launch and lasted through thick and thin. This generates enough dedicated content to this game to last long and solid. IF you look at pure PWE games, they RARELY get updates and left just to suck your wallet in end game or PvP. So this is probably the ONLY PWE title I would ever recommend.

Currency is Credits, and Dilithium. Dilithium shop exists, and you can exchange for ZEN or cash shop coin. Easy to do. Not to hindering. And allot of in game stuff is sufficient to bypass it all.

Crafting is very...optional? I am end game and collect parts...I have yet to really craft anything useful. But you can and it exists and is presented in a very cool way. And ENTIRE base dedicated to crafting goods.

There are several other things I have not mentions and so much more to discover. One thing I like about this game is that it is presented VERY simply: UI, few menus, Space and ship, or ground and person. But the tasks, and the things you will be doing and story uncovering get's deep. And imagine trying to keep other players in the loop of where you are...you will soon be speaking Trek Lingo very quick.
I give Game play 4/5 I wanted 5/5 as it is very unique, not comparable, only pieces comparable. I also thought of 4.5/5, but a trip to the forums will show there are bugs and recently maintenance seems to take place every day for 2 hours...So for now, a SOLID 4/5




Social: Being alone is space... Never a fun ordeal. Feel free to youtube Ren and Stimpy: Space Madness. This is a game that thrives greatly in grouping up. Solo is doable, and I solo 90% of the time. But when I am with a group it is just fun! The content scales with group size! So you can never zerg content out right. The content will see you are entering with another player and increase mobs and difficulty. This allows you to also team up with others higher level than you. This is done in such a genius way it is just yet ANOTHER LITTLE point HUGELY overlooked. I have to say again, these small things are what make STO shine. The Guild finding tool is great and you can advertise your guild and have others apply for recruitment etc. I got in a guild pretty quick, and with very specific guild tasks, it is fun addition to the game. That said, random chat, and open discussions are rare and void. This contrasts with the HUNDREDS of player ships floating by you...Kind makes for a stale open social environment...but once the chat gets rolling, it is one the most entertaining world chats I have ever read XD
3/5 - Solid Guilding, great player base, but open and free speech not existing. I have been warned about my chat once because I Role Played and said my digestive system is in my mouth...not sure why but someone though I was offensive and the game took action. Also, the forums locked until you log in several months of game time...kind of a stupid feature. Considering the forums are PWE managed and not CRYPTIC (from what I can see), this makes no sense other than a gimick to log in or pay.


Sound:Standard. Nothing to outstanding. The sounds sometimes recall the cool effects of the Peeewww phasers of the original show. That can get annoying after some battles. There is a built in Music player that I use at it balances with in game sounds etc. In game chat, and voice dialogs. I think with a little love they could have added some epic things like slow mow zoom in kills on some bosses, and more theatric music etc..but we get standard fare.
3/5

Conclusion: It had its F2P bumps. It is in partnered with a rather controversial publisher (PWE), but despite all that, I do believe the dedicated paying player base has allowed us F2P to enjoy basically all this game has to offer and more! I do feel guilty for not subbing for all the unique expereince I had here. IF you take this game and say "Oh well GW2 PVP is better, oh well EVE has better ship combat, oh well Blacklight is a better sci fi shooter"...you could be right, because those games are not all comparable. Piece by piece, this game could not last, as a whole, this game offers very intelligent design and fun features! I have tried Secret World that was supposed to be "intelligent" and "customizable" and felt that the puzzles were dull, illogical, and not that much to really dress up in (or ugly). STO full fills that role and exceeds it! But again, I can not go comparing it directly to other games. It is what it is, and I highly recommend you check it out!

Over all: 4/5


(Not seeing my clone anywhere, I decided to dance on the bar with all the other unique players in this epic universe!)

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