MMOments: Star Trek Online On Xbox One

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Xbox, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the USS Aye. Its mission, to explore old worlds and relive episodes of a video game that’s kinda like episodes of a tv show. To infinity and beyond.

I’ve been taking a few days to play Star Trek Online and I love this game. Two things I have to disclose before I go forward: One, that I’ve been playing since a few days before the servers went live. Two, I have not played Star Trek Online on the PC literally since it was still a subscription game and virtually only the first three months (approximately). I will not be making comparisons to the PC version, but I may end up playing the PS4 version to see how it holds up technically. That being said, my last memories of Star Trek Online were of a game that launched as hot garbage. A bag of hot garbage that has, as many have told me, cooled off and actually fermented into some delicious kombucha.

It’s been six years since Star Trek Online originally launched, back when Atari was (allegedly) funneling money from Turbine Entertainment into Neverwinter, and I have to admit that I’ve softened up to the idea of the JJ Abrams style Star Trek Universe, one with tons of action and explosions. Star Trek Online takes place in the alternate timeline of the Star Trek Abrams movies, where the Federation and Klingon Empire have fallen into war while the Vulcan deal with the loss of their home world. As the two sides fight, adversaries like the Dominion and Borg become a greater threat. Let’s admit, the old days of the diplomatic Star Trek are mostly gone.

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The world presented in this game is grim and depressing, it hit me like a sack of bricks when I beamed onto a planet early on only to see the message “the Borg have already assimilated half of the colony.” You are not the James T. Kirk that would find a way to defeat a station of Klingon by beaming down, karate chopping their leader and bedding their women. Instead, you’re more like the James T. Kirk that would blow up the shields, beam down, and massacre everyone on board. I’m not making a political statement, just pointing out how war-torn this world is.

Gameplay is mostly split up between two modes: On foot and on ship. Ship combat is where the game gets pretty strategic, it’s a placement game where you and your opponent have four main angles of shield to wear down and eventually tear into their hull. Unfortunately you can’t pull of crazy maneuvers like in the TV show, but you do eventually gather quite an arsenal to take on enemy ships. One power, for instance, shuffles your shields while another makes your craft much more mobile for a short period of time. You have to balance out a good offense with a strong defense.

On foot, it’s all about flanking your enemy. For the most part, your six man away team can pretty much mow down anything so long as you keep them up to date on the latest guns and shields dropping into your inventory every twenty seconds. I’ve died once, maybe twice so far in ground combat and most of the time it was because of my own negligence.

For the most part, combat feels exactly how I would expect it to. You’re not on the Enterprise, a ship built mostly to deal with exploration and not necessarily combat. Your default ship is war-ready, meaning that while you can cut through small Klingon fighters like a knife through melted butter, you’re still going to have a rough time with higher tier enemies. One aspect of the original launch that I absolutely hated was the fact that you were already destroying Borg cubes en masse before the tutorial was even over. Yes, not even in the captain’s seat long enough for the replicator’s tea to cool down, and you’re already taking down the galaxy’s most deadly enemy.

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Now, the Borg cube appears and the game pretty much shouts that you have absolutely no chance of even putting a dent in this behemoth, even bringing in other Federation ships to prove it. This is ultimately what I love about Star Trek Online, every mission feels like a self-contained episode that could conceivably play on TV, all part of an overarching seasonal plot. The first season is all about the war with the Klingon, why it happened, and how you can work to stop it. The graphics are nothing to write home about, but the sounds and little details all come together to provide an experience that is quintessentially Star Trek.

The controls in Star Trek Online leave much to be desired, in that they are at least 50% worthless. On the ground, you can hold the left bumper to lock on with your weapon. This button is useless and, for the most part, doesn’t work. It either locks on to your allies, refuses to cycle between targets, or won’t lock on at all despite your enemy being right in the crosshair. The ship has the same problems, this time being activated with the right joystick. I’ve dumped use of these buttons altogether.

In addition, the interface to the game is just godawful, more than it should reasonably be. The game is highly inconsistent on whether or not prompts will display on screen or force you to hold A to interact with them, NPCs and planets require you to be in precisely the right position much of the time in order to interact with them, and menus are clunky to navigate. The game feels dated, and I feel like it’s going to put off some people who might otherwise enjoy it.

Still, Star Trek Online is in a position of better late than never coming to consoles. If you haven’t given this game a chance on PC, I highly recommend it on consoles.

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