PAX 09: Star Trek Online Hands On

Since the announcement of Star Wars The Old Republic and their lofty plans for a story-driven nature in an MMO, I was definitely intrigued and ready to purchase to see just how they planned on accomplishing that. Though, Star Wars fan were more excited about the idea of a new Star Wars MMORPG that would probably not suck.

Star Trek fans had the same excitement early last year when Cryptic Studios announced Star Trek Online. Cryptic Studios have been responsible for City of Heroes/Villains, a super hero oriented MMORPG that they sold to NCSoft after acquiring the Marvel MMO rights. Unfortunately Marvel fell through, and they changed the game to Champions Online to directly compete with their previous MMO.

Cryptic had many demo stations of the recently released Champions Online, but reserved a couple units for Star Trek Online which Five gave a try.

Star Trek Canon

Between Star Wars and Star Trek, I'm totally a fan of Star Trek. I watched Star Trek The Next Generation every night before going to bed in High School. I've seen all the movies, watched almost all of Deep Space Nine and Voyager. So, while Five tried to figure out the annoying controls, I talked with a demonstrator about the canon of Star Trek in Star Trek Online.

Me: What time period does Star Trek Online cover?

Dude: Star Trek Online takes place 30 years after the destruction of Romulus. If you've seen the most recent Star Trek film, the Murauder and future Spock had journeyed back in time because of those events. So, Star Trek Online takes place further in time than any Star Trek series or movie.

Me: Can you play as any Star Trek race?

Dude: Yes, you can play as any race that has ever appeared in any Star Trek series or movie. In fact, you can make up your own race if you'd like.

Me: That's weird...

Dude: Weird?! We at Cryptic think it's pretty cool.

Me: Are there different factions or something?

Dude: Yes, in Star Trek Online, you can choose between the Federation and Klingon. In the Star Trek timeline, the destruction of Romulus cast doubt in the Klingon high council that the Federation had any idea of what they were doing. Harsh words were spoken, and the Klingon broke off from the Federation. Many of the events in Star Trek Online focus on that conflict and you can choose your sides.

Me: So, if you're Federation, you just fight Klingons?

Dude: Absolutely not, Star Trek Online goes into all the conflicts with a wide range of Alien races throughout the Star Trek Universe.

Me: Okey Dokey, sounds like fun ^_^

Me thinking: eh, not really.

Combat

The demo focused completely on Combat. That's all you really do in an MMO anyways. Five commanded an Away on a planet's surface and started fighting some Klingons. The Klingons were pretty weak though :/ This was pretty boring, so he beamed back to the ship and warped to another planet.

While orbiting another planet, Klingons appeared! What strife!

Space combat is pretty interesting and much more involved than clicking on dudes and beating them down with swords or phasers. Those circular bars around your ship indicate the strength of your shields in those areas. Depending on where you're taking fire, only those shields will be affected. So, if you start taking a lot of damage in the rear, you should turn around and take damage from the side or front to even it out.

Much like every combat in a recent Star Trek, you can totally change the amount of energy put into the shields, or life support, or weapons on the fly! "Full power to forward weapons!" That's another thing, depending on the direction you're facing you can only fire aft torpedoes or forward phasers. It's pretty damn sweet how they integrated very fundamental concepts from Space Battles in the movies or series into the game.

That being said, it's incredibly annoying to keep everything straight. At least, it was in the first 5 minutes of the fight. The races you choose also have an effect on evasive maneuvers and other things.

Thoughts

This game is pretty stupid. I don't really see any point to it at all unless you're an absolute fan of Star Trek. Creating your own race would be fun to fill in the gaps that Cryptic missed, but overall it's just a level grind. The story sounds boring as crap with scrolling text relaying anything important. I'm not going to pay attention to that.

The Space Combat was kinda neat though, but that's the only positive I got from the demo and it's really only a novelty to recreate battles from episode of Next Generation.

Star Trek Online releases for the PC sometime next year, if not 2011.




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