Space, the Final Frontier. Hands on with STO.

Captain’s Log, Stardate 9842.1:

I was alerted at 12.00 hours by a Starfleet request that we investigate an anomaly on a planet in a nearby system. A system claimed by the Klingon Empire …

I was able to sneak a few minutes with the Star Trek Online demo at the Eurogamer Expo last week. It wasn’t really long enough to get a good feel for the game, but the demo let you fly your ship around in space, get into a dogfight with some Klingon birds of prey, and wound up with a firefight on a planet that looked suspiciously like an old quarry.

The game looked very slick on the souped up demo PCs, and all the visual clues … from the interior of the ship, to the facial shot of your comms officer relaying messages from Starfleet, to the gloriously over the top beauty of space, to the uniforms worn by the away team down on the planet surface … all of it screams Trek. The demo felt like a Star Trek episode (albeit rather a shooty one), the ship felt like a Star Trek ship, and so on.

Initially, you’re on the bridge of your ship. You can call up other stations on board to get reports from your officers, or to buy/ sell stuff at the replicator.

I did enjoy the brief burst of ship to ship combat. If only because all that time I spend playing Sid Meier’s pirates finally came good. It does feel slower paced than a typical MMO fight, and more dependent on positioning of your ship relative to the other ships.

There are shields which you can power in different directions. Your lasers have different arcs of fire. The idea is to avoid taking an undefended broadside, with the result that ships end up trying to circle each other. Or you could do what I did and spin on your axis wildly with one finger on the space key which signifies “fire all lasers” and trust the automatic targetting to do its thing. Although the lasers do lock on, you will still need to manoeuvre your ship, and from the short time I had with the space combat, I’d be keen to see more.

Planetside, the combat plays out in a more standard MMO style, although it felt very fast paced. Imagine a shooter which had tab targetting. I haven’t played Champions Online but I’ve heard that described in a similar way.

As I said, my experience with the game was very brief and I don’t have any idea what the MMO aspects are like. But I did like what I saw, I think that ship to ship combat looks good fun and I got a good Trek vibe from the game. Here’s another view from Eurogamer, about the same demo.

And one thing they have got very right is the Star Trek feel. If you are the sort of person who grins when you pull up the replicator window and sees that the first thing on the list is “Tea, Earl Grey, Hot” then maybe, just maybe, this one will be for you.