View Full Version : Star Trek Online - Post-Beta Impressions

01-27-2010, 12:52 PM
STO Impressions After Beta.

So, what's the game like? The goal was to make it feel like you're playing a starship captain in one of the shows. Now this can mean different things based on different shows. If a direct comparison is possible, you're a lot more like Kirk on The Original Series than Picard on The Next Generation. You're much quicker to draw your weapon, raise shields, and blast away at your problems rather than open a hailing frequency to talk your way out of your conflicts.

Largely the lack of dialog-based progression of plotlines is due to the MMO format. Dialog options are something much more suited to single-player RPGs like Dragon Age than a massively-multiplayer. That's a topic of some debate, but I'm reporting the facts of STO here, and the facts are that it is not designed to give you lots of non-combat options. There are non-combat missions that take the form of anomaly inspections, criminal investigations, and civil dispute negotiations. However, these are very linear, offering very little in the way of personal choice towards resolution. In short, this is a lot more Warcraft than Dragon Age. That is decidedly not a bad thing for an MMO to be.

Your Character

You are the ship's Captain. You control the ship during space combat, and you control your avatar during away missions. You may choose between a Tactical, Engineering, or Science officer as your starting 'class', but this primarily affects your role in away missions rather than in space.

Tactical Officers specialize in dealing damage by various means, and tanking damage. Engineering officers repair personal shields, construct battlefield fortifications, turrets, and minefields. Science officers heal wounds, debuff enemies, and buff friendlies. More than all of this though, you are the Captain. You position bridge officers around the battlefield to gain significant flanking advantages, focus fire on weak or important targets, and you personally kick much ass by doing about 30% more damage and having considerably more tactical flexibility.

The skills you rank up as you build your character have more to do with passive buffs for your ship and officers than on clickables for yourself. You gain some skills common to all captains (such as Evasive Maneuvers and Ramming Speed), some skills specific to your class (like Focus Fire and Tricorder Scan), and your remaining skills are gained through your Kit, which is a piece of equipment granting you up to four clickable skills (like Leg Sweep, Shield Recharage, and Medical Tricorder). The Kit is class-dependent and can be changed out of combat, so it pays to have a couple on hand to swap as necessary.

Your Ship

Your ship is your avatar for space combat. Initially you start with a Light Cruiser, which is a jack-of-all-trades and allows you to learn the fundamentals of space combat. At level 11 (upon reaching the rank of Lieutenant Commander) you are promoted into a new ship. This is either a Cruiser, Science Vessel, or Escort. Each of these has various advantages and disadvantages.

Cruisers are like the Enterprise. They're big and slow, but have rock-solid hulls. They have a wide array of weapons. They can repair themselves and buff their own hulls better than any other class. In short, they're tanks.

Science Vessels are like the Voyager. The quick and maneuverable. They have weak hulls, but thick shields. They can debuff enemies and transfer power to friendly vessels to aid in repairs and shield reinforcement. In short, they're support.

Escorts are like the Defiant. They're the fastest and most maneuverable ships. They're the hardest to hit, having the highest inherent defense level, but they're fragile with weak hulls and thin shields. They have impressive weapon arrays and they can mount Cannons, which are super-powered phasers or disruptors that do simply stupid amounts of damage. In short, they're DPS.

Now, these are the very broad descriptions of the ship types and their roles. There is no dependency between your own class and your ship type. Your captain gains clickable space skills based on class, and these do reflect your own abilities (Sensor Scan for science officers, Attack Pattern Alpha for tactical officers). But, any of these are solid in any ship (and if you like to pvp, there's nothing like the look of horror on an enemy's face when your cruiser fires up Attack Pattern Alpha).

In large part, your ship's clickables come from the Bridge Officers you assign to your various bridge stations. Bridge stations come in the same three types you're familiar with: Tactical, Engineering, and Science. Those stations grant abilities along the same lines you're familiar with: DPS, tank, and support. Each ship type has more stations associated with its preferred role. In other words, Escorts have more Tactical stations (and therefore more ways to do damage), Cruiser have more Engineering stations (and therefore more ways to control damage and self-buff), and Science Vessels have more Science stations (and therefore more ways to debuff and heal/repair friendlies).

Bridge Stations have a rank associated with them ranging from Ensign to Commander. You can stations a bridge officer with a Commander rank at an Ensign station, but they'll only have access to their Ensign level ability. More on that later. Suffice to say that as you level up, you gain access to more stations and higher ranked stations, thus opening up more abilities for your ship.

Space combat is much like you see in the movies and very dependent on your ship type. For cruisers, you're a battleship, moving inexorably towards the enemy, unleashing huge volleys of torpedoes and phaser fire. For escorts you're a fighter plane, zipping through enemy formations, picking off targets with short, savage bursts of cannon fire, and you can always get on your enemy's weakest shield. Basically, you want to play to your strengths, marginalize your weaknesses, and exploit the enemy.

Bridge Officers

Officers come from the three disciplines just like you do: Tactical, Engineering, and Science. They man your bridge stations and accompany you on away missions. They have skills, equipment, and avatars, all of which you can manage. They don't have the same equipment slots your captain does, however. For instance, they only equip one weapon, and they do not equip Kits. The equivalent skills that your captain receives from a Kit your officers receive through their skills.

Bridge officers have four ground skills and four space skills that correspond to their rank. In other words, an Ensign has access to his first ground skill and first space skill whereas a Lieutenant Commander has access to three ground and three space. Note that access to the space skills require that they be assigned to a Lt. Cmdr bridge station. However, for away missions the rank grants access to the skill.

Officer skills have ranks from one to three. For instance, High Yield Torpedo I fires a single additional torpedo from your ship when used. High Yield Torpedo III fires three additional torps (which is crazy damage). You can obtain training of all skills at levels One and Two from Starfleet HQ. Rank Three skills can only be taught by player captains. This makes up the only real type of 'crafting' that the game has. Officers with rank three abilities are rare and valuable. Occasionally Starfleet will reward you with a bridge officer commission with exceptional abilities. You can either let them join as one of your crew, or have them teach one of their abilities to one of your existing officers. This gives you a lot of flexibility in how your ship and away teams perform.

You end up with a lot of officer slots. There will be your star players (those officers who have been with you from the beginning) and specialists who serve either on the bridge or on away teams for specific tasks. You can rotate officers on bridge stations anytime you're out of combat, so you can plan different attacks and methods for different enemies. On away missions you've got what you beam down with, so choose carefully.

Bridge officers are completely customizable, and when you activate their commission, you have the option to immediately tailor them however you'd like. The only thing you can't change is their species and gender. Uniform and appearance are completely up to you.

Missions and Gameplay

Content is roughly divided into three areas: Episodes, Exploration, and PvP.

Episodes are what you're used to from other MMOs. You receive your mission, follow the objectives, and get your rewards. The story arcs usually cover a number of episodes, culminating in a significant (but soloable!) challenge at the end, and a commensurate reward.

Exploration content is, effectively, randomized missions. You journey 'off the map' to explore anomalies in various star clusters, expanses, and nebulae. These missions are somewhat limited, but they have a linked repeatable quest that rewards you with Exploration Badges of Merit (used for gear just like badges in all other games).

PvP is against the Klingons. Scenarios are set on the ground or in space. These reward you with Badges of Valor, also used for gear.

Through the beta, I only reached level 24 (Commander Rank, Heavy Cruiser). I never ran out of things to do, and only participated in two pvp fights.

Problems with the Game

The first (and biggest) problem that new players will run into is information overload. There's a LOT to consider and a LOT to take in. You've got two kinds of combat to get used to, a ship to configure, a career to plan, and several characters to take in. They do their best to limit this overload, but, honestly they don't do anyone any favors by tossing you into an immediate Borg attack. This is Cryptic's Way of 'drawing you in', but it's good to ignore everything going on around you and read all of the information they put in front of you.

The second problem is the UI. They don't give you very much transparency to what the numbers mean. For instance, one of the first skills you get access to is Starship Command. Ranking this to maximum gives you a +18 bonus to Hull Strength and Maneuverability. But what the heck does +18 mean? Likely this is the sort of problem that will go away (Champions Online had this issue, and they corrected it after the first month) but for now, you can only theorize that +18 is better than +16 because it's a bigger number. Not good.

Third, auto-grouping is turned on. All missions are instanced, and when you zone-in to a star system, if you don't have auto-grouping disabled, you'll join other captains at the same place in the episode as you (up to five players per group). Sometimes this is good. Usually I've found it to be a pug of the worst kind since the mission difficulty scales with the number of players. If one captain goes afk or doesn't pull their weight, the rest have that much more work to do without much additional reward. Bad Cryptic. Bad! However, with a good group, or a group of friends, this can be a great way to play. Just be sure to disable auto-grouping before you try that first patrol mission.

