Cruising

I have to commend Cryptic on their rather successful Star Trek Online launch. Over the past week I’ve only been denied playtime once since the official debut of the game. That’s a metric ton better than I had anticipated. I was expecting rampant server disconnections, login/authentication server issues, and multiple roll-backs from all of the instability. As far as I’ve experienced, this is definitely not the case. While I wouldn’t go as far as saying that the launch has been flawless, but it has been exceptional compared to WoW’s launch in 2004.

My U.S.S. Jeuno approaching Starbase 114

My impressions haven’t swayed much since my first taste of the game, ground combat still bores me to tears and space combat is still the best part of the game. Once you finally reach Lieutenant Commander and get your first real ship things start to take shape. I really appreciated the fact that your first promotion yields a token to trade in for your first cruiser, escort, or science vessel. As planned I used my token to pick up an Excalibur class Cruiser which I proceeded to mix parts from the other two cruiser class ships.

As previously stated ground missions are still on the dull side, but I have encountered some missions that have been intriguing despite the archaic combat mechanics. I recently completed an episode named Smuggler’s Blues that had me pointing out Starfleet regulation violations to the Ferengi bar/station owner. There was even a moment where a freighter’s captain and crew took offense to my snooping around and a large scale battle ensued in the bar ala Star Wars.

It’s moments like those that give me hope for future episodes where they’re more than just “beam down to the planet and defeat X number of Klingon crews.” In some ways it was teetering on the edge of actually feeling like a Star Trek episode which is a good thing to be sure. There have been a few other missions/episodes that I’ve experienced that continue to give this feeling, but there are still plenty of filler episodes where you’re just killing waves of Klingons/Gorn/Orions without much character to them. To be fair there are many MMOs that fall back on this staple, but with STO’s ground combat, it gets real old, real fast.

An attempt to employ unnecessary strategy.

I have been trying to make this sore spot in gameplay a little more enjoyable by replacing my shield recharge kit with a ground turret kit, which has helped … a little. Dropping a turret prior to engagement helps create the illusion that I’m being strategic, but ultimately means little as to how the battle pans out. Combat still devolves to standing around shooting each other with little risk of wiping. There’s only been one occasion where my team came close to wiping which happened after accidentally pulling 3 groups of enemies. Yet my science officer was able to keep me up and I was able to take down enough enemies to allow for the resuscitation of the rest of my away team.

Beware the BIG BOOT attack.

I’m looking forward to the away missions, coined raidisodes, that require 4 other captains/players because I’m deathly sick of my brain-dead AI away team members blindly charging into a fray. Hopefully these raidisodes will actually provide some challenge by requiring some semblance of strategy to overcome. I’m sure they won’t ever amount to much more than what I’ve experienced so far, but the ability to employ strategy will be a welcome change and addition. I only hope that some of these raidisodes are scattered throughout the leveling process and are not reserved for the current end-game.

Other than trudging through the ground missions I’ve found a new type of mission that I dislike in STO: space missions with nebulas and/or other anomalies that disable your impulse engines. Even with all energy diverted to engines travelling through these missions is painful. Especially when there are numerous patches of gas clouds that cause massive damage to your hull if they ignite near you. Briar Patch, I’m looking at you.

Variety in space missions is also becoming an issue where the vast majority of them involve killing X number of enemies. I shouldn’t be surprised by that fact, but it does put a slight damper on the otherwise enjoyable space combat sequences. It’s just that when you warp into a system and see that you have to kill 5 patrols for the 20th time that you start to realize that maybe it is difficult to come up with interesting generic missions. Nonetheless having a cruiser helps make these missions a little more palatable but I’m considering buying an Escort class ship to get a taste of what it’s like to play as DPS in STO.

I’ll have to broaden my exploration as I’ve pretty much kept to the Sirius and Regulus sector blocks. My noobness and slight anxiety of exploring the unknown have kept me from blindly traveling into the farther reaches of space. I’m becoming a little more confident with my ship’s capabilities and my motivation to explore is growing, so I’m sure it’ll only be a matter of time before I visit DS9 and decide to travel through the wormhole to squish some Dominion arse. ^^;

Steaming

I never thought about it before, but ordering a MMO through Steam presents problems. Case-in-point I was expecting to log into the Star Trek Online head start with little incident Friday night after getting home from work. I had made sure I downloaded and patched the client through Steam after removing the beta client I had downloaded through Filefront. That was a massive mistake.

Initially I thought a new patch had been deployed for the head start and was disappointed that Steam was downloading something that was going to take approximately 3 hours. That was until I started looking through the STO community forums and found a plethora of scathing threads spitting venom at Steam, Cryptic and the world in general. After donning my hazmat suit I began digging through the threads and the cause of why Steam was downloading a 10gb file became apparent.

You see, Steam has this little nervous-twitch which rears its ugly head because Steam is OCD at removing corrupt files. When I patched the STO client through the STO launcher, that caused a red flag to be raised as the checksum of the files Steam thought were there had changed. Thusly Steam removed this corruption and when I clicked on my STO launcher Steam began downloading the entire client again. /facepalm.

Fortunately through all of the steaming hatred and threats of litigation there were a handful people that were helpful in providing a solution. That solution entailing the disabling of Steam updates for STO and running the STO launcher directly. It solved the issue for me once the client had finished downloading again and I haven’t had an issue since. Supposedly Steam and Cryptic have already resolved this issue and Steam no longer deems the client corrupt, but I’d still be weary of any future STO patches and how Steam handles them.

So while Steam fucked up the head start launch day for Steam users, Cryptic wasn’t without issue either. I’m baffled over the decision to make preorder bonuses unavailable until Tuesday. For some this meant that the head start was pointless if they had planned on playing as a joined trill. I decided to just play as a regular trill as an extra 500 skill points didn’t end up being a deal-breaker for me. I was anxious to get in-game and get going in earnest on becoming a cruiser captain.

My goal is to reach Lieutenant Commander before the game officially goes live. I’m about halfway there as I reached Lt 5th grade last night despite my limited game-time so far. My impressions of the game haven’t changed much but I have to say that I’m impressed with the server stability so far in the head start. There has been some lag, but other than a random disconnect I haven’t had much issue with being able to play the game.

Now once the game does go live on Tuesday all bets are off. I’m still preparing myself for days, if not weeks, of server stability issues which is one reason I want to reach Lt.Commander by Tuesday. By setting my expectations so low I hope to avoid being disappointed and giving Cryptic a chance to impress me with the game not being a disaster upon arrival. Star Trek is a very popular IP and I’m sure that the servers will take a severe beating on Tuesday.

I’ve committed to giving STO at least a month to grow and develop and I am hopeful that eventually STO will be an awesome game all around. There’s a ton of potential with the game and I’ve only seen very little of what the game has to offer. I can’t wait to jet around in a cruiser and kick some dominion arse. You can expect many more updates involving STO for the coming days and weeks. I may even go into detail of my in-game endeavors as I once did with Final Fantasy XI when I started this blog.