Well, the open beta of Star Trek Online seems to be having a bit of a rocky start. For the second night, there was “emergency” maintenance between about 7pm pst and 9pm pst which is primetime for me during the week. Unfortunately, tonight’s outage was supposed to be until about 9pm but then extended until midnight, so I gave up. Not so good for the second day of open beta. Fingers crossed that this will be resolved before the three day weekend here (MLK Day).
Fortunately, I was the lucky albeit last minute recipient of a closed beta key from the good sisters at No Prisoners, No Mercy so I got to play most of this last weekend. I probably logged about 10-12 hours all told before the wipe for open beta. I may post an “impressions” or “review” at some point, but I don’t feel I have enough of a picture to really do it justice just yet. I think I’ve only gotten to about Lieutenant, grade 5 or so (aka Level 5 out of 50– 5 ranks, 10 grades each). Others, however, have posted their thoughts, so I’ll direct you to a few of them and then throw out some thoughts.
First of all, Sente at adingworld has a very thorough post describing the game through closed beta. From my limited experience, I tend to agree with everything said there. This is the kind of post I’d write if I had more time in game.
Next, Tobold weighed in on his impressions. Although he’s not onboard, I think his criticisms and analysis are a fair take on where the game is at this point.
Likewise, Keen has some thoughtful insights on the game thus far that, although I don’t really agree with all of them, they are fair points.
Finally, Darren, who I’m very glad is back blogging, has his thoughts here.
Having done the Champions open beta, I had an inkling of what I was getting into. A bit like the DDO/LotRO phenomenon– same engine (at least one of them anyway), same look and feel, but fundamentally different games. As Keen noted, this is a game of boxes. Unlike the too many boxes (imho) in Pirates of the Burning Sea, I think STO can get away with some of the boxiness. There are three distinct frames of refererence (I’ll call them avatar space, sector space, and ship space), so its hard to imagine how to reconcile the three perspectives without some speed bump of shifting the frame from one to the other.
There are times this is a bit jarring. And there are times that it feels less worldly and more gamey. Despite the comments regarding the multiple instances of many spaces, I just didn’t find them that big of a deal. I found them more jarring in LotRO and PotBS frankly.
As other have mentioned, the ship combat is great. Naval combat with a z axis. While its not perfect and some have complained about its slow pacing, I’ve found it fun and challenging in that lose-track-of-time-while-playing sort of way. Thats a good sign. The ship combat is more dynamic than Eve mission combat with timing tactics and positioning being more critical.
I felt like I had to actually fly the ship with some degree of competence. Having to maneuver to preserve shields and place targets in firing arcs of weapons makes for a pleasantly fluid battle. With a well coordinated and balanced group, I could see this being VERY fun. Even with the random grouping, people figured out basic tactics fairly easily and generally coordinated well.
I found these initial battles more satisfying tactically than Eve PvE battles although you don’t have the Eve death penalty terror to keep you on your toes. Nonetheless, the incessant TOS red alert sound effect and the Majel Barret-esque voice of the computer (“Hull integrity is below 75%”) made for a nostalgic and immersive battle. Cue the french horns and theme music upon your victory and the feeling is complete.
As mentioned, ground combat needs love, but its far from complete suck IMHO. The environments are nicely done, the battles tend to also be fluid if a bit shallow. I almost feel like its an FPS shooter for old men. Tab targeting FTW.
Performance wise, I haven’t had any real issues. I’m running XP with a 3GHz Core Duo and 4 GB of ram and an 8800GT with 512MB of RAM. Despite folks claiming Nvidia cards are having trouble, I’ve had nothing but very good performance. I turned down the bloom (personal preference) but otherwise left everything pretty much maxed. Very little lag, even in fleet battles with many other players. YMMV.
At the end of the day, I’m more in line with Darren’s opinion– There is a distinctly Trek-like feel to the whole thing and though it has warts, I’m going to stick with it to see what it becomes for a while. I’ve been married to the franchise since the Apple ][ days, so I’m clearly on board regardless. Now, if they can only get the damned servers back up so we can play…