Cryptic – Perfect World – Out Now on PC, Xbox One & PS4 (version tested)
Despite having been available on PC for a few years now, free to play MMORPG Star Trek Online, has landed on PS4 and Xbox One, and what better way to celebrate Star Trek’s 50th anniversary than exploring new worlds and new frontiers at the helm of your own starship? HCF played through the first few hours of the MMORPG to see if it’s worthy of rubbing shoulders with Starfleet’s finest, or if it should be left to float off into darkness. From the same developer as the excellent, and also free to play, Neverwinter, Star Trek Online sees you create your own character, be it Starfleet, Romulan or Klingon, and head out in to the final frontier in the aftermath of the planet Romulus being wiped out by a supernova.
Although you’re given the choice of three different federations/empires, I decided to go with Starfleet. Using the random name generator for the character creation, I became Starfleet cadet Wilbur Ezra Pickle of the USS Patricia. Complete with the funky visor that Jordi La Forge wears (he was one of my favourite characters when I was a kid). After an initial tutorial, it was time to board the USS Patricia, as acting first officer no less. Look out ladies, Riker MkII is coming aboard! It’s not long before all hell breaks loose however, with the baddest bad guys in the galaxy trying to put a dampener on the day. It may be the first time taking out the Patricia, but the Klingons don’t care, as they soon make short work of the engines when they try to board and take over the ship. Not on First Officer Pickle’s watch! Chasing down the Klingon invaders through the corridors of the ship was very reminiscent of Knights of the Old Republic. The sterile space ship walls and strategic combat (kneel down, press fire, hope for the best) cannot help but be compared. Only you have the glamorous phasers of the Star Trek universe here of course, which look as intimidating as ever. Those Klingon bastards are swiftly dealt with however, and despite a failing engine, a space battle ensues.
Here’s where things really start to feel like you’re in an episode of one of the TV shows. The combat is slow, repetitive and couldn’t be any further away from the dog fights in pretty much any other space combat game. And it’s all the better for it. At this stage of the game, although the ship takes a real pounding, there’s no real threat of losing. The Klingon ships are soon dealt with and the Patricia was repaired to have full impulse power once more. But it’s not long before you encounter the coolest of Star Trek’s (a bit of an oxymoron, I know) bad guys, the Borg. Coming out of hyperspace to assimilate everything in sight, the Borg quickly overwhelm, but luckily Starfleet heard the distress calls and back up arrived. After rescuing the survivors of an assimilated planet, and kicking some more Borg butt on the ground, it’s time to return to Starfleet, where the rank of captain is waiting and some much needed upgrades to the ship and my own gear and crew.
Now I’m not the most well versed person in Star Trek lore, so all I can say about the USS Patricia is that it’s the same type of vessel that Khan robs from Chekhov and that in Star Trek II. You aren’t stuck with this ship however, but with this being a free to play game, it’s going to come at a literal price if you’re not happy with the craft you’ve been given. Though for a free to play game there are surprisingly few restrictions to progressing through the game. A lot of the things you can buy, although they will make ships/weapons/equipment bigger, faster and better, they aren’t entirely necessary for carrying out your ongoing voyages. Yes, there are perks for those who pay, but some of these seem purely aesthetic. Speaking of aesthetics, it’s showing its age. That’s not to say the visuals ropey, as most of the scenery in space, whilst in control of the ship, is quite nice, and when in control of the character, it’s nothing to complain about. The view from Starfleet Academy for example, boasting its most defining characteristic, the Golden Gate Bridge, really draws your attention. Character models and internal building design do seem a little outdated and sometimes when the characters appear on the screen, it can take a few moments for them to render properly.
The first few hours of STO has quite the learning curve, but once everything clicks, it turns into a decent enough sci-fi adventure. While it may be overshadowed by Neverwinter, it’s a must for even the most casual of Star Trek fans, and considering it’s free to play, you can do a lot worse than give it a try.