Six Things I’m Loving About My Return To Star Trek Online

I’ve been meaning to talk about my recent return to Star Trek Online, but one thing or another kept pushing this article back.  I wasn’t initially going to fire back up STO following its F2P switch — too much other stuff going on — but one evening’s worth of curiosity got the better of me, and I’m glad I did.  Here are six things I’m loving about it so far:

1. The free-to-play model suits me perfectly

One of the reasons I never stuck with STO for longer than a month here or there is that it’s the type of game that I only want to play sporadically.  A couple times a week, maybe.  And a “couple times a week” is not a valid reason in my book for a monthly subscription, so that had to go.

But F2P?  That’s a winning ticket right there.  There’s no subscription pressure to play, and every time I’m looking for something different (ship combat still rocks), it’ll be there for me.

2. Its free-to-play setup is surprisingly generous

Here’s what shocked me about this return.  I really thought that Cryptic’s F2P version of STO would be painful at best to experience.  I haven’t been that glowing about how the company neutered Champions Online’s best feature — the freeform creation and growth of superheroes — when it was designing the version for free players.  So I anticipated something as bad or worse for STO.

In actuality, it’s about one of the most generous free models I’ve seen in an MMO.  Take a look at the features matrix and try to pinpoint where the game is “punishing” you for not being a subscriber.  Slightly smaller inventory and currency cap?  Ouch.  I’m going to be sore for days.

People who denounce F2P as being this great evil that’s corrupting our beloved MMOs from the inside-out don’t often acknowledge that there are many ways to do F2P, and while some are aggressively bad and harmful to the game, others are finding a great balance between giving a free experience while tempting players to pony up dough.  I’m not fond of STO’s gambling-like mystery prize boxes you can buy, but most everything else in the store is either cosmetic, a different fun ship design with minor advantages, or various services.  Yet there’s nothing that has to be purchased to enjoy the game to its fullest, either.

3. The leveling is faster

Every time I return to STO, I feel compelled to start a brand-new character (I really don’t know why).  So I’ve been through the first 20 levels or so of content several times now, and have never really liked how painfully slow the leveling process was.  I guess between the time I last played and now Cryptic tweaked the leveling curve so that you not only level quicker (I was to Lt. Cmdr. within two play sessions) but you can level primarily through the episodes alone.

4. Ground combat is less… slow

I never really disliked ground combat the way some people did, but I’m certainly not complaining that it goes a lot faster these days.  They’ve added the option to even play it in a pseudo-over-the-shoulder shooter setup, but after trying it, I’m sticking with the standard format.

5. It sates my desire for vehicular combat

My plate is full of MMOs where I’m inhabiting the body of some humanoid running around endlessly, so having one game where my main avatar is a ship is a refreshing change of pace.  STO’s space combat is tactical, eye-pleasing, and fairly easy to understand.  It just has a wonderfully different feel to it all, and I dig that.

6. The duty officer system is a fun diversion

Also new since last I played is the Duty Officer (“doff”) system.  I had no idea what this was before coming back to the game, but it turns out that it’s a variant on the time-based progression gameplay that’s popular in titles like FarmVille, Tiny Tower, and even Star Wars: The Old Republic’s crew missions.

Basically, you start off with a bunch of crew members that you can either (a) assign to duty to give you buffs in different areas or (b) send off on missions that will hopefully net you goodies.  Missions take time and can be stacked up in ridiculous amounts — I think I had 17 missions going on my second day of fiddling with this system.  There’s a bit of strategy involved with the system, as crew members’ traits can impact your mission’s chance of failure or success.  Fail badly, and your guy can be injured (taking him off the roster for a while) or even killed.  So it’s in  your best interest to minimize the odds of failure as best you can.

For someone who can’t always dump a lot of time into a game, knowing that I can log in for five minutes, send out my crew on missions, and know that I’m accomplishing something during the day is a heady feeling.

12 thoughts on “Six Things I’m Loving About My Return To Star Trek Online

  1. The pull is getting stornger. I really didn’t like ground combat after they updated it last spring (thought it was fine before), and didn’t want to have to learn yet another system (Doffs) and but your explanation that it’s not that complex, I may have to jump in and look around.

  2. Damn you Syp, and other bloggers I may have to check it out even though I bought the CE, and still angry at this game

  3. I love the new ground combat! When game was still in beta I thought that they should have done it more in the mass effect style and this is how it works now (minus the cover system and you have bigger party).
    The doff system is also grate. Now I fell like a captain of a starship with large crew and not a 5-person shuttle.

