U.S.S. Philadelphia-A

Revisiting Star Trek Online

I started playing Star Trek Online again last week after months away from the game. Has Cryptic addressed enough of STO’s shortcomings with Season 2 for a second look? Yes and no.

STO wasn’t a horrible game at launch, but it suffered from a rush to release after a bumpy development cycle. Being Star Trek, expectations were probably unreasonable from the start; the previous developer hadn’t helped matters by promising the sun, the moon, and another 100 million stars.

The game still suffers from bugs (some from launch) and a wonky interface 6 months after going live. Mini-games and a new diplomatic mission track don’t address some of the most egregious shortcomings at launch, but there is a sense that STO’s moving in the right direction. It’s hard to say if this is a course change because of STO’s new executive producer or if Cryptic is just getting its bearings after the chaos of launch. Regardless, STO is still a few parsecs away from being satisfying as a game instead of a Star Trek environment.

With LOTRO fighting for my attention (even better now that I’ve unlocked skirmishes), STO feels like a labor of love.  I’ve worked my way back up to Lt. Commander, and it’s felt like real work at that. PVP was a big part of what made STO fun: It brought people together and paid out where missions skimped.  Now, the lower-tier PVP queues are deserted–a lack of new subscribers perhaps–and the join mechanism failed the few times a match actually came up.

Although PVP gives Star Fleet some nice extras, it’s a Klingon’s bread and butter. Is there enough Klingon PVE content at the lower tiers to level without PVP? I’m eager to get a new Klingon rolled, but it may be quite some time before I plant my Klingon butt where it belongs, in the Captain’s chair of a K’t’inga class battlecruiser. Sigh.

I’m not as excited about becoming a Star Fleet Commander; the science ships are the ugliest in the fleet, the four-nacelle cruisers look as natural as two-headed snakes, and the otherwise-gorgeous Akira class escort is my least favorite type of ship to fly. STO’s August calendar of upcoming events brings hope with the addition of the Excelsior class as a tier 3 cruiser. Otherwise, I dread looking at the aft of any of today’s tier 3 vessels. I won’t be able to claw my way out of Commander fast enough.

That’s my problem in a nutshell: I keep seeing the STO I want to play in the next release. Season 2 is arguably better–probably more for end gamers than those starting up or starting over–but it’s only a step towards a fully-realized STO. I want to experience a consistent game throughout my character’s lifetime. This kind of incremental improvement will have me rebooting every six months and resenting it. Maybe this is just a point of friction between me the solo computer RPG gamer and the constantly-evolving-to-stay-marketable world of MMOs.  Sigh, again.

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