Day One of my endeavor was filled with surprisingly minimal setbacks for me. Granted, I wasn’t there when Open Beta kicked off…but it is nice to see I was able to log in today and start feeling the waters. There was relatively no hassle logging in, and everything appeared to run smoothly for me during character creation. As I mentioned in the first post, I’m wanting to go hit up Klingon side, but unfortunately to be able to do that you need to achieve six levels on Federation side first.
Which is fair; I was a big fan of the “Player vs. Monster Player” aspect of Lord of the Rings Online, which allowed new players to roll level equivalent Monsters for PvP once they reached the 10th level of the game. It’s sort of a nice way to force new players to sit down and spend some time figuring out the game before they go and make an ass of themselves in Player vs Player, without having to force something like a grind to endgame (or a grind to mid-game, as was Aion’s case.) Some games could get away with PvP right out the door; but there’s a lot to take in for Star Trek Online.
Character Creation was a pretty sound setup. Cryptic has a reputation for customization options in their games, and STO is no exception. Right off the bat in Federation space, you have a selection of a good range of races, each with plenty of customization options and tweak varying in hair styles, body sizes, facial composure, uniforms and more. If that isn’t enough to make you happy, they also provide an “Unknown Race” option for you to create and customize your own alien species. I didn’t mess with that option too much; but taking a look and hitting the random it seems like once again we have a game where a person could lose themselves in just designing new races.
Each character has four traits: Most of the pre-made races have one or two that is already chosen and common amongst all members of that race. Unknown Races get to cherry pick from a wide list, adding to their customization depth. These traits vary from typical bonuses that enhance physical or skill based actions (these guys are stronger, or tougher, or can navigate ships better etc.) But what interested me was the inclusion of traits like “Corrosive Blood,” “Telepathic” or “Telekinetic.” I’m really curious to see how crazy some of these characters go, and what kind of “build” templates emerge from them. I’m really hoping some fleets or groups of players will actually adopt player-made layouts for custom races — it’d be one thing to encounter a new species, but it’s another to encounter an entire fleet of them.
The class options, on the other hand, are pretty simple and straight forward: Engineering, Science or Tactical Officer. Don’t be deceived, however: this game has lots of progression and advancement decisions to where I’m pretty certain it’ll be rare to see cookie-cutter characters. Leveling in this game isn’t done with XP earned but by how you spend your Skill Points you earn from combat and completing missions. This is definitely not WoW spec trees: this is a game where the new user will initially be a bit overwhelmed by different skill options as they advance, and will really need to consider the style of gameplay they wish to proceed in.
I was boring, in the end, with my character decisions. Made a Human Engineering officer, named Radcliffe, and tried to make him look like a dashing, more rugged Riker character. Just to emphasize the Engineering role, I gave him a visor that looked like some kind of crazy cyberpunk eye modification doo-dad. When given the choice of a ship named, I christened it “the USS Gonzo.”
Introductory Game Play
The game spits you out on board a Star Ship being under siege by the Borg. Helluva way to start. Despite spawning into a room with a huge starboard view of a Borg Cube blasting on your ship, there’s really nothing urgent happening in this spot and serves as a great starting place to quick modify your in-game settings for optimal graphics and performance. The standard-issue MMO tutorial boxes kick in at this point, telling you that standard issue WASD keys and mouse cameras are available. You proceed to the Bridge, talk to the Captain and get your first in standard MMO quests to “Go Do Stuff!” In this case, you get beamed to another ship under attack, take the next quest hook from an on-board Hologram Doctor, and begin learning the ropes of the game.
It starts off pretty simple, but as you progress through the introductory parts of the game you will battle Borg, learn to fly a space craft, beam down on a planet with an away team to fight more Borg and save hostages, and engage in some space battles. Some of the tasks feel slow, others become kinda frantic. Overall though, I thought it was a great intro to the game. Really, anyone who has played an MMO before will get used to the ground controls and hotkey scheme quickly. That said, this does have a bit more of a twitch element, and I found myself in the first Borg fights running around, swapping targets and blasting baddies like it was cool. The added controls of rolling, dodging, and ducking to aim added on to the more “twitch” combat feel. It was very satisfying; and I also appreciate this wasn’t a “One Mob at a Time” style hotkey masher where I stood in place trading hits.
