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PC Game Review: Star Trek Online

Posted on 08 March 2010 by Tim

Like many PC gamers, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of Star Trek Online. The anticipation of the rush of commanding my own starship in a fast-paced battle really grabbed me. Will you choose the Federation or the Klingon Empire?

I bought the game the first day and created a Federation Male Vulcan Tactical Officer. And actually, you can’t even create a Klingon character until you reach level 5 with your Federation toon. Starting out in the game is a little lame because you begin with ground missions. The ground portion of Star Trek Online is basically a poorly designed first-person shooter (FPS). While the graphics look great the gameplay is not very exciting and you have very limited weapons and attacks.

Once you’re in space though, things improve quite a bit.

I’ve heard from a lot of players that they expected more from the character creator than Cryptic currently offers in STO. I wasn’t expecting the same depth of character creation as Champions Online because I don’t really care to choose the color of the accent on my belt and the exact curve of my character’s lower back. Seriously. I’m far more concerned with logging in to play a great game…not a Sims-like character designer.

Star Trek Online has five ranks:

  • Ensign
  • Lieutenant
  • Lt. Commander
  • Commander
  • Captain
  • Admiral

Leveling up! I’ve been a little surprised at how slow level progression is. Each of the 5 ranks has 10 levels. For example, in the pictures below my character is a Lieutenant Rank 8. To make it to Lt. Commander I have to hit Lieutenant Rank 10, then I’m promoted. The nice thing about this though, is that you gain skill points with each mission you complete and even pick up a few while you’re doing a mission. You grow more progressively rather than at set points like more traditional RPGs like World of Warcraft.

Want to get promoted faster and learn detailed strategies? Take a look at the Star Trek Online Mastery Guide.

  • Leveling Guide
  • Career Buide
  • Professions
  • Traits, Skills, Ships and more!

When it comes to character class (known as Officer Class), you are basically limited to three – Tactical, Engineering and Science Officer. Tactical is focused on combat, Engineering on ship/ground abilities and survivability, and Science is more a support class with healing and enemy debuffs.

The learning curve for this game is very shallow, it’s a simple one to figure out. Space combat, while fun, is not particularly challenging. Simply keep your ship flying around, mind your deflector shields, and pound your enemies shields till they drop and you can use a special attack to finish them. Then repeat.

The most boring missions are the exploration missions. Fly long distances doing nothing along the way, scan an anomaly then go to the next one.

Also, at what point is a game considered massively multiplayer? Because for most instanced missions, Cryptic has decided that 5-players max is MMO scale. So far, I haven’t heard of any boss fights either. Maybe I’m not far enough yet. But that seems like a serious problem for people who like raid-style challenges.

Star Trek Online, great in concept, is only average at best. Cryptic Studios hasn’t impressed me with any of their MMOs and it’s a bit sad that they got the Star Trek franchise. Outside of World of Warcraft, I have yet to find an MMO that has grabbed and held my attention. But I have high hopes for Star Wars: The Old Republic.

The pictures in the gallery above are screenshots of Star Trek Online from my computer. I hope you enjoy them!

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Darth Hater Talks Star Wars: The Old Republic

Posted on 08 December 2009 by Tim

Star Wars: The Old Republic is the upcoming massively multiplayer online-game (MMO) from BioWare and LucasArts. The game is set long ago, during a time period that hasn’t been explored much. The Treaty of Coruscant has been signed by the Sith Empire and the Republic but tensions are running high.

Tension leads to conflict. Conflict leads to a great setting. And a great setting is just what an epic MMO needs! Oh and just to put this in perspective, according to SWTOR FAQ, the game is set 3,500 years before the rise of Darth Vader.

Darth Hater - SWTOR Community and Podcast

But this is about Darth Hater, a SWTOR blog and podcast, that aims to bring you all the latest news and commentary. I was able to speak with Justin Lowe, also known as sado on the website and forum, he is the Founder and a Content Producer on DarthHater.com. Follow Darth Hater on Twitter here.

Interview with Darth Hater

How’d you come up with the name Darth Hater?

Originally I had an idea to make a personal blog out of my own excitement for Star Wars: The Old Republic. This website needed a name so I asked a few friends for some ideas. One response in particular stuck with me – Darth Hater. Nick Cerbini, a friend of mine, originally used the name as an alias in Unreal Tournament and he made the suggestion. After deciding it sounded right, I went to see if the domain was available and, to my surprise, it was. Apparently the person who owned it before let the domain lapse and went back on the market just a month or so prior to me attempting to register it. You could say I encountered a stream of unending luck.

What aspect of The Old Republic are you most excited about?

