Sunday, January 29, 2012

Star Trek Online

Star Trek Online has been around for a few years, and as of this past January 18, it has gone free to play.  So, what are you closet Trekkies waiting for?  I've been trying out the game for the past week, and so far I'm impressed.  Completing the ambiance are sounds you'll recognize from all the different Star Trek shows.  The space battles are also cool, where you can fly around in 3-D space with full 360° control.  I love the photon torpedo effects.

The game takes place in the future several decades beyond the movie "Nemesis."  All your favorite characters are probably dead, but along the way you'll likely meet descendants or visit places named after historical people.  Of course, you can expect references to particular events that occurred in the past.

You start the game as an Ensign.  While you beam down to assist the outpost during a Borg attack, the entire staff on your ship is killed.  When you return to your ship, you're the highest ranking officer, so you're in command.  As you blow the Borg cube out of the sky, your valor is recognized.  You are promoted to Lieutenant, and you get to continue serving as acting captain of your ship.

You start to collect officers, who you can train.  Their special skills come in handy during battle.

Several tutorials help you practice and learn the complex controls and indicators on the screen.  After a week of playing, I'm still getting used to everything.

The drawbacks so far: Well, for starters, I didn't get very much else done this past week.  This game is definitely a production killer.

The game only works on Windows, which I find surprising.  I would expect a lot of Trekkies to be Apple lovers.  But if you have an Intel Mac with OS 10.5 or higher, you can follow the directions in this forum thread.  A developer named doh123 prepared this wrapper that can emulate Windows on a Mac.  But be warned, since he/she is a developer, expect the directions to be a little hard to follow.  Once you get things working, it's worth it though.  I've been playing on my 2011 iMac with OSX 10.6, and I haven't noticed any problems.  I may post easier-to-follow instructions shortly...

The 3-D 360° battles are cool, though there are two annoying facts.  #1) There appears to be a limit to how far you can pitch up or down.  When you hit a ceiling, you have to jiggle the ship around and reposition so you can go up/down further.  I hope they fix this bug.  The original Descent from the 90s didn't have this problem, so I'm sure the Star Trek programmers could figure this out.  #2) In real life, there is no friction in space!  In real life, you can't come to a complete stop!  In this game, inertia just doesn't exist.  Then again, I can't complain too much, as this is consistent with just about any Star Trek show.  I can't think of even one episode where inertia is demonstrated (beyond people shaking on the bridge when the inertial dampeners go offline).

I'm also starting to wonder if I've already "beat the game."  It appears the main goal is to shoot ships in space and shoot people on the ground.  Kirk's "we come in peace; shoot to kill" comes to mind.  Most missions I've done so far seem to be: enter a system; attack a ship; beam down to planet; shoot some people; beam back up; shoot more ships; get rewards/promotion.  A few missions have been a little more complex than this, though.  And I hear that some classic episodes are contained in some of the later missions.  I want to do one of those!  I'd also like to do a mission that challenges the mind with a good puzzle.

Right now I'm stuck on one mission in the Delta Volaris cluster.  I'm supposed to aid a planet by providing either medical supplies, provisions, or shield generators, but I can't seem to find a planet that needs one of these.  When I searched the web, I discovered the issue: when you scan an anomaly in the Delta Volaris cluster, the mission you get is random.  Sometimes it's to learn something about why an outpost has no survivors.  Sometimes it's protecting a planet from intruders.  After scanning at least 20 or 30 anomalies, I have yet to stumble on an "Aid the Planet" mission.  In short, it's appears possible to get a dud of a mission.  Bummer!

Despite these drawbacks, I'm still having fun.  If you haven't tried it yet, go and beam that game to your computer.  Live long and prosper, and fire all torpedoes!

P. S.  If you see me in the game, be sure to say "hi."  I'm Mel'Rut, a Vulcan serving on the USS Kimmer.  

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