Review: Star Trek Online (PS4)

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Title: Star Trek Online
Format: PlayStation Network Download (16.89 GB)
Release Date: September 6, 2016
Publisher: Perfect World Entertainment
Developer: Cryptic Studios
Original MSRP: Free to Play
ESRB Rating: T
Star Trek Online is also available on Xbox One, PC, and Mac.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
Full disclosure: I have been playing the PC version of Star Trek Online on and off for the last six years. To say I am a fan of the game is a bit of an understatement. With that said, I will be critical of this version because I am so familiar with its PC counterpart and vice versa.

So fear not, Star Trek Online for the PS4 will not get a free pass. In fact, I’ll probably be a little harsher than most. It’s true that we hurt the ones we love.

You start your journey with the character creation screen. One of the things that the development team at Cryptic has always been known for is their character creation tools, and this game does not disappoint.

You can either do a quick character with preset choices or create your own with a myriad of choices. For this review I chose the preset route and had a character up and running in less than five minutes.

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Throughout your journey you will be able to change your appearance and costume at Tailor shops around the galaxy. One of my nitpicks is in the options to change your Starship appearance. Certain ships allow you to mix and match class types, but it’s sometimes reliant on C-Store (the in-game store) purchases.

The rest of your options are to change the texture and light patterns on your ships as well as pre-set decals. They have always been a bit underwhelming to me and the PS4 version is no different.

… incorporate the Star Trek mythology and legacy into the story …
One of the greatest achievements is the story and how much of it there is. Each series has been touched on in some way, and even shows like Voyager have their own Seasons of content, which are essentially mini expansions.

During its six years of existence, the game has had eleven Seasons and three major expansions, so the story and game have been evolving as time goes on. There is enough story content to last anywhere from twenty to forty hours depending on how you play. That’s a conservative guess as it could be much more.

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Another excellent thing the story does is incorporate the Star Trek mythology and legacy into the story. Moments from “The City on the Edge of Forever” to the Time War from Enterprise are touched on. Species such as the Borg, Klingons, and Cardassians are woven into the story and are true to their television counterparts. And if you’re a fan of “techno babble”, it’s here in spades.

One problem, and one that Cryptic has been slowly correcting over the years, is the strength of the story episodes. Each level is presented as an episode of Star Trek, and generally they are pretty good.

… the new control scheme and radial dials …
There are some episodes that are hard to play. A lot of the arcs have been remastered to present a more unified story front and better storytelling. And the later story arcs are some of the strongest content in the game.

The biggest challenge bringing over Star Trek Online to the consoles was taking the core systems from a PC based control scheme to a controller. I think Cryptic has succeeded on most fronts here.

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One of the greatest things that the PC version had to offer was space combat. I am happy to say that space combat in this version is just as good if not better. I found myself strategizing my encounters and pulling them off easily with the new radial dials and quick button settings.

For me, one of the weakest parts of combat on the PC was Ground Combat, and this too has improved with the new control scheme and radial dials. I now kind of look forward to ground battles which is a huge change between the two versions. Although I will say there is no auto targeting and I frequently miss the first shots. Combat is a pretty heavy part of the game and it’s very enjoyable, becoming second nature after a few hours.

… systems that are found in the PC version are missing …
The weakest part of the conversion to the PS4 seems to be the inventory system. I found equipping my Starship and Away Team to be frustrating at the beginning. After a while I had gotten somewhat used to it, but still kept wondering if there was another way to handle this. But on the flip side, the inventory works very well when it comes to The Exchange and your Bank Slots. It’s easy to sell items and see what items I was putting away in my bank.

Another system change that I have noticed is the level progression. In the PlayStation version, the level progression seems a little bit slower, which is a good thing. Back in June/July I was able to hit Level Fifty in no time flat in the PC version, which seemed off to me. In this version things seem a little more well balanced.

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Some of the other systems that are found in the PC version are missing, such as Duty Officers, Reputation System, Admiralty system, and the newest expansion “Agents of Yesterday”. These systems should be coming some time in the future. This should give the newer players time to get accustomed to what is here, which is quite a bit. Also, if Cryptic times it well, these new additions can be focused on by the entire player base instead of being put aside or having a new player quit due to the game being too difficult.

The radial dial and quick buttons have to be the biggest change in the PS4 version. They basically have to replace a keyboard and mouse layout with a sixteen button controller. In the early hours of the game it works really well and it’s easy and fun to use.

… controls are mapped out very wisely …
L1 and L2, along with the Square, Circle, and Triangle button when held display a radial menu. You choose your power and activate it with R2, which, while it’s really smart, still took me a while to remember. I only wonder how well it will work in the end game area, when you have several powers to use.

The tutorial is spot on and will bring any Captain up to speed quickly. My only complaint is that it missed some small things like power distribution and how and why to dock at the Earth Spacedock. For the record, left and right directional buttons give more power to things like weapons, shields, and engines.

