Perfect Ten: Why Star Trek Online is an underrated MMORPG

I’m the type of player who has a stable of games that I return to from time to time, particularly when I’m looking for a dependable, enjoyable experience. I’ll stay with these games for a while until I can feel the fringe of burnout approaching and then let them go until they are needed once more.

Among these titles is a long-running favorite of mine — and an MMO that I feel is somewhat underappreciated by the larger community. The game is, of course, Star Trek Online. I was there at launch with my Del Taco cup in hand (there was a silly promotion that involved shuttles you could get from buying a soda), I’ve popped in for most of the anniversaries, and I’ve generally had a great time going through all of the featured episodes again and again while nerding out in my starship.

While I won’t argue that it is a perfect MMO or that it’s free from cash shop shenanigans, Star Trek Online does have a lot going for it that can get overlooked when players are hunting around for a reliable and slightly different gaming experience. Here’s why.

1. The IP

Perhaps even more than other IP-based MMORPGs, Star Trek Online’s greatest strength is in its connection with this famous franchise. Granted, if Trek turns you cold, then there’s probably not much here for you, but for Trekkies who have always dreamed of captaining their own starship, this is a dream come true.

And now that there are both the new Star Trek movies and the debut of Star Trek: Discovery, STO is a perfect way to get some of that “transmedia synergy” going with promotions and by the sheer fact that it exists.

2. The writing

Here’s something that I think is criminally underappreciated, and that’s the writing for this series. Christine Thompson (and others) know their Trek lore and have done a marvelous job writing stories and weaving in familiar elements. I don’t particularly care for the animations and (lack of) lip synching, but I’ll always stick around for the story anyway because of the TV-quality writing on display.

3. The quests

Related to the above, Star Trek Online’s quests are a cut above your average MMO’s mission log. There are some pretty rote missions, to be sure, but there are often plenty that require puzzle solving, diplomacy, exploration, strategy, and nerves of steel. If I was to make a top five list of the MMOs with the best quests, STO would have a spot secured.

4. The variety

Another aspect of this MMO that I really enjoy is the variety of pace that I get. There’s a lot of different activities to do, but having the change-up between ground and space missions keeps both feeling fresh for me. I know ground combat gets a bad rap, but I actually like it because I get to lead a party of NPCs rather than just one character. And if I’m getting a little bored with that, sooner or later I’ll be back on the bridge for another round of space combat. It’s good to mix things up.

5. The fanservice

Oh, the fanservice. There is so much of it here that even the hardest-to-please Trekkie might find him or herself geeking out. There are plenty of callbacks to well-known Star Trek locations, characters, ships, and episodes, but it doesn’t stop there. Star Trek Online has recruited a ton of the actors from many of the shows to reprise their roles. I still smile every time I hear Leonard Nimoy congratulate me for leveling up.

6. The duty officer system

Again, this might just be me, but I really dig offline progression systems in MMOs as long as they aren’t unbalanced. Duty officers, or “doffs,” earn you some nice rewards if you play this strategy game right. Collecting new doffs and putting them to work reinforces the notion of being a captain over a huge crew instead of a small team.

7. The character creator

This is a Cryptic game, so yes, it’s going to have an incredible character creator. You can choose from so many different Star Trek species (or make your own!), then modify their faces, bodies, and — my favorite — their uniform. Star Trek Online has added tons of the different uniforms and outfits from the show over the years, and I always take way too long to mix-and-match the perfect getup.

8. The ship designs

Seeing as how one of the biggest cash cows for STO is in selling ships, Cryptic has put in a whole lot of work to introduce practically every starship seen in the movies and in the TV shows (not to mention ones that the devs have made up altogether). There are few thrills greater in this game than finally attaining the ship of your dreams and getting to deck it out just right.

9. The continuing legacy

Star Trek Online is often seen by many as the true successor to Voyager, Deep Space Nine, and The Next Generation, continuing the timeline and exploring “what’s next” for this series. By putting the game 30 years into the future, the devs are able to keep one foot in the established TV franchise and one in a universe of their own creation. It’s a good balance and still the only sequel that we have in this era of prequels and reboots.

10. The visuals

On the surface or (especially) in space, Star Trek Online can keep surprising you with how pretty it is. Sure, the artists are taking a lot of liberties with space here, but I agree that keeping it visually engaging is pretty important when we are floating about in a mostly empty vacuum. Plus, space combat looks pretty amazing when you get a dozen ships jockeying for position and firing all manner of weapons.

