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PAX ’09 – Star Trek Online

PAX 2009Star Trek

From what was shown at PAX, it is readily apparent that Star Trek Online is the second coming. That is, if you’re a Trekkie with the capacity to indulge yourself in an all-out Massively Multiplayer experience. Otherwise, Star Trek Online seems to be an ordinary, albeit satisfying Sci-Fi MMO. In order to more fully explore the title, we sat in with the game’s Executive Producer Craig Zinkievich, and were given a thorough walkthrough during the playable demonstration of the game.

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The biggest selling point for the game will inevitably be the multi-tiered gameplay. The game’s separated into ship-to-ship combat segments, as well as some on-foot exploration. In the MMO format, each individual player is the captain of their assigned ship. At the moment, there are no plans to incorporate other duties, which might enable gamers to travel in the same vessel, although it’s entirely possible to assemble a large fleet and travel amongst friends that way. In fact, it will become increasingly necessary as you progress throughout the game. Craig tipped us off that in some later levels, we’ll probably need to employ up to thirty like-minded Trekkies in order to properly assault an enemy base.

Particularly expansive, Star Trek Online spans “hundreds of different environments”, many of which include obvious reference points for fans of the Star Trek universe. This is really the first game to fully explore many of these key locations and with the growing list of prior disappointments, it’s also one of the only ones to handle the license with the care and respect it deserves. A lot of emphasis has been placed on customization. Extending beyond the look and archetypes of the various character options made available in the game, there’s also an extensive customization system for your ship. Just about every piece of your ship can be adjusted to your liking, and while the options aren’t going to stifle the seasoned MMO vet, they’re definitely nothing to scoff at either. Specific parts, when matched with others of a similar function allow for definite advantages in-game, affecting each ships performance rather drastically.

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Over the last few years, Cryptic Studios has been hard at work, tending to Star Trek Online’s placement in the Star Trek timeline, and creating fantastical recreations of all the locations we’ve all come to love over the years. I was personally rather impressed with both the ship-to-ship and on-foot visual styles. In space, asteroids are scattered intermittently, debris is strewn throughout the flying zone, and there’s no lack of enemy ships to face off against. These segments appear to be crisp in terms of the visual aspect, and is supplemented with highly-playable gameplay. Coordinating between traveling at light-speed and blasting foes with your numerous phasers, the real-time battles are both captivating and entirely true to the quality found in the long-running television series.

After taking out several rounds of enemies, I was able to select a landing option and move on to some on-foot combat. My assigned squadron of NPC units, each fulfilled roles designated by several different tactical options which can be adjusted on the fly. The game wasted no time in introducing some hand-to-hand combat, which was also rather impressive. There were several different commands for my character’s wielded weapons, such as shooting, performing a stun attack or performing melee attacks on the opponent. These were all quite simple to execute, and as for the NPCs, the AI has been sufficiently developed so as to have them be viable factor for the outcome of each battle, as well.

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Sure, the large-scale customization and solid combat’s nice and all, but one burning question remains: how will it fare juxtaposed against the upcoming Star Wars MMO? Zinkievich’s response was rather confident. He figured that Star Trek Online won’t be competing directly with Star Wars: The Old Republic and that the game will appeal to a more hardcore, niche audience that is dedicated to all things Star Trek. The answer to that question should be revealed when both games launch within the next calendar year.

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in July 2007. Get in touch on Twitter @Calvin_Kemph.

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