For many years I bought games consoles, stretching right back to the Master System from Sega, before the Megadrive, and happily spent countless hours racing through levels as Sonic and many other characters. I’ve not kept up and am a lapsed console gamer, having pretty much switched to PC for the last ten years or so. I’ve played a few games here and there on other people’s consoles, but once the Playstation 2 was on the wane and PS3 was on the horizon I pretty much hung up my gamepad for good. I still occasionally dip into the Wii for a bit of fun, but that’s about it. It was PC for me, mostly because I always had one of those in the house anyway.
For a long time I’ve been playing RPGs and MMOs, or MMORPGs, to give them their full acronym. It started with Everquest, killing lots of rats, and it progressed to World of Warcraft until about four years ago. I’ve played it a little bit in the last few years, but the level of addiction for the game has definitely waned. I’ve tried other MMOs since, such as Star Wars, which was quite a lot of fun, but once you’ve got to the top level it became a grind for the next level of armour or weapons and I’m not interested in that kind of thing. Playing the game up to that point was great, racing around with a lightsaber, being a Jedi and trying to walk the line between being good and not embracing the Dark Side, while secretly having a close personal relationship with my apprentice. Ahem.
A couple of years ago I heard about Star Trek Online and was very excited. I’m a huge Trek fan. The Next Gen is my Star Trek. Picard and Riker are my Captain and Number One. Unfortunately a trusted friend started playing STO when it came out in 2010 and said it wasn’t very good at the time. It was disappointing, but I was also trying to have less distractions and spend more time writing. So, right or wrong, it was a good excuse not to get the game and find out for myself.
A few weeks ago I saw an advert online for a new expansion for STO which included extra content featuring the actors from Voyager lending their voices to their old characters. I was intrigued and so downloaded the free version of STO. Much to my delight I found the game was huge amounts of fun.
Nostalgia-wise and getting me in the head space of the game, there is so much there to enjoy. From walking around Star Fleet headquarters in San Francisco and looking up at the famous bridge, to walking the corridors of my own starship, to meeting characters from The Original Series, to the sound effects and voice overs from actors, including Leonard Nimoy for Pete’s sake. Leonard Nimoy! There is a lot of stuff packed in to create the right atmosphere and help you soak into the Trek universe.
The game itself has a lot of the usual features of an MMO, linear stories, PVP, PVE, but there is also a fairly complex crafting system. Well, technically there are two, one for gathering materials and making stuff. The second is connected to sending out your crew on missions to earn you skill points, but also specialisms in different areas such as diplomacy, or exploration, which in turn unlocks new missions and areas.
I’ve only been playing it for a couple of weeks so I’m still finding new stuff all the time, stumbling around a bit, but I’m gradually getting used to all of the controls. But I’d rather it was complex and it all made sense, than the game was too easy and the bar was set too low, which sounds like the way WoW has been going for years in my opinion. With STO you can just do all of the basics, carry out missions, get better kit and so on, but there’s a lot more going on.
The new content also looks really intriguing and bringing back some favourite actors and their characters from the Voyager universe into the game sounds great to me. There are some restrictions with playing the free version compared to those who pay a fee, but I don’t feel as if it’s had an impact on my gaming experience. I know where the boundaries lie and if I want to buy stuff with micro-transactions I can, but so far have not felt it was necessary. I can see myself getting many months of fun out of this before I even get anywhere near the higher level stuff, at which point the brand new expansion (which you have to pay for) may have come down in price and at that point I might be so invested I want to keep going and buy it.
MMOs have changed dramatically in the last ten years or so. At the start all of them had monthly fees and it’s only more recently that some have moved away from that model and still been able to keep going and develop new content.
Given that it is still a couple of years until the next Trek film, and there hasn’t been a Trek TV series since Enterprise, STO is a great way for a Star Trek fan to get their fix of phasers, blood wine and pointy eared Vulcans.