Star Trek Online Beta: First Impressions

Mine should be considered an uninformed opinion, but not necessarily an uneducated one. I come to the Star Trek: Online beta with virtually no preconceived notions, no passionate devouring of every blog post and news tid bit and no big expectations except that the game might provide a nice diversion. Having played the beta for a few days, I suspect that's a good thing.

While my time in the game to date has been substantially limited -- this first entry of which there may be others is limited to the first few hours of gameplay -- the game already strikes me in much the same way that other MMOs do in their earliest stages. Precisely, this is a game that is not ready for primetime, but one which offers the promise of better things to come.

That may not be a terrible thing. Early adopters who have a passion for the game will probably get their money's worth and provide the vital experience from which Cryptic can distill a more broadly appealing game. That said, if you're on the fence, this game seems ripe for waiting a month or two for issues to stabilize. Yes, things may change in the next few weeks of beta, but I've been round the block before and I know warning signs when I see them.

That said, there is reason to be cautiously optimistic here. ST:O does a good job of evoking a Star Trek atmosphere, though it will be far more compatible to Next Generation, DS:9 or even Voyager (before it completely stunk) sensibilities than old school Trek. Certainly sound and visual design gives the foundation of that Trek feel, but even the opening encounters, revolving around a strange Borg incursion, evoke that sense that you are a cog in a nice big mythology episode. Whether that can be maintained once you get into the grind of patrol and away missions remains to be seen, but first impressions are vital.

One of the things I had feared early on is that I would not comfortably identify with both a character and a ship in equal measure, and when I was on an away mission I would wish instead I was flying into hostile Klingon territory to duke it out with a Bird of Prey, or vice versa. So far, I'm pretty happy with the way the two major combat dynamics are evened out. Away missions tend to be comfortable MMO mechanics, and once you get the keyboard layout sorted to your desire you can engage comfortably.

Space combat, on the other hand, turns out to have some nice challenge to it. While the combat is in three dimensions, it is very much rooted into a clear X axis and Z axis. While you can move up and down, it is always clear what is up and what is down, which is very different than a more sophisticated space model. While this does limit your maneuverability, it also keeps you from getting distracted and disoriented. It strikes me as a fair compromise for realism versus playability.

All that said, this is still clearly a beta product, and while I'll avoid passing judgment my experience playing a lot of betas suggests that the initial launch is almost certain to be plagued with unforseen challenges. Look for more impressions as I get in more time and we get closer to launch.

Comments

You're keyboard's on fire Elysium. Love all of the writing you've done lately.

I imagine this game will get lost in the shuffle for me this year, but I'm interested to hear how the launch goes. Generally i don't want to touch an MMO until it's been out for 6 months or so, but if studios start consistently delivering less buggy products from the outset I (and I assume others) will start giving these games a shot earlier.

enerally i don't want to touch an MMO until it's been out for 6 months or so, but if studios start consistently delivering less buggy products from the outset I (and I assume others) will start giving these games a shot earlier.

My guess is that no one will be highlighting ST:O as a bug free launch. I'll just be happy if I don't occasionally spawn into away missions as my starship.

How do the different mission types work, btw? Do you take your ship out around the universe, have the potential for space combat during transit, then dock at a planet and do an "away mission?" And is it fun?

I'm also curious if the social aspect of the game is different from the standard WoW model of grouping for quests, guilding up, etc. Do you man a spaceship with friends? Is the game easy to solo?

Bullion Cube wrote:

Do you man a spaceship with friends? Is the game easy to solo?

First, no, you're the captain of a starship, though you can join other captains on away missions. As for the second, I think it is, but it does throw you in with random other players for instanced missions if there are any around. I didn't realize they were actual people until they started chatting at me.

Elysium wrote:

Precisely, this is a game that is not ready for primetime, but one which offers the promise of better things to come.

