Welcome to the series of articles that is to hopefully become a record of The Best Of Free Online Gaming*. We here at The Reticule know that not everyone has the spare cash to spend on every AAA or indie release, or to sign up to monthly payments for all the latest MMO’s. Trouble is, if you’re looking for some free gaming there are literally hundreds of games taking up the free-to-play structure nowadays and trawling through them all to find ones that are worthwhile can take up a lot of time. I aim to bring you reviews on a variety of the best free-to-play games the internet has to offer, saving not just your money but your sanity too. Last time we took at look at the award-winning Aion, an MMORPG with it‘s own ideas about combat. Today we take a look at Star Trek Online, a game with probably one of the toughest fanbases around.
*Disclaimer – Games included in ‘The Best of Free Online Gaming’ are entirely chosen through opinion of the writer. This is coming from a guy who thought E3 was a TV channel, so please feel more than free to disclose your disgruntled disapproval in a long-winded comment below. Better yet let me know why YOUR game of choice should be included in this list.
Star Trek Online
Star Trek Online, developed by Cryptic Studios, is the first MMORPG based within the Star Trek universe. It is set 30 years after the events of the film Star Trek: Nemesis and was first released in February 2010 as a subscription based game. In January of 2012 Cryptic made the decision to switch STO over to a free-to-play structure.
You start the game in the year 2409, the universe is at war and the federation are calling all available ships to help in the effort to win. Luckily it seems that you command your own ship and a number of NPC crew members and begin your journey at this point. The customisation available to you is pretty deep and can take a while to get through before starting the game. This is not a bad thing however, and means you can really build your own unique characters. Customisable stats, abilities, uniforms, races, ships and even NPC crew members are a few of the things you will have access to changing early on.
STO deals with a few different types of combat. First of all there is the standard man to man combat, on the planet’s surface, where you complete a lot of quests you have probably done before in one form or another, but this time it‘s in a Star Trek setting. The whole thing feels like a rather clunky version of Star Wars: The Old Republic but not as nice looking… and not as fun. The real fun and relatively less ‘done’ combat is the ship to ship space combat. You also complete quests when in control of your ship and can engage in PvP just like you can on land. This is where the most interesting and engaging combat was for me when trying out this game and is the real strong point for STO. While games like EVE online dominate this style as far as F2P MMO’s go you will do well to find anything better.
The free-to-play model used in STO is a rather good one. Subscribing players have instant access to creating their own guild (fleet as it’s known here), an additional character slot, a bigger inventory, unrestricted mail and in-game chat options, and priority logins. Players can however unlock or reduce many of these restrictions by a number of means that don’t require a subscription. The best and totally free option is by totalling 20 hours played on average across all characters. You can also unlock many features by making a single small purchase at the store or if your account has a ZEN balance, which is the currency used across many of Cryptic’s games much like Microsoft points. This is a great way of keeping the players in the game that really do enjoy it but want to keep playing for free. A very neat option that is only ever available to paying players is the ability to create your own content in the form of missions. This can however be very complicated and time-consuming as it requires testing to make sure everything is working as it should.
Overall, if you can handle a little repetitiveness and the ‘been there done that’ feel of the ground combat then STO is a good game with solid space combat and a reasonable F2P structure. It also has a huge following on Steam meaning you can make use of Steam’s chat functions if you’re restricted as a new player.
Have a gaze at the F2P launch trailer below if you wish to see what STO is all about.