Friday, January 29, 2010

Game Review: Star Trek Online

Another Ruined Franchise

In discussion with other reviewers and gamers of big franchises that go into game form, I often get the "well they can't do that." This is always in response to my saying that they have watered down and turned a completely story driven franchise into a flash, point and click game. If they can't translate a story driven franchise even 50% of the way, why bother even naming it after the franchise.

Yes I am talking about the Cyptic's Star Trek Online game. If you are even remotely a Star Trek fan, this game fails. You will be completely disappointed at the horror of this god awful game. One idiot tried to excuse it by saying "oh it's in the future and they are at war, that's why there's all the shooting." Hogwash! The developers fail at life and have zero brain activity going on. They ruined a perfectly good name that had a ridiculous amount of spin offs and lore.

Star Trek at its core is a preachy, social commentary franchise. Whether you like it or not, Star Trek has had some very ground breaking storylines. It has tackled issues that no one else dared touch. It broke racial barriers, along with that other ground breaking show "batman" and the Eartha Kit kiss. Who could forget the Lieutenant Uhuru kiss.

On to the game review:

Star Trek Online Review

Graphics: The graphics overall are actually pretty bad. You cannot go back in graphics, especially when you are trying to present a photorealistic view of the characters and world. In fact it is as if the design teams on graphics did not get together to decide and overall quality of graphics level. [more later]

- landscape: this is the worst part of the graphics. Where a game like Eve Online made you gasp at the panoramic views of space, this makes you gag. Not only are thew space views badly drawn, they are completely unrealistic. They have clouds in space? Really? They are just awful. There is not even a sense of 3 dimensions to it. You look like you're on a cheesy star trek 1950 t.v. set. It is just ridiculous

- character: the characters are drawn photorealistically. There is nothing cartoon about them. However, you don't see much of the character, that you spend 30 minutes playing barbie dress up. There are space stations you can walk around and landing party missions where you can see your character, but for the most part you are in your ship. A vast majority of all missions are in the ship. You are either fighting in the ship or exploring in the ship. In fact after the beginning of the character development unfolds you can just phone in your missions from the ship, no need to return to the space station.

Just a side note. There were so many horrible graphical bugs in the beta that after awhile I turned off all the graphical goodies, so everyone looked like water color paintings. It didn't help by the way.

- hardware capability: Does this game test your hardware graphically. This is a catch 22. If I say yes, it might just be due to the tremendous amount of bugs. If I say no, that the graphics are so bad they shouldn't strain anyone's hardware, again it might just be due to the bad programing.

Gameplay: this is simply to cover how fun and easy the game is actually to play from the start and from day to day.

- chargen: character generation is the same as Champions Online or Heroes Online. It doesn't have near the depth of the Heroes Online chargen though. There is really nothing to it. It is just barbie dress up. People were completely upset, however, when they found that their first piece of armor completely covered up their character. So, probably those that spent and hour matching the glove seems to the coat seem color, went over the top angry when they bought a +1 shirt that covered everything on the character. LOL! They were screaming in chat about it for some time.

- controls: awful. Simply awful. It is not even a case of a learning curve. They are just awful. Remember you are in a ship. The camera swivels in every direction but the direction you want it. This would be great if you were filming the game, but this is not what a gamer wants. By default, they have a chase-target-fixed camera. This would normally be a good thing, like if you were pvping in WOW. But, in a space battle with you controlling a ship and trying to maneuver your highest percentage shield to stay between you and the enemy, it is maddening. And, I bet you think taking off that stupid camera control would fix it? No. It then follows your ship and completely ignores the target.

Also, the controls to keep you targeted, maneuverable and alive are just god awful. It is as if the developer literally sat down and said, I want to show the grace and beauty of my ship, let the player be damned. That is exactly what we get.

Also, the controls and space flight is not 3d. There are no barrel rolls. There are no 90 degree dives. There are no loop de loops. Remember, you're in a space ship with a gravity pull to the floor of the ship so that there is no outside reference of gravity. There should be no reason why the ship shouldn't be able to barrel roll. Ok, forget barrel roll, it doesn't point straight down into a dive position. Another, "my ship is gracefully descending," moment.

- ui: what ui? You literally have to go into game options and open up a skills panel to retrieve skills to put on your bar. The bar is so tiny you have to expand it 3 times so you have enough room to put the orders to land the ship on the space station. I am all for a designer trying to be unique in his design, but this UI works against the player at every possible turn.

- story: ok this is where the story and "plot" of the game is supposed to go. I am not kidding. There is nothing to put here. Everyone who argued with me about the other points of the game all agreed there was no plot or story to the game. Wait! No plot to a Star Trek spinoff? How could that be? This must have literally just been made by game designers, and not a developer, i.e. someone with ideas. Oooooh ideas are dangerous.

- lore: meh, they throw around Star Trek like words. They have lore pop up in between loading zones on the splash screen. But as far as lore being part of a big picture and story... [see above]

Advancement: this is where the great telling feature of character progression goes. While in other games even minute progression is noticeable, in Star Trek online it is invisible.
- rpg: I guess I could say you get better clothes, armor, ships and officers, but it seems nearly pointless when it doesn't really matter. The enemies get harder and so do you sorta. Honestly, I find the 3 round of public server counter strike more progressive than this game. Can you get into the story? What story? They fail at the entire RPG of this game.

- hacknslash: they definitely get the hack n slash aspect going in this game. If endlessly shooting a ship from your ship is your idea of fun, then this is the game for you. Half the time, you are so far away from your ship and the enemy ship is so far away that you barely see them. You can see the laser beam pew pew pew more than anything else on screen.

Overall: this is an excellent game, for someone that is brain dead and wants to spend money on this instead of 5 other games that blow this away.

- immersion: are you immersed in "star trek"ness in the game? No. And, I am being very honest. If you removed the name Star Trek from anything appearing in the game and sat 100 people in front of it and had them play for 4 hours, I bet 80 of them would never guess this was Star Trek. Given that scenario I bet 40 of them would think it was a new starship troopers game.

- must have: is this a must have just on the basis of it having the name Star Trek Online on it? No. Will this be a gamer nerd library must have? No. The gamer nerd is always a connoisseur of fine games. There is no way he would attach his good name to this trash.

Whoever owns the licensing for Star Trek were probably paid a lot of money to let their name go out on this. This is the only reason I could think of them attaching their name to this. Shame on Cryptic for doing this. And, before you start thinking I'm some crazed Treky, I am not. I have never been nor even heard of a Star Trek convention. LOL!

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