Star Trek Online: Part 0

bastun_ie wrote this before the Open Beta went live, but my scheduling chewed it up. Apologies! As he says, there'll be more from him on STO, and a bit from me as well - I've been playing for a couple of days in the Open Beta.

Drew has kindly let me use Dukestreet to write about my experiences with Star Trek Online - one of the most anticipated MMOs of 2010. STO, as I write, is in closed beta. It moves to open beta on Tuesday 12th, and anticipation is building. I've pre-ordered, and will (hopefully!) be rolling my first character on Tuesday. I'll be writing about the beta experience - chargen, the tutorial, early missions, gameplay (PvE and PvP), and so on.

The game is set in the year 2409 - approximately 30 years after the events in Star Trek:Nemesis, the last outing for the TNG crew. It is set in the "original" universe - that of TOS, TNG, DS9 and VOY, but events have moved on since the series and films. The peace accord with the Klingons has faltered, Romulus has been destroyed, and the Alpha Quadrant has become a much more dangerous place. Events from the 2009 "reboot" film will have a bearing on events in the game, however.

But first things first - let's start with ordering the game. While it's scheduled for retail release on 5th February (in Europe - the US gets it a couple of days earlier), it's been possible to pre-order for about a month. As with Champions Online, the developers (Cryptic) and publisher (Atari) have an interesting pre-order model going. Depending on where you pre-order from, you'll get different in-game bonuses. This has prompted some people (I'm not alone!) to order more than one copy, as items from different pre-orders can be added to the same account (and the free gametime stacks). The items include vintage uniforms from various incarnations of the Trek franchise (TOS, TNG and DS9), pets (including a tribble), equipment, a Borg bridge officer, and access to a Constitution-class cruiser as one of your ships - the original USS Enterprise. Cryptic have hinted that it might be possible to acquire some of these items at a later stage via microtransactions from their online store.

Previews and reviews of the closed beta are starting to appear on the net, and from what I've seen so far, the game looks promising. An early highlight is character generation. Cryptic has a good reputation in this area already, from Champions Online, but STO seems to be a further improvement. Two factions are available at game launch, Federation and Klingon (though everyone starts as Federation - Klingon gets unlocked later, after the tutorial). Federation characters have nine races to choose from (though one option, joined Trill, is only available through pre-order), including human, Vulcan, Bajoran, Bolian and Andoran.

When Klingon play is unlocked, members of the Klingon Empire can choose from Klingon, Gorn, Lethean, Nausican, and everyone's favourite green-skinned aliens, Orion. In addition to the "basic" races, though, each faction still allows you to create your own race from scratch, with a very high level of customisation, both of racial features and uniforms.

Players may choose one of three types of ships after the tutorial - Tactical ships are small and hard-hitting (like DS9's Defiant), Science vessels (like the USS Voyager from, er, Voyager) are a control and buff type, able to target specific subsystems on enemy ships, and Cruisers like the various Enterprise incarnations are versatile, but geared slightly towards tanking (as the large crew complement conduct repairs quickly. There are a further three ship classes available within each type. Customisation extends to ships, also - a player can alter the colour, decals, nacelles, struts, saucer, and so on.

So, two days to go to open beta. Knowing there was a large download involved, I tried to start downloading early. My pre-order, from Direct2Drive let me download an installer, which proved to be a quite slow P2P. Undaunted, I searched around, and found a closed beta client I could download. There is confusion on the forums at the moment, as others have done the same, and noone is quite sure whether the closed beta client will be patched up to open, or whether we'll need a new client. Being a weekend, Cryptic aren't answering - understandably enough. One interesting feature, though, is that the in-game communication system is Cryptic-wide - while playing Champions Online earlier, I was able to have a /tell conversation with a friend who was playing the closed beta. Hopefully Cryptic put us out of our collective misery before beta-day, though...

Posted by Drew Shiel at January 17, 2010 11:43 AM

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