Finally, power allocation is hardly covered in the tutorial, but it's a vital part of space combat. You have four bars to allocate your ship's power to various systems. Those systems are Weapons, Shields, Engines, and Auxilliary. The more power a system has, the better it performs. For instance, with Shields set to maximum, your shield regenerates at three times its usual rate. They mention this only in passing. In fact, in one of the 1v1 pvp encounters I had, I utterly destroyed a Klingon battlecruiser simply because I knew how power to Auxiliary would affect some of my debuffing abilities. The Klingon exhibited all signs of being a player that simply set his Weapons to maximum and blazed away. Stupid, and not his fault. Cryptic dropped the ball on that one.


Despite the issues I mentioned, they've got a pretty solid game with a fair amount of depth and a LOT of room for expansion. The Federation is at war with Klingons, Gorn, Romulans, Remans, Hirogen, Cardassians, Orions, the Dominion, and the Borg. There's a lot to do, a lot of space to cover, and a lot of ways to do it. I've already plotted out potential careers for six characters, including two pvp builds, and the rest as variations on mixing and matching ship types, career types, and officer skills.

Topics I haven't covered include grouping, fleet actions, and Memory Alpha. There's a fair bit to say on each of those, and they're not core game mechanics. In fact, there's still a fair bit to say on space and ground combat, and those ARE core mechanics. There's plenty of room for finesse as a solo player or in a group.

I guess what I'm saying is that I'm in for now. :)

If anyone has any questions, feel free to ask. I went out of my way to try as many things as I could and can answer just about anything you might ask.

01-27-2010, 09:10 PM
I went through a lot of the testing for this game as well, and overall I thought they did a good job of capture Star Trek.

painfully slow ship combat- in my opinion- but it was very very Star Trek. Excellent capturing and execution of ship to ship combat in space.

The character level stuff was great.

But, not for me. Way to slow paced. Which is very Star Trek, really.

If you like Star Trek as a universe, and you dig the MMO style of play- you'll like Star Trek Online.

01-28-2010, 03:00 PM
Only Klingons or Federation as playable factions?
Also, you can take your bridge officers on away missions? So, if you already have a group of officers, what's the point of other players?

01-28-2010, 06:17 PM
I'm pretty sure the difficulty and rewards are higher if you have multiple players in the group as compared to just going it solo with npcs. And the more players you have, the harder it goes, and so on. I really like that feature actually, so, you could do it solo if you wanted to, or take it up a few notches based on the people you know and want to play with.

01-29-2010, 02:50 AM
Oh, also, if you play Klingon, can you use a Bat'leth? ;)

01-29-2010, 03:25 AM
The away team is more like you have 3 or 4 crewmembers with you, and they beam to the planet with you.

Your 2nd in command (and others you gain over time) have different skills and abilities that enhance your combat and ship. But they don't take the place of other players. In standard MMO lingo, they're uncontrolled pets.

01-29-2010, 04:00 AM
I can has?

I can has want this so bad. It'll be my first foray into MMO.

01-29-2010, 04:09 AM
Thanks efkelley, just what I wanted to know.

01-29-2010, 05:39 AM
Answering the questions as they come:

Only Klingons or Federation as playable factions?
Also, you can take your bridge officers on away missions? So, if you already have a group of officers, what's the point of other players?

Yep, Klingons and Feds. For races, Feds have various presets including Human, Trill, Vulcan, Andorian, etc. Klingons have Klingons (duh), Orions, Gorn, Nausican, and a couple of others. Both sides have the ability to create 'Unknowns' which are your own custom race.

Note: You have to play a Fed to level six or so before Klingon gameplay is unlocked. This will teach you all the basics you need to know. After that you can make a Klingon faction character.

Races have four traits. Usually one or two of these is preset (leadership for humans, aggressive for Klingons, etc) and then you pick from a limited list for the other traits. Unknowns have an expanded list from which to pick four traits.

Now, one thing about playing a Klingon: KLINGON PLAY IS PRIMARILY PVP BASED! This isn't to say you don't have some PvE missions, but you will be fighting Feds and other Klingons to advance. They plan to open up Exploration content to Klingons soon, but for Episodic content Klingons are out of luck. This has caused some howling from the Klingon faction, but I look at it as Cryptic just trying to put Klingon players into character by pissing them off. ;-)

Regarding officers, yes, your away team is always a group of five (except in certain non-combat scenarios where you take only one officer and have others available to beam in if/when things get nasty). When you group with another captain, the group consists of you two and three officers chosen from your various crews as determined by the group leader.

Whistlelock is right in that they're basically pets. You can determine their behavior, but they're not captains. This is not to say they suck, not by any means. For example, I always had an engineer with Recharge Shields, and a science officer with Medical Tricorder. I was rarely concerned with my health or shields (unless I somehow drew fire on an entire pack of enemies at once). All these matters are improved even more with human players.

Oh, also, if you play Klingon, can you use a Bat'leth?

