Star Trek Online: New Dawn (game review)

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In the ever expanding realm of MMOs and RPGs, developers must keep coming up with new content for the worlds they have created to keep players interested. Luckily, for Cryptic Studios and their MMORPG Star Trek Online, they have a whole universe to pull from. Their newest expansion, “Season 11: New Dawn,” adds more adventure and more options for players in the expanding universe of Star Trek.

Gameplay

Originally launched in 2010, Star Trek Online (STO) pulls from a vast library of content from TV series and movies to give players the sensation of living in the Star Trek universe. When you begin playing you are able to choose which species you would like to play as, or create your own. You can choose to be a part of the Federation and pilot a Star Fleet vessel, expand the Klingon Empire as a Klingon Warlord, or rebuild the Romulan culture as a member of the Romulan Republic via the newly added “New Dawn”.

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STO offers vast character customization that allows you make your character look just the way you like. I chose to be a human in Star Fleet, the most un-original choice maybe, but I wanted to be as close as I could to being in the universe. You can also choose the style of Star Fleet uniform you wear as well from various choices rooted in the different TV series and movies. In addition to customizing the way your character looks, you are able to choose the area of study you concentrated in at the Academy. At least this is the case if you choose to join The Federation. The choices are limited to only Tactical, Science or Engineering, but choose wisely as the choice you make determines the course of action you can take throughout the game.

When you first start the game as a member of Star Fleet, you are taken through a “tutorial” which basically entails walking around to different classmates to get used to the motion and action controls. You then report to a commanding officer for your ship assignment before you are sent to weapons training where you learn the third-person shooter dynamic of the game. From there you report to your ship and the decision-making component of the game really comes into play. There is no concrete karma system like in Fallout 3, for example, but the choices you make have an impact on how characters respond and treat you. Will you be a by the book, encouraging leader? Or will you break the rules and use your rank to intimidate the rest of the crew? The choice is yours.

During the first mission on the Star Fleet ship, you fall under attack by Klingons. After you use the knowledge gained from the shooting simulator to fight your way through enemies and help restore the shields (or another task depending on the concentration you choose), your captain is taken hostage and makes you acting Captain. Think of yourself as Chris Pine in the 2009 Star Trek reboot. As the captain, you must take control of the ship and fight off the enemy warbirds thus taking you into the starship piloting tutorial. After completing the training missions, you are able to accept requests from Star Fleet to explore star systems and complete missions (quests).

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The only real complaint about gameplay is I found myself having to restart a mission a few times because the enemies didn’t seem to spawn and I couldn’t move forward without neutralizing them. This was extremely frustrating and definitely took me out of the game. A simple patch may be the cure, and if so should happen sooner rather than later.

Graphics

Now I should preface this by saying that I do not have a hardcore gaming computer. It is a laptop I got on Black Friday last year running an I5 Intel chip with integrated graphics. So I may not have not been able to fully experience the graphics during gameplay the way the developer would have wanted me to. That being said, overall the graphics were pretty good. Will it be able to compete with Witcher 3 or most other AAA titles? Definitely not. For a free-to-play MMORPG though, the graphics were done well. At the academy, you can look over the San Francisco Bay and see the city rendered as an actual city as opposed to a flat looking “back drop” render. Flying through space really feels like there is limitless space to move through.

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I did experience some rendering issues here and there, primarily when first loading a new scene such as walking out of a building or going from a cut scene to a mission. In those instances, scenery took a moment to fully render and I was able to see through the ground and buildings. In space, the planet I was near would look very dull and almost like a colored ball until it fully rendered showing clouds and land masses.

Final Reaction

This is a well done, fun game to play if you are a Star Trek fan. I don’t consider myself a “Trekkie” and was fine navigating my way through the game, only missing the references to the movies or shows I didn’t watch. The in-depth character creation gives players ways to really feel like they are a part of the Star Trek universe. The decision-making factor though may not be as advanced as other games, but it really gives players a chance to do things their own way, creating unique gameplay for just about every player. The new expansion, “New Dawn,” added some new ways to personalize the experience and brought some characters from the series into play. This is a nice nostalgic touch for fans of the universe that allows them to play with some of the favorite, iconic characters.

My complaints about the game are few. For one, it felt like the training missions lasted longer than necessary. I found myself fully understanding the mechanics of the game and wanted to explore other quests or return to Star Fleet, and I was forced to keep going with the training missions. A patch could easily fix this though, allowing players to leave training missions once they feel they have grasped the content. Gameplay and graphics bugs are inevitable in games and no game is 100%. That being said, the ones I experienced took me out of the game which in a game that tries to immerse you into another world, like this one, is not good. Like I said, it was just a few times so definitely shouldn’t be a deterrent, just something to note.

This game has so many features, that to go through them all would make for a very long review. Between the character customization, the ship customization, and the decision-making system, this game makes for a very fun way to pass the time. With some software patches, there is no reason why this game shouldn’t be held in the same regard as other MMORPGs. For everything that this game offers, it is sure to ensure replayability and makes it hard to believe that it is free-to-play. This game is definitely a must play for any Star Trek fan.

Rating: 3.5 Atoms

NR 3_5 Atoms - B-

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