I recently received a free beta key for Star Trek Online, the new multiplayer game from Atari, so fresh with renewed interest and vigour thanks to the utterly brilliant Star Trek film I logged on and began my first day in Star Fleet!
The first two hours were spent downloading the 7Gb install file, rather fast thanks to my uber speed Virgin broadband, the next hour unpacking and installing and the following twenty minutes patching the install. Finally I made it to the login screen and got booted because the servers were too busy, still it only took ten or so attempts to get logged in, not bad at all considering some of my MMO experiences.
Character creation was a Pandora’s box of choices, so many I found it impossible to wade through them all, in the end I had to just pick any old race and get on with it or would have been there for hours just adjusting my rugged good looks. I will have to go back at some point and have a more thorough rummage through the draws.
The very first thing I saw after the loading screen was brown. Just brown. Thanks to a clipping error I was abandoned in the brown zone, nowhere near as pleasant as a green zone but with less Taliban. It wasn’t until I took my first tentative step that I suddenly found myself on a space station floating above earth. What I have noticed since then are a raft of clipping and texture errors, not in themselves a huge problem but a bit annoying at times.
There had been some expectation of a grand opening scene played out in glorious rendered video to explain how you got where you are and possibly a bit of background for the time and place to give it meaning. Alas, the expectation was cast back in my face with brown stuff on it. This may be because STO is still in beta and the full game will ship with an intro, guess we will just have to wait and see. The starting missions were also a bit weak. This is the moment when any game should draw you in and teach you the basics but STO just gives the opening missions a cursory glance, a few static one liners about how to interact and focus fire and that’s all you get. The missions themselves are also a bit lack lustre, the Borg have attacked and stolen all the officers and you have to save the day, quite an opportunity but one the developer chose to leave to plain text box descriptions and motionless NPC’s. Speaking of text boxes, all the dialogue and instructions appear in a box slap bang in the centre of the screen, right in front of where the action is! I found myself having to skip entire dialogues and sets of instructions without reading a word because some Borg dog was beating me to death with a soggy cucumber! Oh and the best part, you can’t move it, doh…
So I ran through a few missions and it was time to pack up for the night. What I found the next morning was that I really wasn’t that bothered about logging on again… so I didn’t. Of course I shouldn’t have to say this is not a good start. Instead of being drawn into a Trekie world I was alienated and could easily have taken the game beck to the shop demanding a refund, except it’s a free beta pass so I can’t, ah well I can dream. Later that evening I forced myself to log in, over and over again since the servers were busy. Err Atari, ever heard of queuing login attempts? It can’t be that hard since all the other MMO’s seem to have managed it! By the time I logged in I had a bleeding forehead and mashed fingers, damn you Atari.
And so began a second night in Starfleet. I spent about three hours doing mission after mission just in case my opening night had simply been a poor experience. As it turns out it gets worse. The game is no more than a grind fest, half a dozen missions repeated over and over and over … with only a cursory change here and there like rearranging the rooms of changing the number of attacking ships. In fact it reminds me very much of Pirates of the Burning Sea in many ways, the ship missions are all pretty much identical and the away team missions are as well, there’s no depth to combat, just button mashing, in fact combat would be greatly improved by just hitting a shoot at everything button and folding your arms to await the final annihilation of your foes since it’s so easy to win a fight there’s no chance of losing even if you decide to become a vegie pacifist greenie and not fight back.
The whole experience is made worse by the complete lack of any feedback or dialogue, for example:
Comms Officer: “Captain we have made contact with the really not interesting ship.”
Comms Officer: “Patching through to view screen.”
Captain: “Oh great another 2d still of some alien and two sentences of static text next to it.”
Cpatain: “Dammit can’t we upgrade the view screen to a 42” Panasonic LCD instead of just hanging random paintings of aliens on the wall?”
Captain: “And who the hell painted a guy with a head shaped like a penis, I mean what on earth?”
Science Officer: “That’s your mother Captain.”
Maybe I should help Atari with their scripting ;)
Seriously Atari, is this the best you could do? You sapped all the humour, mystery, intrigue and fun out of the genre and produce this lame crap…
Roll on Lego Universe and Star Wars the Old Republic and I pray they can do better than this tripe.