Read on for the WoW Player's Guide to Star Trek Online, and don't forget to check out Massively's Star Trek Online page for everything related to STO.
Star Trek Online is set approximately 30 years after the events in Star Trek: Nemesis. I'm not going to get into a protracted lore discussion, so I'll just outline the major points of the game's lore here, in nice bulleted sentences for everyone.The Federation and Klingon Empire are at war with each other.
- The Romulan Star Empire is entirely different than we saw it.
- The Borg are back.
- The Cardassians are attempting to come back into power, Elim Garak is now their leader.
- Numerous characters we saw in the TV and movie series are placed around the universe.
- The timeline is the original one, ie: not the one setup by the Abrams' movie.
First and foremost, there are not multiple servers in STO. Everyone is on just one very large server in countless instances. But don't think that means you won't see other players – you'll always see other players around star bases and in space battles, and you'll always be able to group and guild with your friends. The only difference is that instead of having a few hundred servers with copies of Dalaran, there's a few hundred instances of Dalaran that people can select to go into.
Secondly, in character creation your options are countless. You can basically make your character look like anything you've seen in the show, and then some. Check out Massively's extensive look at the character creation gallery to see all the options.
There are two main factions, the Federation and the Klingons, which are akin to the Alliance and Horde, respectfully. Every player must start out as a Federation character and work their way through the first six grades of Lieutenant before being able to create a Klingon character.
You level by earning skill points (more on those in the talents section). Once you spend the required number of skill points you level up. There are 50 levels in STO, and they're named Lieutenant 1 through 10, Lieutenant Commander 1 through 10, Commander 1 through 10, Captain 1 through 10, and Admiral 1 through 10.
In STO your rank is considered to be your rank name, like Lieutenant Commander, and your grade is considered to be your numerical step within the rank, like 6 or 10.
There are two types of talents in Star Trek Online: skills and traits. Traits are character defining elements which are selected at character creation. Here you can choose things like threat or damage modifiers. These are roughly equivalent to WoW's character racials. For more information on STO traits, check our our extensive guide.
Skills are things that you earn as your character progresses in level, and more roughly equivalent to WoW's talents. Each skill hast nine ranks, and each rank costs a few skill points. You earn skill points through completing missions and killing mobs – thus the more you kill, the more you do, the more skill points you have to spend and modify your character to your playstyle.
As you progress through the game you'll acquire bridge officers – either from drops, having them request commission on your ship, through buying them, or through mission rewards. Bridge officers, or BOs as the kids like to say, are just like WoW pets, but with a much more intelligent AI and many more abilities.
Bridge officers level up right alongside you, and even have their own skill points system. You earn their skill points just like you earn yours, through completing missions and other objectives.
There are two combat modes: space and ground.
In space combat you fly around your ship, which you can upgrade as you advance in rank. You'll use things like your photon torpedoes and phasers to burn down enemy shields, and then take out the hull. The shields are usually the most powerful element of the ship and the hardest to take down. The hull is relatively weak and can often be taken out with a few photon torpedoes. In space combat you'll use your bridge officers' various abilities to buff your ship's system, increase your damage, and debuff your enemy.
In ground combat you'll fight with your bridge officers in order to complete objectives. This is much like the traditional MMO experience. You'll control your bridge officers just like you control pets (see the above section).
There are other numerous aspects to the ground combat which are covered in the tutorial which you have to play through when creating a character; things like increased damage and exploding environmental objects.
Social and Instance Groups
In WoW you have guilds, and in STO you have fleets. Fleets are the primary social group in STO.
As far as instance groups go, at the endgame there will be 5-man content you can learn and farm. There are also open-groups, which are 5-man content throughout the leveling process you enter in whenever there is another player working on the same mission. This is the main way in which you'll experience group play at the early levels.
Itemization and Class Balance
Right now the itemization looks okay. We haven't seen much of the endgame, so we don't know how well things are going to compare against one another – but at the lower levels it looks to be promising. Tanks behave like tanks, DPS behaves like DPS, and the support roles behave like they should.
Items are upgraded on a relatively steady basis, and there are no glaring holes in the upgrade paths. You will occasionally find yourself in need of a drop that you haven't acquired yet, and for that there is a robust backend for an economy in place.
Anyone familiar with endgame raiding in WoW and stats comparisons will be able to quickly pick up STO's itemization concepts.
There is a fully featured auction house, just like we have in WoW and any other modern MMO. There are a few types of currency, just as in WoW. The primary currency is energy credits (think gold). The secondary currency, used to purchase skills for bridge officers or other character modifications, are called starfleet merits. There's really no WoW equivalent to those, but they're easy enough to understand. STO also has various levels of badges, just like WoW has -- they're used to buy "badge gear" for your ship and player.
Opinion: How does STO rank against WoW?
Star Trek Online is not a WoW replacement, but it doesn't try to be one either. The game itself offers a rich environment for future expansion and gameplay potential, and there's a good chance in my opinion that it'll be around a while. The core player base is extremely devoted to the franchise, and that means that there is a guaranteed incentive for Cryptic to continue to improve the game.
STO is not without its faults either. The environment is heavily instanced, perhaps too much so. While it's nice that you always have the mob available you need to kill, it's also unfortunate that you rarely get to see other players except in groups, sector space, and at space stations. In many ways I want to randomly run into other players. It makes me feel less alone and more like I'm part of a global community, even if I'm not directly interacting with them.
Finally, STO's endgame isn't really there yet. Cryptic has a lot of plans for it, but we don't have a solid picture of it yet. This is, of course, pretty par for the course in MMOs. WoW didn't have much of an endgame either when it released. Time will tell how Cryptic handles this, and there is hope that they will do a good job.
Is it worth checking out? Chances are you're pretty much done with Wrath at this point. There's the weekly raids and PvP content, but that's it for most players. People are looking for new games, and STO is certainly one that you can give a try; especially since other major titles like Cataclysm and Star Wars won't be coming out in the immediate future.
Plus there's tribbles. Tribbles, the trouble with.
| Enter the Star Trek universe with Cryptic Studios' Star Trek Online. From hands on reviews of the early levels and space combat, through noob questions and developer interviews, we've got everything you need to know about the game trekkies are dying for. Check out Massively's Star Trek Online page for the latest!