After reading a post by Scott over at Pumping Irony about his current endeavors in Star Trek Online, I decided to give the game a little spin and take it out of a nice test play. Currently Cryptic Studios, the developers that brought us City of Heroes and Champions, also known as City of Heroes 2 or more of the same City of Heroes, has an unlimited demo that runs you through an equal amount of ground missions and Starship missions in Federation controlled space. It gives you enough of a taste to want more, even if the demo doesn't really explain anything about how the game mechanics actually work. Sure you can meander through the game world effectively enough to figure out how to fire your weapon, command your away team and even shoot down enemy Starship's in space, watching them explode with enough satisfying fiery grandeur to make you pine for your DVD copy of Wrath of Kahn.
The part about Star Trek Online that really rocks is the skill points, how to train and maintain your bridge officers and how to equip your ship effectively, so you don't explode in the middle of deep dark space. Learning how to control, fire weapons and manage your energy resources on your ship is part of the key to having a successful experience in STO. And let me tell you, there isn't anything that makes that experience better than having someone thats been there explain it to you. Lucky for me, I found out I actually know a lot of fellow bloggers and tweeters who play STO and they have been great at helping me understand that you just can't spam the fire button, you also need to be facing your target properly at the right arc and angle so your phasers and photons will actually fire and hit the enemy ship. This isn't WoW, nothing is certain when it comes to STO.
One of the first diplomatic missions is in fact pretty hard if you don't read and follow along properly. Oh did I mention that you can fail at a quest, even a collection quest? Which is very refreshing for a change. I like easy don't get me wrong but every now and then the brain needs a challenge or it will dry up and rot. I think that STO is just the perfect answer to the non- WoW question.
After giving the demo a once through, I decided to pony up a few bucks, $40 to be exact and get myself the retail game and a 60 day game card. My Engineer, Lt. Ira J. Cook is now rank 6 and I'm having a blast, no pun intended. I made him human because I often play the non-human in fantasy style games that I figured if I was going to be in space, be something different in space. Slowly, but surely, I have learned a few things about skill and how to apply the points.
Skill points basically get split into a few different camps. Some improve you character while on the ground, others when you piloting your starship and still others help with the overall of command. I have moments of frustration especially when I hit a brick wall on a mission or not understanding why my starship can't or won't fire all its weapons. When that happens, I know that someone in the Fleet (STO's version of a Guild!) will be more than happy to assist me with either advise or shoot over in their Galaxy class star ship and help kick some Klingon ass.
The game is a lot of fun and for $40.00 and 3 months, I should be able to figure out if its a game I want to keep on playing. To date, there hasn't been any retail expansion, however, they have released 2 patches that provide free content, which they are calling episodes. Sure the game has bugs like a few broken quests or graphical glitches and serious rubberbanding lag but I don't worry about it because I get boldly go, out to some sector of space and attack enemy ships with phasers pulsing and torpedoes exploding. Still lots to learn like how different starship weapons work, how their energy consumption effects other systems and what kind of bridge officers do you take for specific missions versus others.
I have to say, being a pretty big fan of the series, I'm very happy with the nostalgia this game is giving me and the fantasy of actually being in the same class of hero as Picard and Kirk.