I will be hated for saying this, but I am looking forward to story the most. There is much yet to see of The Old Republic, but from what I have seen thus far the story of the game intrigues me the most. Story in MMORPGs is one of those features that I feel has been sorely lacking up till this point. I can also say that it is one of the biggest selling points to friends of mine who have not played MMORPGs before and, until recently, have seen no reason to start. This is anecdotal of course, but take the case of my brother – he has never played an MMORPG or even come close to playing one, but now with story being a primary focus of The Old Republic, and BioWare’s track record, is considering checking it out. The draw of a good story in an MMORPG should not be underestimated. We all have confidence that The Old Republic will retain everything previous MMORPG have had, but I feel we have yet to see story done well in an MMORPG, and that is why it is the most exciting aspect of The Old Republic to me.

What are your readers most interested in when it comes to TOR?

Everyone is looking for the facts when it comes to The Old Republic. We have tried to cater to that by removing as much speculation as possible and piece together the facts of what is shown without the fluff. It has been a centerpiece of our website in the form of dissections which have garnered us an immense amount of traffic in response.

From what you’ve seen so far, is BioWare on the right track with the game?

Everything I have seen thus far suggests that. There have been complaints from the community of BioWare/LucasArts not showing off enough of the actual mechanics of The Old Republic, but I think the latest Imperial Agent demo that was shown to the press demonstrates that they are trying to address those concerns. Speaking just of myself, I couldn’t be more excited about the track of the game at this point. If sometime down the line they announce Wookiee or Jawa Jedi then I might have to rethink that statement.

SWTOR Jedi and Sith Battle

It’s hard to tell without playing the game, but do you think TOR could be bigger than World of Warcraft?

That’s a bit too speculative for me. World of Warcraft is definitely the eight billion pound gorilla in the room when it comes to MMORPGs and I am not under any delusions that The Old Republic will somehow dethrone them as king of the genre. While this is an interesting discussion for many, I don’t see why they both can’t exist side by side. I can say that I quit World of Warcraft for the simple reason of boredom. After 4+ years of playing the same game you are bound to get a little burnt out of the game. I have to imagine that there are people out there in my same position regarding World of Warcraft, but do I think that the release of The Old Republic will lead to a mass exodus from World of Warcraft? Simply put, no. However I do think both will be quite healthy long after this debate is over.

The storyline of the game is intriguing. Do you happen to know how much of this time period has been covered in books and comics?

The story of this time period is extremely open which is most likely why Bioware chose this time period to use in the game. There are a couple books coming out as well as the paperback version of the Threat of Peace which you will be able to pick up sometime down the line that will discuss the time period but other than that there is not much known of this time period. There is alot known however about 300 years in the past which deals with Revan but in the current time period is seems as if Bioware is completely open along with LucasArts to craft what they want regarding the story and setting.

Who are you most likely to side with? The Republic or the Sith Empire?

All of us at Darth Hater have decided on Sith Empire to start off with. It would be a bit weird having all of the Darth Hater staff rolling Republic first.

The Sith Empire seems like a good choice to start off. Have you guys decided on classes yet?

The team has vastly different opinions regarding the classes. For myself I am looking forward to either playing the bounty hunter or imperial agent. Dover is looking forward to playing an imperial agent and Emleah is looking forward to playing a Sith Inquisitor. Unfortunately the rest of our team is rather undecided at the moment regarding their class. Most of our team will likely decide what class they will play a couple weeks before launch.

Is Darth Hater the first blog you guys have worked on or are you all experienced bloggers?

Most of us have worked on other blogs or news sites before but this is definitely the most trafficked one any of us have worked on. The Star Wars: The Old Republic community, and our own community at Darth Hater, have been incredibly supportive all the way. We wouldn’t be where we are without them.

Thank you sado for chatting with me! If you’re interested in getting more from Darth Hater, I suggest you check out their blog, podcast or follow them on Twitter.

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Champions Online: The Superhero MMO

Posted on 25 November 2009 by Tim

Champions Online, made by the same folks who created City of Heroes, is essentially an MMO version of the same thing. Heroes with powers run around and kill people. Typical MMO fare. However, the content is relatively shallow, the powers aren’t that interesting and you have to stick to established builds to do well in combat. There’s an archenemy system that is supposed to challenge you but other than that there aren’t many truly unique aspects of this game.

One thing you’ll notice right off the bat, after installation, is the drawn out super-in-depth character creation. You can customize your character with a wide array of features. The sad thing is that the rest of the game doesn’t seem to have the same level of detail put into it.

Leveling is a linear progression of quests. Basically, questing is the only way to level a character. Not that it’s a bad way to level. But Champions doesn’t offer much…the quests aren’t interesting and didn’t pull me into the lore of the game. Although Cryptic Studio is working to improve group quests, there isn’t much group content at this point.

Champions Online will not pose a major threat to other MMOs. It’s simply not that good.

I gave it a go. But the game didn’t turn out to be worth the monthly subscription. I won’t be playing CO anymore and will approach Cryptic Studios games with a bit more caution.

