I've been playing Star Trek Online in the open beta for a few days. I set a goal to get to level 6 so I could create a Klingon and see how the other half lives. But after RAGE QUITing five times for a variety of reasons, I'm not sure I'll make it, so I'm posting my thoughts now.
Simply put, it's the worst MMO I've ever played. I pride myself on being balanced and finding the good in all games, but there's not much good to find in STO. I'm not alone: I know three people personally who pre-ordered the game, played the beta, and then cancelled their pre-orders. There may be something good buried inside the game, and I'll try to highlight it, but the game suffers from WoW-clone gameplay, a complete disdain for storytelling, and being released at least a year before it's ready. Between this and the fiasco of Champions Online I wonder if Cryptic has long to last. Sorry guys, I really wanted to like your games.
Space combat is innovative. It's very positional: you have shields on 4 sides, so you need to maneuver to keep your weak shield safe. You also have limited firing arcs so positioning and weapons loadout are subtle. It's 2D flying, but that's OK with me.
I like the duality of having both space combat and ground-based action. Characters can specialize in either space or ground action, so you can focus on one type of action. (Although as near as I can tell, there's never an option in any mission; you always have to do what is scripted). Switching between modes is a nice break.
Bridge officers are cool. In space they give you special abilities, like my engineering officer lets me divert emergency power to shields. On the ground they are your away team NPCs, like a group of particularly capable Warcraft hunter pets. They have their own names and levels and skills. Once they fix the slavery language it will be nice role-playing.
As innovative as the combat seems at first, it gets boring fast. Every single battle I fought was basically "broadside the bad guys to hit him with both phasers". Simple WoW-style cooldowns that you just turn on all the time. It's particularly difficult to do anything tactical when there's more than a couple of enemy ships.
There's no sense of exploration in the game. Even after playing just a few hours every star system looks identical. And every place has been explored by 1000 other people before you. The actual "exploration missions" are laughable repeatable quest crap. The last one I ran literally had this goal text: "Scan Device. Scan Different Device. Devices Scanned 0/3".
They don't use the Star Trek IP well. It's a weird mish-mash of all 200+ years of Trek lore, sticking Tribbles in with Trill. It fails to capture the aesthetic of Star Trek. A common visual experience is the galaxy map screen with 40 little dinky Federation ships all clustered together; I missed the majesty of the Enterprise on her own taking on a single alien ship in empty space. And on the ground the Federation has suddenly been overrun with Andorrians, and Bajorans, and weird goofy tall alien guys at the extreme of the character designer sliders. Part of what's charming about Star Trek is how human-centric it is where the alien characters are even more human than the humans. STO has too many non-humans, both PC and NPCs. Finally, the game is full of dumb hat-tips to Star Trek lore, like the tailor NPC being a Cardassian or the Emergency Medical Hologram saying "I'm a doctor not a.." Get it? It's like two nerd moments in one! And no depth to back it up.
Everyone is a captain. I've been on a few PUG group quests and we're five Starship Captains all beaming down (in our red shirts) to kill a few Klingon thugs. How does that make sense?
There's no meaningful economy. They have the same anemic auction house as Champions Online, without even basic search capability. There's a confusing array of currencies: at least six different kinds I could count. And there's apparently no player crafting. There's some hint of some (with another 10 kinds of currencies!) but they just get turned in to an NPC with a vendor interface.
There's no death penalty or explanation of death mechanics. Your starship blows up and then you respawn. That's it. Same thing on the ground.
Loot. Sometimes a spaceship blows up or a guy on the ground dies, and they leave behind a glowing object that's loot. No spaceship wreckage, no corpses, just bizarre objects with no context.
No login queue. I won't harsh on the game for being underprovisioned in a beta, but the system has no mechanism for handling overcapacity, just reporting errors while you keep clicking "login" hoping to get lucky.
Lots of bugs. Again, it's a beta, so fair enough. But how do you launch an open beta with a bug that has you in your starship "walking" around a station, or in your spaceship-sized body floating in space? Also, half the missions I tried were broken in some way or the other. It's not just beta, it's untested.
You're flying grandly through space when some mission text pops up. Your ship comes to an immediate stop (no inertia) and the whole game pauses while you read the text. When you close the dialog, your ship is still dead in space.
I didn't have any particular expectations for Star Trek Online. But I did expect it'd be kind of fun and somewhere near a complete game. The market could certainly bear another space MMO. Eve Online is great but it's a very complicated wine, difficult to enjoy. (Oh, if they had combat anywhere near as fun as STO!). There was some hope STO would do something fun. Nope.
Between the mess that's the STO open beta and the mess from Champions Online, I can only conclude that Cryptic is undercapitalized. They have some good ideas in both games, but CO was not ready when it launched and STO doesn't look to be ready, either. Maybe it was a mistake for them to take on two MMOs at once and they just have to get it out the door or else the company closes?