Star Trek Online is a free to play MMO developed by Cryptic Studios, originally published by Atari with a pay-to-play model, based on monthly subscriptions, the game was horribly rushed and broken almost beyond repair. Luckily, Atari ditched STO after they realised they were flogging an almost dead horse. Soon after, with STO’s fate almost consigned to the history books, Perfect World Entertainment took over the publishing rights, bringing their free to play model to the game.
Soon after updates began to flow in to fix the many problems still with the game, and the subscription model was changed to reward players who pay with more free content in the form of Zen point stipends and rewards. Lifetime subscribers still get more and more content, and the Zen point stipend. Zen points are PWE’s online currency, however, those rewarded through STO’s subscriptions are not transferable to other games and can only be spent in the C-store (Cryptic’s STO store) or traded for Dilithium, an in game currency used to purchase rare items and more powerful weaponry (which can be traded in the exchange for energy credits… another resource usually used for common items or duty officers/bridge officers along with commodities and consumables)
The gameplay as of mid-2013 is solid, although ground combat is average and a bit tedious with its samey samey levels and oversized corridors and rooms, but still plays better than many other MMO’s. the space combat is what this game is about however, and it plays well. Ships speed about firing their phasers and torps at the enemy, shields take damage in different shield arcs, fighters explode and battleships use all the abilities at their disposal to try and take each other out. Ship classes are well balanced, all having weaknesses and strengths, and the levelling system is nice and easy to understand.
Onto weapon types… again nicely laid out, if a little more complicated to understand. You got your standard Phaser weapons which deal normal damage but with a chance to knock subsystems offline, and then you have your plasma which can cause continuing damage with plasma fires, you have disrupters that lower the enemy’s resistance to further damage, amongst others.
Being an MMO, teamplay is important… and recent fixes have solved various issues. Players no longer have to worry about ships being the level of the highest team member (despite all matching the lowest) and overall co-op runs fairly well. Difficulty is scaled to the amount of players involved, 5 being the maximum, but that is fairly insignificant if you have a level 50, say, helping a level 6.
A mixture of larger team modes such as Players vs. Environment (AI) and Players vs. Players in both ground and space battles with different factions such as Federation starbase defence vs . Klingon raiders or a fed fleet attacking the Borg transwarp hubs… Or a party of Klingon ships going up against some Cardassian True Way invaders.Once you reach the higher ranks of the game, you have access to different areas that were not open to you, and new missions that were locked to certain ranks. You will never find yourself without a mission to do or a deep space encounter to fight some ships at, and the gameplay is highly replay able due to the choice of multiple races, 3 classes and 3 different factions.
The latest expansion pack, Legacy of Romulus, has added a great deal of content, including the Romulan faction where you can play as a Romulan or Reman officer, new ships, new weapons and a new set of missions including a set specially for level 50 players of both the Klingon and Federation factions. The fleet system has been bolstered now with a fleet embassy on New Romulus which can be upgraded and various visual enhancements added.
Talking of the fleet system, fleets can have a maximum of 500 characters, and have a fleet starbase and embassy to upgrade and use. As those upgrades improve, fleets have access to new fleet upgraded ships and equipment, along with new services and higher challenge fleet missions. Fleets that work together in missions also receive multiple bonuses, and can share abilities that boost their team in battle.
Overall, Star Trek Online is a very good MMO, however it suffers from occasional server down time, sometimes can lag, and average ground combat. If ground combat were to improve (a cover system might be too much to ask for however, and they fixed weapons going through most objects) a lot, it might score higher in that front. However, the rest of the game is solid, space combat is fantastic and the levels and gameplay are easy to understand but can also be used to tailor high end character/ship builds to add some extra power or defence to your ship and crew.
I give Star Trek Online a 8/10 score, and I suggest that anyone who likes Star Trek, sci-fi, MMO’s and space games to check it out