Star Trek Online, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game has been around for the past four years and is still going strong. Recently the game has received a major upgrade which included graphics tweaks, reputation and character trait reworking and a brand new social hub for Federation characters.
The basic structure for the release of new content into the game comes in the form of expansions designated “seasons” like the original television series. The game itself is set 25 years after the movie Nemesis and includes Romulan, Klingon and Federation player factions with the Romulans introduced in an earlier expansion. Each Season comes with a featured episode, and the one for Season 9, named Surface Tension introduces a new threat for the players to face in the form of Species 8472, or Undine, from fluidic space introduced in Star Trek Voyager. The episode shows the reason for Earth Space Dock’s major face lift. It was the Borg that gave the Undine the Species 8472 designation and were unsuccessful in assimilating them.
In addition to the brand new ESD, a new set of dungeons, called Special Task Force instances, features combat against the Undine and their biotechnology. The Undine are also shapeshifters and certain missions from previous seasons overshadowed their eventual arrival in Season 9.
So what were the changes to Earth Space Dock? It has a much sleeker look over the old ESD, making extravagant use of open space and waterfalls at various locations. For those who have played any of the Mass Effect games, new ESD is reminiscent of the Citadel, though far different in actual construction.
The other major upgrades start with the reputation system. STO ran a test phase with Dyson reputation, streamlining it from the other factions. With Season 9, all factions follow this stripped down progression. Previously a player had to donate replicated and purchased items in addition to faction marks and expertise points. The current system only requires faction marks, expertise points and energy credits, STO’s ingame standard currency.
In the character traits upgrade, where once the player had to choose at each tier of reputation which of the two traits to unlock, now both are and the choice becomes which of any of the traits from the available pool to slot. Gone is having to pay for a trait respec. Now you pick and choose as the need fits. This can be done in social areas and while not in combat.
The tailor has seen a major upgrade as well. What used to show up with a toggle on the player character as armor and kits are now costume choices at the tailor. It requires giving up one or more slots to devote to armor visuals, but here is where Perfect World hopes you spend money to unlock additional costume slots.
As for the kits themselves, they were once profession specific and came in preset configurations that could not be changed. The new kits come empty, with just specific buffs on them, and players can choose to mix and match modules to suit their needs, only limited by the type of slot on the kit. For instance, an engineer kit will have slots such as fabrication and mechanical, and only those types of modules will fit.
Finally, with Season 9 comes a whole slew of new Undine and anti-Undine equipment, from Undine bioships to fly, to new bioweapons and consoles to use in the player’s fight against them. With all of these new upgrades come the obligatory graphics tweaks, including new options to take advantage of DX11 and SLI configured videocards.
Now that Star Trek Online has these major upgrades, will it ensure the continued success of the game? For the most part, it’s certainly a step in the right direction, given Cryptic Studios other highly successful game, City of Heroes, having been shut down.
Opinion by Lee Birdine
Star Trek Online