(( Be advised I wrote this about six months after the game came out and that it may have changed since then. Probably for the worse. ))
Recently I had the opportunity to purchase a Star Trek badge or ‘pin’ as they like to call them so you don't sound like a seven year old. For a small sum of money, the only downside was that this badge came in the Star Trek Online Collectors boxed set. So why not- thought I, I might as well play it, just to see how bad it is. Well I'll tell you why not, why not is if you are like me and hate having your head stuffed with a paddling pool full of week-old dog-do, wasted time, and broken promises and dreams, then you will hate Star Trek: Online.
Cryptic and I have always had this Love-Hate Relationship, They love my and every other player in the worlds suffering, and I hate the fact their parents met. I want to be perfectly clear on this point, It is my profound belief that Cryptic have no idea how to make a game, City of Heroes has improved by leaps and bounds since Cryptic left, Champions had promise but has continued to sink further into the sickly brown goo of a swamp composed entirely of cancerous diuretic excrement, scrabbling all the while to swim down further unsatisfied with the natural drowning process as they seem to be. And so I was surprised to find out how exactly unchanged this opinion would become after I played Star Wreck'd: Online.
Despite early hints and outright statements that the game would ignore the new wrong Star Trek movie that made every attempt to turn one of the classic “hopeful future” Sci-fi franchises into an angsty emo job, complete with the least threatening and most unbelievable villain/plot in Star Trek History, which is saying things, the games first voice over completely links that film and the game together. Fan-tastic. So I suffer through the bull that they handed Leonard Nimoy to read while he was distracted with a fascinating paint-drying experiment and got to the tutorial. You begin as an ensign, the Borg are attacking again, you easily defeat the borg, but that's no surprise since the writing crew of Voyager did their best to cut the threat of the borg at every opportunity. For your efforts StarFleet decide to give command of your ship to you, an ensign, because you helped stop the borg, and that demonstrates you have what it takes. Because combat is all the matters to StarFleet and the federation, if you can make the weapons go, then you're Captain material.
You have the ability to customise said ship from two classic designs, one slightly more classic than the other, and a new design that looks like something one of the developers kids made out of lego one night. This is a general theme of Starships. You earn XP and level up, eventually gaining new ranks, each rank allows you to ‘buy’ a better class of ship. Because Commander Sisko Traded in the Defiant for the Sovereign when he hit captain, didn't he. Each class of ship (with a few exceptions) has a couple of different designs which are piecemeal so you can mix and match, you could have a Galaxy-class saucer with a Galaxy-X tri-nacelle and a fictional deflector array. A Miranda saucer with centaur pylons and lego nacelles. And so on. You can also paint pretty patterns on your ship in all the colours of the gritty angsty spectrum, Blood red, ashen green, dark angsty night blue, and of course black. Nonetheless I enjoyed taking the ship it gave me and turning it into a classic Miranda Class. Then my next rank ship was converted from the design they wanted me to have into a classic Constitution refit. My next rank was an Excelsior class. Why- Because if I want to play a Star Trek game, I want to be using a Star Trek Ship. Not some Cryptic designers LSD infused brain-fart of what one might look like. I will admit the Cryptic designs are superior to the ‘Enterprise’ in that new wrong movie which looked like someone had over inflated the Enterprise and then stuffed it with suet pudding.
Similarly you can use the costume editor to change your uniform, Wrath of Khan era, Next Generation series and movie, Original Series and a bunch of new Cryptic designed leather outfits from the Gritty Dark Matrix Catalogue. And while I chose to dress myself in TNG Movie uniforms, I think that having everyone in different uniforms is counter-intuitive to the whole concept of ‘Uniforms’
The story line, if you can call it that, is so tired and well trodden it could have been spewed from the pen of the laziest hack, or Cryptic story writer, so it fits with the last two seasons of Enterprise at least. The story writing is everything that playing Champions: Online can lead you to expect, like having your brain pulled out through your eyes each dialogue window. And the mission tree is as dull and repetitive as any Cryptic game, Fly through asteroids and kill dudes by flying around in circles connecting the two ships with coloured lines, is followed obedient schoolboy style with beam down to the planet and kill dudes by following the path and shooting everything that isn't you. Rinse, repeat. Throw in some Fly-around-in-space-until-you-kill-dudes and you have ST:O's mission tree.
With everyone a ‘Captain’ of their own shi…p, the very problem I feared pre-release came frighteningly and stupidly true. Allow me to illustrate by means of a Captain's log…
“Captain's Log, supplemental. I have brought the Agamemnon into orbit above Pyron III where I shall beam down to the surface along with the captains of the Oberon, DeathClaw and Pantyspanker to kill five squads of Klingons.” (The actual names of the ships I was teamed with)
That's right, while teaming one mission was to beam down, kill five squads of klingons. So four ships parked in orbit and the captains beamed down alone to do it. Just like all those exact same times in Star Trek. I don't know about you, but I'm immersed.
The Game engine seems to have been assembled of Corn wafers and glue-stick assuming the wafers are unintuitive and prone to failure and the glue-stick is festering puss. You cannot fly your ship straight up or down, instead having to spiral around like a shark if you want to get at anything directly above you.
I haven't been able to advance very far at all because most of my missions were BROKEN and incomplete-able, and I refuse to just grind space kill quests in the black zones, an activity only slightly less fun than having your teeth drilled.
The game is equipment based, and equipment for surface or space combat is all tiered by rank, so you need to keep upgrading to the next slightly improved gewgaw or winning is next to impossible, and you can never get a real advantage over the npcs, although a tribble in your inventory will consume your food and multiply. Your bridge officers can all be trained to learn special techniques, like learning how to get engineers to do something instead of playing hungry-hungry hippos while the ship is damaged. Although one of these abilities turns my ship bring neon pink while it is active, and let me tell you there is nothing that makes you really feel like you're IN Star Trek like flying a float in the rainbow parade. Space combat is also too fast, Star Trek combat is usually more sweeping amongst the big ships.
Swimming is interesting too. Or at least it would be, if there were any. Instead you run merrily along the bottom happily breathing water as though it were air. Because Star Trek has long been about taking physics and jamming it in a locker until Physics agrees to do Star Treks math homework. As if I needed another sign Cryptic either can't or won't try. It is especially sad as ST:O uses the same engine as Champions: Online which not only includes swimming, but a whole water zone! I know it's a big ask but I'd like those clueless fools at Cryptic to get their act together for once.
Graphically it's very nice, except that I can tell that whoever designed the City of heroes base furniture went with Cryptic to do ST:O. How can I tell- Well the interior of my ship is about 4× over scale. I look like a four year old toddling around daddy’s ship. The engine room alone is big enough to put a Blitzball arena in. And that's on the smallest setting.
If you want to play a Star Trek game, get A Final Unity, the 25th anniversary, Judgement Rites, Elite Forces or Starfleet Command. As for Star Trek: Online, it's story, missions, engine, concept, treatment, and Quality control can best be summed up, along with the game itself with: “Shaka, when the walls fell.”