The initial learning curve, however, comes with Space Combat. Every player captains their own ship and gets their own NPC crews, so coming into the Space portion of the game it almost feels like playing a City of Heroes styled game and walking into EVE online. This is not a space combat simulator, either: this is a tactical game. Closest thing I could compare it to is like commanding a large naval vessel in Empire: Total War. Also, a lot of peeps are put off by what was described to me as a “2.5D” playing map. Don’t expect to do crazy loop-de-loops or spin your ship in a 360 degree barrel roll: You’re flying on pretty much a 2D field with an added Z-Axis to steer your ship up or down. The introduction to it is pretty slow, and really overall it is the slower part of the game. But don’t completely write it off: There is some tactical depth and fun to be had with it.
The combat aspect of space flight is pretty much all about positioning, and at times can feel more like a slow motion WWI aerial dog fight than a space battle. Each ship has shields, which are distributed between the Front, Back, Starboard and Port sides (fancy way of saying Left and Right.) The goal here, when engaging an enemy, is to pretty much learn to out-maneuver them to where you keep your strongest shields facing them while staying on their weakest side, blasting them first through their shields and then their hull. I’m going to say it for the average joe gamer now: You will die, frustratingly, a lot at first in these missions. Even in the introductory stuff. You will fly in, get swarmed, and get frustrated trying to escape. I was very frustrated with it, but then it dawned on me I was playing it wrong. Keep trying, and learn how to fly. Pay attention to the firing arcs on your weapons, don’t just sit in place, and most importantly learn to manage your energy and shields. My deaths quickly came to an end once I figured out how to switch over to defensive stances to keep my shields charged and then shift over to attack focused to penetrate the hulls and take them out quickly. I also learned the value of a well-placed torpedo.
In essence, the space combat and exploration comes off slow paced. But once you start taking one some combat missions, you’ll be thankful for it as you’re frantically managing your ships resources and firing off your weapons and trying to maintain a strategic angle on the enemy. Extra sweat will occur when you’re taking on multiple foes.
The Current Negative Parts from Day One:
- Bugs: Bound to be encountered. In my case, I had a harmless one and a bad one. Harmless one is sometimes when I beam to a planet surface, my character is still using his Spaceship model. I get about 3-15 seconds of quality lolz “flying” by people. The reverse happens too, and I’ll have ya know my guy is a stud when he struts in outer space. The bad bug I encountered, and reported, is some of the early missions I took gave me an error while loading the instance, and I had to restart my client a few times to actually get in. Other times, it would attempt to load the zone, and just hang on loading. It seems to have eased up for now; and I assume it was an issue server side.
- Typical MMO Beta Crowds: Get ready to see the zone chat filled with people bitching about the game and how it sucks to them, how it doesn’t live up to their expectations, and get ready to hear them preach why World of Warcraft, Aion or EVE was a much better game. Matter of fact, get ready to read A LOT of “EVE vs STO” discussions in the space flight zones. Or do like me, and move the Zone chat to a separate tab for the rare cases you actually want to use it. But don’t expect to get much help from it; legitimate questions will be flooded by above stuff.
- The Game can feel lonely: There is a lot of instancing in this game. So this means expect to fly a lot of missions solo. However, one neat feature I didn’t know about until I saw it was the “Open Grouping” which is actually set by default, and may surprise you when it’s used. I was getting my butt handed to me and then two more real players joined the mission and managed to help me recover. That was pretty cool. So far, I haven’t had any asshats join my games yet since most joining open parties are needing to get crap done, too. If you don’t like random Pugs, you can set the grouping to request or by invitation only.
So there’s day one. I’m about halfway to Klingon, and so far I’m enjoying the game. We’ll see how the shiny holds on Day 2.
Edit: Ha ha, I went to go jump in the game to grab some screenshots for this post. Currently the “Severs are Busy, Please try again Later.” Guess that’s how Day 2 will start!