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PREVIEW

STAR TREK ONLINE

Cryptic Studios are back with another MMO effort after stumbling out of the gates with Champions Online. But with a license like Star Trek on board... what could possibly go wrong?

"To boldly go where no man has gone before." A line that will forever resonate with me and million of others. Star Trek has been around for more than 40 years and spawned television series, films, books, games at a frequent and slightly alarming rate. Finally it is getting the MMO treatment and it seems to have a few things going for it.

Cryptic Studios are known for their well made character creation tools in City of Heroes and Champions Online. Star Trek Online is no exception. Not only is it possible to create variations of the numerous species in the Star Trek universe, but you can also combine them and create your own unique alien race. I'm sure this will annoy some fans, but regardless the character creation is neat.

Moving on to the actual game it consists of two major elements. Space travel and combat as well as ground and away team missions. In fact it is the first MMORPG to combine these elements. We asked associate producer to estimate how much time we will spend in a ship and on our feet:

- In general it's about 60/40 in skew for more space. As a player you can elect to, in certain cases, do more space or ground over space depending on which one you enjoy. But for the most part, as I mentioned before, it's a huge part of our identity as a game to send you back and forth across the places within a game session. It is not possible to ignore one factor of the game.

The space combat is not what you would expect from an action oriented space shooter. Not at all. In fact, it's not really about tricky maneuvers at all. Instead it is all about managing your shields and weapons as well using your bridge officers special abilities. It comes across as rather stiff to start with, but in fact it's a nice way of making space combat manageable to a MMO player and still making it responsive and involving. It's a compromise, but it was always going to be that.

If the space combat impressed me, the away missions did not. It felt like something we had done a million times before. Your party will consist of five officers, yourself included, if you haven't teamed up with other players you will pick suitable candidates out of the officer crew you will collect during the game. There is a host of different abilities to choose from and you will possess the traits inherent to the species your avatar belongs to. But the combat just felt dated and not very involving. The mission also came across as the disarm a number of bombs slash destroy a number of Borg pods type missions that we have all done a hundred if not a thousand times before. Animations and graphics also look a bit dated. It was still enjoyable, it just didn't come across half as inspired as the space component.

The good thing about a game like Star Trek Online is that there is a fanbase in place. If Cryptic Studios manage to please Trekkies I'm sure Star Trek Online will enjoy a rich and very dedicated following. Something every MMORPG needs in order to survive and thrive. Even for a casual fan like myself this is a key factor. I hope Cryptic Studios can succeed, but the away missions needs some tweaking before release. Picard out.

For further insights into Star Trek Online, read our full interview with Andy Velasquez.

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