You bet! You can also get one as a Fed, although the only place I found to get one was Deep Space 9 and then you can only use it when you reach Commander rank.

They did a great job with the melee combat. Melee generally ignores shields (for no scientific reason I can think of, but it makes game balance interesting). The Bat'leth is a dangerous weapon because it actually has combination attacks, and every swipe of the thing has a chance to put an Exposed debuff on the enemy.

'Exposed' means the enemy is in a vulnerable state. If you hit them with an 'Exploit' attack, it will do close to 10x normal damage (or more). This gives you the vaporize animation. One of the keys to away team combat is exposing targets and exploiting them as rapidly as possible. The Bat'leth in the hands of my main character (a mere science officer) was a brutal weapon. I can only imagine giving it to a Vulcan Tactical Officer (+10% melee strength and Tactical gives you hand-to-hand exploit attacks).

Again, you can only get one at Commander rank and higher, but I will definitely be looking for ways to find one at lower ranks.

It'll be my first foray into MMO.

I think you'll enjoy it, Wavy, but let me warn you that I wasn't kidding when I said their UI needs work. I only figured out some of the tricky bits because I've played a lot of MMOs, and I like fiddling. But if you take it easy, read every tooltip, and lurk on the forums, I think you'll enjoy it.

The UI will improve over time. I still have no idea why they didn't make it programmable like Warcraft's UI. Letting the community do all the work and then lifting the code to incorporate into your base UI is just sheer genius. I think it's a major contributor to Warcraft's success.

But, I digress. Give it a shot, and see what you think. :)

01-29-2010, 06:33 AM
If you love the Star Trek world, dig MMO's or want to get into one, this is a good game for you.

I thought the combat was a bit slow paced, but very Star Trek.

01-29-2010, 06:53 AM
Pretty much like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XyhhFzE5O5U

Including music. :D

01-29-2010, 02:30 PM
You bet! You can also get one as a Fed, although the only place I found to get one was Deep Space 9 and then you can only use it when you reach Commander rank.
Awesome! Bat'leths are even cooler than katanas. :p

I might give it a go. WoW is starting to get a bit samey.

01-30-2010, 01:55 AM
I just discovered today that if you unequip one of your weapon slots you have access to martial arts. Just like a Bat'leth, you can do combo maneuvers with martial arts. So, left attack, right attack, left attack gives you a spinning jump kick.

They call it Kirking Out. :D

02-17-2010, 05:53 PM
Hmmmm (http://www.electronictheatre.co.uk/index.php/pc/pc-news/4149-star-trek-online-fans-set-guinness-world-record)

02-17-2010, 07:09 PM
Just started playing.

Waaaaay cool. I don't do much gaming these days, but this game is seriously fun and could be seriously addicting. I really like the space combat, because it's real time, but not reflex-based, at all. If I'm getting clobbered, I can shift around to buy time.

There's a little too much detail in some of the character stats stuff, though. For me, anyway.

02-18-2010, 01:44 AM
Yeah I'd heard about the Trek gathering. I'm surprised 99 was enough for a record, considering some of the turnouts at conventions and such. I guess Guinness isn't usually called for those.

It's a pretty entertaining game. The hard part is NOT playing when I should be writing. :)

02-26-2010, 07:11 PM
From a PvP aspect is the game twitch (not having to wait on animations for an ability)?

Also, I heard the PvP on the ship is dreadfully bleh. Turning the ship is hilarious. Overall -- disappointment.

Thank you for the review! I was curious of the two above.

02-26-2010, 10:15 PM
Yeah, abilities tend to activate when you push the button. Some have a ramp-up that can be interrupted. There is an annoying tendency for both sides to camp an area rather than hunt down the other team. Fortunately, most games have either a control point or resource point that must be captured and held to win, forcing conflict.

Space battles in the neutral zone tend to involve a lot of waiting, followed by a crazy five minute running fight, followed by more waiting. The trouble is cloaking. All Klingon ships can cloak, excepting the carrier. This has the effect of Feds circling the wagons into something the Klingons call the FedBall until a Klingon uncloaks. Said Klingon is almost always a tank. Everyone opens fire, the tank takes the alpha strike, and the remaining Klingons uncloak, all firing on one poor unfortunate who was the pre-planned alpha victim. Hilarity ensues.

The cloaking is a problem. When there's a carrier out there, there's something to focus on. Sure it's surrounded by cloaked ships, but there's a point of conflict. When you warp in and see no Klingons at all, you circle up and settle in to wait.

Mind you, most of the space battles have a resource point or control node to contest, so there's something to fight over. Regardless, the most popular battles still tend to be the 'Kill em all' type.