Star Trek Online

So, a game review.  I haven’t done many of those.  In fact, I’ve done one, so this is the second.

I’ve been playing this off and on for a while.  Initially I was skeptical of the whole idea of a Star Trek MMO, since surely the whole appeal of travelling to the stars is to be billions of miles away from idiots.  Indeed there are times playing this when the universe feels too crowded and I’m not getting the experience of being a captain exploring the final frontier.  Admittedly in Star Trek TNG, although they were supposed to be explorers they did in fact spend most of their time patrolling neutral zones or being a taxi for Deanna Troi’s mom.

But this game does actually have story missions, with new ones still being added.  I think it’s up to ‘season’ 12 or 13 or something now.  Anyway, several of the TV show’s actors have returned to voice their characters again, which is nice.  Another that’s nice if you are a fan of the TV shows is that ST:O continues the story in the original universe and not the JJ Abrams Flarescope version.

At the start you can choose whether to be a Federation, Klingon or Romulan captain (or TOS Federation now too).  Other than the types of ship and crew members you can have, each faction has an opening set of missions that are different for each, although after a while the missions end up being the same for all with just some slightly different dialogue.  You also choose whether to be whether to specialise in Tactical, Engineering or Science.  The game points out that there are career specific objectives in some missions, but it’s mostly dialogue options and how you go about fixing things… it doesn’t affect anything in a big way.  It does affect what abilities your captain will have on away missions and it’s probably best to choose ships and skills suited to your career path.

Anyway, to be honest, I find the early missions the most enjoyable.  I can’t put my finger on why, but for some reason for me the later missions just become a chore.  Just some tedious thing I’ve got to get through in the hope there might be something better on the other side of it.  It might be because there’s more emphasis on big fleet battles and ground combat in the later missions which makes them a slog as combat really isn’t spectacular in this.  If you want a mindless shooter or fighting game, and I do on occasion, there are better options.  In a Star Trek game what I want is the opportunity to make bazookas out of bamboo or get involved in a deadly game of chess with another captain.  And. if there’s time, make out with my com officer.

The game is free to play.  And I think it’s maybe possible to complete the story missions without ever spending any real money.  Obviously though they’ve got to make money somewhere though and, as with most ‘free’ games, you have to be a bit careful or you can end up spending a fortune on it.  So, as you gain experience and are promoted, the game rewards you with a free new ship, at least to a point (I think the fourth rank).  If you want a more powerful ship after that though (and lots of other items, like special crew members, keys to open boxes for rewards, clothing, extra inventory and ship slots…) you have to buy them with ‘zen’.  To get zen, well, the easiest way is buy it with your real money but the exchange rate has clearly been devised by a Ferengi.

500 zen costs £4.50.  That will buy you a Tier I spaceship (incidentally you level up quite quickly early, so a Tier I spaceship you wouldn’t using for very long.  The only reason to buy one that costs zen would be that they usually come with some unique item as well you can use in other ships).  The most powerful, Tier 6, vessels cost 3000 zen, or if you do the math, £27.  You could buy an entire game for that, or 27 Kinder eggs.  If I’m going to spend £27 on this, I don’t just want a 3D model for the game.  I want them to send me a die-cast model of the spaceship with my name on and sound effects.  That way I’ll at least have something to show for all the money I’ve spent after this game is eventually taken offline.

But there is another option if you want all that stuff, which is that you can exchange dilithium for zen, which is rewarded for completing missions or you can it mine once per day.  It has to be ‘refined’ first though, and the game restricts the amount you can refine per day and again the exchange rates are dreadful.  But yes, it is possible to play this game for free and get yourself some of the nifty store spaceships and outfits if, instead of spending real money, you don’t mind giving up on real life altogether and just living in Star Trek Online.  Either way, you’ll eventually find yourself without a job, friends, a home, or a computer.

But as I said, I think it’s possible to complete it without spending ‘zen’ but I’ve not tried it.  I have spent maybe a tiny bit.  Just a small amount.  Maybe a lot.  I’ve bought quite a few spaceships and bridge officers and other stuff… like I said I’ve been playing on and off for a couple of years.  And despite everything I still do as I grew up with TNG and DS9 and this the only ongoing thing still set in that universe.  And I’ve gotten quite attached to my Romulan Republic captain and crew.

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