Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Timey Wimey. It’s five and a bit day’s mission, to explore strange new controls, to seek out new loot and new customisations, to boldly go where no console has gone before… cue the theme music!
As if that wasn’t enough of a clue, Perfect World and Cryptic Studios long running MMO, Star Trek Online has arrived on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
Set in the Star Trek universe, STO places you firmly in the captain’s chair in charge of your own crew and your very own starship. It has been up and running on the PC for over 6 years now and with regular free expansions and updates it has gone from strength to strength giving players the chance to live and breathe the Star Trek universe like never before. Star Trek Online is set just after the destruction of Romulus. With the Romulan empire embroiled in a power struggle for control with the Tal Shiar, the Klingons see an opportunity to expand and start claiming star systems for the glory of their empire. It’s not long before the Federation take notice and after the inevitable confrontation, war breaks out across the Alpha quadrant. The Federation is stretched to breaking point when an old enemy returns, the Borg. Oh, and did I forget to mention its free-to-play?
There’s no doubt that Perfect World and Cryptic know exactly what the fans want with this game and they deliver it in spades. Players can choose to try and restore peace and order to the galaxy as a captain of the Federation. Or, you can fight for the glory and honour of the Klingon Empire. Perhaps you’d prefer to be a key part in rebuilding the Romulan Empire, the choice is yours. With dozens of races to choose from and hundreds of ships available the Star Trek universe is waiting for you to build your legacy.
But how does it stand up on console? Taking a game designed for PC and as such for keyboard and mouse input and moving it over to a console is a huge undertaking. Cryptic have taken on the challenge though and have streamlined the control system to find one that works for a joypad. But does it work? Well, sort of. The game is certainly playable and there is a huge wealth of content but it certainly isn’t as flexible as the PC system. A control system should seem natural. It should help involve the gamer in the universe and not place barriers to it. While They have done well to make the game playable without losing the complexity of the system it’s not without its faults. The most frustrating one for me is the camera distance. Instead of the flexibility of using a mouse wheel console players are left with a choice of three preset camera distances, none of which work perfectly in every situation. I constantly found myself adjusting this when switching between them. For instance, in the vastness of sector space I found the close camera setting worked best but the minute you entered into a space battle the camera distance needs to be changed to a long shot in order to keep track of where the enemies are. Beam down to the surface of a planet and it needs to be adjusted again to stop your view disappearing into a corridor wall. Annoying but not game breaking.
Combat is a vital part of a game like this and it’s a part the PC version handles well. There are two types of combat in Star Trek Online, Space and ground. The Space combat works well and really gives you the feeling of a captain giving out orders to the various sections of your ship while still maintaining the feeling of being in control. The UI has been streamlined for console which uses a radial system to assign commands to the main joypad buttons. If your used to playing with a keyboard and mouse it will take a bit a while to be comfortable with this but once you learn to work with it, you’ll be destroying fleets of Borg cubes quicker than Jean Luc Picard can say “ early grey, hot”.
The ground combat system however, feels a bit clunky. On the ground you’re in direct control of your captain, getting involved in the fight while still issuing commands to your away team. I found this to be a bit chaotic on the console. In particular with the targeting. On occasion I’ve found instead of aiming at the huge Gorn warrior who’s chucking hunks of rock at me my captain was instead aiming for the back of my first officers head! Certainly this is an area where Cryptic can improve the game.
Having said that though all the other aspects of the game are there. The character progression, bridge officer training, research and development, all streamlined and easily available and leading to a game with huge amounts of depth and customisation. There is no mistaking this game is huge. Like any MMO, its only as good as its end game content and Star Trek Online has loads of it all free to play. Like any free-to-play game there is the option to spend your hard earned real world cash on buying items for it using the in game currency of Zen but it’s not necessary. Using Zen, you will get access to the best ships and loot quicker but it’s certainly possible to play the game and do well without spending any cash it just might take a bit longer to get the ship you really want.
If you’ve ever wanted to play Dabo in Quarks on DS9, go power surfing on the beaches of Risa or explore strange new worlds meeting new civilisations in the Delta quadrant then Star Trek Online is for you. But if you didn’t understand any of those references, it’s still worth spending a few hours or so exploring this game. Who knows, you might just find your inner Star Trek fan and have some fun!
Star Trek Online is available now for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One from the respective console stores and for PC at www.startrekonline.com This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version, find out more about PS4 VR here: https://www.playstation.com/en-gb/explore/ps4/