Star Trek Online

Amidst the blaring siren of a new Star Wars MMO (The Old Republic), you could be forgiven for overlooking the emergence of the first details of Star Trek Online. Cryptic Studios, of City of Heroes fame, helm this highly anticipated stellar venture, which means that at the very least we’ll be able to fiddle with a Play-Doh Klingon’s face until it looks just the way we want it.

In fact, the character customization will go beyond anything City of Heroes offers, seemingly approaching Spore levels of creative possibility. Stick a Klingon fanny-forehead on a Bajoran face and give it Vulcan ears if you like, as you’re not restricted by Star Trek’s canonical species at all. You can customize your ship too, from the livery of the runaround you’re given on starting, to your epic Voyager-class vessels. Aping Spore yet again, you’ll be positioning nacelles and saucers to your tastes.

The game itself sees the Federation and the Klingons up to their old tricks, with a failed peace agreement leading to your typical Alliance/Horde separation. The Gorn, Orions and Naussicans have sided with the Klingons, while the Bajorans, Ferengi and Vulcans show up on the Federation’s roster. So far what the other races are up to remains a mystery.

Starbases will form the game’s social areas, allowing players to wander the corridors of Deep Space Nine-style complexes, shopping for items, recruiting crew members and building larger ships. The crews themselves will function as extensions of your own character, carrying out your orders during space combat. Power can be diverted to various ship components (say, to bolster your shields), turning combat into a slow, tactical event, much like a sea battle.

Your chief engineer will have specific talents (such as messing about with the warp core for extra speed), and as such he and the rest of your staff will function much like World of Warcraft’s pets. You can hire and fire crewmen as you meet better and more talented people, though exactly where you’ll find these people isn’t clear. Perhaps an auction-house style careers bulletin board? For explorers there will be a procedurally generated galaxy to explore. You’ll happen upon virgin star systems and undiscovered trade routes, assisting or ignoring distress calls like some hyperactive Patrick Stewart.

The game content, interestingly, will be released in episodes (obviously a nod to the various TV series) each with about an hour’s worth of content. The unique selling point is still the fact that this is an MMO set in the Star Trek universe, some of the most fanatically revered fiction in the world. We’re excited, though we’re waiting until we see more before we place our bets. How will the combat function? Where’s the PvP? Classes, races, talents and abilities? As soon as we’ve more detailed details, we’ll pepper your brain with them.

Nov 13, 2008