I have written in the past about the problems that Star Trek Online faced when it launched back in early 2010. I played sixty plus hours back then but eventually left because there was insufficient to hold me. At the time I was still greatly enamoured with the MMORPG genre and had my fingers in several “pies”. I briefly revisited the game when it went free to play last year. I made the mistake of trying to continue with my previous alt and failed miserably at advancing the character. That was entirely my fault, because so much had changed. Sometimes it just makes sense to roll another alt and start again. So that’s what I have done this week.
The thing is, despite the games troubled launch and chaotic first two years, I did like it. It doesn’t seem to do as well as it could do with the franchise but every now and then something just clicks and it does succeed as an MMO. So I decided to re-install the game on Monday via Steam, which is where I bought the digital deluxe version originally. However, I had major problems with the client launcher so decided to do a clean uninstall and then download the game again, this time from Perfect World themselves. This made no appreciable difference. Let it suffice to say that a Google search showed that the client launcher is a still a a major ongoing “issue” for the developers Cryptic.
I finally got into STO on Tuesday and was exceptional pleased with the changes that have been made along with some of the original aspects of the game. If you like to customise your alt, then there are a lot of options. The tutorial is very used friendly and quickly get’s a new player orientated. I particularly liked the improvements that have been made to ground combat. The aiming system is very much to my liking and makes the action far more engaging. Overall I thought the game engine performed well, which is a welcome change from other MMOs that I’ve been playing of late. Over the past two years Cryptic have released a consistent amount of new material and technical improvements. Seven “seasons” of content has been made available at regular intervals, adding a lot of bug fixes and refinements. Better PvP, end game raids, playable ground combats, plus the rather unique addition of the Foundry, allowing players to create and share their own missions. Gone are the confusing stats, broken ground missions, non-existent crafting and complete lack of end-game content.
I definitely feel that STO is a better game today than it was at launch. However, that is not to say that it is the embodiment of perfection. The game still has it’s technical foibles and esoteric game mechanics. Character skills have been revamped to be more intuitive, yet still baffle upon first glance. Crafting is (for me) impenetrable Toolbar management is still fiddly and the simple act of navigating from one system to another is still overly complex. Why you cannot simple enter co-ordinates and warp from point A to B, beats the hell out of me. Yet irrespective of these niggles, there is a lot to do now in-game. The Duty Officer system, which was absent form the game when I first played, offers both risk and reward’
Star Trek Online may not be exactly what Gene Roddenberry originally envisaged but every now and then something happens in-game, be it a lore reference or a simple sound effect and you get the Star Trek vibe. The game is what it is and makes concessions to blend the needs of a commercial MMO with a cult franchise. For Star Trek to be the game it truly could be, it would require a free economy and an open sandbox environment, with a focus on politics, diplomacy and above all exploration. Frankly that is a not an undertaking that many developers would wish to make. What we have on offer in STO is probably the most viable compromise. It also has the backing of the rights holders and a developer who may not get everything right immediately but has proven their determined to improve and refine the product. Not many MMOs can make such a claim and often content themselves with just treading water.
At present I am playing as a silver account holder. I have not yet run into any restrictions that have impaired my enjoyment of the game (unlike SWTOR). As mentioned, as I played previously at launch in 2010, so I have resources in my bank and energy credits to spare. It would appear that there is a lot more cosmetic items for sale along with a multitude of ships. The focus seems to be on unlocking services rather than playable content, which is fine by me. Judging by the variety of vessels and exotic characters I have encountered so far, players are purchasing these embellishments.
Finally, I made my return to STO during the start of the Three Year Anniversary celebrations. It was quite by accident but turned out to be a real bonus. After a few hours of re-orientating myself, I dusted of my previous character who had reached the lofty heights of level fourteen. I managed to complete the special “Temporal Ambassador” episode, which I enjoyed immensely. It was a great way to reconnect with the game and revel in some old school references and homages to the wider franchise. Despite all I have written I can’t quite put my finger on what I like about STO. It has a curious appeal because of the lore and in spite of it. It was a game I bought by my own choice back in 2010. I didn’t migrate to it because others were. A similar mindset has driven my return. I may well subscribe for a few months to make my stay more enjoyable. A logical choice, you may say.