Star trek online has a easy to follow sign up process followed by a relatively fast download speed. Approximately 2 – 2.5 hours in total, which in comparison to the vast majority of game downloads is fairly quick. Whilst waiting during this download time, I noticed a news section on the home screen cycling through recent updates and drawing your attention to features the player may want to check out.
Factions, Species and Options
Moving onto the start of the game, you are presented with a choice of factions, which determines the story you follow and experience you have. This allows for a variety in how and what you can play. Perfect for providing a good mix of choice to facilitate to the varied player gaming desires. The choice is provided by a faction system which in turn provides separate story lines and timelines along with different character species to choose from.
There is a vast variety of species to choose from depending on which faction is chosen, the most variety coming from the final “Starfleet” faction. I believe this may be because the specific story; due to the description; seems set furthest in the future than the other factions, therefore more alien species are discovered and the “Starfleet” is essentially an alliance made up from a variety of different alien species, in comparison to the “Romulan republic” and “Klingon defence force” factions who are less inclusive.
There is an option to create your own alien in most of the factions excluding “TOS Starfleet” and “Dominion”, this is a nice addition allowing for players to create their own species in the image the envision and add their own personal spin into the star trek universe. The “Dominion” is the only faction where the species isn’t a selection as it is essential to the story and is therefore predetermined that you play as a “Jem’Hadar”. This faction is also added with a warning before continuing when selected to indicate its increased difficulty as it provides no tutorials or special instruction, possibly intended for more experienced/returning players.
I finally decided to choose the “TOS Starfleet” faction as the story initially described in its description and the mystery involved in the story grasped my attention most, I believed, for me personally, would give me the most enjoyable experience.
Upon start of play, there are good indications on what to do and where to go easing you into the game-play without seeming to overly baby sit you as a player, being short and simple, straight to the point to avoid any interruption in play. Objective markers are clear on the map accompanied by points of interest which are lit up by a glowing set of lights.
Next I decided to test out controller play as well as mouse and keyboard play. It seemed to work well at first, however, I quickly discovered it was generally limited to a movement, camera pan and jumping capacity. As for interaction with interact-able NPC’s and objects, I noticed that I still had to use the mouse and/or keyboard to interact unless a conversation with a NPC had already been initiated in which case you could skip along to the end of the conversation by pressing the “A” button. With this in mind I believe the game is not really suitable for controller play as it generally is not really designed to do so and there are a few too many bugs and inconsistencies when doing so.
Tip Pop Ups can be disabled and dismissed if the player feels the screen becomes too cluttered or they can be left in view as a helpful reminder. Direct objectives are clear and listed in an objective box to the right of the screen. Fast loading when moving from one area to another and when entering/exiting a cut-scene.
As exiting first area and moving into the first corridor I noticed a lot of npc’s walking around filling the screen. Some npc’s have slight lags when walking past. Occasional glitches occurring where they stop mid-walk, then continue. Occasionally 2 npc’s walking into each other rather than adjusting paths t avoid collisions. A few instances of slowed movement due to lag then rapid movement when the game attempts to catch up. Finally a few instances on a rarer occasion where npc’s freeze due to lag and then disappear, with other npc’s appearing randomly walking in different directions.
Some faster/slower moving npc’s look a little too fast/slow and therefore looks like their walking animations are failing slightly.
Moving on, tutorial pop ups are quick and to the point whilst still providing useful and helpful information, moving the game along indicating keys/mouse clicks to use when attempting certain actions for example in the firing range picking up a phaser and indicating the right click to shoot.
As the player runs along the star ship corridors, I noticed the character running through some npc’s which slightly breaks the immersion along with some npc’s running/walking into the player causing a collision, moving them in space.
Some instances of the corridors being overly crowded with too many npc’s cluttering the screen.
Moving onto the first mission, a rescue mission looking for survivors of a star ship crash down on a nearby planet, everything was running smoothly until I pressed the right arrow key on my keyboard to pan the camera round to look at my objective. As I did this the companion speech screen popped up to continue the story along at the same time and in the background the camera was stuck in a continuous spin as it panned right, until I closed the speech screen.
One npc runs through a box during a cut-scene as I encounter the first enemy of the game and the first combat experience of the game.
First encounter with enemy alien. Its attack throws a spear to inflict damage. I decided to start rolling to dodge its attack whilst I continued to shoot, however when I did this the spear seemed to disappear and reappear on my character causing me damage, when it should have just missed. This making it seem like I would take damage regardless of dodging and so my effort was pointless leading me to think there wasn’t any point in the attempt and I should just mash out attacks taking damage back and forth until the enemy was defeated.
Up to now, I have found the keyboard controls fairly easy to use and come to grips with, not being overly complicated accompanied by the mouse to use for selecting different actions as well. This is a positive as I am not an experienced keyboard and mouse gamer, therefore they have clearly been set up to be user friendly.
Running towards an objective when hiding inside the crashed ship, my player seemed to get slightly blocked by nothing in the area, a npc was nearby, possibly there was an incorrect collision with that character.
Continuing fighting enemies I have noticed that when some enemies have been defeated, they perform an extra attacking before dying. In addition to this there are some occasions where the enemies bodies don’t disappear after dying, their death animations fail and they instead seem to freeze for a few moments then disappear after a delay.
One slight delay in updating the mission objective after defeating the “tauren chief”, a delay of 15-20 seconds occurred before updating to “rescue the crewmen” and allowing me to continue.
Upon returning to the shipwreck and encountering Klingon, there as a lag of 10-15 seconds as the server connection failed, then when it resumed my player took a lot of fire from the Klingon taking damage and also started to jump my player around the area whilst the game seemed to catch after the lag. One Klingon used a grenade and my player seemed to fall to the ground before the explosion occurred.
To take a break I logged out of the game and when I came back and logged in a few hours later, the server struggled for connectivity. I walked over to my objective and no prompt was available to interact, which is when the server stopped responding again. It reconnected a few moments later and reset my player to its starting position. This process repeated several times with the time taken to reconnect increasing with each attempt. Eventually the point of interest glow appeared over my objective, so I continued to walk over it again and as I arrived my player froze in position unable to move from the spot whilst the camera could still pan round. The server became none responsive, so I decided to log out again and reattempt the following day. Upon returning the following day the game re-patched itself and once loaded I started from the position I left only this time I was able to interact with the objective and continue.
I believe this game although it has some minor bugs and inconsistencies, has potential in both its story and play-ability along with the alternative factions and story lines to choose from. These errors not taking away from the enjoyable experience created and with some more work to remove/limit these bugs, there could be quite the entertaining experience for a variety of gamer types.