Everyone likes a good list, and we are no different! Perfect Ten takes an MMO topic and divvies it up into 10 delicious, entertaining, and often informative segments for your snacking pleasure. Got a good idea for a list? Email us at justin@massivelyop.com or eliot@massivelyop.com with the subject line “Perfect Ten.”
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Suikoden

Remember when Champions came out and if you bought the lifetime sub you got early access for STO? I think that was the deal. I just remember so many people pissed because they paid that out, and then STO had that rocky launch, not to say they haven’t completely turned it around, just something I always think of when I think STO.

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Christopher Pierce

I stopped playing it years ago because default interaction with conflict is battle 9 times out of 10, which is a huge betrayal of the IP.

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Brown Jenkin

Couldn’t agree more. The game is great and I’ve always wondered why it isn’t more appreciated. Particularly for a game built on a major IP it always seemed solid to me. People do hate Cryptic though.

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Victor Morales

Still doesn’t override the fact that all the damn lockboxes in the game ruin it. Get that crap out and I would come back in a heart beat.

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Jay Power

The game peaked around the release of the Romulan expansion a few years ago and has been in a slow decline since. The dev team is very small and they take literally years to make any changes to the game. The population of the game is small so not great for social players.
If you don’t plan on spending any money, don’t care about min maxing and PvP, and just want to putter around casually and enjoy some cheesy sci-fi story content and gaming, it’s ok for that. But not recommended for any real mmo commitment.

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Adam Asbury

Let’s not forget that they launched the game on PS4 and Xbox One, for those of you that prefer console gaming. The user interface has been completely reworked on those platforms to be used with a controller, and it works exceptionally well. There’s a lot of fun to be had sitting on your favorite couch or recliner and playing on your (probably) larger TV.

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Godson69

As a casual gamer STO scratches one of my Sci-fi itches, I really do enjoy the space combat, but dislike the ground combat and play style. Not the best game but if you enjoy Star Trek you should at least try it. And if you are like me avoid the ground stuff as much as possible. :)

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Loopy

I’ll always have a sweet spot for STO, even when i don’t agree with its direction. Every now and then i’ll jump back in and the nostalgia sweeps over me, reminding me of days when i was in one of the biggest fleets in the game, roleplaying throughout and just having a blast.

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Travis Laborde

I agree completely, and the only reason I stopped playing is… the space combat is just too hard! I realize that I’m probably just terrible at it. But… I am. and it means I can’t really play the game for very long without quitting in frustration.

But reading this article makes me want to try again. Can anyone provide tips? I’d be willing to buy a P2W ship off the cash shop if its reasonable, just so that I can survive space combat more regularly. I love everything else about this game!

Thanks

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Brown Jenkin

Haha same here actually! Honestly I figure I just must have missed something in the tutorial or something but I get lost and owned every time.

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Ken from Chicago

PREACH IT, Sypster! The writing in the game is top-notch (to say nothing of the best player-written adventures included in the Foundry). “Midnight”, the conclusion of their 5-year Iconian War story arc was not only epic but truly “Star Trek” in dealing with conflicting morals with cosmic consequences. Also, the Federation tutorial is something I think every single Star Trek fan should experience even if they not another minute of the game ever.

The Duty Officers (Doffs) gameplay is a secret Ace up their sleeve. On a nano-scale it encapsulate Star Trek stories of exploration, science, discovery, diplomacy, combat, even on-board shenanigans and even basic grunt work of Level 3 diagnostics, filing reports, restocking supplies, etc.

There’s only thing missing:

0. The business model.

STAR TREK ONLINE is completely free to play, from level 0 to max level with no pay walls in content. What’s sold in the cash shops is basically costumes and conveniences in your style of play.

The costumes sold allow you to mimic various Star Trek movies and tv shows, but their a good variety of uniforms included for free. Plus I think their default “Odyssey” uniform for Starfleet is my favorite and should be on tv and film.

The ships sold are not pay-2-win. You can reach max level entirely on the free ships included. The ships affect your style of play–and also look cool. The Odyssey class Enterprise-F is not only my favorite Star Trek ship but my favorite starship ever.

Yes, they include lockboxes, but items inside are not game-changers but merely more about style than substance. They aren’t required to play the game. Plus, since one of the Massively OP commenters explained how to turn off the notifications, I don’t even have to see constant reminders of said lockboxes existance (aside from the random loot, but then I can auction those off as extra credits for my characters).