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Star Trek Online review

Barry de la Rosa
1 Apr 2010
Star Trek Online
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
24
inc VAT

Fantastic space battles but tedious ground combat. It's a good game and one that will thrill any trekkie.

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Star Trek Online (STO) is a massively multiplayer online game (MMO) set in the Star Trek universe. More specifically, it's set in the year 2409, 30 years after the last Next Generation film (Nemesis), as opposed to the recent re-boot of the franchise.

Fans of the various TV series will recognise names, places and musical scores, which create a unique Star Trek atmosphere. Many of the non-player characters you meet are descendants of characters from the series, and some locations and alien races will be familiar.

You start the game by choosing a class from a choice of three. Tactical officers gain skills directly affecting weapons systems; engineering officers can repair and strengthen you and your allies; and science officers earn abilities that distract, hinder and weaken the enemy, with familiar Star Trek technology such as tractor beams and tachyon waves.

As well as choosing your own career, over the course of the game you recruit Bridge Officers to fill open positions on your ship, so in effect you can try out different classes vicariously through your officers, testing their skills and creating your own perfect build. Depending on which class you've chosen, as you gain ranks your ship will gain more slots for certain officer classes.

To rise in the ranks you must complete a series of plot-driven missions. You must first navigate to the relevant system using the sector map. If other players are doing the same mission, you automatically join their group as you enter the system. Space combat is central to the game; it's all about taking down the enemy's shields before blasting its hull with various beam, cannon and projectile weapons. Other skills can be used to weaken or temporarily disable the enemy.

Some missions require ground-based combat, however, and this is the game's biggest weakness. It's a typical third-person RPG, but the interface to control your crew is awkward and they often get stuck carrying out your orders. However, there are many interesting skills and abilities associated with each class, making team-work vital when grouped with other players.

Many critics have attacked the game for being shallow, but that's missing the point. STO is certainly more casual than most MMOs, in the sense that it's relatively easy to play. It also adheres strictly to the Star Trek philosophy, steering well clear of controversial or adult themes. However, that's far from saying that it's simply a kids' game. In fact, we were initially overwhelmed by the amount of abilities, skills and statistics one must consider to master the game.

There is quite a steep learning curve, with every possible career path laid out ahead of you and very little help in deciding which one will suit your character or your preferred playing style. In a sense there is much trial and error required. Choosing your class is the first big choice, and one which you're likely to re-visit a few times in the future as you try different combinations of abilities and skills.

Playing an MMO is about playing with other people. You can form your own groups to be more effective, using different classes to create a balanced and more effective force. You can also join a Fleet, STO's player societies, which offer a shared space for storing and exchanging items plus a communal chat channel.

Playing as a Federation character can be purely a PvE (player versus environment) experience. However, once you reach the rank of Lieutenant (which takes only a few hours) you can start a PvP (player versus player) character on the Klingon side, either playing as a Klingon or one of the other alien races opposed to Starfleet. You can choose to enter PvP arenas with your Federation character if you so wish.

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