How Star Trek Online offers a different challenge from most MMOs

I will not declare complete knowledge of MMOs by a long shot, but Star Trek Online is different from all the MMOs I’ve played (or tried). These differences add a bit of complexity, yet most MMO players will find things familiar enough that it will not be an issue.

The biggest difference between STO and conventional MMOs like WoW, LOTRO, Conan, etc., is that we need to manage the leveling and equipment of the main player character, one or more starships, and some number (between 4 and 8) bridge officers. Now having helpers occurs in many games, such as the helpers in Guild Wars (sorry, I forget what they’re called), or the companions in LOTRO for captains and lore masters, but STO’s level of customization, skill choices, and how they affect gameplay are unmatched.

Since the best part of STO (in my opinion) is starship combat, I’ll talk about that first. There are 3 major classes of starship: escorts are quick and pack lots of firepower, while science vessels have powerful buffs and heals (yes, really, for starships – shield or hull restore, and so forth), and cruisers are slow all-rounders. Ships also have levels, from low-level ships with few weapons and slots that you get early in the game to studly ships we would recognize from the TV shows that we get as admirals (think Enterprise D and E, Voyager, and Defiant as examples from each of the 3 classes). As we get better ships, we also get better equipment for them. Quantum torpedoes or plasma beams or tetryon beams, etc. Each ship has slots for fore and aft weapons (varying number, based on level and class), engine, shield, deflector array, and consoles to provide engineering, science, and tactical buffs. The items that fit there are found as loot, given as quest rewards, bought in stores, or on the Exchange from other players. In short, it is essential that players keep their ships up with the best equipment, just as I keep my LOTRO lore master up with the best armor and weapons I can get.

The player also levels and gains skill that affect various aspects of shipboard and ground combat. Players can choose science, engineering, or tactical emphasis, each of which gives unique special abilities as the player levels. Choosing one player class does not prevent using other ship classes, however, so my tactical captain uses an upgraded Constitution class cruiser. Player equipment is important, so players need to always use weapons, armor, and shields appropriate to their level. There is also the concept of a player “kit” which provides additional ground combat abilities based on the player class. Since my guy is a tactical captain, he has grenade abilities added by the kit. Previous engineer captains I’ve had could summon phaser turrets and healing devices. The player skill tree has changed significantly since I last played, so I am still getting used to the new (and, so far, better) format.

The player also has helpers in the form of Bridge Officers (BOFFs). They level up as BOFF skill points are assigned by the player to certain skills for each BOFF. These skills provide space and ground combat abilities that are essential to winning fights, so keep your BOFFs up with their skills. The BOFFs can’t use their skills if they are knocked out in combat, so you also need to make sure they have good armor, weapons, and shields (though they can be hand-me-downs from the player). You can customize BOFF appearance, outfits, and name when you recruit them.

There is even a new concept called Duty Officers that can perform tasks for the player and they help the player gain prestige and I don’t know what else. I’ve just reached the level where I can use Duty Officers, so I don’t yet know the full story there.

So STO requires the user to manage skills for the player and the BOFFs, as well as gear for the player, BOFFS, and ships. As such, it is a little more complex than most MMOs but starship combat in the Star Trek universe makes it worth it.

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