I've only noticed a couple glaring issues outside of the run of the mill bugs (spaceships on away missions, people in space). First being their servers don't seem quite up to the challenge just yet, though it's slightly improved after the upgrade they did on Wednesday night. Second, and this is probably the easiest to fix, I've been seeing a lot of chatter about broken quests and buggy fleet action areas. True, this is only a beta, but Cryptic only released a portion of the playable areas. Unless they plan on rolling out more content for beta testing, expect these problems to keep cropping up after launch. I'm thinking now I just might preorder it and let it sit in the box for a month or so until everything's squared away.

Elysium wrote:

Voyager (before it completely stunk)

I believe that started at episode 2.

Edit: Correction, I did find a broken quest that forced me to repeat it four times before it cleared it off my to-do list.

I'm having a decent amount of fun in the Beta, pretty sure I'll sit out the launch though.

One of the things I've enjoyed most was the automatic grouping with players that takes place during instances. I went to a system on a quest to investigate a distress call only to come upon a fellow player already on the first leg of the quest getting outgunned 5:1 in orbit by some Klingon raiders. He had done a fair amount of damage to a cruiser's shields and I was able to come in with guns blazing to take it out.

Without any discussion or party invites we worked together in orbit and when I beamed to the planet below he was there as well. Kind of refreshing to have an MMO smart enough to create alliances on the fly.

It's still very, VERY much a beta though. I'll be on it when I can, feel free to say hi. [email protected] I believe is my ingame name.

For those curious who lack a beta key, Giant Bomb has a nice [http://www.giantbomb.com/star-trek-o... look of Star Trek Online[/url] available.

It also has Part 2 and Part 3 if you're really curious.

Rat Boy wrote:

As for the second, I think it is, but it does throw you in with random other players for instanced missions if there are any around. I didn't realize they were actual people until they started chatting at me.

And if you're not keen on the idea of being thrown into groups with random strangers, you can turn that off and go completely solo (with the exception of Fleet Actions). The mission difficulty scales based on whether you start it grouped or not.

I expect the launch of this game to be a bit shaky. I really wanted to get into a Sci-Fi MMO, but I have decided to wait at least a couple months after launch to jump on this one. I was hoping they were not repeating some of their mistakes done on Champions Online, but it looks like that is happening.

I've been disappointed a few times already not long ago with the last batch of MMOs released, so I'm definitely waiting this time around.

KillTrash wrote:

I expect the launch of this game to be a bit shaky. I really wanted to get into a Sci-Fi MMO, but I have decided to wait at least a couple months after launch to jump on this one. I was hoping they were not repeating some of their mistakes done on Champions Online, but it looks like that is happening.

I've been disappointed a few times already not long ago with the last batch of MMOs released, so I'm definitely waiting this time around.

I'm just crossing my fingers that there isn't a day-zero patch that completely rebalances the game.

Strekos wrote:
KillTrash wrote:

I expect the launch of this game to be a bit shaky. I really wanted to get into a Sci-Fi MMO, but I have decided to wait at least a couple months after launch to jump on this one. I was hoping they were not repeating some of their mistakes done on Champions Online, but it looks like that is happening.

I've been disappointed a few times already not long ago with the last batch of MMOs released, so I'm definitely waiting this time around.

I'm just crossing my fingers that there isn't a day-zero patch that completely rebalances the game.

/amen

Elysium wrote:

I'll just be happy if I don't occasionally spawn into away missions as my starship.

I don't know about that. A giant walking starship annihilating people with phasers and lobbed photon torpedoes would probably make the away missions both easier and substantially more entertaining!

Coldstream wrote:
Elysium wrote:

I'll just be happy if I don't occasionally spawn into away missions as my starship.

I don't know about that. A giant walking starship annihilating people with phasers and lobbed photon torpedoes would probably make the away missions both easier and substantially more entertaining!

Yeah, but the scales are different. When I spawned as my ship at spacedock, I was about the size of a small dog. I can only imagine the bigger cruisers are only the size of horses, relatively speaking.

I've been playing the beta for the past few days, but I'll agree with Rat Boy above: the servers still have some kinks to be worked out. The past two nights in a row, right about when I'm ready to get on (10:00 or 11:00 PM CST), the servers go down for an hour or two. I realize there will be some downtime when working out a beta, but it'd be nice to have a little more stability than that.