  4. My understanding is that the real difference between subscribers and free players is that subscribers get a free ship token when they rank up (every 10 levels) while free players have to purchase a new ship. It’s certainly possible to scrounge up enough dilithium (the new currency) while playing the game, but I wouldn’t say it’s easy while leveling. It’s going to be far more appealing to purchase a ship from the C-Store for real money, or supplement your dilithium using cryptic points (there’s a dilithium exchange built into the game that works kind of/sort of like PLEX in EVE – players sell dilithium on the exchange and others can buy it with cryptic points).

    I don’t think this is a bad thing though, a lot of the c-store ships are very nice, and even while subscribed I ended up buying a couple. It’s an extremely dangerous thing if you like to collect the ships . . .

    I haven’t played since the F2P conversion (too busy with SWTOR) but having a max level character in the game already I see almost no downside to playing for free, and would certainly expect to buy a cool new ship or two as they add them to the store.

    This is a much more generous F2P conversion than City of Heroes, where max level characters have almost nothing to do unless you subscribe, or Champions Online which really punishes you for playing for free.

  5. I’ve been playing STO on and off for the past year or so. For the past few months, quite a bit. In fact, I’ve been having more fun with STO than SWTOR but I won’t go into that.

    Even though I don’t play in the “shooter mode” controls, I very much approve that they added it awhile back. My Science captain has too many abilities I use all the time, so the RPG mode is simply easier to manage. When I do a Tactical captain, though, that might change. =D

    And the Duty Officer system has been great, though be careful if you’re wanting to level slowly because your duty officers give you all kinds of skill points for their assignments. In fact, I leveled a Klingon all the way to level cap (they start at 25 I think?) and only actually played the first handful of KDF missions. Everything else was all from DOff assignments.

  6. Despite having a Lifetime to Champions (Star Trek also) and my main character is a Freeform, honestly the character creation is the most dreadful part of those superhero games for me. That was the case way back in CoH and it’s true in CO as well. I guess I consider superhero games to generally be more shallow so I just want to get in the game and beat up bad guys, so every one of my alts has been Archetypes. I’m not into the hardcore end-game scene in Champions (is there even such a thing???) so whether Archetypes are gimped in comparison to Freeforms honestly doesn’t affect me personally. Some games I like having a ton of choices to determine my virtual life — Skyrim for one — but superhero games are not one of those.

  7. @ Warsyde – From what I’m reading on the STO F2P forums, Cryptic has since changed that so that all free players get a ship token up through Captain now, although starting with Rear Admiral they’ll have to find other ways to get ships.

  8. I was previously subbed, so maybe my experience is off, but I’m not subbed currently. I hit Captain Saturday and got a ship token. I’m hoping to get another at Rear Admiral, since dilithium is slow to gather just puttering around in missions and via the DOff system. If not, though, I can totally understand them wanting to just sell me one. I’m doing just fine with my Commander-level Advanced Science ship, though. (It works better for me than the Captain level Cruiser I went out on a limb to try… yes, I’m a Science Captain, just experimenting.)

    I do love the F2P conversion, though. The DOff system is nice and makes me feel like I’m captaining a crew, and the rest of the game is still solid. It’s not a perfect game, but it’s really fun to play in fits and spurts, and that’s perfect for the F2P model.

  9. Yeah…you get ship tokens through Rear Admiral Lower Half now…but RA-Upper doesn’t get one, and *all* of the Vice Admiral ships are C-Store only now, which kinda sucks.

    If anything, I think the changes allow you to level *too* fast now–I’ve only done a few Explore sets, a two Comunity Missions daily sets, one Patrol and a couple of Borg Invasion attempts (neither of which beat the Boss Borg), with the rest of it being only Duty Officer Assignments and story missions…and I’ve already hit the level 50 cap before the end of the Romulan Front Arc, which is only supposed to take you to the early 30’s. I still have a full major arc to go through, and the ‘smaller’ Breen, Undine, and Borg arcs. :-/

    Crafting is now mostly pointless other than just building up to the Aegis set, given that a lot of the higher end items have significant Dilithium expenses (in the form of Uncommon Unreplicatable Materials, which cost you 1000 Dilithium each). OTOH, I do have to agree that the f2p conversion is *incredibly* generous. Not only are new f2p characters only minimally handicapped (mostly due to the bank and inventory limits–the Credits cap and the lack of respect tokens aren’t much of an issue at all), but for the returning players, their old characters get grandfathered in with whatever ships/capacity they had before the switch (which in my case leaves me with a nice Mule, if nothing else).

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