Star Trek Online

Star Trek Online Preview for PC

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On the ground, STO plays like traditional MMORPGs.
On the ground, STO plays like traditional MMORPGs.

On the ground, STO plays like traditional MMORPGs.

On the ground, Andy is running around a jungle/mountainous area with his away team by his side shooting Klingons with phasers and rifles, with the odd melee attack thrown in for good measure. The graphics are lovely, really - not cartoon-ey, or photo-realistic, but somewhere in the middle - convincing and eye catching, and well detailed, as Craig explains.

"We did want to advance the look. We weren't that interested in picking a certain time frame and saying okay, it's going to be Next Gen [Star Trek: The Next Generation], everybody's going to be wearing polyester, it's going to be TOS [Star Trek: The Original Series], everyone's got t-shirts on. So we did want to advance the art style. We did want to bring it into the future.

"CBS themselves in one of the meetings said that in DS9 [Star Trek: Deep Space 9] everybody is just wearing curtains and furniture fabric. So we did want to update it and make it look cooler and advance it. It is a time of war so maybe things are a little bit more militaristic as well."

It's a time of war indeed. All hell is breaking loose as Andy's fully autonomous MMO pets, aka his away team, go to work on the Klingons. You're able to micromanage their actions if you wish - you can tell them to stay and follow, be more aggressive or support, and even tag enemies before you enter combat - but the feel is much more run and gun, more reactive and fast-paced, a reassuring counter point to the considered carnage of the last 10 minutes.

Powers come from three sources: your weapons, your kits and your career. As a captain you're able to equip two weapons when you beam down on an away mission: Andy's got a rifle that has a Sniper Attack power, and a phaser, which can, of course, be set to stun.

It's a big wide world out there, and we can't wait to jump in.

It's a big wide world out there, and we can't wait to jump in.

It's your career restricted kit, however, that defines your role on the battlefield more than anything else. Andy's low level science kit has the Stasis Field power, which can freeze enemies in place - crowd control, basically. As you level up you'll gain access to more complex and interesting kits, some of which have as many as four slots. Players can have a maximum of 12 items in their tray at once: three per weapon, up to four career powers, up to four kit powers, and CPR, the universal resurrection power. With 12 slots for powers, grossly individual play styles should be achievable. That you're able to swap kits and weapons when on the ground, too, ensures the possibility of even more varied loadouts.

As our first look at STO comes to an end, we can't help but feel the game is coming along swimmingly. But there's one feature some Star Trek fans might not be too happy about, and that's the Alien Creator. While you're able to play as many of the species you know and love from the Star Trek universe, you're also able to use the Alien Creator to create your own race, add racial powers, like super intelligence or super jumping, then add them to the Star Trek universe. In theory it sounds great - here we have Cryptic doing what many consider to be what it does best - insanely fun, varied and deep character customisation. Indeed the number of playable races in STO is infinite. But is this a good thing? How will Star Trek fans react when they see scores of unfamiliar aliens sunning their weird and wacky skin on the beaches of pleasure planet Risa? What about canon? In Star Trek Online, will it be a case of too much individuality and not enough order?

This is just about the only reservation we have with the game. Bar that, it's warp 9.9, or whatever the maximum warp is in 2409. The game's in the hands of a developer experienced in the art of delivering good quality MMOs, and, this being Cryptic, guarantees that character, starship and bridge officer customisation will be bloody brilliant. But, when all is said and done, it is the intertwined on ground and outer space action that has us most excited.

"The goal is to make it feel like you're living in one of the episodes, one of the movies," concludes Craig. "Nobody in the episodes or movies stayed in one place for any period of time. They were in space. They got a hail. They beamed down to the planet, rescued some scientists, beamed back up to a space station that was under attack, got data off a computer, went back to their starship for the climactic space battle."

With a closed beta "just around the corner", it won't be long before we'll get the chance to put Cryptic's ambitious project to the test.

Star Trek Online is due out for the PC next year.

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Game Stats

Release Date: 05/02/2010
Developer: Cryptic Studios
Publisher: Atari
Genre: Sci-Fi RPG
No. Players: 1 + Online
Rating: PEGI 12+
Site Rank: 974 63
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