When Critical Gamer first sent me a press copy of Star Trek: Online, they told me I could take my time writing the review. “Don’t worry,” said one editor. “There’s no rush on MMOs. They can take a long time to get into.”
That was two months ago (or 67 days, if you want to be specific), and still, I haven’t written my review. Critical Gamer has been pestering me with increasing frequency. First it was friendly, optimistic: “Hey Robert, how’s that review coming along?” whereas now, there’s talk of not only the fine people at Critical Gamer turning on me, but Atari, the game’s publisher, as well.
So I figure it’s high time to write this wretched thing, to reveal my experience with Star Trek: Online to the public. God help my editors, Cryptic, and Atari, and lastly, may God help me.
Star Trek: Online is one of the most boring, soul-flattening games I have ever had the misfortune to play.
There you have it, you vile hounds. The two-month delay, contrary to certain rumours, have had more to do with my trying not to play the game than with anything else. Every morning I’ve woken up with the grim realization that my character is still sitting in some cold quadrant of space, their level permanently frozen at a lowly rank.
If this were a merciful world I could leave now, my head down, my pride painfully ripped away. But this is RL, and I can’t quite leave, not yet. First, I must explain my reasons for hating this game.
To do so, however, would be easier if I first established what initially excited me about the title. Upon booting up the game, things look like they’re going to be stellar. First off, the character customization for this game is incredibly deep. Not only can you choose from a slew of races and special traits, but the model customization boasts a robust number of choices, practically guaranteeing that no two characters will ever look alike in this game.
The first mission is entertaining, and it manages to show off Star Trek’s stellar graphics. Let me say it now, simply and clearly: Star Trek not only looks better than every other MMO on the market, it flat-out pulverises them, turns ‘em to dust. The environments are as gorgeous and detailed as the player models, and you get the sense that game designers were head-over-heels in love with their product.
Then, after you play through the first hour of the game, things slow down and muck up, and you find yourself in the vast, grey bog that is Star Trek: Online.
My first issue was with a lack of direction. Early in the game I found myself on a space station where I needed to gather quests. My quest log told me who I needed to speak to, but it didn’t hint, even in the slightest, where I might be able to find them. Coupled with the absence of any sort of beacon for my mini-map, I found myself wandering around the space station for nearly two hours, cursing to anyone who would listen.
When I did finally find my quest (curse you Sulu, you evasive bastard!), I zipped off into space for a menagerie of space and land battles. The good news is that the space battles are okay. The bad news? Ground battles are painfully awful.
For one, they’re just not difficult in the slightest. I’m talking so easy that you can hardly justify using your special moves against an enemy player. Sure, you could run around your enemy to flank them (Cryptic has included an interesting system where flank shots induce extra damage), but you could just as easily kill them by standing still and mashing your main attack button. In all of the time that I played Star Trek: Online (which is admittedly less than I want Critical Gamer to know about) I didn’t die in a ground battle against the computer once. I did die a handful of times in a PvP instance, but again, those battles were plagued by the fact that any and all special abilities seemed besides the point.
Space battles, at least, are somewhat novel. The first few times you survive by sucking power from your engines to pump them into your shields can deliver quite a rush, and the graphic detail in space actually qualifies as breathtaking. However, those battles fall victim to a similar feeling of inconsequence. There’s no penalty for dying; you just start over at outskirts of the instance.
These gameplay issues are my main qualm with Star Trek. At the end of the day, the core mechanics simply aren’t satisfying to play.
There are a slew of other things that damage the experience. Instances often feel very, very empty (I certainly played more missions in this game alone than I did with other players), the sound mechanics are spotty and offsetting, and the larger game mechanics, such as levelling up your crew and ship, are clunky and unexplained.
On the other side of that coin, there are a lot of little things that are very cool about Star Trek: Online. The space travel system is unique and intriguing, there’s a huge amount of lore and story going on, and the instance-based scenarios could, with more players funnelled toward them, play out in large and exciting ways. But, like I said, the core elements of Star Trek: Online just aren’t any fun. Period.
Better to end here, I think, than to keep rambling. Already I fear a Critical Gamer Grunt might be stalking outside my house, ready to take the review by force if not sent in immediately. If I disappear, dear readers, I disappear. Just remember, no matter what happens, to stay the hell away from Star Trek: Online.