Perfect Ten: 10 features that take Star Trek Online out of this world

    
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In returning to Star Trek Online after a couple of years away, I did something brand-new this time around: I brought my Star Trek-obsessed teenage daughter with me to experience the fun. For the first time, the two of us are playing an MMO together, and I’m glad to get to share with her the delightful discoveries within this title.

Cryptic’s long-running MMORPG got off to a rocky start but proved that it had serious space legs. It’s one of our frequently nominated titles for best value and most underrated, both of which I think this deserves. But what, exactly, makes Star Trek Online special? Let’s dive into 10 features that are worth praising.

A vast array of character creation options

Do you ever feel confined and disappointed by character creators in MMOs? That’s not going to be the case with STO┬ábecause you’re practically drowning in choices before you get into the game proper. Not only can you choose from one of six different starting factions and experiences, but there are tons of races, uniforms, and body options from which to pick. This is a Cryptic MMO, after all.

And if you happen to dislike all of the racial options or wish to mimic another species seen on the TV series, you can create your own alien using various parts. How many online games let you outright make your own race? This one does!

So many things to customize

I would posit that no MMO gives you more things you can customize to distinguish yourself than Star Trek Online. You’ve got your own character and multiple uniforms you can tweak on that character, then your other bridge officers with their own outfits. Then there’s your fleet of starships (each of which can be painted with mix-and-match parts) and shuttlecraft. You can even pick your bridge design! And that’s not even to mention player and fleet starbases. It’s truly crazy how much there is.

Jane's way.

Sheer number of actors returning

At this point, I’m not sure how many actors from the various Star Trek series returned to reprise their roles here, but it’s certainly dozens upon dozens, from the big captains to that one dude who was a memorable guest star that one time. In this, Star Trek Online functions as the ultimate sequel, giving you an extra dose of time with many of your favorites.

And since some of the actors have since passed away, it’s sad-but-sweet to be able to revisit their avatars and voice work here.

It’s the ultimate Star Trek mash-up

Initially, Cryptic kept the scope of STO limited, serving as a decades-later follow-up to the series and movies. But over time, the studio managed to rope in pretty much every time period, TV show, and faction to make the ultimate Star Trek mash-up. Whether you like the Lower Decks animated series, prefer the original era with Jim Kirk, or have a penchant for Voyager’s Neelix, there’s something in here for every Trekkie. I honestly don’t know how Cryptic manages this wonky balance without the whole thing collapsing, but it’s done it.

This is expensive.

Getting to command a whole gang

There aren’t many MMOs out there that let you command more than one character at a time during landscape exploration and questing — and fewer still that allow you to have a full team of four kitted-out attackers. But that’s true here! I love being able to specialize my ground crew with different weapons and abilities to make for the perfectly tailored fighting force. It never gets old to send a whole gang into a Code Red situation.

Good story writing

When the topic of MMOs with strong stories comes up, as it periodically does on this site, I feel that this game is often overlooked. Its quests are very well-written with numerous sweeping story arcs, a whole lot of voice acting, and a lot of ties into the established (and somewhat messy) lore of the rest of the Star Trek franchise. Callbacks and spiritual successors to certain famous episodes are a particular treat for Trekkies, but there’s a lot here for the uninitiated as well.

This is expensive.

Truly excellent space combat

While I personally don’t have any problems with the ground combat (I actually think it’s a bit underrated at this point), I can’t deny that void of space is where STO really shines. Its naval-like space combat sequences get the blood pumping with a vast array of special effects, strategic maneuvering, fun abilities, and showdowns that deliver on that “epic” feeling we’re often chasing in MMOs.

It’s an MMO that makes you use your brain during quests

Let’s go back to quests for a hot second because I want to praise one other facet: They often make you think. If you complain that most MMOs are just “go here and click that and shoot the dude,” then you might be pleasantly surprised just how many missions in this game involve diplomacy, logical deductions, and puzzle solving.

In the mirror universe, they have charities to encourage bullying, or something.

Duty officer system

As long as it doesn’t get too fiddly or demanding, timer-based remote missions can be a satisfying feature in online games. And I have a particular fondness for this title’s duty officer (“doffs”) system where you collect a wider crew that you can send out on assignments to bring you back various goodies — and free XP.

Longevity and transmedia synergy

Star Trek Online never was and never will be an A-list MMO, but it’s carved out a comfortable niche below that to become one of Cryptic’s most enduring titles. This is thanks to a few factors, such as its multiple factions, vibrant community, and the ability to constantly tie in with the evolving Star Trek franchise. In fact, when STO first came out, there was barely anything new in Trek coming out at all, while now we have multiple fresh series and opportunities for synergy between the game and shows (such as Star Trek Picard actually using Star Trek Online ships and bringing them into canon).

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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