I’m holding out hope that Star Trek and Star Wars: The Old Republic will turn out to be much better.

Champions Online Logo

Other Reviews of Champions Online:

  • MMOCrunch says, “It’s extremely casual and alt friendly, but is hamstrung by a lack of group content early on.”
  • For The Lore thinks that “This is the next step in the evolution of hero MMO’s. It is a good game but it is very clearly built upon the shoulders of City of Heroes.”
  • EuroGamer covers it pretty well here: “Cryptic’s superhero MMO serves a huge heap of wish-fulfilment to you before you’ve even started playing, ladles yet more onto your plate after barely an hour, and then lets it all go cold and you hungry for half the game’s length. It has hundreds of missions, but somehow they’re barely enough to sustain a single play-through, and they’re stretched out over a handful of over-extended locations. It doles out character progression in terms that are hard to understand or notice; it constantly showers you in meaningless items, but rations exciting new skills with mind-numbing parsimony.”

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Mike Schramm From WoW.com Discusses World of Warcraft – Part 2 of 2

Posted on 05 August 2009 by Tim

Here is the rest of my interview with Mike Schramm of WoW.com. Be sure to check out Part 1!

How long have you been working at WoW.com?

I personally have been working with the site almost three years now, first as a blogger, then as a lead, and now as an editor. But the site has been around even longer than that — just a few months after the game was released almost five years ago, Weblogs Inc saw how big it was and devoted this whole blog to just the one game and its community. And since then, we’ve really really grown, to the point where, even though we’re covering just one game, we’re rivaling big blogs like Joystiq and Engadget for hits every month. I can take credit for some of that, but far from all of it: we have a really dedicated, huge team (and you can see all of their names on the front of the site) that works very hard every day to make sure we always have something cool for readers to see. And of course we’ve grown along with the community — there is probably more independent writing and commentary out there about WoW than any other game, and we’ve really tried to be a spotlight for some of the best work out there.

WoW.com Site Preview Thumb As a player, I’m sure you have lots of ideas for things to change or improve. If you could have your way what changes, additions or features would you like to see in an expansion?

Personally, I like the game as it is, and I think Blizzard has done a pretty amazing job with it. Most of the things I’d like to see changed, many of which I write about on WoW.com, are probably things that would have to go into another game. It’d be great to see different ways for players and NPCs to interact, more types of classes, and a little more interaction between players and the world they live in (it would be cool to see characters actually age or have some more things happen to characters even while they’re logged out of the game). But most of those ideas are pretty pie-in-the-sky things, and wouldn’t be practical to implement in this game that’s already four years old. We’re only starting to really see the potential in MMO games, though, so I’d say ideas like that would be more likely or possible in the future, with Blizzard or another company.

Will you be attending BlizzCon? If so, is there anything you’re hoping to see/hear there?

We will be at BlizzCon for sure — we’ve been there the past two years, and I think our coverage has been exemplary. Last year was the first year Blizzard offered a live TV feed of the proceedings, and I heard people were still watching our liveblogs — even though they were only text, we provided more insight and commentary on exactly what was happening. So yes, we’ll be there — we’ll have a meetup on Thursday evening as usual, and then all weekend long, we’ll be running around getting and posting news. Even if you can’t make it out to Anaheim, if you’re reading our site that weekend, you’ll feel like you’re there.

As for what we’re hoping to see, we’ve heard rumors of various things, and I think a new expansion isn’t too far off the mark — it’s about time Blizzard at least introduces us to the next big release. It wouldn’t be too much of a surprise to see more about Starcraft II and Diablo III as well, two games that I’m also very interested in. Other than that, we’ll just have to wait and see. No matter what happens, I’m sure it’ll be very exciting.

Can we expect to see more video interviews like the one you did at E3 with Michele Boyd? (See Part 1 to view the video.)

Yes, I like doing video a lot, and in the past we haven’t done nearly as much with it as we should. Especially at conventions and when you’re doing interviews, video is much easier and faster to post than transcribing audio, and it helps give readers a sense of what it’s like to be there. So yes, I would say we’ll definitely be bringing the video cameras to BlizzCon, so keep an eye out for more video features and interviews from the convention floor there.

WoW.com reported that Cataclysm may be the name of the next WoW expansion. Has any new information developed about Cataclysm or the next expansion?

We haven’t heard anything yet about what Cataclysm is — it could be a new World of Warcraft expansion, some other new product related to WoW, or it could be a completely new project by Blizzard. All we know is that Blizzard registered the name as a trademark recently, and while there isn’t any mention on the paperwork of the game, the actual meaning of the word seems to point directly to it being a new WoW expansion, possibly involving the Maelstrom (the big swirly thing in the middle of the WoW map that we haven’t yet visited in game).

Mike, thanks for your time! Be sure to read WoW.com to keep up with the latest World of Warcraft news!

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