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The controls are mapped out very wisely for the most part. There are some odd choices like chat which seems to be more difficult to use than it should be. The touch pad is used well for the map function, and you use this to auto navigate to your destination while in space.

I have not been able to try any of the end game content, with the majority of it being the Reputation System. It’s there as a shell right now with only one Rep available, the general Special Event Reputation. What’s missing are things like like Borg, Romulan, and Delta Reputations. With the shell being there the Rep system should come quickly, but there are plenty of story missions to keep you busy.

… You will be able to solo 80-90% of the game …
The Reputation System is important because it will give you access to end game equipment that you will want to have. It’s also some of the most enjoyable non-storyline content in game. The Q will put you into a situation and it will be up to you and a group of players to resolve it.

You will be doing anything from tackling the Borg, or releasing Romulan ships from captivity, to saving the Enterprise. You will be able to solo 80-90% of the game without having to rely on other players. If you do want to play with others, you can tackle the story missions together as well.

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With Star Trek Online being a free to play MMO, the C-Store is its way to make some real world money. I put it that way for a reason because in the game you don’t have to pay a penny for anything if you don’t want to.

I have ground dilithium, the in-game currency, to the point where I had enough to buy a new ship. You do that by trading your dilithium for Zen on the Dilithium Exchange. I like to grind for two-thirds of a new ship and spend a little real world money for the rest.

… I suggest getting a faction starter pack …
You can purchase anything from new ships, to costumes, to account services, although the game does a good job of giving you enough to get by. I will say that the end game ships, like the Tier 5 and Tier 6 ships, are worth getting to enhance your gaming experience, so save your dilithium.

For review purposes, I ended up buying Zen and a starter pack. Buying Zen was a quick and painless transaction and it immediately appeared in my account. Buying the Federation Starter Pack was a different story. It took me about a half hour to figure out I had to go to the C-Store and find it under promotions. Once I claimed it everything was fine and I had the items at my disposal.

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If you’re really interested in Star Trek Online, I suggest getting a faction starter pack. It gives you four Starships and some costume options. It also gives you access to the Borg Bridge Officer who is very sought after in the PC version. Having four starships for forty bucks is a steal and definitely worth it.

Visuals:
This is the best looking version of the game I have seen yet, and it’s beautiful. With improved lighting and textures, every object in the game pops. Another thing that helps the PS4 version is having a set architecture. The game no longer has to be built to run on different PC configurations and it sure does help.

… looking really good compared to its PC counterpart …
Unfortunately, there are some legacy issues that appear in the game that I wish were fixed. There is an awful lot of pop-in that has plagued the PC version for years along with framerate issues as well.

I also had some rubberbanding issues and some disconnects. Overall though, the PlayStation 4 version is looking really good compared to its PC counterpart and I am glad I no longer have to run the game on medium to low setting.

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Audio:
The sound here is a mixed bag. It’s not horrible, but it has its issues. Voice acting in the game is fairly bland and there is a lot of it. Nearly every NPC is voiced and that helps with bringing the feel of Trek to the game.

What also helps is when actors from the show come back and voice their characters in game. For example, Michael Dorn as Worf, and Denise Crosby as Tasha Yar/Empress Sela, have major parts and help tie the two media together. So far at least a dozen characters have reprised their roles. This includes a number of actors that had smaller roles along with series mainstays.

… an admirable job of porting it over …
The music is fairly good for an MMO and fits into the orchestral feel of a Star Trek series or movie. It’s fairly repetitive and will probably wear thin after a dozen or so hours. The sound effects are spot on for everything from Phaser fire to a Tricorder scan, and once again it makes you feel part of the universe.

Online/Multiplayer:
Star Trek Online is online only. As stated above, you can solo most of the game and really only need to team up when you want to. It has all of the trappings of an MMO of course but has stood on its own for over six years.

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Conclusion:
I absolutely adore Star Trek Online and it’s a personal “10” as one of my top ten favorite games. This makes it hard to score because there are some flaws and I know not everyone will feel the same way that I do about the game.

Cryptic has done an admirable job of porting it over to the PlayStation 4, which, in my opinion, is a daunting task. They were smart to withhold some aspects of the PC version from the PS4 version for now. It will give players time to invest and get used to the controls and systems which can be intimidating at times when you start out.

However, there are issues with the game such as graphical pop-ins and stutters, and some of the content is not as strong as it could be. Although Cryptic did a excellent job in the arduous task of cramming a mouse and keyboard control system into a console controller, it fell short in some areas for me.

All in all Star Trek Online is and always will be a great game that Trekkers should definitely give a try. For those non-Trek fans there are aspects of the game that you will find intriguing, like space and ground combat for starters. This version is excellent and should not be missed.

Score:
8.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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Written by Shawn Hiers

Shawn Hiers

Disabled gamer. Married Father of 3, and playing since the Atari days. I have a passion for all things Lego and an avid Toy Collector. I am also an huge Doctor Who Fan and can talk all things Who for hours 🙂

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