When I started out with my summertime free-to-play MMORPG free-for-all, there were five games on my list: DC Universe Online, TERA, Skyforge, Phantasy Star Online 2 NG, and not Final Fantasy XIV, but rather Star Trek Online. After the FFXIV diversion, there was only one thing left to do, and that was to give Star Trek Online a shot. As with most of the other titles, I knew the STO in name only, and it was mostly thanks to that time many months ago when I was completely obsessed with Neverwinter, which was developed by the same studio. Going in, no small part of me was excited, as I grew up with Star Trek in my veins. Everything about it, from its TV shows to the movies, was staple entertainment in my childhood household. If I was nervous about anything, it was that STO was the oldest and maybe the most venerated game in the group I had at-hand. I wasn’t sure if I could handle it if it turned out to be anything less than great. But, I steeled my resolve for whatever adventures were to come.
Set a few decades after the events of Star Trek: Nemesis (last of the ST: The Next Generation movies), in the Star Trek Online’s beginning throes, players begin as Starfleet Academy cadets of the species and career (class) of their choosing. The game offers plenty of familiar species within the Star Trek universe (with a few locked behind paywalls at the start), and three different career paths – engineer, science officer, or tactical officer. (I opted for a Bajoran engineer, a class that, on paper, read as providing both DPS and support gameplay, though I’m not sure I made it far enough into the game to see those suppositions in action.) After obtaining the perfect character, my engineer was off to meet her classmates and begin whatever tutorial the game had in mind. I made it through training (learning basic movement and interactions) and soon ended up as second-in-command on a ship. Then there was suddenly fighting, and…
Honestly, and sadly, I don’t remember exactly what happened. My husband and I were playing the game together, though not really together, as we hadn’t yet been able to team up. So, we were mostly just distracted about that and a little confused. The ship was infiltrated by an enemy – the Borg, maybe? – and we both had to shoot things. That part wasn’t terribly enjoyable. I was playing my instance on our old Xbox One, and while I think the console was more than capable of dealing with the game itself, the game’s combat was very clunky and inelegant. I may have had some settings off or set incorrectly, but I mostly just shot in the direction of enemies hoping my phaser beams would land. To a degree, the game personally felt like Neverwinter in space, only with worse combat. I presume that if/when I spend a little more time with the game, I’d eventually get used to battling on foot.
After stumbling through a few of the game’s beginning levels, my former cadet was give command of a Starfleet ship of her own, which ended up being called the Madrid, thanks to the random name generator. (Players can opt to give their ships custom names, too.) It makes perfect sense that actually being space would be part of any game with “Star Trek” in its name, but I didn’t expect what was to come. In no time at all, my engineer was coming to the aid of another Starfleet ship and battling Klingon attackers. I can count on one hand the times I’ve enjoyed flying in games, but maneuvering a ship through space was unlike an experience I’d had in a game before. It was amazing! Well…eventually. At first, it was both easy and complex. Flying, as it were, was fine; figuring out where to go and what to shoot at (and not shoot at) was a different matter. At one point, I of course ended up way outside the perimeter of the action, and the game was more than happy to yell at me about it. I eventually managed my way through the ensuing space battle; and I even caught onto a few “tricks” that made the initial experience less maddening, such as learning that I only needed to be “ in range” of certain things rather than right on top of them. Failing my way to success is par for the course with any new game, let alone a giant space-based MMO.
I left the game still within its tutorial, and still unable to play together with my other half (I imagine that we’ve simply not made it to whatever level/area allows players to team up), unsure of its future within my gaming stash. Star Trek Online has been around for more than a decade, and some regards, that age definitely shows. At the same time, the game appears be active and popular enough that developers are still throwing content at it, which is impressive and gives good cause for me to stick with it. That said, I’m not sure that settling down with a new MMORPG is in the cards for me right now (I’m eyeing hard the new Saints Row game), but of all the MMOs I’ve tried out over the past couple months, except for FFXIV, it probably has the most internal staying power. I feel very drawn to STO’s world and lore, and these factors alone make me want to explore its vast array of offerings further. Maybe not now, but someday I’ll really get in to space…the final frontier.
All images, including lede, we captured by author during Xbox One gameplay of Star Trek Online (© Cryptic Studios, Perfect World Entertainment).