Otherwise, Elysium's got it right: the game has a great deal of potential, and I hope they can keep it up. I'm a huge fan of Star Trek, and I think this game has the "feel" of Star Trek down pretty well. Granted, I'm only a few hours into the game, so it's got to keep it up, but it's a good start.

I can live with a few bugs here and there, but they're really got to fix the server downtime. I'm glad they've released so many beta codes to test the servers prior to launch.

What dances do the vulcan girls have?

I honestly don't know why Cryptic continues to make MMORPGs. They haven't made one that's stable, balanced, or even runs all that well yet, and I just don't think a nice character editor is worth $15 a month.

All, allow me to state the obvious: what we're talking about here is an MMO in beta. It seems to me that judging an MMO anytime before it's been out a full year is excessively premature. I didn't play WoW at launch, and don't know how much I would have enjoyed it, but three years later when I picked it up, it was a great, polished game.

STO has some great things going for it, including a fun and deep universe with a history of (mostly) great fiction; varied gameplay, both in terms of space and "away team" action as well as missions that aren't simply combat-oriented; an engaged and eager community; a auto-grouping experience that actually makes it fun and exciting to play with other people; and a reasonable balance between accessibility and complexity/strategy. There's a good discussion going on in the STO Open Beta thread about the game, it's possibilities and potential pitfalls. I just have to say that overall, it's way too early to be coming to judgment. Elysium, if it doesn't stick now, try it again in a year and let's see how it's going then.

StaggerLee wrote:

Elysium, if it doesn't stick now, try it again in a year and let's see how it's going then.

Here's hoping it's around in a year.

Got a Beta key from RPS, but the introductory mission was really buggy for me. Strange happenings like me killing some Borgs and their friendly wall-hanging slime-containers only to speed/wall-hack through the "level" and suddenly standing somewhere else. Also, not being able to use the elevator to level 3 even though the game really wanted me to. There's also some wierd disconnect between me interaction with the game, and it responding. Not just lag, but at times it ignored my pressing of a button (usually "dialogue" windows that popped up).

Uninstalled it afterwards since the game mechanics I did happen upon seemed like every other half-assed MMO"RPG" ever. Not a big deal since I never liked Star Trek, but I get the feeling that there was potential in the license as a game.

Having played this to some extent, here are some things I really love.

- Space combat. It is so much more tactical and different than any MMO ever. Its like Starfleet Command 1 or 2 more than it is an MMO-style game. I loved it playing as the 'Freds' (Federation), with their big honking shields and the righteous fury of the Starfleet, but then after I was allowed to roll a klingon up, holy crap. They play completely different, as they should, and are so addicting. Yes, as a Klingon I die quickly, with their low shielded ship, but their fast-firing disruptors, agile turning Birds of Prey, and cloaks for the initial run make these little buggers, especially in groups, awesome to behold.

- The ability to Hail Starfleet. No more going back to the Sol Base to talk to the admiral when I can just phone him up from my ship and update and finish quests there. Awesome. Thank you. No more unnecessary shuttling around the galaxy trying to find these chumps I had previously talked with.

- Ship customization. Yes. Yes. Yes. And Yes.

Notice there's nothing about the away team missions. These are MMO-style through and through. I suffer them, but they're not really my bit. Some are a bit interesting and what have you, but they're still the same old hat.

BlackSheep wrote:

- Space combat. It is so much more tactical and different than any MMO ever.
[...]
Notice there's nothing about the away team missions. These are MMO-style through and through. I suffer them, but they're not really my bit. Some are a bit interesting and what have you, but they're still the same old hat.

I agree with your breakdown. Space combat is great. Away missions are dull.

One minor point: Pirates of the Burning Sea had equally tactical ship combat--though it was quite different.

I've been watching the Giant Bomb features and this is the first time I've ever felt tempted by an MMO. The space combat is what really makes me interested. Having to manage facing and speed adds that extra oomph to the proceedings that land missions don't seem to have.

I'm still wary of the monthly subscription model as I have never purchased a game that required such a thing. For that reason I think I need to wait and see how the game shakes out.

Dammit, Jim. I'm a doctor, not a tank!.