A few days ago, gamers warped into the Star Trek Online open beta testing phasers armed for some deep space ass-kicking. Based on initial impressions, testers seem to be giving a strong thumbs-up to the graphics, but the gameplay is fast becoming a prickly point of contention.
Test Run. Star Trek Online enters into its largest pre-launch testing yet.
One aspect that’s being called out are the generic mission runs of killing x number of enemies. While Trekkies have the right to demand more exploration and lore-related missions, I feel it’s unfair to expect a radical overhaul in MMO questing. There will always be kill, collect, search and assist objectives. That’s what budding heroes do, including Starfleet officers.
I also worry about the high expectations of fans who could be playing their first MMO in Star Trek Online. Everyone has this vision of the sci-fi franchise directly translated as a game—each episode reincarnated as galactic encounters. But not all will be included or will simply be reserved for future expansions. My advice for fans is to give it some time to settle in and shape up.
In response to concerns about long log-in times during the open beta, many are confident the launch will be far smoother as subscriber load stabilizes. STO developer Cryptic Studios should be thankful to have such loyal supporters—which I hope would translate into a devoted in-game community as well (like Lord of the Rings Online‘s).
Aimed and Ready. STO’s space combat seems to be a popular feature among gamers.
Another consensus from open beta testers is that space exploration, with its need for tactics and deft piloting, plays better than ground combat. I expect this to improve in the next couple of weeks as more active servers reduce the lag and full ship itemization goes live.
I personally find it extremely satisfying to beam down into unknown worlds like a deep space cosmonaut. Having played EVE Online, I’ve always wondered how the thousands of planets scattered across New Eden look like. Are they filled with terrestrial beasts that spew magma, or covered in white snow with sentient penguins as inhabitants?
Star Trek Online gives a refreshing hack-and-shoot companion to interstellar warping. Sometimes in EVE, I just wanted to taste blood—to get down and dirty with a sword, pistol, or whatever whacking instrument was available. In STO, I can easily hunt down Klingons with a trusty phaser or blow up their ship with pulse cannons, depending on my mood.
The open beta lasts until January 26 before the game releases for public consumption early next month. I think there is potential for Star Trek to grab a big niche in the MMO market (its huge following is a definite plus). But it’s crunch time whether fears on server stability and world content can be addressed well after the launch.