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Daily Grind: Star Trek Online - A Worthy Enterprise? Sam's avatar
 
Set Phasers To Stun
Before I say anything regarding my experiences with Star Trek Online, let the record show that I'm surprised the game is actually out at all. I don't know why, but the idea of a persistent Star Trek universe always sounded like a bit of a pipe dream and an actual implementation should be assigned mythical beast status along with Duke Nukem Forever and Half-Life: Episode 3. However, here I sit mouse in hand, just scratching the surface of a virtual galaxy ripe for exploration.

I'm sure I won't be alone in having overzealous ambitions for Cryptic Studio's new MMORPG but I guess that's par for the course when you take on one of the most fanatically followed fictional institutions. For me, the perfect Star Trek Online experience would have my avatar participating along other players in a string of episodic quests that play out something like an episode of the The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine or Voyager. I've yet to see whether the game offers this experience in any shape or form, but from my initial tinkering, it's certainly not the Battle at Wolf 359 (for non-Trekkies, a disaster) many were predicting.

Awesome: It's Star Trek!

Sci-fi franchises come and sci-fi franchises go, but nothing has stood the test of time, while still maintaining mainstream popularity, like Star Trek has. The particularly strain of utopian future that Gene Roddenberry bred still stands in contrast with the majority of depressing visions depicting the mass extinction of all life on Earth or humans being considered the walking, talking faeces of the galaxy. As much as these alternative futures might provide a great background for games, it's exciting to be given the chance to buy into a universe where everything is a little bit rosy and the spaceships are carpeted.

Boresome: To Boldly Go... Where Everyone Has Gone Before

While playing through the opening hours Star Trek Online, I realised I hadn't heard much in the press about the unique selling points of the game in the run up to the release. A few hours later, I also released this was probably because it didn't have any. I'm not sure I've come across a single feature yet that isn't recognisably 'borrowed' from another MMORPG. From the ship controlled sections lifted from EVE to the NPCs who fight alongside you as in Guild Wars, you can't help but play guess the progenitor every time a feature is introduced. In its defence, by nature all MMORPGs are a tad incestuous with their brothers and sisters, it's just that Star Trek Online feels a little more Frankenstein's Monster rather than Blade Runner's Replicants.

Awesome: Stylistic Visuals

Due to a stupid agreement that I made with myself about not upgrading my PC until either Starcraft 2, Diablo 3 or The Old Republic are released (so 2020 at the earliest), a major concern I had about giving Star Trek Online a go was if I would be able to run it at all. According to the back of the box, my system is below minimum system recommendations and so I was genuine shocked by what I faced when first logging into the game world. Even with pretty much every graphical option switched off, people and objects have with a crisp, highly stylised look that is pleasing on both the eye and the frame rate. The effect is not dissimilar to World Of Warcraft, which also manages to still look good on a Casio LC-310 calculator and a million miles away from Warhammer Online, which I'm still convinced would look terrible given all the processing power of Europe and North American combined.

Boresome: Limited Player Interactions

I'm willing to accept that I might end up eating humble pie in the long run with this point, but given my current experiences it almost feels like Cryptic Studios are nudging players away from interacting with each other. The opening few hours see you transported into your own little instances and playing alongside hand-tailored NPC crew members in set pieces that could easily have taken place completely offline. Now I know there's something to be said about letting everyone learn the ropes at their own pace, but I would have thought you'd want people interacting with each other as soon as possible to set a precedent as to what is expected at later levels.

Awesome: User Interface

Those familiar with any of the more recent Star Trek incarnations should also know that the LCARS operating system championed by the Federation deserves some kind of Nobel Art Prize for its simple elegance. Thankfully, it seems as if the developers at Cryptic Studios are also aware of this and have put together a user interface that functions intuitively and is ridiculously easy to customise, all while remaining authentic to the feel of the franchise. I hate fighting with MMORPG interfaces and the thing stopping me from revisiting World Of Warcraft more regularly is the hours necessary to get even a rudimentary set of add-ons up and running.

Boresome: Starship Control

If there's anything my endless trawling through Mass Effect 2's codex has taught me, it's that making thing move in space is hard, something that Cryptic Studios seem only too eager to relay to players, with starship control feeling both sluggish and awkward. During the few battles I took part in, I seemed to spend the majority of time grappling with the throttle slider and gargantuan turning circles that turned the combat into a Benny Hill chase scenario, just with spaceships instead of busty women. Obviously this part of the game is necessary, but does it necessarily have to be so faithful to Newtonian physics? That guy and his laws really know how to ruin a good party.

Awesome: It's Star Trek! - Stylistic Visuals - User Interface

Boresome: To Boldly Go... Where Everyone Has Gone Before - Limited Player Interactions - Starship Control

It really is impossible to come to any kind of rational opinion about the success of an MMORPG off the back of a dozen hours of playtime. While the universe is fresh and unexplored, there is always excitement to be had just from unlocking a new set of skills or visiting a new zone and only when the familiarity sets in does a game show its true colours. That being said, Star Trek Online hasn't set off any alarm bells yet and while its not going to win any awards for originality, the strength of the franchise might be enough to ensure I keep playing past the all important 'First 30 Days Included' point. Tags: